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Blog & Social Media Break + A Note on Videos

This time of year is supposed to be about family and loved ones in the United States, so I’m announcing a short break from my blog. I’ll be taking a blogging and social media hiatus (yes, this means no more Twitter) for the next two weeks to spend time with family and recharge my writing batteries. Writing reviews can be tough, and it’s always nice to take a break when things get busy, as they always are during the holiday season. I’ll be back early in the new year, hopefully bursting with all the books I want to tell you all about!

I also wanted to quickly address something I’ve gotten some emails and Twitter comments about. Specifically, some readers aren’t happy that I’ve been doing video reviews and lists instead of writing them out. (Other readers absolutely love the videos, I should add, so it’s hard to please everyone!) I’m going to keep doing videos, for multiple reasons. First, the books I talk about on videos are often books I want to cover but don’t feel like I have enough to say to do a full longform review. Second, I make weekly videos over at Book Riot as part of my (paid) job as Contributing Editor, so it’s easy to embed those videos on the site when I’m running low on things to post. Third, I like to challenge myself, and doing videos is something new and different for me.

That being said, as long as I’m continuing to do reviews and cover books here, I’ll never stop writing full reviews. Life gets hard sometimes, and reviews can be difficult to write, but I do love expressing myself in the written word, and I’ll continue to do so. You don’t need to worry that I’ll move to an all video format of reviews; that will never happen!

Thank you all for being regular readers and taking the time to email me your thoughts and comments. I hope you all have a lovely holiday, and I’ll be back in the new year!

Book Review: Secret Keeper – Mitali Perkins

secret keeper - mitali perkinsTitle: Secret Keeper
Author: Mitali Perkins
ISBN: 9780440239550
Pages: 240
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Publisher: Ember
Genre: Cultural Fiction (South Asian), Historical Fiction, YA
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

It’s the 1970s in India, and Asha’s father has just lost his job. Hopeful that America might bring him better prospects, Asha’s father leaves his family behind, hoping to send for them after securing a job abroad. Along with her mother and older sister, sixteen-year-old Asha is forced to move into her grandmother’s house, which restricts the freedoms she’s known her whole life. Asha must adjust to this new way of life, to fulfilling others’ expectations instead of following her own dreams, and find a way to deal with the feelings she has for the boy next door, Jay.

Review:

Secret Keeper is a thoughtful coming-of-age novel about one young woman’s emotional journey in the face of shifting times, tragedy, and uncertainty. It’s set during a difficult time in India, during Indira Gandhi’s stint as Prime Minister. If you don’t know much about Indian history, this was a difficult time period for the country, full of violence and political turmoil. Perkins writes this well, creating an uncertain atmosphere for the novel. Readers are never quite sure when or how Asha’s life is going to change drastically, but they know it’s coming, bit by bit. If you’re interested in learning about the history of other countries through what you read, Perkins has created a gripping novel set against an important period in modern day India’s history.

It’s hard not to love and admire Asha in Secret Keeper. She’s headstrong and impulsive, to be sure, and while you may not agree with everything Asha does, you know it comes from a good place. She’s chafing against the restrictions placed on her, artificial boundaries she feels are unfair. Through Asha, Perkins provides great commentary on the differing standards for girls and boys in Indian culture, standards that remain much the same today.

The story of Secret Keeper is compulsively readable. Perkins keeps readers hooked on Asha’s story, as they hope things turn out well. The romance is particularly sweet, especially because Asha confides in Jay. He is the only one she can talk to about what is happening in her life. Asha and Jay’s relationship grows organically, but it is not the center of the story. This is Asha’s tale, about her coming into her own and trusting her instincts. Does she always make the right choices? No. But it’s hard to argue with her devotion to her family and how that conflicts with her desire to grow into her own person. Overall, this is a very well done novel that fans of cultural fiction should absolutely seek out.

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Best Books of 2014: Sheer Randomness

I’ve done both my best of for fiction and nonfiction for 2014, so why another list? Well, I feel like there are still some “best of” books that I’d like to mention, but didn’t quite make the cut for the overall lists. These are books that I read in 2014 that I absolutely adored, and I made up the random categories they go in . . . hence the name Best Books of 2014: Sheer Randomness.

Swapna's Best of 2014: Sheer Randomness

Best celebrity memoir on audio:

No Land’s Man – Aasif Mandvi 

Aasif Mandvi’s memoir is hilarious, of course, but it’s also an insightful cultural memoir about growing up in the UK and America with brown skin. My review of this memoir is coming soon, and I’ll link it up when it goes live.

Best book of 2015 (so far):

A Bad Character – Deepti Kapoor (releases in February, keep an eye out for the review!)

Best mystery about a religious group:

Tie: The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison and Invisible City by Julia Dahl

The Bishop’s Wife doesn’t release until the end of December, so my review will go up in January. It’s about a Mormon housewife, the wife of a local bishop, and it’s both gripping for its plot and for its fascinating insight into modern-day Mormon culture.

Best book that I wish I’d given a higher rating to because of how it’s stuck with me:

I Am China - Xiaolu Guo

Best book that actually lived up to all the hype:

The Southern Reach Trilogy – Jeff VanderMeer

Best fiction book of 2013 that I read in 2014:

The Grammarian – Annapurna Potluri

Best nonfiction book of 2013 that I read in 2014:

The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay – Hooman Majd

Best YA novel:

Belzhar - Meg Wolitzer

Best book about books:

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin

Best novel about ballet:

Tie: Astonish Me – Maggie Shipstead

Best historical novel:

Tie: While Beauty Slept – Elizabeth Blackwell and The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Best romance novel:

A Bollywood Affair – Sonali Dev

Best crazy ride of weirdness that still has me reeling:

Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

Best Books of 2014: Nonfiction

Yesterday I posted my Best of 2014 list for fiction, and so today is my Best Books of 2014: Nonfiction. Each of these books has stayed with me for one reason or another, whether it be because of current events, cultural issues, my town of DC and its difficult past, the passion I’ve had for Greek mythology since childhood, my absolute and unapologetic love of all things NASA, or something else entirely. I loved and adored every book on this list; I found that they read for me as quickly as any tightly written work of nonfiction. They are not perfect; some have issues here and there, but they are unmatched for the way they have resonated with me.

Swapna's Best of 2014: Nonfiction

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End – Atul Gawande

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan – Jenny Nordberg

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution – Jonathan Eig

I didn’t do a long form review for Jonathan Eig’s novel because I covered it at a third-party publication that has yet to publish my piece. Eig’s history of the birth control pill is completely fascinating; this book is an intersection of history, science, social issues, and more. Eig balances the history with insightful commentary, and does an excellent job showing how the birth control revolution changed women’s lives at that time, giving women a taste of true freedom, while also highlighting how women are being forced to fight the same battles now that we supposedly won decades ago.

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise – Chris Taylor

Bad Feminist: Essays – Roxane Gay

S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in DC - Ruben Castaneda

Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space – Lynn Scherr

Without You There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite – Suki Kim

An Iranian Metamorphosis – Mana Neyestani

Neyestani’s is the one book that I haven’t yet reviewed, simply because the publication date kept getting pushed back (it finally released on December 2). This graphic memoir about cartoonist Neyestani’s time in an Iranian prison is full of dark humor and it highlights the scarily whimsical nature of Iranian “justice.” My review will be coming soon, and I’ll link it up once it’s posted.

Why Homer Matters – Adam Nicolson

Best Books of 2014: Fiction

Swapna's Best of 2014 - Fiction

It’s that time of year again. The best of lists are coming out (or really, for the most part, have already been released) and I, of course, feel I have to get in on the action. It took me a long time to put this list together, longer than I feel like it should have! […]

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Book Review: Five – Ursula Archer

Five - Ursula Archer

Title: Five Author: Ursula Archer ISBN: 9781250037411 Pages: 336 Release Date: December 9, 2014 Publisher: Minotaur Books Genre: Crime Fiction Source: Publisher Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Summary: The body of a young woman has been found, and Detective Inspector Beatrice Kaspary is called to the scene. But there is something strange about this body: […]

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Greetings from the Space Coast!

You might have noticed that my blog has been quiet this week. While that wasn’t my intention (I always plan on scheduling reviews when I’m traveling), it’s worked out pretty well. You see, this week, I’m on the Space Coast of Florida covering Orion EFT-1, the test launch of NASA’s latest space vehicle that will […]

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BookTube: “News-y” Books

storm surge cover

Over at Book Riot’s BookTube channel, I’m talking about 5 “News-y” books about current events, issues, and the news that I’ve either enjoyed or am looking forward to reading. Books Mentioned: Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future by Adam Sobel Newsfail: Climate Change, Feminism, Gun Control, […]

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