blogging · books · discussions · shanti · writing

I used to know what my favourite books were

For about five years, I knew what my favourite books were. Each represented a series which I loved, but was my favourite of the series. I haven’t stopped reading but, it’s the end of the year, and I have realised that I can no longer tell you my favourite books, just the books I have read and enjoyed recently, perhaps. I feel like I’ve lost my gauge, that books still ground me, but for the moment it is books in general, and not any books in particular. 

Continue reading “I used to know what my favourite books were”

not books · Shar · tags

Mystery Blogger Award

Hi Virtually Readers! Today Rain@ Ivyclad Ideas tagged me for the Mystery Blogger Award. I’m going to share 3 facts about myself and then answer her 5 questions for me, and then maybe then tag some other cool people to do it. I haven’t done a tag for ages, as you may have noticed, so here we go! Continue reading “Mystery Blogger Award”

books · discussions · lists · Shar

YA books set after high school

YA books are generally said to be directed at teenagers. But when it comes down to it, there’s very few (YA, not NA) books set in the last 2/7ths of teenagedom, ie after teenagers typically finish school. Having entered this stage myself, I’m finding that these books increasingly appeal to me, and I know plenty of other bloggers in this same stage of life. This post is a list of a few books that do take place after school. Covers link to goodreads/our review if we have one. Also, this is more of a list that can be perused or skimmed through rather than a post, so feel free to just look for certain titles or whatever. 

Continue reading “YA books set after high school”

books · features · lists · shanti

#SettinginStone tbr

It’s a new year which means a lot of people are posting tbr’s. I was reading blog posts this morning and was thinking oh yeah, reading challenges, they’re not my thing….and then I remembered that I’m actually hosting the chillest, coolest reading challenge for the first two months of the year, aka Setting in Stone, and if you participate, I would be delighted (and surprised but I’m trying not to betray my low expectations). Anyway, I thought I’d share some books that I want to read for this challenge–and if you add recommendations in the comments, I’ll add them to the post!

Continue reading “#SettinginStone tbr”

books · features · Shar

Why Harry Potter is so great

Hi Virtually Readers! I recently finished the Harry Potter series, which I started rereading in January. It was great, obviously, and so I decided to make a list about why.

Quick note: This list doesn’t mean I think Harry Potter is perfect, the best book ever, and the only series I’ll ever love. It’s not. But since I prefer blogging about the good, and not the bad, of books, this is what we’re doing.

Also warning: spoilers ahead. There are two main ones, and in my opinion one is quite obvious and the other doesn’t really spoil much, but you have been warned.


  • It’s funny. Harry is just a funny person. So is Ron. So are Fred and George. Dumbeldore is fabulously quirky, which I appreciated more with this reread. Even when times are serious, there is time for joking.

“But we’re not stupid. We know our names are Gred and Forge.” -Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

“Just then Neville caused a slight diversion by turning into a canary”-Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry: “Yes”

Snape: “Yes sir”

Harry: “There’s no need to call me sir, Professor” – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  • The dialogue is excellent. It’s engaging and realistic and easy to read.
  • It’s fantastically complex. While Harry defeating Voldemort is obviously the main story arc across all the books, each book involves different subplots that are interesting of themselves and also contribute to the whole. For example, in The Prisoner of Azkaban there’s Lupins true identity, in The Half Blood Prince there’s Harry being obsessed with Malfoy and all the Malfoy subplots, there’s breaks for Quidditch, there’s Dumbeldore’s Army… the list could go on. Because there are 7 books, and at least 3 or 4 of them are over 500 pages, a lot can fit in.
  • There are amazing side characters. Tonks. Lupin. Sirius. LUNA. NEVILLE (any Luna+Neville shippers out there?). Fred. George. Percy. Ginny. Dudley. Bellatrix. Again, because the stories are long, there isn’t a need to focus on a few key characters like standalones and contemporaries (though this can be good too). There can be lots of characters and plot.


  • It uses fantasy to comment on real issues. For example, the idea that wizards are better than other magical creatures and what that means for discrimination I love the part in the Deathly Hallows where Harry learns from being kind to Kreacher. It’s a great moment. Especially in later books, the discrimination against Muggle-borns kind of reflects religious or racial discrimination. And everything about a lack of transparency in the Ministry of Magic, and how the government can be a force of good or evil—that’s something in our world too.
  • The combination of traditional tales/folklore with new creatures. We all know about dragons and werewolves and vampires and mermaids and witches and giants. But Rowling combines these with new magical creatures like Blast-Ended Skrewts and Bowtruckles and Horcruxes. It’s a perfect blend of familiarity and originality.
  • It’s diverse. While LGBTQ+ representation isn’t explicit, racial representation (gotta love those Patil twins, Dean Thomas, etc.) and arguably mental illness representation is all there.
  • It’s not black and white. Harry isn’t perfect. Neither are Ron and Hermione. Harry has to overcome his own demons before he can face Voldemort. Later books describe Voldemort’s path to evil. He’s an amazing villain—so evil, yet also three-dimensional. Ultimately, love wins, and Voldemort cannot beat death. In the final battle, Harry starts calling him Riddle, which reminds us that he’s human, not superhuman. I could talk about this for hours, but I’ll attempt to restrain myself.
  • It’s fantastic writing. I could write entire essays about this. ‘Nuff said.


Have you read Harry Potter? If no, leave. If yes, what do you like about it? What don’t you like? How do you feel about Nuna (Neville+Luna)? What’s your favourite book?

books · shanti

Nine Books featuring Senior Years

Hi Virtually Readers! You may not have noticed, but I am in my last year of high school. It’s slightly exciting and mostly terrifying and sometimes I think that if anyone asks me what I’m planning to do after school again something terrible will happen to them. And just like when I was in 10th grade I liked reading books about 15 year olds, and I loved reading about 11th graders when I was in 11th grade, I now  like to read books about characters who are trying to decide what’s going to happen with the rest of their life and what it means to grow up and all that. This isn’t the time or place discussion about whether people in their last year are overrepresented in books or not (though it might be another time) so instead here are 9 last-year-of-school reccs for your eager perusal. (probably)


1.Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

This is a truly excellent book about the anxiety of senior year and getting into university, but also about finding friends and a place to belong. I really related to Frances’s dual “school’ and ‘real’ identities.

  1. Squire by Tamora Pierce

I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH. It’s about Kel, who’s finished her training at knight school and is now facing the Big Wide World as the second female knight. I really love the role that adult mentors play in her story (Raoul 4eva)

  1. What’s a Girl Gotta Do? By Holly Bourne

This is a story that matches the complexities of being in your senior year and figuring out who you want to be and who you want to be friends with, with being a Fierce Feminist, and I love it.

  1. The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer

I love how Josie does an internship and is forced to confront her biases and judgements and preconceived notions.

  1. Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler

Ally and Liam must negotiate family life with their own relationships and commitments. Add their ridiculously high expectations for themselves, and there’s a lot of confusion and also it’s a really fun book.

  1. Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

Dave and Julia are going to graduate soon, and they decide to suddenly confront all the clichés they’ve spent so long avoiding. I make fun of clichés a lot, so I found this story fascinating and also entertaining.

  1. I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

This heartcrushing story actually takes place after Skylar has graduated. She knows where she’s going, but for the meantime she’s still stuck in her little town, and is forced to understand how she fits into a place she’s never wanted to call home. I go to a quite small, close-knit school, so I really appreciated how Demetrios looks at Sky’s relationships.

  1. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

This book made me cry SO MUCH. It’s about three teenagers, each with their own problems, and how their relationships to each other change over their senior year, as they try to decide how to balance family and their own desires and their complicated history. I absolutely loved it.

  1. The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

This story is also in a small town after the characters have graduated. It’s simultaneously a hilarious, tender story, and a nuanced examination of belonging.

What are some books that you’ve found really #relatable recently? And have you read any of these? Tell me in the comments!


books · features · shanti · writing

It’s time for India

Hi Virtually Readers! It’s a very exciting week, as you may have noticed yesterday ;). Yesterday was not JUST our blogoversary, though, it was Indian Independence Day. To me, this always means dressing up in Indian clothes and eating Indian food and celebrating India. I am aware, however that most of you guys aren’t Indian, so here is a set of lists to tell you some things about my country. (well, you know, one of them)


YA set in India.

There is not a lot of YA set in India, however these are some books that I have read and loved that feature this wonderful country.

The Wheel of Surya trilogy by Jamila Gavin. I read this a long time ago and it is about Partition—the greatest, and most deadly, human migration in history.

5 to 1. I reviewed this last year, along with a henna tutorial you’re totally interested in.

The Star-Touched Queen. I haven’t been able to read this, though I really want to. It’s based in Indian and Greek mythology.

A Time to Dance. This is about a girl who lives in Chennai and has to learn how to dance after getting her leg amputated. It’s told in free verse.

Monsoon Summer. This is about a half Indian girl visiting Pune and finding out about her heritage and who she really wants to be.


Indian food

Let’s face it, Indian food is one of the best things ever. These are some of my favourite dishes. (I’m vegetarian, and so are all of these foods, but butter chicken is good too. ) However, the list is much much longer than this.

-Rajma. This is beans and tomato and it’s SO delicious.

-Dosa. This is a South Indian dish made from rice flour and served with sauce and potato and it is delectable.

-Pani Puri. These are little fried balls that you fill with salty sour sauce made from tamarind.

-Dahl Makhani. This is creamy lentils that you eat with rice and it’s very tasty.

-Sambar. This is sour south Indian Dahl.

-Soan Papdi. This is a flaky sugary sweet.

Reasons to write about India

There are, as you may have noticed, not very many YA books (at least one published in MDC’s) set in India, though there are some that are set elsewhere and have Indian origin protagonists. India, however, is a fabulous setting for these reasons.

-It’s really diverse. There are hot plains and forests and the Himalayas and deserts and plateaus and basically anything else you want to write about as a setting.

-It’s culturally really diverse. There are tribal people in the North Eastern states, and lots of Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus, and hill people in my area, and lots of other cultural nuances that are really complicated and great to research. There are hundreds of different languages that people speak.

-It has a really rich history. Kings, emperors, wars, backstabbing, rebellion… whatever you want to write about, it’ll turn up a few times in Indian history. (think the Mughals and 1857)

-India has a huge variety of religious and non religious myths. Hello, retellings.


Reasons to read about India

There isn’t much YA set in India, and I really need to actively seek out more of it. However, there are lots of great non-fiction books (like City of Djinns) that you can read about India, and you should probably read what YA is already out there. Also, if you’re willing to expand your horizons, there are great Indian poets and short stories, as well as novels. (This, let it be noted, is coming from an Indian Literature student)

-India has a really interesting history, and there are a great variety of (non-YA) books that talk about it. Like Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh talks about the opium trade during the Raj.

-There are 1billion Indians, which is a lot. If you read about India, you come closer to knowing more about 1/7th of the world’s people.

– India is in the news for a lot of different reasons. Reading novels is way more interesting than reading news articles, and can give you a better understanding of what’s really behind the headlines.

Reasons to come to India

You may have noticed that India is really amazing. This list is going to sound like a repeat of the other ones, but I really want to drill it into your heads.

-I live in India. So does Shar. Not that you’ll see us if you visit probably (but maybe you should contact us if you are?)

-There are lots of other really interesting Indian people that you will meet and be able to talk to.

-There are a lots of amazing historical sites—not just the Taj Mahal—that you can visit.

-India has some really cool wildlife. Rhinos, elephants, tigers, cheetahs, snakes—you name it.

So what are some things that you’ve heard about India? And how do you celebrate your country? Tell me in the comments!