Colour Me Red by Beena Khan

“Love can heal a person, but no one ever told me it can destroy a person too.”

Colour Me Red by Beena Khan is the third book in the Red series of contemporary romance novels. This is a prequel that tells the tale of two men from Red’s past, the one she could never forget and the one that broke her completely.

I have mentioned this in previous reviews, but Mrs Khan as an impeccable way of conveying the complexities of human emotion, particularly as they relate to romance and heart-break. The way that she crafts connections between two individuals in a careful and natural manner, building a beautiful foundation of passion and emotional intimacy, layer by layer, is impressive.

In Colour Me Red, we get to witness the multidimensional spectrum of relationships from the best parts to the worst and everything in between. The typical shortcomings in romance occur because of the flaws of individuals. All the characters have their imperfections so when they make questionable choices it feels as sincere as it does frustrating. Each of their imperfections ends up playing an integral part in the narrative as a whole and I was fascinated by the way that the author presented those key elements as the story progressed.

Red, who is at the centre of the plot, is shown to have undergone a couple of tragedies in her life and it moulds her into a person who does not like to show others her vulnerabilities. While this makes her a very headstrong individual, it also puts up psychological walls that make it very challenging to build an authentic connection with her. The problem with letting one’s walls down is that when the heart breaks, it can feel so much more painful, even indescribably agonising. Seeing Red’s downward spiral in the wake of finally choosing to take down her protection for that profound intimate bond that stems from love was as devastating as her relationship with Isaah was endearing.

The brothers are rather interesting because of how similar yet different they are, particularly in the rapport they each shared with Red. The darkness that seems to surround Saagh makes him more enigmatic and captivating, and I appreciated that he was so much more than a bad boy whose only worth is in stirring up drama. Instead he is someone who teaches Red a lot of very difficult life lessons in some aching ways, which helps to flesh out her personality across the series, giving her characterisation from The Name of Red more depth and understanding.

Some things to keep in mind while reading is that the narrative does utilise flashbacks with its storytelling, but its threaded so well with the plot and the overarching themes that I found their inclusion to be very engaging. Also, the book deals with some hefty content along with the steamier aspects (content warnings listed below), so I would proceed into it with some caution.

All in all, Colour Me Red is an excellent romance read and prequel to what has become a delightfully engrossing book series. I highly recommend this to fans of romance books as well as people who like flawed characters that are still genuine and endearing, and stories that do not shy away from both the good and dark elements of passionate relationships.

Please note that I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of the author, Mrs Beena Khan.

Publication Date: 15-Oct-2020
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Genre: South Asian Literature, Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 321
Content Warnings: Death of parents. Death of partner. Murder. Depiction of controlling and possessive tendencies. Depiction of severe grief. Depiction of toxic relationships. Unrequited love.
GoodReads: Colour Me Red by Beena Khan

Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar

‘My Ritu didi is getting married today
And I’m going to dance in her baraat all the way!’

Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar is a Queer own-voices Indian picture book about a young girl named Ayesha who is positively ecstatic to attend her cousin’s wedding to another woman and to celebrate the joy of their love.

My introduction to this book occurred when I came upon Charvi’s (It’s Not Just Fiction) list of five books she wishes she had read as a kid, and after having the pleasure of reading through Ritu Weds Chandni myself, I wholehearted feel the same way.

As a Queer member of the South Asian community, dreaming of my perfect wedding day to a woman whom I love dearly is as exhilarating as it is terrifying. This thirty-five-page picture book captures the root of these fears’ existence perfectly. Yet, it also does something else. It shows us that there is hope and a beautiful light on the other side. That not everyone is hateful and close-minded, trapped in their conservative bubbles of prejudiced ideals of love and companionship, and some of those kind open-minded and compassionate individuals are people whom we would least expect to understand: children.

The story of a young girl who is brimming  with excitement to watch her cousin marry a person whom she loves dearly, and how this child helps to make sure that nothing stands in these ladies’ path was marvellously motivating. The sense of adoration and enthusiasm that Ayesha feels pours off the pages via the vibrant and lively papier-mâché style artwork and the cute way she speaks in rhymes, maintaining a melodious, sing-song aura typical of South Asian wedding celebrations. I hope that this is the first of many more LGBTQIA+ South Asian picture books about love and acceptance of Queer individuals as the recognition of Queer identities and relationships needs to be normalised within such a derisive community now more than ever before.

Ritu Weds Chandni is a fantastically inclusive and heart-warming tale that is a must-read for all parents and children alike. The introduction to same-sex love and marriages is done in a sweet and accessible manner that shall help children to see all the shades of romance and companionship of the world. It also portrays the power behind that a single individual can garner with their voices and fortitude towards marriage equality, which is far too rare in children’s literature. For anyone wanting to raise more awareness and support for the LGBTQIA+ community, this is an excellent place to begin.

Please note that I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Yali Books.

Publication Date: 01-December-2020
Yali Publishing LLC
LGBTQIA+ Literature, Indian Literature, Picture Book
Page Count:
Content Warnings:
Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar

Best Books of October & November (2020)

Welcome to the Best Books of the last couple of months! In lieu of a traditional wrap-up, I opted to write one that centres specifically on the titles that brought me a lot of joy and engagement. This is my way of keeping things positive and uplifting here on The Djinn Reader.

October and November were really fantastic reading months for me. Not only did I read from a variety of genres and cultures, but I was also able to meet my monthly reading goals for both months, which gave me a wonderful sense of accomplishment in light of the reading rut that has plagued me.

There are thirteen titles total on this list and almost all of them have respective reviews linked up, along with their GoodReads pages (via the title), and a small snippet on what I loved about them. Aside from that, they are organised in the order of which I completed them, starting with October’s books and then moving along to November’s reads.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata: An own-voices Japanese fiction novel by acclaimed author of Convenience Store Woman about a young girl who was sexually exploited and neglected as a child, and the long-lasting effect it had on her in adulthood.. What makes Earthlings such a fascinating feat of fiction is how absolutely absurd it is whilst dissecting some vital constructs of the modern era, particularly where the concept of being “normal” is concerned, along with the various ways that the human brain copes with trauma stemming from abuse and exploitation. Couple that with a surrealistically straightforward and terse prose, readers can expect some of the most innovatively bemusing literature to hit shelves yet. [Full Review]

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim & Grace Zong: An own-voices Chinese picture book about a young girl who learns the magic of responsibility. It was cute to read about Goldy Luck and how she tends to mess up the tasks she is charged with. However, it was even more endearing to read how she goes about in resolving the errors of her ways. It portrays the togetherness and importance of giving that is a huge part of the Chinese New Year, so adorably with charming, simple illustrations that utilise glorious, saturated colours of red, yellow, and greens that surround the reader in a sense of happiness. [Full Review]

The Boy and the Bindi by Vivek Shraya & Rajni Perera: An own-voices Queer Indian picture book about a boy who watches his mother put on a bindi, and in the process learns about the multidimensional aspects of gender identity. Reading a story about a mum who treats her son’s curiosity and interest in understanding something outside of his expected gender role with respect and encouragement filled my own Trans heart with an indescribable amount of comfort and joy. This one act of kindness and regard helps her son to understand a bit more about himself, and as such, come to realise his own identity. [Full Review]

Mango Moon by Diane de Anda & Sue Cornelison: An own-voices Mexican picture book about a young girl and her family as they deal with losing their father after he has been arrested for deportation. This book was breathtakingly heart-breaking. The harsh reality that many families in the United States are currently faced with is brought into a vivid and straightforward fore in this stunning tale. We watch as this family’s life is turned completely upside down, leaving them with feelings of loneliness, loss, and even abandonment. The memories they have of their father is the only way that they know how to cope with him being gone. [Full Review]

Mooncakes by Loretta Seto & Renné Benoit: An own-voices Chinese picture book about a girl who is celebrating the Moon Festival with her family. My favourite part about this story is how centred it is on being humble and kind, while promoting a sense of family togetherness that is so beautifully soothing. The little girl’s curiosity along with the love that her parents have for her, depicted in the smaller details is powerful and uplifting. My second favourite thing is the artwork, which uses muted shades of browns, yellows, and blues with soft details and cute characters. This would make an excellent bedtime story. [Full Review]

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki & Qin Leng: An own-voices Japanese picture book about a young girl who is learning to play the violin via the memories she has of her grandfather who was a world renown violinist. Out of all the picture books, this is the one that brought me to tears. It is my favourite story from the bunch and concentrates on the outstanding worth of sentimentalism in pursuing our passions, while also celebrating different ways that memories can help us heal and move forward when faced with loss. Lastly, it also shines a bright light on always believing in yourself even when others try to surround you in doubt. [Full Review]

The Weight on Skin by Beena Khan: An own-voices South Indian contemporary romance novel that takes place in the same universe as The Name of Red, this sequel follows Kabir as he deals with terrible heart-break. The Weight on Skin is highly recommended for romance readers, especially folx who prefer a gradual building of emotions and compassion between two people; individuals searching for a genuine depiction of heartbreak that is not ostensibly imagined. Great writing. Superb characters. Lovely messages on the power of hope and the heart-warming promises on the other side of rejection. [Full Review]

The Deep by Alma Katsu: A historical fiction supernatural mystery about a young woman who survived the terrible events on the Titanic and finds herself aboard its sister ship years later, the Britannic, where she relives the tragedy via flashbacks and a sense of being haunted. The Deep was a wonderful historical fiction novel with an interesting spectral twist I did not expect. The settings are impeccably dreary with writing that is tight and meticulous. I highly recommend this to fans who enjoy the nostalgia of the historical fiction genre, as well as readers that delight in soft ghost stories. [Full Review]

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee: An own-voices Queer Korean science-fiction story about a young artist who is hired by the government to help control a secret automaton dragon via magical paints. Phoenix Extravagant is an exceptional piece of science-fiction that is beautifully complex yet approachable and fascinatingly original. It is one of the best novels released within the genre in all of 2020. Phoenix Extravagant is a superb work of genre fiction that I highly recommend to readers that enjoy a combination of steampunk sci-fi and inventive fantasy elements set against a tense Korean socio-cultural backdrop.

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao: An own-voices Taiwanese-American young adult contemporary novel about a young girl who has a complicated relationship with her family that is further exasperated by secrets and their experiences living in the predominantly white Midwest. There are many things to love about this novel, such as the complexities of trying to maintain face that is typical of Asian cultures, how secrets can decay the warmth of family values, and taking responsibilities for our own mistakes and choices is the only way to make peace with life in order to move forward. My full review for this shall be up later in the week. Recommended for adults and adolescents alike who are fond of stories centring on culturally-rich, dysfunctional family dynamics.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: An own-voices Mexican Gothic horror novel about a young girl named Noemí who travels to the Mexican countryside to check on her cousin after receiving a frantic letter in the mail. Mexican Gothic was a remarkably chilling, eerie, and  devious novel that I am so happy I picked up. Noemí is a tenacious, feisty, intelligent, and strongminded woman whose determination and love of family makes it impossible not to root for her, particularly when the forces of nature seem just as driven to smother that spirit out of her. Between her, the outstanding ambiance and environment of High Place, the commentary on the gradual cultural murder that comes with colonialism, and that bombshell of a plot twist, Mexican Gothic should not be missed by fans of horror fiction and people who enjoy a circumspect creepy mystery. [Full Review]

Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March: An own-voices Indian (Parsee) historical fiction crime mystery novel about a recuperating soldier that decides to help a local family in discovering the truth behind the deaths of two young women. It is a superbly written debut that shows the author’s natural talent at writing for the historical fiction genre. The suspense and air of mystery held fast, and the characters did not fall flat or fall to one-dimensional blunders. I highly recommend this to readers of the historical fiction genre, as well as to individuals who find pleasure in mysteries akin to the works of Agatha Christie and Sir Conan Arthur Doyle, but far more diverse! [Full Review]

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong: An own-voices Chinese young adult historical fiction novel that is a re-telling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This is one of the best books released in 2020, which is evident by the lush and imaginative experimental writing of Ms Gong, combined with complex characters, a tight-knit tense political atmosphere, and some of the finest written brutality of blood feuds I have read in years. My full review shall be up later this week. Highly recommended for fans of Shakespeare’s original tale, readers of Chinese fiction, and those that adore fiercely strong-willed women.

Out of all these books, if I had to choose my top three, then they would be Phoenix Extravagant, Mexican Gothic, and These Violent Delights. Each of these titles has something incredibly imaginative to offer bibliophiles and bring out the essence of what their respective genres stand-for. If you are looking for any specific novels from this list, those three would be the ones I recommend above all else.