blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Soul Catcher – Monica Bhide

Set in modern India in a dimension where time and space are fluid, Monica Bhide’s The Soul Catcher, a novel in stories, is a mosaic narrative about destiny, grief, loss, faith, love, and sisterhood. It takes us on a magical journey that begins with an unspeakable tragedy, and concludes with a surprising resolution. It chronicles the life of Yamini Goins — the Soul Catcher — a woman who transports souls from one body to another to keep people alive. In Yamini’s India, one set in harsh realities and far removed from tourist traps and movie cliches, anguish and death battle second opportunities and powerful prayers in an eternal dance in which magic and the impossible are mere elements of everyday life. Is death the end? What are the consequences of prolonging life by supernatural means? How does pain shape our identity?

A violent, touching, unique narrative with a great sense of place, The Soul Catchers features a diverse cast of complex characters – pain healers and lovers, parents and broken souls – that bring life and death to the page. The Soul Catcher explores that which makes us human—the desire to live, the fear of death, the longing for love and the release that comes with the acceptance of fate. Throughout the dark overtones of the interwoven tales of this book, an electric current of transcendence echoes from every page as each character attempts to shift his or her destiny to the whims of their hearts. 

Monica Bhide is an award-winning writer, accomplished literary coach, gifted poet, storyteller, and educator with a lyrical voice and universal appeal. As a bestselling fiction and internationally renowned cookbook author, Monica is known for sharing food, culture, mystery, and love in her writing. 

A respected writing authority, Monica appears regularly on NPR and conducts sold-out workshops on writing, food, culture, and scheduled speaking events at prestigious venues as the Smithsonian Institution, Sackler Gallery, Les Dames d’Escoffier, Georgetown University, and Yale University. She has taught all over the world including conferences in London, Dubai, US etc. She has also been the “Writing Coach in Residence” for the annual conference of the Association of Food Journalists.

  • Monica’s short story collection, The Devil in Us, topped the list on Kindle as a bestseller in its category of Literary Short Fiction. Her memoir, A Life of Spice, was picked by Eat Your Books as one of the top five food memoirs of 2015.
  • Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi picked Bhide’s Modern Spice (Simon & Schuster, 2009), as one of the “Best Books Ever” for Newsweek in 2009.
  • The Chicago Tribune named Monica “one of the seven food writers to watch in 2012”.
  • In April 2012, Mashable.com picked her as one of “the top ten food writers” on Twitter.
  • Her work has garnered numerous accolades and has been included in four Best Food Writing anthologies (2005, 2009, 2010, and 2014).

As a noted international food writer, Monica has built a diverse and solid audience through her books and articles in top-tier media such as: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Ladies Home Journal, AARP-the Magazine, Parents Chicago Tribune , Christian Science Monitor, Bon Appétit, Town and Country Travel, Food and Wine, Cooking Light, Coastal Living, Health, Better Nutrition, and many others.

Monica lives in Virginia with two sons.

Website Twitter Instagram

My thoughts: this was a lyrical and beautiful book about love, pain, and saving lives. A magical realist novel featuring people with special gifts, from the titular soul catcher, her healer sister, a little girl who can summon the rain, another who can see the truth. Each story builds into a larger narrative connecting the soul catcher to each character along the way, as she returns to India in time to save the life of someone important to her.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book review: Maya’s Notebook – Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende has written dozens of books, both autobiographical and fiction – mostly historical with a touch of magic realism. Maya’s Notebook is different. 

It deals with addiction, loss, first love, homelessness, desperation and renewal. While Allende has covered some of these themes, this book has a modern setting and takes place mostly on a island  (and in flashback) at the bottom of Chile – the author’s home country. 

When Allende has previously written about Chile it has been through a historical lens long before her cousin was president and her father, a politician, disappeared. Her other contemporary novels are mostly set in her adopted home of California, USA. 

Maya was raised by her beloved grandparents in a brightly coloured house in Berkeley, near San Francisco. After a family tradition the teenager begins to spiral out of control. 

The story is told mostly in flashbacks of Maya’s downward trend interspersed with her stay on a tiny island to recover. 

Wanted by the FBI, gangsters and bent coppers, her family have sent her to stay hidden with a family friend. The island and its inhabitants help her heal and deal with the past, while she also begins to uncover some of the secrets of her own family. 

Allende writes in Spanish, despite speaking English as well but the translation is smooth and the author’s distinctive style comes through. It’s a beautifully well written, compelling story and Maya is a thoroughly created character and quite the narrator. 

Perhaps because it’s her diary and there’s no audience she is honest and there are moments that shock and send a shiver through you of the terrible things Maya’s been through. 

I loved the supporting cast as well, from her slightly crazy grandmother and her Criminals Club, to the islanders with whom Maya finds a second home. 

I wouldn’t say this is Allende’s best book (that’s probably The House of the Spirits) but it’s a good read and certainly deals with some tough issues.