Tuesday, August 30, 2016

#401 : My Fair Princess by Vanessa Kelly : Review

GENRE: Fiction – Historical Romance


FORMAT: Digital

SERIES / STANDALONE: The Improper Princesses #1

HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Review copy from the publishers via NetGalley. Thanks to Tasty PR!

A feisty woman trotting about in breeches wielding a pistol – What a refreshing change for the character of a heroine in a historical romance! Gillian, the love child of the duke is shunned due to her very parentage. She is raised in Sicily by her step-father and grandfather who pretty much let her run wild and have her own ways. When her step father dies, all hell breaks loose. Eventually, she extracts revenge by shooting his killer thereby putting her own life in danger. Her mother and grandmother decide that her life is largely at risk and relocate to England. They manage to convince the Duke of Leverton – Charles Penley, who also happens to be a distant relative to help Gillian fit in and find a suitable husband for her. Charles ends up giving more than her bargained for!

The plot as such was logically perfect and stuck to the characteristics of the era it was set in. The writing was too good with the right quantity of wit, humor, romance and anger culminated. The characters were all just perfect. My favorite character would obviously be Gillian – She is feisty and bold, yet is utterly confused when it comes to matters of heart. Charles is a gentleman yet when it comes to love he really couldn’t control himself. This made the characters so relatable – No human is perfect, we all have our own flaws. Its heartwarming to read a story where the two characters are wits end initially but eventually go on to fall in love. With witty dialogues and tastefully crafted scenes of romance, this book is a treat for historical romance fans.

MY SAY: One must read book if you love historical romance


Do check out more about the book in this spotlight post!


#400 : My Fair Princess by Vanessa Kelly : Spotlight

The Improper Princesses—three young women descended from royalty, 

each bound for her own thrilling adventure . . .


Improper Princesses #1

Vanessa Kelly

Releasing Aug 30th, 2016


First, Vanessa Kelly brought readers The Renegade Royals. Now, in a delightfully witty new series, she introduces The Improper Princesses—three young women descended from royalty, each bound for her own thrilling adventure . . .

Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.

Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast . . . but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?


Amazon | B & N | Google Play | iTunes | Kobo 

Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her current series, The Renegade Royals is a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes USA Today bestselling contemporary romance with her husband, under the pen name of VK Sykes.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

#399 : Key takeaways - Workshop : Art & Craft of Writing

Story mirror

Poetry and Plays have never been my cup of tea. Books and essays were my thing and still continue to be. When Mr.Shashidar shared the invite, I found it prudent to lap up the chance to step out of my comfort zone.

The workshop was held at Apparao Galleries - a peaceful and beautiful place to conduct a creative workshop.  I reached the venue about 15 minutes early to find it quite empty. However, within the next 15 minutes that changed quickly and the room filled up. Ms.Nandhitha, Mr.Shashi and Mr.Devendra, welcomed all the participants personally before starting the session. It was rather refreshing to see a writer and a publisher mingling casually!

We dived right into business and the co-host gave us a brief introduction of what to expect. She also spoke of her experience of working with one of the speakers - Mr.Shashidar.

He kicked off the session by reciting a haiku which was closed to his heart titled "Suicide" and then went on to detail his experience in writing Haiku.

So here are the key takeaways from the first session - Ten Tips on Writing Haiku

  1. Haiku is a short form of poetry which conveys a clear picture of a particular moment with very few words.

  2. It has a structure of 3 lines, in the pattern of 5-7-5 syllables

  3. The best way to start writing Haiku would be to use pictures. Click and write on the go - A notepad, pen and a camera are your best friends.

  4. The essence of Haiku lies in the simplicity of words yet powerful meaning it conveys.

He also showed us examples of Haikus that he wrote and published in his blog.

Inspired by this session I decided to take up writing Haiku. The very next day when I started off, I realized one thing - It's a lot of word play. My brain is wired to elaborate settings and emotions in a rather eloquent manner. Penning down something so short yet powerful is not easy. I googled about and found this app - HaikuJam to get into the groove of putting words to effective use and it has helped me a lot.

The second session was by Mr.Devendra Jaiswal - Publisher - Story Mirror. This publishing house has been launching authors left and right in a very short span of time. He elaborated about the current trends in the publishing scene and threw light on the process of submitting a novel.  This session was quite interactive as quite a number of participants of the workshop were aspiring writers/published writers.

The next session was something I personally looked forward to - Mr. Timeri N Murari's session on writing plays. The first play I watched was "Chocolate Krishna" by acclaimed actor/playwright Crazy Mohan. That play was one laugh riot. The setting was minimal but the script was outright hilarious. Needless to say, the actors lived up to the script.

Mr.Murari emphasized for the need to focus on writing naturally instead of writing for the larger public - the #hastag generation. He elaborated his experience in shrinking a script of a full length movie into that of a play. He spoke on how advancement in technology is helping the theater business. One particular line of thought from his session, which stuck with me was the beauty of characterization and crisp dialogues in a play. It's not possible to make the characters "think" live on stage. Of course, a narrator can be used for that, but it will simply end up putting the audience to sleep. Also, a playwright cannot afford to add in the backstory of the character to the play yet the actors need to know that backstory so that they can get into the characters head and soul.

It was a refreshing experience to hear about two forms of creativity I am not used to. I also got to meet and socialize with a varied group aspiring writers, published writers and fellow bloggers from the city.

Hats off to Story Mirror, Mr.Shashidar Sharma, Mr.Devendra Jaiswal, Mr.Timeri N Murari and Ms.Nandita Hariharan for putting up such a great show.

[caption id="attachment_1586" align="alignnone" width="2048"]IMG_1791 That's us with the speakers :)[/caption]

Thursday, August 25, 2016

#398 : The House of Kane By Barbara Casey : Review


GENRE: Fiction


FORMAT: Digital


HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Review copy as a part of iRead Book tours in exchange for an honest review. Thank you :)


Having read this writer’s books before, I knew I could trust her to cook up a well scripted story. The intriguing summary and an equally intriguing yet beautiful cover tempted me to pick up the book.

Aislinn, the talented editor/writer receives a call from Caldwell Kane who owns and runs The Kane publishing company. He wants her to help him out as a consultant in sieving through the right manuscripts as the publishing house hasn’t published a bestseller in a while. That call, eventually ends up changer her life and love.

The writing unquestionably is too good. Being a tiny little part of the publishing industry, I could relate with the premise of the book. However, it was interesting to see a very detailed picture of the industry both in a positive and a negative light. The characterization was good enough but I felt Richard’s character (Aislinn’s ex-husband) could have either got a better closure or could have been sketched out differently. The story as such was layered beautiful and it felt like unwrapping a gift layer by layer. In fact, at one point, the story made me wonder as to how just single phone call had the potential to change a person’s life. It’s known to happen though.  The story was paced evenly with proper twists and turns added at the right place. Of course, Lottie Howard’s story was a bit predictable, but that didn’t matter. Nothing like knowing that you hunch came true. It is obvious from the plot and the premise that the writer has put to use her own experience as a writer in making an interesting story.

MY SAY: An interesting insight into the publishing industry fictionalized properly.

BUY LINKS : Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble  

Giveaway :-D



Wednesday, August 24, 2016

#397 : The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman : Guest Review - Sri Vinithra Sundararajan

Note : This review is by sister who managed to race me in reading this book. I pestered her to write a review and here is what she had to say about the book. Mission - Getting my kid  sister to write a book review - Accomplished :-D 

The Graveyard Book begins with one of the best opening lines “There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife” depicting murder. A man named jack sneaks into a house in the middle of night killing the father, mother and the sister. However, he discovers that the family’s two year old toddler is missing. He follows the scent of the baby and figures out that the baby had sneaked into a graveyard where something strange happens. The community of the dead in the graveyard hide the baby from the killer and while Silas who is neither dead nor alive, escorts jack out of the graveyard and erases his memory for Silas knows that Jack will not rest until he succeeds his intentions. Mrs. and Mr. Owens adopt him as their child while Silas vows to be his guardian since he is the only person who can leave the graveyard to venture out to the outside world.

The Graveyard book is creepy in its own ways. Mrs. Owens names the boy ‘Nobody’ or ‘Bod’ in short. From the start, he is given the ‘Freedom of Graveyard’ allowing him to wander around the graveyard and learn tricks. He even befriends a mortal friend Scarlett who thinks Bod is imaginary because her parents tell her so. She leaves him alone and heartbroken. With the passage of time Bod feels very lonely and somehow convinces Silas to allow him go to a school. He uses his graveyard tricks and powers to stand up against the bullies but with bad consequences. Scarlett re-enters his life, with an older man wooing her mother. But who is the old man? Has Jack found Bod?

With excellent narration from the author, each chapter in book stands out to be a short story itself, being an account of Bod’s journey of life. Each and every character is crafted to serve a purpose, with some memorable ones being Miss Lupescue and the Sneer. The villains turn out to be creepy and viscous that they leave you wanting to know more about them. But, this book is clearly not for readers who hate chapters that drag a bit with me being one of them. Even though the narration kept me hooked, I found it a bit slow in the middle affecting the course of the story.

On the whole, The Graveyard Book is, as its title suggests, creepy and unique. 

PS. This review has not been edited by me and is purely the work of my sister.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#396 : : His Drunken Wife by Sundari Venkatraman : Blitz!

Marriages Made in India

Book #2



Sundari Venkatraman


The badass Shikha is startled when the nerdy Abhimanyu proposes marriage. She loves... herself, and Abhimanyu doesn't figure on her list anywhere. For Abhimanyu, however, it was love at first sight when Shikha walked into RS Software, where the two of them work.

When Abhimanyu shows her that he just might be rich enough for her, a pleasantly surprised Shikha accepts his marriage proposal and moves into his swanky apartment.

But it looks like the love is all from only Abhi’s side as Shikha continues to drink herself crazy. Yeah, even at their wedding party.

And then Abhi sets out on a honeymoon to Thailand with His Drunken Wife...

*MARRIAGES MADE IN INDIA is a five-novella series that revolves around the characters you have met in The Runaway Bridegroom.

Grab your copy @

About the author

Sundari Venkatraman

His Drunken Wife

is the ninth book authored by Sundari Venkatraman. This is a hot romance and is Book #2 of the 5-novella series titled Marriages Made in India; Book #1 being The Smitten Husband. Other published novels by the author are The Malhotra Bride, Meghna, The Runaway Bridegroom, The Madras Affair and An Autograph for Anjali—all romances. She also has a collection of romantic short stories called Matches Made in Heaven; and a collection of human interest stories called Tales of Sunshine. All of Sundari Venkatraman’s books are on Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers in India, USA, UK, Canada & Australia under both #romance & #drama categories.

Other books by the author

Stalk her @


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Monday, August 22, 2016

#395 : An open letter to arm-chair critics

Note : This is going to be a rather long post, almost rant styled. Don't say you've not been warned.

Dear Arm-Chair Critic,

Hello there. I guess this letter is long due. I've finally found the guts and the right time to pen my thoughts. I suppose I got bored of the likes of you who criticize anything right from the low medal count of Indians in the Rio Olympics 2016 to my own personal misery - my infamous book ban.

I know. I can almost picture you rolling your eyes at the last part of that sentence which is no way comparable with the first part. Well, let me elaborate.

I know you have no clue about this ironic situation of mine. Even if you did, I suppose, you still choose to mock me for it. It's your choice to mock, but it's not mine to live with it.

I love reading books. I started out at the age of 7 by reading comics and then progressed to full length novels. I have no count of how many books I've read. My librarians, however would, to a certain extent. Yes. I belong to the class of people who borrow books instead of buying it. I still do actually. I earn enough to buy the number of books I read per month yet I still don't. However, when I started out reading, we were in no financial position to buy expensive books. I'm not going to glorify the act of borrowing by calling it a service to develop the local reading community. I borrow because I cannot buy. I borrow because I am not allowed to buy. I have a ban on owning books - Harry Potter series is the only exemption. My grandfather gifted me 4 of them. Who put the ban in place? My dear mother did.

My grandfather was an accomplished writer and editor. He had 7 books to his credit and also served as a guest editor for The Saraswathi Mahal Library at Tanjore.  He had a library of close to 4000 books in languages including English, Tamil, Hindi, Urudu and Telugu in topics ranging from literature to astrological sciences. He was a prominent figure in the astrology and publishing scene. I inherited his genes and his passion for reading. We used to go on trips to various bookstores in the city almost everyday. I was his travel companion. I was his second pair of eyes when his vision started failing. There came a time when his eyes simply refused to see. Yet, his thirst for knowledge never waned. We still went on those trips. He struggled to read and used various special lenses. My grandmother and me, we used to read out to him and write whatever he dictated. His last unpublished work, which is well over 800 pages was handwritten by my grandmother. I handled his mails and wrote whatever he dictated for  his monthly share of articles for magazines for which he was a columnist.

One fine day, his BP shot up and he was paralyzed. His brain function altered itself. His speech slurred and his ability to recollect the past dimmed down. Ultimately he lost all memory of all the knowledge he had gained over the years by reading extensively. Death then decided to claim him after much struggle. We were left with a massive collection of books and no space to keep them as we had sold off his house. The new owner gave us enough time to ensure that the books were cleared off. Given that his place was in a low lying area, we had to frantically struggle to save the books when it rained. It was one dark period for our family. Finally, after about 4 months of struggle, we managed to clear off his library by donating the books to various friends and to the Madras University library.

Now that you know my story, let me summarize what resulted in the ban.

  1. Can you imagine the prospect of completely forgetting whatever you have learnt or read? - I've seen that happening right in front of my eyes. No, it wasn't heartbreaking. It felt almost suicidal.  What happened to him might happen to any of us. This didn't deter me from reading or learning. It taught me not be too attached to anything.

  2. 3000 plus books - Each and every book neatly covered and maintained well without dog-ears or broken spines. Some rare books were a part of the collection too. Imagine a bibliophile having to giving away that many books knowing that it might not be taken care like it was. I don't wish to relieve that feeling by penning it down.

One fine, day long after my grandfather died, I visited Odyssey - One of our regular haunts when he was alive. Landmark had closed shop by then. My mum tagged along. We were there to buy a gift on our way to a party. I wanted to buy a book for myself. My mum silently touched my hand and nodded no with a sad smile. I was perplexed. It wasn't like her to stop me from buying books for myself. After all, by that time, our financial crunch was sorted. It then struck me that she was simply afraid that I would turn out like my grandfather. She had made it clear that books no more were welcomed into her house. Immaterial of how much I earned, she made it clear shouldn't buy a book for myself, even if I did buy, I was to give it away periodically.

It's been three plus years since I started reviewing books. Every book I got as a review copy is either sitting in a library or is with my friend. I've purchased about 12 books since the ban from vouchers I won and I intend to give those away too. I also have a bunch of second hand books I got before the whole incident happened. Those have also found a new home.

I know you give me the stink eye when I attend book launches but slither off without buying the book.

Taunt me all you want when I muse over how I missed visiting a bookshop in a city I traveled to, as you know I won't buy any book.

Be the big fat bully who would criticize me for not owning books with beautiful covers.

Be the so called friend who would sympathize when we talk, but snicker behind my back.

Be the idiot who would suggest I try buying digital books. It's still a book you know and I don't cheat.

I'm past feeling the prick. There was a time when I used to cry myself to sleep, unable to over the come that desperate feeling of not owing a beautiful book I enjoyed.

You and the likes of you are nothing but bullies who are eternally judgmental.

May God give you peace.

Yours Sincerely,

A Bibliophile.

Note : This letter was inspired by a post from a Facebook friend of mine - Ms.Jean Burke-Spraker. She was a part of a conversation with my other friend where I whined about how people judged me critically for owning secondhand copies of books I loved. The very day she posted a picture of a couple of second hand books she owned. Among bullies who flaunted their book collection and ridiculed me for not following suit, she is a rare gem who helped me feel better. I hardly know her as a person, but that simple act speaks volumes about her. Thank you Jean.

PS. If you read this and feel that I'm pointing out to you, well, that's your feeling. I've not mentioned names have I?


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

#394 : What Might Have Been by Lynn Steward : Review

GENRE: Fiction


FORMAT: Digital


HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: Review copy as a part of b00k r3vi3w Tours​. Thank you :)


A glimpse into the Fashion world of 70s set in America – An interesting setting to begin with. Our protagonist Dana, is a fashion buyer and is nursing heartbreak of separating from her lawyer husband. She travels to London and meets a Priest who guides her via letters later. She then goes on to fall in love again and fights hard to make her career ambitions come true.

The story is paced out consistently with enough surprises in the mix to keep the reader engaged. Almost all the characters are all well developed and they are much consistent with the era they belong to. However, I felt Brett – Dana’s Ex-husband’s character could have used some consistency like other characters. He is a lawyer who is virtually coerced into a relationship yet he has the spine to blackmail someone else. Moreover, that part of the story where he coerces Jack Hartlen to sign an agreement seemed too unreal to me and easy to me – a logical loophole in a way. The story initially was set in London but then moved on to United States. However, I really didn’t find a vast difference in the setting as should have been the case. There was also a part of the story which wasn’t characteristic of that era in which the book is set in – Gay alliances. I don’t really think people back then had the temperament to accept such a relationship. The writing was perfect and all characters sounded so alive which is the USP of this book. If not for the brilliant writing and a unique setting, I suppose the story would have fallen flat given it had a very common theme. The title for some reason doesn’t make much sense to me! Guess it’s a tad too romantic for my taste.

One thing that confused me was if this book is the first or the second in the series. Goodreads says this is the first, while reviews say otherwise. It would be helpful if the writer can sort out the cover and the edition in Goodreads.

MY SAY: A good literary fiction


BOOK LINK : Amazon

Thursday, August 4, 2016

#393 : Urban Clap : Review

UrbanClap ads seem to be having a prominent place on my Facebook and Instagram feed.

Given that I was feeling particularly lazy to drag myself to the beauty parlor for the monthly quota of picking and prodding, I decided to give UrbanClap a try. The INR 200 credit I had was also itching to be spent.Salon at home seemed welcoming! I went ahead and downloaded the app. I had googled about the services offered but when I actually opened the app, I was surprised completed. Heck. They had a 'divorce lawyer' service. I couldn't help but laugh my head off!

So I went on to book a beauty service from the Salon at home option. Below are some screenshots of booking process. As you can see, they offer beauty services only for women at present. The process is quite simple and  regular salon services available. The pricing is more or less like your typical salon.

I was a bit doubtful if there would some additional charges for conveyance, however when I checked out, there was no such addition. I was asked to enter my address and pick my preferred time slot. After a couple of minutes, I was assigned a professional.  I was also sent a text with the professional's contact details.


Review of the Professional 

The professional assigned to me, Ms.Uma arrived promptly on time - 9AM. She came carrying a huge bag like Santa. In it were neatly packed kits.She got right to work without chit-chatting. I had opted for two types of waxing and she explained in detail about the products used. Given that this type of wax I had opted for was new to me, I was apprehensive if it would cause some allergic reaction as my skin is quite sensitive. She assured me that no such thing would happen.When it comes to waxing,the beautician often struggles to judge the right temperature for the wax as the tolerance level of each person varies. I've had horrible experiences of being burnt with overheated wax.This person clearly knows her trade well and ensured not to overheat the wax. At the end of the service, she cleaned the area we were sitting as there was some spillage of wax and disposed all consumables properly. In short, she was thoroughly professional.

Review of the App/Service

The app itself is quite light and easy to navigate. It is quite stable and didn't freeze or force-close.


  1. A wide range of  services are offered.  It's easy to have everything in one place.

  2. If you are new to the city, UrbanClap will surely be of help.

  3. They don't employ professionals, they only connect you with professionals - This means if you are a freelancer, this could be a good place to start for your business leads. However, I have no idea about the leads generated or charges to sign up.

  4. Fairly good communication system - prompt texts etc. I had no reason to  contact their customer service so I am not commenting on that.


  1.  The professional is assigned to you as far as beauty services and few other services are concerned. You don't get to choose. Which means if the person assigned to you is rated low, you have no choice but to live with it. The professional I was assigned was rated quite well. She also knew her job well. So I had nothing to complain about - For other services like Bridal Makeup, Photography etc, once you key in your requirements, professionals contact you with their quotes, so you get to pick and choose.

  2. There is little or no visibility if the professional is trained.However, once the assignment is done, the professional's profile is sent to you and it does contain details about years of experience and ratings. Thus, you have to no choice but to accept. I hope UrbanClap has a quality mechanism in place.

  3. Security is an issue - Given that you are pretty much letting in a stranger whose credibility you don't really know. The regular plumber or mechanic or handyman would obviously be a known face in the area when compared to some random professional. I hope UrbanClap has a mechanism to handle security verification.

  4. There isn't much transparency in billing. As in if I pay INR299 for a service I would like to know how much is actually going to the person and how much is going to UrbanClap.

  5. There isn't any option to reschedule the services as far as I checked.

Overall, I'd rate the professional (Ms.Uma) 5/5 on while I'd refrain from rating the UrbanClap service as I've tried just one service. Rating based on just one time experience doesn't seem to be fair.

 Note : This review is a part of the Chennai Bloggers Club campaign in association with UrbanClap. I received INR200 credit to try out the service in exchange for an honest review.