Sunday, July 7, 2019

#648 : The Antagonists by Tina Biswas : Review

                                                  
Political stories are something which I don't pick up often. Living in a "developing country" filled with an average political system and below average politicians, a fictional account of politics often pales in comparison with what happens in reality. This story turned out to be a bare, blunt and raw take on the political system in place. The dynamic yet dark side of the system consisting of people who believe in sticking to their principles which hinder growth, or worse, promote oppression has been portrayed vividly.

The protagonist (or should I say antagonist,) the chief minister of the Bengal state, Devi, is hell bent on ensuring that the coal mining project in Balachuria is not executed since it is handled by the "Marwari" Lohia group. In another thread, Anima Acharya, a neurosurgeon who returns back from the UK discover that her husband is cheating on her. Unable to handle it, she goes back to her ancestral town of Balachuria where she spent her childhood. 

With rich literary narration and an engaging style of writing, the book turned out to be a complete page turner. Having raised by a father who is a lobbyist, I could associate so much with the thread of the plot where one set of people were lobbying to get the coal project done, while the other set, namely Devi's side was lobbying to ensure it does not happen. 

The book turned out to be a pleasant surprise in terms of plot and characters. 

One engaging read!

Thanks to Fingerprint! for a review copy.  
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Sunday, June 30, 2019

#647 : Eternally Artemesia by Melissa Muldoon - Review


Having read this writer's previous book, I was utterly confident that this story would end up increasing my desire to visit Italy and soak in it's culture. The writing and the story ended up exceeding my expectations. 

The story goes back and forth between two different yet very similar strong woman across different timelines with a beautiful converging point. Maddie, an art therapist is drawn to Italy by the art and culture the country has to offer, while Artemesia was a bold 16th century painter who was brutally raped and faced trial and was finally made an outcast for standing up for her rights. While Maddie has an inkling that she has lived a previous life, the proof to it just seems too far to reach until she moves to Italy to meets Camilla, an descender of the noble Crociani family who is a part the sexual assault and abuse survivor group who is counselled by Maddie. Camilla invites her to a family gather and "the past" of which she has an inkling blends with her present. 

The writing and the story was such an absolute delight to read. The writer has beautifully woven an intricate tale with multiple tones which perfectly captures the strength and determination of women who thrive brilliantly in testing times. Sadly, the book has been very aptly titled as "Eternally Artemesia" for all the trials that she faced, the rape, the abuse, the gross injustice, seems to be meted out to women of today's times as well. It literally feels like an "eternity" of  problems for women. 

With a perfect blend of history, art, romance and a bit of gore, the book was an absolute delight to read. 

Thanks to Laura of Italy book tours for picking such a book yet again! 



Meet the Author:  

Melissa Muldoon is the author of three novels set in Italy: “Dreaming Sophia,” “Waking Isabella,” and “Eternally Artemisia.” All three books tell the stories of American women and their journeys of self-discovery to find love, uncover hidden truths, and follow their destinies to shape a better future in Italy.

Melissa is also the author of the Studentessa Matta website, where she promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog written in Italian and English (studentessamatta.com). Studentessa Matta means the “crazy linguist” and has grown to include a podcast, Tutti Matti per l'Italiano and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram feed. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Programs, which she co-leads with Italian schools in Italy to learn Italian in Italy. Through her website, she also offers the opportunities to live and study in Italy through Homestay programs. Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master's degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

She has also studied painting and art history in Florence. She is an artist, designer, and illustrated the cover art for all three of her books. Melissa is also the managing director of Matta Press. As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Eternally Artemisia, Waking Isabella, and Dreaming Sophia.

She also curates the Dreaming Sophia Art History blog site and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy, where you will find companion pictures for all three books. Visit MelissaMuldoon.com for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest  ~ Instagram
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Sunday, June 16, 2019

#646 : Mystical Tales For A Magical Life by Shuba Vilas : Guest Review by Vignesh RL



Mystical tales for a magical life – a book by Shuba Vilas is a collection of 11 short stories from the Puranas. The author has tried to relate some incidents from these stories to today’s life. The learning from these stories will definitely shape a man into a good human being. In the book cover – A guru teaches a king and his family and also being listened to by others sitting in front of a cave in forest attire. The guru in this book cover wears a tiger skin that depicts Lord Shiva sitting in the Himalayas and teaching his disciples. The book is aptly titled as ‘Mystical tales’ as some of these stories may not be accepted in today’s scientific world. For an atheist, the mystical stories in this book will remain a mystery. The transition from Dhvapara yuga to Kali-yuga and the characteristics of Kali-yuga has been explained in an effective manner.

The author claims that these are unheard stories of. However, with an orthodox and traditional upbringing like mine, I have been fortunate enough to have learned and enjoyed oral versions of these very stories narrated by my grandparents and parents. One minor difference of version I noticed was that Lord Indira has been portrayed as King of Gods; Lord Indira, according to the versions I know of, is the God of heaven. The book focuses on good moral thoughts and will serve as an apt primer for parents who strive to inculcate these values in their children from a very young age. After each story, the author explains the context and relates it to today’s life. There is a belief that if you chant the Rama Mantra ‘Srirama Rama Ramethi’ three times, it is equivalent to reading complete VishnuSahasranama. In a similar manner, the two to three pages of explanation after each of these 11 stories, serves as a perfect gist of the entire book. However, it is solely in the perception of the reader to accept and imbibe learning from the book. The stories in the book can certainly serve as a refresher in times of crisis.. On the whole, the book is a good read.

Thanks to Fingerprint! publishing for providing a review copy. Do buy this book on amazon here.


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Monday, May 27, 2019

#645 : The Seduction Expert by Saya Lopez Ortega : Review


The Seduction Expert is the story of a young woman who choose to call herself "The Baroness". Labeling herself to be a hard core proper feminist, the baroness deals in helping women finding about their partner's unfaithful activities. She also helps love stuck women (wealthy teenagers) "achieve" men of their liking by training neurologically to reach their target.  She is essentially a dominatrix who believes in destroying the men who cheat their partners. While her own "love life" has just got interesting, her to be mother-in-law quickly becomes her arch enemy. She treats her own "love" Louis as a case and trails him just like she would do for any other man who is her target. 

While the lead character, "The Baroness" does feel a lot like Miranda  from The Devil wears Prada initially, she is nothing like that as the story progresses. The premise of a feminist victory of sorts by outing a cheating man did seem exciting initially, but as the plot progressed and her "love life" came in to play, it felt cold and bitter. The book ends with such a smart and powerful cliffhanger that the readers would surely be prompted to pick the next. However, I personally felt that the writer might as well have finished the book. As such with satirical writing and sharp humor, the story was a pretty good read!

The writing is a bit odd in a way that it reads like as it if it were a work of translation. That's explicitly not mentioned anywhere though!

This book is strictly for people who enjoy satire and mild drama. 
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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

#644 : Beast by Krishna Udayasankar : Review


Indian fantasy thrillers are always a bit of a gamble to pick up. It's a rather a matter of preferences than the actual writing in question. With such prejudices and apprehension in mind, I decided to pick up the book and I didn't come to regret my decision. The pacing, the structure, the characters and the most important of all, the plot by itself made this book one good read. The story, which starts off being like a mystery at the slightest morphs into a fast-paced thriller as the plot moves along. 

Set in a typical Indian backdrop, Beast is an urban fantasy thriller. Incorporating interesting elements from Indian mythology, the story which starts off as a simple mystery quickly becomes an interesting adrenaline-pumping thriller. 

The female protagonist, ACP Aditi Kashyap is called in to solve a gruesome murder. The whole murder scene looks like as if it was handiwork of a ferocious animal. In parallel, an "enforcer", Pritivi, is called upon to solve the case and hunt the murderer. Together they embark on a dangerous journey involving werelions (or Saimhas) who have co-inhabited with humans since ancient times yet are hidden in plain sight. 

The writing was an absolute delight to read with rich detailing and crisp dialogues. Though the story initially did sound like a cliched werewolf kind, it was far from it as the plot thickened. The story is certainly very well laid out with no characters out of point or purpose. 

A good fantasy thriller after a long time! 

Do buy the book from Amazon
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#643 : Ate! - An Incomplete Short Story

Maya stood next to the picket fence gasping for air. After all, she managed to escape being caught by Nirmal. That was no ordinary feat. She looked around,expecting him to surprise her by pouncing from behind and getting her out of the game. She scanned the yard for places to hide. They always played in Nirmal’s backyard, but today they decided to move to Ami’s house. Nirmal’s mom wasn’t keeping well. This backyard was trim and clean unlike that of Nirmal’s. Mr. Ashok,Nirmal’s dad, loved bikes and cars, hence his yard was bare with various vehicle parts littered all over the place. Since she was the smallest of her friends, physically, she could hide behind one of those mammoth engines or door frames that were there on the yard. If Nirmal was chasing, he would always catch her by surprise in spite of her not making any sound. 

Today, she had no such thing to hide behind. Ami’s yard was filled with potted plants all arranged neatly. She had managed to reach the far end of the yard without tripping over the pots. She turned back and looked at all the plants. They were in varying stages of growth. There were flowers of all colors and sizes. A strong scent of wild Jasmine hung in the air. A slow smile crept to her eyes. There was rectangular patch towards her left. Four long wooden poles stood rooted in rectangular form, covered with vines and leaves. A small wooden horse lay rocking gently inside. She tiptoed towards it and sat on the horse. If felt a size smaller for her frame. That didn’t really prevent her from gripping the handle and rocking the horse gently. For a moment she forgot all about Nirmal and their game. It felt so nice to be in the garden and enjoying a rocking horse. She lived in one of those tall buildings with glass lifts. Her house was on the 7th floor. She hated that she couldn’t go out and stand on the balcony like her brother Rajesh did. He was taller than her and older too, though by just two years. This whole place felt dreamy to her. May be, she could persuade the gang to play in Ami’s house often. Ram came running out screaming and kicking down many pots in the process. Nirmal followed him laughing. At least he was careful enough not to step over the fallen plants. 

Maya sulked and stood up. It was time to end the game.She would walk straight to Nirmal and ask him to get her out. She wanted to stay in the garden taking in the scents and sights. She was bored of the hide and seek game. Her gang of 9 kids from her school almost always played this game for a year now. They had all joined the Sunny brook school in their kindergarten. Now they were all in the third grade. As she walked to towards Nirmal who was now in the floor tackling, a small figure appeared suddenly in front of her. It shot out of nowhere with a low swishing sound. It looked like it was some kind of a creature cut out from a tree. Two tiny black eyes blinked at her as she looked at it with curiosity. It reminded her of that woody thing from the movie her dad had watched on the TV few days back. She scratched her nose to try remember it’s name. It slowly stepped forward towards her. She looked at with curiosity. Were such things even real, she wondered? She stepped forward. It stood still and blinked at her.
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Writer's Note - I had begun writing this short story on 8th Feb 2018, it's May 2019 and I have lost both the story and the drive to complete writing it. Wondered what I'd do with an incomplete story. Thus the decision to throw it out in the open and "crowd-source" ideas to complete it or invite co-authors to complete it. Just so you know, the above piece is un-edited.

If you are interested in writing this along with me, please shoot me a mail - shreejanani@shreewrites.com or if you wish to give me an idea to complete it, please write to the same ID. 

What do you stand to gain? - I cannot afford anything monetary, however, visibility and good credits will certainly be given. 
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Friday, April 12, 2019

#642: Legacy (Andalucian Nights, #3) by Hannah Fielding - Review


The protagonist, Luna, a medical researcher/journalist goes undercover to investigate the head of a Spanish alternative medicine clinic, Rodrigo de Rueda Calderon (Ruy) who has tall claims about his "natural" methods to cure life threatening diseases such as cancer. Ruy is a complete charmer, the typical Spanish hot blooded passionate male and has a reputation of being a womanizer. With his dark irresistible looks and fascinating gypsy ways, he pursues Luna with unrelenting enthusiasm. Luna discover the murky bond between her Spanish side of parentage with that of Ruy's family which ends up throwing her already complicated life into a full blown spin. 

In spite of being the third book in a series, the book can be read as a standalone as it isn't a logical continuation of the other books. 

The book was an absolute delight to read. The rich narration and vivid descriptions is every prose lover's dream. The writer has brought to life the charm and sensuality, the region of Andalusia inherently possess. Reading the book made me want to visit Cadiz. Thanks to her previous books, I managed to visit Cordoba. It is evident that the setting deserves a special mention. Spain is truly a magical country (for that matter I'd say most of Europe is magical!)a nd the writer has very smartly used that to construct the series. Andalusia, Cordoba particularly can overwhelm people with it's old world charm. I'm sure the writer has not written the series based on a "internet research". The tone,the writing, all of it sounds as if it was born purely out of the creatively inspiring setting from a physical visit. 

The story, the setting, the narration all if it were simply perfect. It wouldn't be surprising if the entire series is given the same treatment, few years down the line, as that of Jane Austen's works today - Classic romance with a cult following!

Do buy this book @ Amazon



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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

#641 : Eco Friendly Products by Dopolgy - Review


With the recent plastic ban in the state, all of us have been pushed to look for Eco-friendly alternatives for bags. I successfully managed to switch to cloth or jute bags for everything including grocery shopping and vegetable shopping. It was that forced switch which made me realize that we were all literally drowning in mounds of plastic which cannot be recycled. I decided to slowly switch one product at a time and do my bit for a sustainable environment. 

In spite of the plastic ban in full swing, tender coconut vendors are still providing plastic straws. They tell me it's very much available in the market. To do my bit, I got myself stainless steel straws and have begun to carry them around in my bag. Just as I was looking to throw out a couple of other items - toothbrush and my plastic loofah, I chanced upon a tweet by a person running this Eco-friendly store - Dopolgy. They were offering Charcoal infused bamboo toothbrush, News paper color pencils, news paper seed pencils and news paper pencils. My employers - Schneider Electric - a company known for it's green initiatives - had earlier provided us all with paper seed pens which turned out to be quite good. These pencils by Dopolgy are the latest addition to my conscious stationery kit. 




Having used them for a little more than a week now, these pencils are no different from the regular wood pencils. I found no difference at all whatsoever. They are study and as perfect as the ones made out of wood. 



Having used a natural loofah made out of Vettiver roots ages ago, I had very less expectations of these loofahs. They aren't exactly durable. The fibers tend to come loose and irritate the skin in a very short span of time. This loofah are comparatively thin and do look sturdy. It's been more than a week, so far it is quite good and do not show any signs of tear or wear. 


The charcoal infused toothbrush was the perfect product of all. The brush felt weightless and the bristles are super soft.  It feels refreshing to use a product which is easy on the nature and our health as well.


All the above mentioned products are quite reasonably priced as well. 

More than the overall quality of the products, which of course is good enough, it feels good and satisfying to have made the switch! 

Please do make the switch, it's just the little bit that we can do. 

Do buy these fantastic brushes and loofahs from Dopolgy from their store here. 

Note: Dopolgy sent these products for a review, however, the opinions stated are my own.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

#640 : Women In Business - Wands by Megha : Interview


It is every Potterhead's dream to own a wand. For unlucky people like me, who are yet to visit the UK and buy the actual merchandise from Warner Brothers (which might end up burning a hole in your pocket), Megha's wands are a dream come true! Albeit at a lesser cost. 

Here is my interaction with this beautiful young woman with a quirky business!

Hello Megha,

First of all, congratulations! Your wands look so perfect.

Me: Warner Bros have their own official wand merchandise. What made you to take up this idea of wand-making?

Megha : Wand making wasn’t an idea as such , being a Potter head I wanted to own a few wands and that’s how it all started J One instagram post later people had me asking if I was selling them , and here we are J

Me : How do you really make a Wand? What’s the process and effort that go into it? Give us an inside sneak peek. 

Megha:  Magic! ;)

Well , the wands are hand made and hand painted and go through several drying processes to finally look like the end result and That’s all the Tea I can spill!

Me : Investing time and money into a business is not an easy decision, especially if you are a woman, the society tends to treat us with kid gloves. Though that is a changing one step at a time, there is a long way to go. Enlighten us on the trials and tribulations you faced when you decided to get into this business.

Megha : Wand making wasn’t something I thought I would get into you know , but when I first started I invested  my own money on it . Self doubt was one aspect that kept bothering me .Will people like my work was the one thought I had 24*7 but then I let go of that and everything was easier after that , also , not to forget ,the shipping! But … it got better with time so we’re all good now J

Me :Your business is online predominantly. Do you have some offline sales as well?

Megha : Yes , people who know me in real life are my offline customers J

Me : The small business scenario in India – How would you describe it from your experience, what are the procedures you had to follow to bring your product out.

Megha :  I think there is a lot of scope for small businesses if you base your store on something that isn’t already available and with the emerging use of social media it seems even easier , but you cannot just depend on what’s in front of you , you need to work equally hard and give them the best so your business flourishes ! Hard work gets you places is all I can say for now.

Me : Pillars of support! Immaterial of gender, we all need support to embark on a venture, who were yours?

Megha : I have always had weird dreams but nevertheless I have gotten endless support from my family and my Boyfriend J

Me : Words of wisdom for women aspiring to start their own business.

Megha : Work hard and give your all without calculating the outcome ! You’ll be shocked to see how much you achieve!









                                           

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

#639 : The Heart of You by Aarti V Raman : Cover Reveal

~ Cover Reveal ~
The Heart of You 
(A Geeks of Caltech Novel)
by Aarti V Raman


Mixed martial arts studio owner Kit Barranos has always been a fighter. He will fight for his family. For his friends. For anyone in need.

What he doesn't know how to do is fight for himself...

... Or the inconvenient and consuming desire he has for single mom Lily Fallahil.

Office manager, Lily has spent the last decade raising her son and proving her independence to her protective and overbearing brother, Drake.

She has no time for romance. Especially with Kit Barranos, who has a body to die for and eyes that rip at her soul.

When Kit reveals his heartbreaking secret to Lily - he has a brother he never knew about, one he considered his closest friend - it brings them closer, creates a bond neither can deny.

And paves the way for a steamy attraction that explodes between them.

But it isn't just Lily that Kit is slowly but surely falling for. It's her adorable son, Bret.

Navigating the holidays, their families and their feelings is no easy task.

Flawed and fiercely loyal, Kit and Lily have fought the odds and survived.

But, survival no longer seems enough.

Can they take a chance on each other, on their hearts... On a love that braves The Heart of You?

The Heart of You is Book Three of The Geeks of Caltech, a unique band of friends bonded by loyalty, brotherhood, and pain. The Geeks of Caltech are to die for and their women all they wish to live for!

COMING SOON!

About the Author:
Aarti V Raman lives in Mumbai, India and has been a commercial editor and business journalist for the better part of a decade.
She is an incurable romantic who has taken up the task of bringing Happily Ever After to life for the characters in her head. She has three traditionally published novels out, all contemporary romances from 2014-2016, with the next one slated for release in 2019.
She currently writes and self-publishes steamy contemporary romance for urban millennials with a global twist. Sometimes, there are guns and car chases too.
Her new contemporary romance series include GEEKS OF CALTECH and ROYALS OF STELLANGARD as well as standalone romances - all of which have become Amazon India and US bestsellers.
She has also appeared as speaker at lit festivals and events around India and also dabbles in poetry, while conducting creative writing workshops.

Contact the Author:
Website * Facebook Page * Twitter * Instagram


This Cover Reveal is powered by b00k r3vi3w Tours


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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

#638 : Maha Vishnu Trilogy: Part 1: The Code of Manavas by Arpit Bakshi : Review


Set in the future,2 million past the year 2050 to be precise, the story talks about a mysterious element called Bhoomodium. While the element makes people immortal and improves their cognitive abilities, on the long run, it is does have other consequences. Kali yuga has ended and the Swarnim yuga has begun. The people of the day are much evolved and are know as the Manavas. Lord Krishna, the actual protagonist of the book, is a scientist and the sole reason for the people,ie. the Manavas to have survived Kali yuga. Would Krishna be able to work his magic again to save the Manavas from the negative force which threatens to usurp the clan. 

When it comes to a science fiction set in the future, I'm apprehensive about reading such a story. While the genre by itself gives that freedom to let one's imagination run wild, it really doesn't warrant that the writer gets too carried away with the technicalities of it. This writer didn't do that and I a managed to read through till the end. The premise - Lord Krishna as a scientist in far future - seemed very interesting. However, I wished the writer explore the connection between the Krishna from Dwapar Yuga and the Swarnim Yuga a bit more. 

While the first quarter of the story was very interesting to read, the rest of story felt forced and quite unsure. I felt the writer could have done away with the female characters and the love triangle. They really didn't have any major role to play which seemed a bit chauvinistic to me. 

The editing felt a bit choppy in a sense that the flow felt quite inconsistent. The characterisation was basic. Since this is a trilogy, it could be that the writer intends to develop the characters in the forthcoming books. 
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Monday, February 11, 2019

#637 : Women In Business - Hooty Hoot Store by Abirami Kumaraswamy : Interview



Can happiness be brought? What is really the definition of happiness? All these questions popped in my head as I scrolled through Hooty Hoot store's beautiful Instagram feed. Her store is based on the concept of Hygge - translate loosely to cosy in Danish. I looked up and did a bit of research and realise that it was all to do with mental well being. 

Curling up in a comfortable nook with a steam hot cup of chocolate and a nice book when the weather if icy cold can really bring happiness. That just sounds a lot like what the Danish people prescribe to be happiness. Most of the products that she sells - the Hooty hoot crate, Vintage Journals, Valentine day combos, all seem to focus on experiencing happiness in a aesthetic manner. Intrigued by her concept, I decided to have a little chat with her about her business, here is a snippet of our conversation. 

Me :  How did this of concept of creating/curating a box based on Hygge come by? What or whowas your inspiration to start this business?

Abitu :  Year 2017, when I learned about the concept of Hygge, it got me hooked to it. As a person with a bit of OCD and seeks something comfy all time to read or watch, hygge sounded perfect to me. Hygge is not only about comfort and relaxation. It changed my way of living, making me more productive and positive. The 2017 Christmas season gave me a perfect opportunity to start a business, focusing primarily on gifts. The fusion of hygge and vintage products I ideated and created made my friends happy. I wanted to bring smile and glow to more such faces, thus began my journey of Hooty hoot.

Me : Investing time and money into a business is not an easy decision, especially if you are a woman, the society tends to treat us with kid gloves. Though that is a changing one step at a time, there is a long way to go. Enlighten us on the trials and tribulations you faced when you decided to get into this business.

Abitu : Investing money is a big step, it took me almost six months to make my family to understand what exactly I’m trying to do and how far I need help financially. There are few things about this subscription box that is tricky. Many people are not aware of how a subscription box works. Though there is an active and support Instagram community which understands all this, there is a long way to go. We cannot be pros overnight, every hurdle and every problem faced will help move forward.

Me: Your business is online predominantly. Do you do some offline sales as well?

Abitu :No, there aren’t any offline sales yet

Me: The small business scenario in India – How would you describe it from your experience, what are the procedures you had to follow to bring your product out!

Abitu : Small or big if you have an innovative idea, you’ll be certainly noticed by the crowd.  It is important to be clear about the idea, research this thoroughly and do a good deal of value addition to it before indulging in sales.

Me: Pillars of support! Immaterial of gender, we all need support to embark on a venture, who were yours?

Abitu: Without my two friends Indhumathi and Sara, Hooty hoot would have been hiding in some notebook’s last page. The concept of Hygge was introduced to me by my friend Harish DV on his trip to Denmark. He sent me a photo explaining Hyygge and few more Hygge concepts followed all over Denmark. This literally was the a good twist in my life which change my way of thinking and living. All thanks to my dad, who believed in me every time and supports me mentally and financially through this start up. 

Me: Pearls of wisdom for women aspiring to start their own business.

Abitu: Whatever makes your weird is probably your greatest asset, be weirdly creative and be your own boss.

About Abirami Kumaraswamy :


Abirami kumaraswamy (Fondly known as  Abitu by her friends) is  26 years old and lives in Coimbatore. Given the count of engineers of India, well she is an engineer too.  She finished her M. Tech Computer Science and Engineering and Worked with TCS. Scrap paper and Scissors was always her hobby and passion. The hectic round the clock job was unsatisfactory for this one awesome life, so she quit her job to start a small business. Almost 2 years later and three notebooks of ideas Hooty hoot was born. Hooty hoot is all about hygge, vintage and more. The love for Vintage, writing letters and making postcards are things from her childhood, all thanks to her mother.  Apart from hooty hoot and crafts she loves reading has published a book titled MazhaisaaralumTheenerkoppaiyum (Tamil poetry). The Japanese word Tsundoku, used to describe a person who owns a lot of unread books suits her perfectly!


Do check out her store here - Hooty Hoot Crate

As I signed off my conversation with her, I realised that one really needn't put in effort to find happiness.

PS. Her journals are super cute, her valentine combo is real pretty. DM her on Insta, she is really active and responds with such enthusiasm!  
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Friday, February 8, 2019

#636 : Women In Business - Happiness is Handcrafted by Archna Sudarshan : Interview


Up-scaling is probably only of the favorite activities of women from my previous generation. I've seen my mom turn our old skirts to fully functional pretty cloth bags for shopping.  People have become a bit more nature conscious these days making way for recycled and ups-scaled items into their homes.

I stumbled upon Archna's Instagram handle - Happiness is handcrafted, where she sells beautiful art items which are made from bottles (decoupage) and other scrap. Here is a snippet of my conversation with her.

Me : So what made you take up this business?

Archna : So - this initiative didn’t start as a business up-scaling things has been an integral part for dad and me since my childhood. When I had projects at school to make models, we wouldn’t buy raw materials from a store, instead try use materials from home waste. 

For example, once I had to make a skyscraper. We could have done it with cardboard and get done with it, Instead my dad encouraged me to make the building with empty shampoo bottles - this would be way back in 1996-1997, my third grade. Though it wasn’t appreciated at school, I had this satisfaction that I could make waste products beautiful.

Likewise I did my graduation in architecture and the first year had many exercises with art from waste - 
- made wind-chimes with newspapers, shoe laces and broken anklets
- collages with magazine sheets
- Jewelry with coconut Shells 
- slippers with straws, etc
It was reminiscing my childhood and the beautiful times dad and I shared making such projects.

Now being a design consultant for architecture and interiors - designing spaces having personalized touch has been my forte.

The 2 above points put together makes my interior space exciting. Mostly I work with jute ropes, wool, glass bottles - be it honey jar, pickle jar or liquor bottles.

Glass as such is a wonderful material and what an amazing way to articulate it and make it a designer piece of the home interior!!

Also, I started making personalized gifts for family and friends using these bottles which gained a lot of appreciation. Thus making my passion also my home Business and creating drama with up-scaling 😇

Me:  Investing time and money into a business is not an easy decision, especially if you are a woman, the society tends to treat us with kid gloves. Though that is a changing one step at a time, there is a long way to go. Enlighten us on the trials and tribulations you faced when you decided to get into this business.

Archna : Getting into this business has had its ups and downs just like any other business, with time being such an important factor.

Bring a handcrafter - time is of most essence. The time and energy that goes into making a product is enormous and I really wish people do realize it and appreciate it.

Also managing home, work and passion has been crazy but beautiful. Everything is what I love doing - so it’s been an amazing journey so far.  With my backbone being my husband, encouraging me to be more creative - be it interiors or handicrafts, helping me collect materials and not term me a hoarder, help with ideas and give feedback and be my support system with house hold chores, there’s nothing more I could ask for.

Money wise - it’s majorly the supplies needed, which cost wise is high in our country also with much lesser options (it’s getting better now) compared to other places, but it’s all about how you manage it.

Also this being a home business, there ain’t any major investment but for the storage spaces for all supplies and products with their packaging materials and that occupies a whole lot of space 😌

Many have realized the importance of supporting handmade artists but there’s a long way to go.


Me : Your business is online predominantly. Do you have some offline sales as well?

Archna : Yes I do make offline sales as well - but that’s usually with word of mouth, within family and friend’s circle, apartment-mates, existing client referrals, etc.


Me :  The small business scenario in India – How would you describe it from your experience, what are the procedures you had to follow to bring your product out. 

Archna : So there wasn’t a particular system I followed. It was all just trial and error.

Many products which I made for family and friends were gifted to them and only till about recently (until about 2-3 years ago) I realized I do not have pictures of them. Back then I didn’t have the idea to sell them - that’s something I truly regretted.

But of-late I’ve learnt from those mistakes and making progress.

Also, in order to get recognition - I had to make one each of all the products I had made in the past just to take pictures and post it online.

The bright side of it is that, few of them are displayed at my home, making my place colorful.
Also when someone visits my home, these products excite them and I get orders, either for the same product or something similar with customization.

Instagram has been the primary source of online sales - if not sales in a big way, at least recognition and contacts . I do have plans in the future to sign up with recognized organisations for online sales, taking it one step at a time.


Me : Pillars of support! Immaterial of gender, we all need support to embark on a venture, who were yours?

Archna : Nagarajan - Dad being the first - to teach me or even get me into the idea of up-scaling or up-cycling 

Bhuvana - Mom - being supportive of all the excitement, disappointment, mess I’ve made and everything under the roof

Sudarshan - my teenage love and now my husband 
The support, encouragement, the push, the critics, all of it through the last 15 years and forever to go - makes me what I am today.

Gowri - my mother in law
She is the primary support to help me procure raw materials here in Chennai and go around with me to markets or suggest where I can get what.

My girls - friends, sisters and sisters in law - who are always around to be happy for me and get excited with every product I make.

My regular courier service guys - who know how delicate these products are and take good care of them while packaging and shipping, in however possible ways.

This is just the start and there’s  a long long way to go.

Me:  Words of wisdom for women aspiring to start their own business.

Archna : It might be scary, may think it’s impossible, could be a doubtful move - but it’s just fine
Jump into it.

We are here to make the impossible - possible 

Create whatever starts a revolution in your heart

Be strong enough to stand alone.

Smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it!

Thank you Archna for taking time out to have this conversation!


Please do reach out to her via her Instagram Handle - Happiness is Handcrafted or her Mail ID!








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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

#635 : Dance With Me by PG Van : Review



The protagonist, Suhana, fresh out of divorce from her husband of 14 years is struggling to find a footing and raise their only son Karan. Amidst all this, videos of her dancing and working out while doing her household chores go viral. In appears Samyan, her neighbor's son. He is handsome and caring, helping out Suhana with the various challenges of life. Eventually, one thing leads to another and life literally happens. 

The book is a short yet intense read. The writing is great, the characters are perfect. One thing I had a problem with, was the setting. While the characters feel almost Indian, the story is set in America. This wasn't really clear until few pages down. It didn't really matter at all in the end, but I prefer to know the geography of the setting. 

The central theme of the book is all about second chances. Moving out from a fruitless relationship and finding love sounds very romantic and easy. The hard work, the emotional trust one has to put in and the trauma one has to experience due to a heart break of sorts if often swept beneath the rug or at times over romanticized. However, this writer has portrayed all that in correct proportions. Moreover, in spite of going through all that, it is hard to move on and rediscover yourself. The writer did a fab job making sure Suhana discovers her passion for dancing. 

In short, the book was an intense and romantic read. 

Do buy the book here on Amazon.

Note : Thanks to TBC & the writer for a review copy! 
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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

#634 : Women In Business - Introduction



At one of point of time in their career, every working woman would have dreamt of quitting their job and taking up a business. Then there are the others, who actually took that plunge and are doing a fabulous job out of it. 

Social media has become a great playing field for small time entrepreneurs. Instagram particularly is buzzing with entrepreneurs who start small yet are steady with their sales. Women these days are finding it easier to gain much needed exposure via social media. 

While offline businesses pose a huge volume of challenges, online businesses are comparatively easier to handle. One can manage a good online business with a proper website, some social media skills, and a reliable delivery system. The legal part of the whole set up is a tad bit complicated though with GST kicking in. 

Being an extensive user of social media, I've had the opportunity of meeting (virtually & offline too) and interacting with many women who run successful small time businesses. Most of the women  I interacted with have either had to give up their career because of their family commitments or they were just done being tied down to a monotonous job. Then there are this minority of young women - who are in college or school or have just completed their college education - who use their spare time or have that thirst to prove themselves trying their hands in running a business. 

Such women need to be lauded for doing what they are doing. They serve as an inspiration for young women who need to be taught the value of financial independence. 

Why "women" only you ask? 

Frankly, this is a no-brainer. The board rooms of big corporates and conglomerates hardly have female representation. How many big businesses are run by women today? a handful may be. These so called big businesses didn't begin big, it all started small. For all we know, these women run small businesses might grow big and that skewed gender ratio there might gain a balance. It's not wrong to dream and hope. 

It's my small way of showing support to women how are aspiring to set that ratio right. 

All this month, I plan to post snippets of conversations I had with such small business owners who predominantly have a business online (some have offline presence too). First post coming up some time towards this weekend!

Please do support these people by visiting their stores and buying from them! 

PS. THIS IS NOT SPONSORED. The whole series is purely my initiative. I hand picked all the women to be featured and reached out to them to feature them.


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Friday, February 1, 2019

#633 : The Month that was - January round up!



 I embarked into the New Year with a vague plan in mind. I wanted to bring my life to an order, but chaos reined and continues to do so. Amidst all the personal chaos, I managed to write about 5 posts (This one included) out of which only two were reviews. However, I did read 6 books in this month. I've never really kept track of the number of books I read per month, but this month, inspired by Bookstagram, I decided to keep a track.


Here is what I read! 

                                    

I picked up Elanor Oliphant as the bookstagram community was raving about it. It felt mildly over rated, nevertheless, the writer did a great job of portraying a trauma and it's effect on adulthood. Me Before wasn't really on my list but I picked it up on a whim. I wanted to watch the movie since Emilia Clark was in it, but it's always a good thing to read a book before watching the movie. The Forest of Enchantments was also surprise addition to the list. I didn't want to read any of Chitra B Divakurni's other works after The Palace of Illusions. That book for me is such a high benchmark and from the reviews of other books, I knew she hadn't really surpassed herself. Personally, I felt it would some how lessen the impression I had on the writer if I read her other  below the bar books. Braved that notion I had and picked the book. It didn't exactly fail me but it wasn't mind blowing like The Palace of Illusions was. I also had the chance to meet her in person and get my copy autographed. 

The Chef's Secret was a great addition to the list. I loved reading ever bit of that book. P.S. From Paris was on my kindle for a long time. After the Italy effect, I decided to move to France. The book felt like an American movie or may be things were lost in translation? 

I loved Six of Crows series, with The King of Scars out, I wanted to read the Grishaverse series for  a bit of a background. It's a book you would either come to hate with all might or love equally. I'm yet to really decide if I like it or hate. I loved the writing, the suspense element, but the characterization and story line was disappointing. I've just stared the next in the series. 

I did a bit of planning for the blog for February & March. Something very interesting coming up from Monday. Lookout for it. I had a blast interacting with many people for it. 

On the life front, I managed to attend The Hindu Lit for Life. Nothing really inspiring. Lit fests are supposed to spark inspirations for aspiring writers, but I felt the quality of the event as such has degraded a lot. It was a common opinion that the panelists were mostly clueless about the topic they were discussing and the moderators were even  more average. I still remember Sashi Tharoor's and Omar Abdulla's enlightening speeches from previous editions. They really did know what they were talking about. This year it was all pseudo intellectual trash barring a couple of sessions. 

I began making some tweaks to my diet since I realized the importance of nutrition. Slogging in the gym taught me that. 

Overall, January was an okay-ish month. Nothing really exciting, but that's how my life is most of these days!

Am I looking for excitement? Nope. I'm perfectly fine with my boring life.

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