Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: Saved In Sri Lanka by Devika Fernando

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Disclaimer: This review has not been commissioned by the Author even though I wish it was :D But Amazon! You have killed my profession.

She is Sepalika. A tour guide in Sri Lanka, who not only mesmerizes Daniel Byrne but even the readers with her knowledge of Sri Lanka. She paints a very picturesque visual of the country. Shrouded under a mysterious past, she comes across as a woman who is looking for love - yet trapped in traditions. 

He is Daniel Byrne from Ireland. A tourist. A historian. His love for history is very passionate and endearing to me as a reader. Seeing Sri Lanka through his eyes was like living there, enjoying its greenery and falling in love with the unknown. 

The love story…
There is a lot of passion and pain in this story. Sepalika is attracted to Daniel, who is a visitor in Sri Lanka. But she cannot give her heart to him since she is already engaged. An engagement which is more like a punishment to her than love. How did she get into this situation and can she come out of it ? 

I have read Ms. Fernando's earlier books (Playing With Fire) and the chemistry between the characters was not so palpable as it is in this one. Ms. Fernando has grown as a writer and this story proves it. Daniel has a very gentle side which draws the reader towards him. When he meets Sepalika she is not free to fall in love. Yet she does. Family values and tradition keeps the lovers apart. 

There is a scene here in which Sepalika visits her family house along with Daniel. The brewing of the black tea and Daniel's continous pleasing of his palate makes me very jealous of him. 

The tour of Sri Lanka....
Sepalika's knowledge of Sri Lanka is astounding. As a history student I loved it. Ms. Fernando has made us visualise The Hakgala Botanical Garden or The Sri Dalada Maligawa with her penmanship. 

"She led the group slowly across the brick paved path on both sides by a wide expanse of lawn. To their left were trees and stonewalls with a few rooftops of old buildings playing peekaboo. To the right they got glimpses of the lake with its walkway, obstructd by a high metal fence."

I loved the way Sepalika introduced every place to the readers and you could almost hear the voice of a tour guide when ever she was talking about the place. In the voice of Sepalika. Ms. Fernando has shown her readers her art of research. Kudos!



A few assumptions:

"Actually, what I love to read most is poetry."
She stared at him with wide eyes. How freaking cool was that? It definitely made him even more different from the rest of the men. Was see ashamed of it?"

I wish in the above lines, a line was added giving the reason as to why he could be ashamed of loving poetry. It would have backed up as to why he would be ashamed of the fact for I don't see any reason why a man should be ashamed for his love for poetry.

The resolution of the conflict
Is too easy for me to digest. There was a scope of more emotional display and if the writer had so chosen it could have been of very intensive and a dramatic conflict. I am all for happy ending but somehow I wanted Daniel and Sepalika to fight their way a bit more. The antigonist gave in too easily, thus diluting the impact of their struggle.

Would I recommend this book?
Any romance lover who loves history will also love this book.  I would also suggest those who are planning to travel to Sri lanka in the near future to read this book. You would fall in love with the place before you reach there.

Something that touched my heart : 

Sepalika's father's story. I resonated with him and I would like to use this platform to send a message across to all my readers. PLEASE DONATE YOUR ORGANS.  Nowhere in any religious text it is written that we use the same set in our next life. This is not our religious, political or social responsibility. This is letting the godliness in us live for ever. I have donated. Have you?


Monday, May 25, 2015

Notes of a Reviewer #1

200th Post .. Yesss! I did it.. Thanks Ron! Love you

Disclaimer: This series is being created not to start a controversy but you can create one if you want to. :P

Note #1: Feeling Shy to Review 

When I started reviewing, I used to buy books. Imagine that! 200 posts ago, there was a time, I used to walk into a book shop and buy books and tentatively try to review them. Tentatively, as in a shy person who is not sure if her views matter. I still buy the books, but whether I review them or not is at my discretion.

That is what every new reviewer asks me today. Am I equipped to review? Who will read my reviews? Do authors even know that I have reviewed her or his book?

My answer to them is : Should you care? First be very clear in your own mind:

1. Are you reviewing because you like it?
2. Are you reviewing because you want to please the author?
3. Are you reviewing because you understand the nuances of reviewing and need to grow as a writer?

Rule no. 1: Review because YOU want to review - not for the free ARC. 

My journey as a reviewer has taught me the following :

Why should I review?

I reviewed for the first time because there was no one to hear me rant about an author. Of course that review is no more on my blog and I am not going to tell you who it is, even if you pm me. :) But suffice to say that it made me understand what blogging is all about. Ranting is not reviewing.

But there are many doubts that a reviewer faces when they first review?  The first being - who the heck are you to review a book? What are your qualifications?

I remember shyly hitting the Publish button and waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. I kept my eyes glued on the stats. It crawled up slowly and then I found one trick... the number of times I refreshed my blog, the number rose. I felt very happy thinking that I have found a way to make the numbers crawl up. Stats matter don't they. That ingrained Indian thing we have- 'acche numbers lana mere bacche' (Get great numbers,kiddo) was immersed in my soul.

But it gave me no happiness. It was like a painting, which only the painter could see or appreciate. I think that is the moment I understood the concept of an 'audience' or readership as we call it.

Lesson Learnt: Went back to Blogger stats and changed it to "do not count the stats when I refresh". You see, if you want to realize your worth as a blogger/ reviewer, you need to know how many visited your blog. Even if the number is initially 1, it gives you immense pleasure.

I started posting my links in other blogs - that time I didn't know the concept of posting on any FB forum and I did not want to post it on my wall. My wall was for political debates, killing the politicians with my words and of course heated discussions on why I liked an actor and justifying that -even if those actors didn't know about the existence of little me.

Then came joining group's like Indibloggers. It opened a big world for me. I remember my first 'comment' came from one of my fellow Indibloggers. It said :(hold your breath or at least pretend to hold)

Great Review!!!

I loved the words. I worried about the exclamation marks. Why did they feel surprised ?

....... To be continued in Notes of  a Reviewer #2 .

In the meantime share your experience with me, for I would love to know the viewpoint of other reviewers. It can be topics you want to know more about w.r.t reviewing. If I cannot answer them, some other reviewer will. Do send in your questions @ rubinaramesh1973@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Crossed & Knotted - India's First Composite Novel

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Disclaimer: This review has not been commissioned by the Author even though I wish it was :D But Amazon! You have killed my profession.

India's first composite novel
Sounds very cool yet at the same time I had a slight doubt when I first got this from the publisher Readomania for reviewing. Cool, due to the fact that we are notching up the genres that we present out to the world. On one side if we have embraced the nocturnal creatures and on the other hand, we have Titles to showcase along with The Arabian Nights and The Canterbury Tales. So presenting to the world of 'composite novel' we too have a book on that shelf - Crossed & Knotted. 

And this is exactly where my doubts came in. Are our writers equipped to spin tales which are connected to each other and yet autonomous in their own rights? And that too not one but 14 authors together. That must have been some herculean task. Moreover I was very eager to find out what was the thread that bound the 14 authors together. What made them declare this new venture as a "composite novel"?

The Story:

All the 14 short stories are bound together by their characters. I found that very interesting. As a writer, we often suppress the secondary characters in our stories, limiting ourselves to the POV of our protag. Imagine here. All your secondary character take a life of their own. In short, a small world by itself. 

The Characters:

Keeping in with the true essence of a composite novel, one can truly say that every protag of the short stories has stood out on their own yet merged subtly in the other stories. The novel starts with A Curious Dalliance of Sutapa Basu where we are introduced to Sudip Roy. A simpleton, who wanted to lead a simple,middle class, married life. But when life teaches him about the survival of the fittest, he learns it fast. As an introduction, Sutapa Basu was impactful in drawing the attention of the readers into the novel. 

Sudip's daughter Shivi takes the story further in The Diary of Josheph Varughese by Ayan Pal and the theme of the seemingly perfect murder continues. A character, which a reader had caught the glimpse of comes in front of you in the consecutive chapters. Interesting. 

Reality Bites:

Another fact I noticed in all the stories are the reality bites. From the plane crash in Kotteswaran   (Web of Life by Sanchita Sen Das) to the German Bakery Blast in Mumbai  (For a Speck of a Moment by Amrit Sinha), all the incidents created the backdrop of the stories. Brought back many memories we want to erase yet kept me as reader submerged to the stories. 

Few Mentions:
Since it is an anthology, some are hits and some are misses. That does not reflect on the writers here since all the stories are very well written and equally well edited. ( In today's literary world, a rare phenomena) But here I have to mention one story. Deepti Menon's The Dragon Lady. While all the stories told tales of heart wrenching situations and equally  'crime parfaits', The Dragon Lady, aptly named Kamu, took away the tension that was building up till then. 

"Punishments had no effect on her and she would stride out of the classroom emitting fire through her nostrils."

A very pleasant break from the myriad of crime and punishments. Rightly placed midway of the composite novel as Chapter 9. Kudos to the compiler.Gives the reader the right kind of break to read the upcoming fascinating stories. 

Was it true to the genre?

To a large extent, I would say yes. But one character perplexed me. Binoy, the youngest son of Kamu , the Dragon Lady. He carries two stories on his shoulders, after making an appearance in The Dragon Lady. 'For a Speck Of A Moment' by Amrit Sinha and 'To Ma & Ma, Con Amore!' by Monika Nair. The thread broke for a moment. Binoy got married twice? And if Binita is his first love, why is there no residue of the grief in the second innings? A line or two mentioning his previous love in the story by Monika Nair would have been a great continuity. Especially after a tragedy of such a magnitude had touched his life. A memory will prevail and cannot be ignored.

A very same situation with Meena has been handled very well in the stories 'Look Beyond' by Amar Lakshya Pawar and 'Dawn at Dusk' by Bhuwaneshwari Shankar. That is what a reader would expect for Binoy too. 


The last chapter 'The Last Act' by Arpita Banerjee gave the novel a closure. The novel ended with the character it had started with. I liked the concept of the "full circle" but there were two things that did not work with me here. Firstly, monologue of the man on a 'deathbed; and the duplicity of the doctor. It felt too contrived. Specially with Pragya being a doctor. Moreover, it appeared unethical and did not gell well with the character of the doctor. 

Would I recommend the book ?

Yes. Most definitely. Don't expect it to be a one time read or a light read. You will be drawn into the stories and will often find yourself going back and forth, to find out who appeared in which story. Sort of like an actor in a  special appearance in a movie and you will soon find yourself cheering when one of the characters in a previous story, who had left a mark on you, reappearing again. Powerful. 

Line that Stayed with me ...

Her soul gave up a silent prayer: May all the victims of the Kotteswaran air tragedy, at least, find loving families and happy peaceful lives in this this birth.
The Web of Life by Sanchita Sen Das
Amen to that! Lets wish the same for the  victims of Nepal Earthquake Tragedy.  


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lemon Girl by Jyoti Arora

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Disclaimer: This review has not been commissioned by the Author even though I wish it was :D But Amazon! You have killed my profession.

I had completed Lemon Girl a week ago but was putting off from writing a review as I was not able to decide whether I associated with the character of Nirvi or not. I am a feminist and every female protagonist should stand up for herself, fight her battles and come out as a stronger person. Nirvi is not a black-and-white character where I can say that yes I like this about her and this is how I relate to her. She in fact reminded me a lot of Moll Flanders by Daphne du Maurier and then it striked  me- is this the reaon why I found Nirvi so different. Like Moll, Nirvi is a survivor too. The methods used by her cannot be understood and liked by many of us but that does not mean she's not a survivor. So when I could connect with her, this story opened up for me.

Lemon Girl by Jyoti Arora has all the complexities of love. Desire, want, lust, wanting the forbidden fruit and heartbreak. It's a story about a girl, Nirvi who started out as a simple girl, living with her parents in a protected environment. And then Jyoti hits us with a very poignant question, "how safe are we behind the closed doors of our home?" That unnerved me. That relationship is too close, too pious. But that does not mean we can live as ostriches burying our head in the sand. Jyoti has not overplayed on what had changed in Nirvi's life. But with a subtlety, she has drawn the gory picture of how relationships can change in the blink of an eye. It was very scary moment for me.

From that point of time, Nirvi is looking  for closures. Did she find it in the series of men she stayed with? The most prominent question would be why did she choose this path? Victim's guilt? Survival? At this point of time when Arsh enters her life she is no more the Lemon Girl he had met in the market a few years back. This not only intrigues Arsh but also me as a reader. What had happened in Nirvi's life that changed her so much? As I travel along with Arsh to understand the situation many things come in front of me which makes me question Nirvi's character. The feminist in me revolted and the woman in me understood. Conflicting emotions.

Another character which I particularly liked was that of Tiya. Strong, fighter and standing up for friendship. Her relationship with Arsh would have blossomed into something exquisite had not Arsh obsessed after another woman. I understood Arsh's conflicts but I could not understand why Nirvi would latch up to men when she had so much talent of her own? Why did she not believe in herself? Did her past shape up her character? Should she not  have hated men instead of going after them? These are the various questions that went on playing in my mind as I turned the last page of the book.

Complexities in the Characters:

I found the complexities of the characters very interesting. This is not a linear storytelling where you are rooting for the main character. She is very complex.Till the end I did not know whether I should sympathise with  Nirvi or not. Thankfully she had one saving grace which came out well at the end of the story.

A message to all the parents.

I want to use my this review as a platform to ask all parents to listen to the child. Do not play the blame game. Would Nirvi had a different life if her mother had listened to her? Would a life not been lost, if there was parental guidance? Why are we are quick to criticise, to judge and forget that in between black and white there exists a shade of grey.


Nirvi could have been stronger. She always seems to create a bad situation for herself and then run away. I found Sam snooty but his character was not bad enough for me to accept the fact how Nirvi treated him. What is stopping Nirvi from walking out at any point of time? Sam dispassionate enough not to fight for his love. To portray Nirvi as the victim, the other characters around her should have been villainous enough. This diluted the conflict in the story by small margin.

"She leaned towards Sam, crossed her arms around his neck, ending her words with an emphatic kiss. As her lips touched his, her eyes turned to look at me."
There are moments when I just was about to sympathise with Nirvi, she was introduced to us as-

"And then my mother found me a nice guy. Nice guy for a girl she herself had blamed for wanting in all that was nice and decent. Nice guy for a girl who aimed at dating every guy of her acquaintance. Nice guy for a girl whose favourite challenge had been to steal the love of her own best friend.Well, he indeed was a nice guy. Your lemon girl might have found him a dream. But Nirvi didn't."

Would you recommend this book?

This is not a  one time read. It has many shades which might make you love or hate a character at different points of time. Questions will arise which makes you ponder about the story. But a must read for those who love drama. 

Line that stayed with me:

"When it's time for you to fall in love, even a lemon can become the cause of it. In my case, there where a full dozen of them."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

And We Remained by Asad Ali Junaid

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Time Travel...
Writers are very blessed. With a few strokes of a pen or jamming on a keyboard one can time travel. Reliving your memories of the days bygone makes one think of all the hits and misses that one has experienced in life. This story is like a two-way street, in which the author makes us travel back and forth, throughout the novel. The excitement of a college life, the fears, the tribulations all turn out to be the background of this story.

The characters came to life...
The author has not restricted the POV to the protagonist. It's almost like small patches woven together to make a quilt. Warm, fuzzy and very relatable. How many of us can truly say that college life is only our experience? Youth is selfless and as a result it shapes the person not for what he or she has done but what has been done to him or her. Sahir Hasan had experienced all these things in his college life which has shaped him to be the man he was  in his 30s. Each chapter is the POV of one of the friends and all culminate to project their college days.

Some cuts are too deep...
One bad experience can take over your life. Here too there was such a case which could have really spoiled the lives of all those involved. But young hearts heal very quickly. 

"We stopped imagining eyes following and whispers behind our backs wherever we went. Our limp stopped showing. Our bruises turned from red to purple and then merged with the colour of our skin."

A Soft Love Story...
What is a campus story without a love story? The story of Wardha, Sahir and Sandeep has been woven across the many educational, social activities, political activities that goes on inside a college campus. No words or emotions has been exchanged between these three characters but the underlining emotion of love has been beautifully portrayed. The ending has been unexpected too.....

Unusual technique of writing...
'It's different' certainly not a cliche in this novel. The author has mixed various styles of writing in which not only the actions of the protagonists but also the thoughts move the story forward. While many people are talking about the email method used in the story. I found another technique very amusing. Shall I call it 'the look' technique?

Me: "What??? You can't be serious!!!" look.
Sahir: Still the "Should I???" look.
Sahir: "All good with you???" look.
Me:"Why do you care…???" look.
Now some of you might find it "breaking the rules", but I found it rather entertaining.


1. Keeping up with too many characters got confusing at some point of time. 

2. Growth of the characters did not keep up with the time frame of the story. Sahir did not mature much as a character. I can overlook the email chats between friends. I am sure most of us, when we meet our college friends, are more willing to talk about what we did in college rather than about our bread and butter. But Sahir's character affected me the most since he came across as the responsible one- till his thoughts about Wardha, after a 15 years of gap, emerged. He was still thinking in those lines !! Or is it the beginning of another story? Time will tell :)

 Note to the author: 
OK pardon me.. This is the voice of a married woman, who expects her hubby to behave when he sees his ex-girlfriend and not do a slow dance. The same law does not apply to married women. :)

Would I Recommend This Book..
A very bieezy read that will entertain you. And Time Travel is the addes bonus..:) How can you not think of your college days when you read such stories.

Line that stayed with me:
It was at that moment – seeing her unkept hair and a crumpled dress with a cast on her leg, helpless and hurt in the hospital – she went from being attractive to beautiful.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hidden Passion By Summerita Rhayne

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Historical genre is one of my favorite genres. Having devoured Barbara Cartland,Anna Campbell, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn and Sarah Maclean, I was a bit skeptical when I got this book for review from the Author, Summerita Rhayne. I was all prepared for a demure heroine and a lot of  'priye', 'pitashri' and 'mrignayani' thrown in. For those who are wondering what the words mean, its 'love', 'Father' and 'Doe-eyes' respectively. And before any of you snicker, the regency novels are full of them too. But somehow we have made it into a joke in our Indian genre. So I promised myself to read this with an open mind and accept the fact that there was a time when people did use these words.

Sizzling Chemistry..
"She had an impulse to trace those planes and angles. His mouth.... she blushed at the thought of how it might feel to have it touch her. She was an innocent as princesses were expected to be."
.... and thank god she isn't. She is spunky, knows her mind and is a rebellion. All the ingredients I like in a girl (except in my daughter..PJ) Rukmini is portrayed as girl who follows her heart. She is depicted as an huntress, seductress and above all a woman who can fight her own battle. She had me lusting after Devesh and mock Pala, one of her suitors. I applauded when she questioned her father regading her marriage.  Her words,
"I select everything I own myself, my clothes,my jewellery. Why can't you allow me to choose the man I wish to marry?"  
The above line shows very clearly that her upbringing had been very forward compared to those days yet marriage is one space where she is not given the rights. Why?

Social Standings

From time immemorial, we have given too much importance to the social standing of a person. Easier said than done for everyone wants a better life their children. Suppressing my bourgeoisie mentality as I read about Devesh, I could very well see her attraction for him. His rise from a farmer to being a king can be a very interesting subject, if the author had so wished to explore.  But keeping it in the lines of the romance, he cuts a dashing figure as lover, friend, king and a savior of his tribe. 

Do Away with the Society

Having read all the books of Summerita Rhayne, I see a growth in her writing. Her writing is tighter, her characters are well placed and the most of her secondary characters come when they need to without boring explanations as to why they are needed. In this genre, it is very easy to spread out, to make your imagination run wild. But reigning those thoughts and keeping the focus on the protags makes historical romances different from Historical fictions.

Kiss Formula

Keep you dirty minds away. I don't mean that they keep on kissing. The author has literally followed the Keep it Simple Stupid style. The princess who knows what she wants, the King who is bound between love and duty and a conflict will they or won't they. You cannot go wrong with this formula. So if you are looking for your world to change after reading this book, please don't. But a few hours of a beautiful romance and a cuppa is definitely guaranteed. 


Well researched, well edited and well presented. The author has taken time to do a bit of research of the clothes worn durig those times. The ambiance has been set right and the romance is sizzling.

Would I recommend this Book?

If you love only Romance - No. But if you are a lover of Historical Romance.- A Must Read. 

The Saying That Stayed With Me

"You've been a wanderer too long. Your spirit rebels against settling down even when your heart compels it But tell yourself, you aren't tying yourself down if you follow your heart.  You're only on a new adventure ....."

Monday, March 30, 2015

He Fixed The Match She Fixed Him by Shikha Kumar

Name of the Book : He Fixed The Match She Fixed Him
Author: Shikha Kumar
Check the synopsis @ Goodreads
Buy at @ Amazon.com
Disclaimer: I got this book to review from The Author.

Are marriages made in heaven?
Everytime a girl is born, the first thought that crosses a mother's mind is that will she get married or will she be happy after marriage? Sandhya and Mahesh thought the same thing when Shreya was born. But Shreya had a past and even with her educational background they could not find a groom for her.

Marriage – the all and end all of our society.
So when one day out of the blue, the Kholis  get a call from the Kharbandas, asking for Shreya's hand in marriage – there was no dearth of happiness in Shreya's household.

Girls as a commodity.
Recently, I was watching some old flick in the Netflix, when a blind girl was asked to sing and dance in front of the prospective groom and his parents, I felt like banging my head on the TV. But that would have been a bit expensive, so I satisfied myself by switching off the television. So  I was dreading the scene, when the girl was supposed to meet the boy, But, the treatment of this whole boy-meets-girl was done with great respect and never was the girl put up as a commodity. As a reader and a woman I appreciate that.

When past overshadows the present.
Both Shreya and Kunal had a past. A past which was intermingled and had created a very unusual present for them. It is here, where as the reader I started getting lost. To give the writer her due credit, I must say she has beautifully woven the past and present. But there is one major flaw in the story. Even when Shreya comes to know what Kunal was all about – why did she keep her mouth shut? Was she going through a Pati Parameswaran syndrome? And even if she is, why did not Kunal realize it even once that he is the one who had started the game? Shreya has not been portrayed as a village belle. Highly educated and very well-developed business acumen endowed personality should not be given this characteristic trait where she tolerates every nonsense metted out to her by a husband.

Is love this blind?
There was one part in the story, a very small part, when the guy asks the girl to undergo an eye surgery so that she doesn't have to wear specs again. In fact, he is very insistent about it and in many places, in the story, the appearance of the girl has been given a different shade of importance. I can understand the parents being worried that the guy might reject her on the basis of her looks. I can even understand a guy quietly pointing out that he does not like his wife wearing spectacles but what I cannot understand was when a highly educated girl accepts this condition meekly and even undergoes the surgery. What did I miss here? Isn't our society past this stage? If the author, would have slightly shifted away from physical beauty concept I would have given the story of five-star.

Sizzling chemistry.
The passion and the chemistry between Shreya and Kunal is palpable. Everytime they met, you could feel the vibrancy in the story. One can truly say that this was the USP of this novel. Whenever Shreya droned on the persona of a bussinesswoman, she presented what Indian women aspire for but at home she was a total Suraj Barjatiya heroine. 


1. Scenes like her figure being good for she is doing Yoga has been repeated many a times. 
"She was wearing a light green sari of net fabric: she had realised that her curves were in good shape, thanks to Yoga."
2. The feminist in me was really furious at the number of times Shreya meekly accepts whatever Kunal did to her on one hand and on the other she was a force to reckon with in the office. 

3. Most of the characters are very well etched and even though the last four chapters stretched out in front of me and could have been condensed into a much shorter version, still it makes very interesting read. I feel the author has really justified the true meaning of marriage through Shreya's mom, Sandhya. Sandhya had every right to be furious. I just wish this thought process was of Shreya's rather than her moms. Then it would have made Shreya a complete woman.

Would I recommend this book?
Most definitely. In fact I would love to read more from this author for she really knows how to spin a tale.Many parts of this book is unputdownable.

The saying that stayed with me.
"Then she remembered another saying: 'when someone is determined to trouble you, make sure the troublemaker learns what trouble really means.'"