Friday, July 29, 2016

#askvarsha contest
Ask Author Varsha Dixit a question on your blog and she will answer you in her own unique way. Watch out this space for more. Only the best questions will be selected.

My Question for #askvarsha is...
Hi Varsha, your title is very eye-catching. Did you feel that using an oxymoron would not only catch eye-balls, but also bring out the contrast in the natures of your main characters? 

Varsha Dixit


Love is in the air again…this time it’s steamy, bold and manipulative!

Gayatri and Viraj both are products of childhood trauma. Yet they were able to survive, one because of her shrewdness and the other because of his genius. Rightfully Wrong Wrongfully Right, the final part in the best selling ‘Right and Wrong’ love trilogy is the story of these two damaged souls.

Gayatri Dutta, the poster child for rich spoiled diva is fighting to escape a life of servitude her tyrant father is hell bent on pushing her into. Her past string of failures have her backed against a wall. Lonely and desperate!

Viraj is a con who uses his genius to perpetuate his isolation. His life once of violence and abuse has left him cynical and cold. He shuns the society and its hypocrisies. 

And then Gayatri and Viraj cross paths. She needs him and he despises her.

To Viraj, Gayatri, is the epitome of all that he despises, shallow, manipulative and the kind who uses her beauty as a weapon. Or is she?

Gayatri sees Viraj only as a means to an end. She is sure that Viraj with his nerdy demeanor, owlish glasses and crude behavior will be easy to manipulate and walk over. Only he isn’t!

Grab your copy @

Excerpt from #RWWR
‘I can do this, I can do this, I can...’ Gayatri wound her fingers tightly around her cellphone as she made her way to the cubbyhole Viraj called his office. I did not expect a freaking hug, but a polite ‘how are you’ wouldn’t kill that man. She rapped her knuckles on the door.
Viraj swung the door open. ‘What?’ His brows were furrowed and his lips, pursed.
Gayatri remembered what Nikhil had said to her once. Dr Viraj owns and runs this lab. He was the only one you needed to impress! ‘It’s my first day here!’ Gayatri could hear her voice shake. ‘Could you tell me...
Gayatri scuttled out of Viraj’s way as he leaned out. ‘Find an empty room, do your work there. You are free to leave any time you want. You are free to come or to not come.’ The door shut on her face.
Flabbergasted, Gayatri kept staring at the door. What just happened? She cleared her throat. I should not piss him off anymore. ‘Thank you for this…this job.’ Her voice was as uncertain as the look on her face.
Viraj tugged the door open again. Gayatri flashed a smile at him and opened her mouth to speak but he stopped her short. ‘I don’t like talking. Find a room and stay there.’ He shut the door on her again.
 Asshole! Gayatri fisted her hands and retreated. I can do this! I am doing this! Bigger picture, please! Gayatri paused and peeped inside the first lab that she stumbled upon. The place was quiet except for a low hum of machines. Gayatri pushed the doors open and walked inside the lab. It was empty. ‘Does anyone else work here besides the mad scientist?’ She leaned against one of the steel racks. The door flew open behind her. With a big grin she turned to greet the person coming in. ‘Hi! I’ she froze. It was the mad scientist with a bunch of papers in his hand.
Viraj noticed Gayatri at the same time. A familiar irritation flashed in his eyes. ‘Not this room. Not my lab! Find another room!’ He spoke with cool authority.
‘I was just looking!’ Gayatri smoothed her ponytail trying to mask her nervousness. He had her in knots.
Giving an indifferent shrug, Viraj walked past her. Gayatri got a whiff of his aftershave; it smelled clean and crisp, like water with a twist of lemon. At least he doesn’t stink like his manners! Gayatri stood there quiet and confused.
A loose paper slipped from Viraj’s hand and landed on the floor.
‘You dropped some paper!’ Gayatri said, her voice friendly.
‘Ignore it. Like you, it is not going anywhere.’ Viraj pulled a portable stool and took a seat in front of an electronic panel fixed to a bigger panel.
Gayatri gritted her teeth and grinned with the ferocity of a wild animal that could pounce any moment.
Unknown to her, Viraj gave a similar smile except his was more like the wild animal that had pounced and won.
‘I’ll go and find a room. Thank you!’ Swiveling on her heel, Gayatri headed for the door.
Something stopped herher father’s face and the realization that two weeks ago she had physically fought for herself, and now she had to fight again but with her mind instead of hands. I have to win over Mr Madness. Maybe I could wear a beaker over my head and tattoo the periodic table on my arms!
‘If you are trying to open the door telepathically, let me be the first to tell you it is not working!’ 
Gayatri exhaled noisily. Scathing and sarcastic, what more could a woman ask for? Taking a few calming breaths, she slowly pivoted to face Viraj, specifically his back as he sat hunched fiddling with the panel in front of him.
 ‘I’m sorry if I have offended you somehow. I really need this job. And also, I’m qualified for it. I can show you my degrees. I can really make a difference here.’
Hearing Gayatri’s words and her apologetic tone, something melted inside Viraj...again. But to keep up appearances, he turned rude. ‘I’m busy!’ he barked.
 ‘Please Mr Viraj, give me’ Just then, without warning, someone swung the door open. Gayatri wasn’t prepared for the push. ‘Ouch!’ She toppled. Her desperate hands grabbed the first thing in the vicinitya steel rack. The rack shuddered violently and some of its contents landed on the floor.
‘What the hell!’ Viraj bellowed jumping to his feet.
Gayatri winced. A large electrical component had crashed into her hand ‘The door just opened, pushing me in,’ she said shaking her arm in pain.
 Viraj glared at the door. He instantly lost the frown and his mouth eased at the ends. ‘Oh it’s you! Come inside!’
Huh, Hyde turns Jekyll! Gayatri spun around.
A timid, bespectacled, five-foot-nothing girl, her long hair in a tight braid, clad in a pastel-coloured salwaar kameez, stood at the door. Her skin was smooth and her hands kept tugging at the dupatta around her neck ‘Sorry to interrupt! Dr Kalra wanted to show you some tests he is about to run in lab 2.’ She then glanced at Gayatri. ‘I’m sorry if I hurt you. It was an accident.’
Gayatri was about to speak but Viraj cut her off. ‘She’s fine. Let’s go!’
Viraj went out with the girl, not even sparing a glance at Gayatri.
Astounded, Gayatri watched them leave.

Urghh…the shit-faced scientist actually smiled and that too at that girl! Gayatri kicked the steel rack. It shuddered again! Shoot! Before anything else would fall on her, Gayatri went after the scientist and the simpleton.

Did you like the excerpt? Author Varsha Dixit offers you four of her chapters free.

Read the First Four Chapters Free!!

About the author

Varsha Dixit

Varsha Dixit, the bestselling author of four successful contemporary romance books. Her debut book, Right Fit Wrong Shoe was a national bestseller for the year 2010. Varsha was a part of the Indian Television Industry and worked as an assistant director and online editor. She considers herself a dreamer who thinks deep but writes light. Even though creativity is gender free,Varsha feels blessed and enriched to be a woman. Currently, with her family, Varsha resides in CA, USA.

You can stalk her @



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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Confessions on an Island – Ayan Pal


If you have ever witnessed Russian Matryoshka Dolls, those intriguing little nesting figures that magically appear, one after the other, from one single doll, you will realize how similarly Ayan Pal’s resourceful imagination produces stories, one after the other, in easy succession.
‘Confessions on an Island’ talks about a storyteller who gets trapped in her own maze of tales, a sinister man who holds her ransom for apparently his own devious ends, and an island that listens, patient and sympathetic, an unwilling witness to the events being played out on it.
The storyteller is thrown into an unexpected situation. “It had seemed like the perfect plan. But maybe it was a little too perfect – for someone else.”
The hint of intrigue stays with the reader throughout the book keeping him teetering on the edge of his seat. Every story narrated leads to another born out of the one that went before, “one Matryoshka popping out of another till there is nothing but emptiness that remains.” The rules are simple; the stories have to continue, much like a Scheherazade routine being played out by her, “like the trapped princess from the Arabian Nights”. The abductor reveals his mind slowly, revelling in his “mind games and manipulations”. Once the storyteller begins to fathom a little of what is on his mind, she also begins to tease him with possibilities.
Ayan proves that he is a master storyteller as he opens out the recesses of his mind to reveal glimpses as varied as Sita and the golden deer with silver spots, the Greek legend of the siren luring voyagers into the sea, the iconic bronze splendour of Copenhagen’s “The Little Mermaid” whose face echoes the pain that only she can see, “the Nordic and Scandinavian interpretation of classical cuisines by executive chef, Rene Redzepi, ‘The Wooden Walk’ that transports one to medieval England, and shape-shifting demons. He is meticulous in his details as he describes the island in Sabah, in Malaysia, and that “the mountain rising like a sentinel in the Northeast is Mount Kinabalu”. Food also plays a vital role in the book as varied cuisines are described with loving detail.
As a bitter-sweet tableau of lust and hate is played out, with intermittent moments of longing, the mysteries get cleared up, one by one, as every tale brings forth a further twist, till the very end when the reader is silenced with a denouement that overwhelms, as all the loose threads get woven together to form a perfect tapestry.
Ayan displays a writing style that proves compelling when he tells his medley of tales, but at times there is a vulnerability that moves one to tears. One is filled with a compulsion to read on as each story casts a shadow on events looming ahead, finally bringing an end to “this mangled story of passion”.
The novel ends on a note of hope which suggests that a sequel could well be in the offing, “with someone else, some other day.” That day will be worth waiting for, as another “literary jigsaw” turns into yet another “gripping novel”.

To buy Confessions on an Island

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Broken Boat - Nitin Soni


It is a rare pleasure when a young poet voices his thoughts on the plight of humanity so emotionally. Nitin Soni, known popularly as the Curly Poet, has proved why he has such an impressive fan following. His poems revolve around issues that impact the world, issues which need to be addressed, like poverty, racism, rape and heartbreak.
The first poem titled ‘Resurrect’ creates an atmosphere of sorrow in the midst of joy, and sets the tone. The poet’s heart obviously bleeds for oppressed women, as is revealed in many of the poems in this collection. ‘Ravages’ rends the heart with a plea to save girls, sisters, mothers and daughters from “those beasts/Who molested humanity, love, affection, brotherhood, sisterhood/And celebrated wickedness.”
‘Oh, Ugly Woman’ berates the men who mock at “a painted ugly woman/ who always ends up in bed, /In blood.” ‘Even She’ is an inevitable reminder of the life of a whore, which ends on a truly poignant note. While ‘And Golden Apples’ holds a horrifying hint of incest, ‘Womb-to-Tomb’ encapsulates a girl’s tiny lifetime in one pithy line – “She went from womb to tomb.”
The poet writes on Love with equal ease. The poem ‘Do You Know” celebrates a pair of eyes creating circles around his heart, as he transfers “joyful glances into her eyes”. ‘I Saw Her in my Eyes” is a beautiful love poem. “The mirror I saw/It laughed in my face/ I couldn’t believe my eyes...” meanders all the way to the last two lines. “You are a stranger/On this beautiful boat.” The boat which is beautiful here turns “to an old dying and defeated boat” in ‘Poor Mother’, echoing the symbolism of the book's title.

These are but a few poems, and the young poet has many more to offer. One poem, in particular, titled ‘Of Religious Scarf’ brings an ironic smile to the face with its apparent simplicity. It is obvious that there is much more poetry in Nitin Soni’s soul, and I do hope that he strives to bring it out in yet another volume.

My Last Love Story - Falguni Kothari

A poignant and heartwarming novel by Falguni Kothari





Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes’s, Me Before You, My Last Love Story is a heartbreaking and poignant tale about the complexities of trauma and whether love can right a wrong. 

I, Simeen Desai, am tired of making lemonade with the lemons life has handed me. 

Love is meant to heal wounds. 
Love was meant to make my world sparkle and spin. 
Love has ripped my life apart and shattered my soul. 

I love my husband, and he loves me. 
But Nirvaan is dying. 
I love my husband. I want to make him happy. 
But he is asking for the impossible. 

I don’t want a baby. 
I don’t want to make nice with Zayaan. 

I don’t want another chance at another love story. 

Weepers, keep tissues handy.

Grab your copy @

About the author

Falguni Kothari is a New York-based hybrid author, and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a semi-professional background in Indian Classical dance. She writes in a variety of genres sewn together by the colorful and cultural threads of her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. When not writing or dancing, she fools around on all manner of social media and loves to connect with readers.

My Last Love Story is her fourth novel.

You can stalk her @


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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tales of Sunshine – Sundari Venkatraman

A ray of sunshine is a powerful pick-me-up, that warms the cockles of the heart, and Sundari Venkatraman has used this little truth to create her latest anthology titled ‘Tales of Sunshine’.  From the eye-catching cover itself, which is a cornucopia of pleasant little snapshots, to the stories within, she takes care that enough sunshine is showered on her readers.
The narrative is simple, and the words chosen with care, fly off the storyteller’s pen with ease. Whether it is the large-hearted Raj who lays off people in his company by offering them a wonderful sop in ‘A Ray of Sunshine’, or the smart, high-flying Rekha who finds an unexpected solution to her own domestic problem in ‘Until Death Do Us Apart”, the reader is carried along. Sundari touches upon the dilemma faced by modern-day students whose parents and loved ones expect too much of them in the choices they make in life. Preeti finds herself akin to “a bone that was being fought over by a couple of ferocious dogs” in ‘Life Goes out Of Control’, as Kiara strives to make her son, Aarush happy in ‘Breaking Free from the Mould’, a truly exemplary tale. While ‘Exam Fever’ leaves the reader with a smile, ‘Is Grandpa Home?’ evinces a tear. ‘The Elephant in the Room’ is another well-written story that evokes a sense of familiarity, as it deals with a problem that is all too real. ‘A Promise Given’, ‘Day Dreaming Mercenary’ and ‘Rakesh Nath’s Recovery’ are examples of what the anthology is all about – human interest.
Sundari Venkatraman has proved, yet again, the felicity of her writing style. This book , her seventh so far, uncomplicated and doused with sunshine, strikes the right chord with the readers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dark Things by Sukanya Venkatraghavan - Review

"A story is only as true as you believe it to be.”

“What if the maiden was the monster?” the tagline jumps out at you; if that isn’t intriguing enough, Sukanya Venkatraghavan catapults you into a whirlpool  where you end up gasping, as you land in the midst of a world populated by Yakshis, Gandharvas, Huldras and Apsaras. 'Dark Things' published by Hatchette India starts off on the premise that “...monsters exist. They roam the earth. They scope the sky. They haunt the underworld.”

The novel revolves around Ardra, the Yakshi, “a beautiful unreal creature with invisible wings and bits of storm in her hair.” Her journey begins as she strives to go back into her memories, which have been rudely torn apart by Hera, the Empress of Atala and the evil Queen of Secrets, an overpowering figure who has a terribly devious plan that threatens to upset the balance of the world, and rip its fabric apart.

A number of memorable characters strut across the stage – Dara, the Slayer with “deep, soul-crushing heartbreak” in his jewel-blue eyes who has been hunting monsters for centuries, the handsome Dwai who has a secret in his past that makes him uniquely himself, the winsome Menaka, the bent Dakini (shades of Manthara?) and a Minotaur-like creature in the Tower under Hera’s control.

Who is Ardra and why is she different from her fellow Yakshis? “What the Yakshis didn’t have was freedom. What they lacked was destiny.” However, Ardra proves this statement wrong, as she survives catastrophes, more often than not, unwittingly. The novel starts off like an orchestra, instrument by solitary instrument, and plays on till it reaches a crescendo as strong forces face one another in the New War that is fought, till wrongs are made right and memories restored.

What takes this book beyond the realm of mere fantasy is the beauty of the language employed by the author. A few examples go thus:
“The music was her, her eyes were full of the strange creatures in the sea, green like new magic from the skies” and secrets that glowed “faintly in forgotten corners, in mysterious mind-nooks, in lost memory maps.” Such exquisite usages, the concept of the sun blooms and the description of the Enchanted Forest of the Fireflies make this book a work of literary art.

 Sukanya seems to take parallels from Greek literature when she talks of Tarini, the River of Death, and its boatman, and Hera who is strangely Medusa-like.

The book also mirrors the concerns of the journalist within the author as Ardra says, “The stories I heard on Prithvi about what humans did to one another were sometimes so unsettling that it felt as though the lines between our worlds were blurring.” This was echoed by Dwai later when he remarked, “Sometimes there is no difference between humans and monsters; the lines are blurring.” 

And as you put the book away, your mind still bustling with the vivid imagery, the fragrance of the winsome Yakshi with “the frangipani-shaped magical tattoo on the inside of her wrist,” remains with you.

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Little Sparkle!


“Mama, we are going to buy a travel system for the baby!” My daughter’s voice rose in enthusiasm over the speaker phone as we listened on in amazement.
“What? A whole system, like the solar system? For one tiny baby? And where will she be travelling to so early in life?”
My husband couldn’t keep the scepticism out of his voice. I shushed him. “Hey, this is the 21st century. Our kids are gizmo kids… and she is their baby, after all!”
“So what is this system all about?” I asked cheerily. There was a silence on the other side, and my son-in-love took over. “Mama, here we need a car seat to keep the baby in. So the travel system consists of a perambulator in which a car seat fits in!”
Of course, he had done all his research well and checked various websites which described the product, pointed out its salient points, air-brushed its weaknesses to make them its strengths and given comparisons with corresponding products in the market. It reminded me of the time when I would pore over matrimonial web sites, researching till the wee hours for the perfect bridegroom for my daughter! And boy, did we both strike gold! 

I nodded sagely at my husband who was bursting to expostulate. “When you were young…!” I knew exactly what was coming, and so did my daughter. We had been hearing it ever since our tiny granddaughter had come into the world.
“When you were young, we had a ramshackle pram which was a hand-me-down from a friend. It had a loose wheel and we had to fix it!”
His words took me back to when our daughter was on the way. The doctor had smiled at me. “Congratulations, Ma’am! The stork is going to visit you.” We were so excited and wanted to tell our loved ones the good news. However, those were the days when mobile phones were not even a twinkle in someone’s eyes. STD rates were cheaper after ten at night, and there we were, standing in a queue, waiting for those precious three minutes when we would be able to spring our wonderful surprise on our family.
Photographs were promptly taken on our decrepit camera which had been our faithful companion on our wedding day, our honeymoon and all the occasions we wanted committed to memory. Unfortunately, the said camera had a mind of its own, and a blind eye which omitted many vital details, like focus, brightness and clarity. So often our pictures ended up looking like nothing on earth. Like the time we went to Kaziranga, and shot a rhino! Oops, that sounds wrong, but we had our camera to prove otherwise! When the film roll was developed, all that we could see was a lot of grass and something that glinted like the eye of the rhino! No, I am not exaggerating!
So there we were, merrily clicking photographs of me in various stages of my pregnancy, (where, very often, I looked like the aforesaid rhino!), and once our precious bundle was born, the focus was on her, of course. We did send a few pictures of her to the family, but no one actually knew what she looked like (from the pictures), until we actually took her over to meet them.

Thank God things have changed, and that twinkle in someone’s eye has turned into the ubiquitous smart phone with a camera which records with perfect clarity. Every morning and evening we get to see photographs and videos of our little granddaughter in various poses and situations – when she smiles, laughs, gurgles, sleeps and drools! My phone has about a thousand photographs of her, and she is just turning three months.
When my daughter was a couple of months old, our home looked as though a baby- earthquake had taken place. Milk bottles lay, strewn around at random, with milk powder tins on the dining table. The only time these bottles were seen together in one place was when they went into a cauldron of boiling water to be thoroughly sterilized. The mandatory boiling time had to be maintained and very often, the little one would end up howling for all she was worth, while my husband stood on one leg, waiting for the blasted water to boil. By this time, I would have pulled all my hair out, having run out of funny faces to make, and lullabies to sing.

In those days disposable diapers had not become popular and we used cloth nappies, which were triangular in shape and needed to be washed after every use. So a parallel clothesline came up, with these white triangles waving in the breeze, (I wonder why we only used white ones! Probably to make our own lives that much more complicated!) Anyway, these nappies needed to be changed every half hour or so, which meant that our house had a natural fragrance that wafted in the air – that of pee and poop! And of course, of Baby Johnson powder, cream and shampoo… a very distinctive fragrance, as besotted parents always claimed!
I was in for a very pleasant surprise when my granddaughter made her appearance. While the house still looked as though a baby-earthquake had taken place, there was a revolutionary new appliance called the sterilizer which put cauldrons out of business permanently, thank God. All the washed bottles could be placed in it, and in six minutes flat, they would be steamed, and be taken out, fresh and sweet-smelling. So the miracle was that the sterilizing process began right when the baby started off with a whimper, and before it had turned into a full blown cry, the bottles were ready to be used.
The canny young parents had also bought ten to twelve giant packs of disposable diapers. I remember being gob smacked at the sight of them, as they were spread out in all their glory, covering half the nursery. “Will you actually need all these?” was a question I never asked again, once I saw how the young one’s bowels worked! Slowly and steadily, she worked through the pile, diligently and meticulously. My son-in-love’s research continued and he picked up a diaper disposal system (yes, yet another system!) which was shaped like a cylinder, with a bag inside which eagerly gulped down all the dirty diapers, and ensured that there was no, ahem, fragrance left in the room.

Yet the most amazing change has been in the mindset of young parents nowadays. My mind flies back to those days when I was expecting, and I remember not having a clue about most things. I did have a moth-eaten copy of Dr. Spock who seemed to know what he was talking about. But most of the time, my husband and I left things in the hands of Mother Nature, who certainly knew what she was doing. So we did no research, but ensured that I ate and slept well. We went to the doctor whenever required, had the customary shots and checkups and generally remained ignorant.
All through her nine months of pregnancy, my daughter went through various web sites, each of which told her exactly what was happening inside her – the growth of the baby, the milestones she had to look for, the kind of food she needed to eat and the rest she was supposed to take. Every day we would receive a little nugget of wisdom from her, which went thus; “Today your baby is the size of a rice grain and her little organs have started forming!” Thus, our baby went from a rice grain to a four-toed hedgehog, and from a weasel to an Atlantic puffin. She grew from an American guinea pig to a chipmunk. Finally one name stuck and she was “Sweet Pea” till she was born. Every month, a scan would be taken in which, we could actually see the little one move, as the doctor who looked a bit like Sean Connery, explained to us the miracle that was taking place within. Right from the start we knew that it was going to be a bonnie wee lassie, and to say we were thrilled was an understatement.
The research continued even after Sweet Pea was born. Mama looked up her every symptom and figured out ways to make her grow. Dada looked at the market for all the gadgets that would keep her comfortable while she grew. So she had her own travel system, her cot, her baby rocker, her jungle gym and her own little toys, including Sophie, the cute giraffe, who doubled up as a pacifier.

Today, as the little one gurgles her way through life, I see glimpses of many people in her. She is the replica of her mother, when she was that age, and I preen when people say she resembles me as well. There are instances when she has been compared to her father, her grandfathers and her grandmothers, depending on which side of the family is looking at her. Her round cheeks are definitely from our side of the family, but her dimples have a number of takers – mainly her father, her paternal grandmother and her maternal grandfather. Her eyes are like her mother’s, except when they are closed, when they look like her father’s. Like the old conundrum, no one knows which came first – the cheeks or the dimples, but it is to be fervently hoped that they both go down in history! And it is clear where that unmistakably unruly tuft of that hair comes from… Tintin, of course!
So the memories continue to stream, as my mind’s eye takes in those wild motorbike rides, which we used to enjoy, with our little daughter snugly held in my arms, the breeze blowing in our hair in free abandon, or the open air movies where our little girl would sleep through, in her broken-down pram, or those days when she would be the perfectly behaved, gurgling baby whom our friends loved to cuddle. Then my mind shifts to the present day when our little granddaughter sleeps peacefully in her travel system, or sits on a rocker that has its own music, or pees into a well-padded diaper, a beatific smile on her face. It is then the truth hits me.  Of all the possessions that a baby needs, be it toys or gadgets or clothes, the most important one is a sense of security, a sense of being held to the heart and of being loved. I smile because whether it is then or now, our babies are, and will always be, a piece of our hearts, leaving a sparkle wherever they go!  




This triad of stories by Mona Verma boasts of a theme quite unique, of relationships unimagined, and biases that rule. Whether it is th...