Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Tea Planter's Wife - Dinah Jefferies

photo courtesy: goodreads.com
An atmospheric read.

I love Srilanka and enjoy reading about it even more. Therefore, it did not take me a lot to pick up this book. I was taken in more so by the cover.  What a colourful and an eye catching cover! The premise only added to the already building curiosity and was only too happy to devour it while on holiday.


Gwen, an England bred woman marries Laurence and comes to live with him on his tea plantation in Sri Lanka. The newly wed bride finds herself in a strange culture, trying to understand her husband who seems distant.

Things move along fine until Gwen faces a unique dilemma which forces her to make a decision that could break or make her marriage.
Does she make the right one or or does she pay for a choice made at the spur of the moment.

What works:
  • A great story. Jefferies has a great plot that she builds on. It was amazing to read the kind of research she undertook to get to the skin of the story. 
  • The writing. The first page itself pulls you in and forces you to keep reading. The narrative is so smooth and fluid that the reader just flows with it.
  • The characters. Gwen is such an interesting character and her struggles seem so real that the reader feels kinship with her right away.
  • Some of the descriptions are so vivid that it is almost as if it is unfolding before your eyes. I could easily visualise the plantation, the waterfalls. Indeed an evocative read.
What doesn't:
  •  Jefferies tackles the Tamil Sinhalese unrest so well and also the imperialism of the time. However, she does not delve much into it. Fair enough, the focus of the story is not political but personal but it left the reader feeling a bit shortchanged on the political unrest of the time.

A great read. I am already looking around for more titles by the author.

Monday, 24 October 2016

No Safe Zone - Competition

This flash fiction post was written for a competition hosted by the author of No Safe Zone, Adite Banerjie.

The theme is: “What does safe zone mean to you.”  Share a moment/incident/episode where you felt you were in a "No Safe Zone". It could be an anecdote, short story, poem, haiku or essay. Feel free to give it your own twist. As long as you use the words “No Safe Zone” somewhere in the post.

The Refugee

The tourists walking along the European shore, invariably cast their eyes on him.

His colourful array of bracelets and necklaces are striking and hard to ignore. It is only when their gaze travels to the dark skinned stranger selling them, that it registers – his faded light blue long tunic and wide trousers does not suggest “local”. His desolate, deep set eyes speaks volumes, but no one is interested. 

Some stop by to examine his wares, others walk past.

It is the rocks along the sea that claims their attention. They stand mesmerised by the splashing waves hitting the rocks with a vengeance and drenching it completely.  It impels the adventurous to scale these massive stones, feeding their sense of achievement, and capture it for posterity on lens.

The complacent ones are satisfied to click around, to take in the beauty of the waves and the huge rocks lining the shore. Many would venture as far as the foot of the sea, dip their toes in, taking them out in an instant, claiming the water was too cold for them.

The vendor is enamoured by the sea too; only he views it differently. Not an adrenaline challenge, for him, it is a perilous path to safety.

He closes his eyes and feels the icy wind and cold splashes, cut through the skin. 

He recalls battling the treacherous waters on a rickety boat, leaving behind everything he owned and his home - now branded a “No Safe Zone”.

You can buy the book from HERE or HERE

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A New Dawn - Sudha Balagopal

warm hearted, feel-good debut.

It is fun to discover new writers and this debut was a delight.

I have read some of Sudha's short stories before and admire the way she infuses feelings to elevate ordinary situations.

Thanks to the author and the publishers for sending me the ARC in return for an honest review.


Usha is a 48-year-old woman who has lost her husband. Being used to his controlling, decisive presence she is still coming to terms to a new lifestyle. Years of habit have made it difficult to accept that new independence. Married at an young age and becoming a mother soon after, Usha has always lived in her husband's shadow. She wonders if her older, mature self can have a second shot at companionship, this time, on her own terms.

She decides to sign herself up on an online dating site to see if it works for her. Does she manage to find that true love or does she fall prey to a predator?

What works:
  • The writing. The opening chapter is compelling and very vivid. The opening scene gives an insight into Usha's nature and the reason she was put into that situation. It is a very powerful opening scene that takes the narrative forward.
  • The characters. They sound real and very easy to empathise. Usha sounds a bit dated but her insecurities and character are so heartwarming. Raja is also another character that is etched well. My favourite, though is Marcy.
  • The plot. It is quite straightforward and there are no major twists there. What makes it work is the compelling narrative and the insight into the mindset of a bereaved partner.
What doesn't:
  • Sometimes it feels like a short story has been stretched into a novel.
But having said that, it is a quick read with a good writing style that caters to the contemporary reader.

A well written weekend read.

When the Swings fall silent....

When the Swings fall silent..

The silence at the swings is deafening, forlorn,
As if their hearts from the bodies lay torn,

Waiting in vain for the shrieks and cries,
Of restless bodies jumping in, swinging high,

It is a long wait through the bleak winter,
Driving the children indoors to linger

No more fresh air, the mothers moan,
The swing is their respite, they groan

When the kids run and roam in glee,
There is mirth and enjoyment for free

When holed up in a concrete box,
They succumb to the lure of the x-box

Alas! Kids are busy improving scores,
Stepping out is now becoming a chore

The lonely swing calls out in a desperate bid,
Amid scary talks of a new build;

If the children do not come out soon,
The swings have to make way for more roofs.

Just when hopes are about to slither and die,
Look! The winter is bidding goodbye,
Heralding the brightening, warm sky

All is well as Summer beckons clear;
Followed by their rustling feet and loud cheer!

Sunny weekend by the Brighton seaside

Sea gulls. That is what I woke up to in Brighton where we went on a bank holiday weekend. 

I will forever associate Brighton with the sound of it. This was a novelty for a landlocked person like me, a constant reminder that we were by the sea.

The seaside swarming with people making the most of a glorious day.
Brighton was a beautiful discovery. Perhaps the weather had a part to play in it. Under the glorious sunshine with the temperature hitting a warm chord, this seaside town seemed like the ideal place to be.

Walking down the promenade, the Brighton Pier was a great sight, filled with rides and amusements galore. Spending some time in, we decided to walk down, biting into ice creams. It tastes best on a beach! 

The Lanes in Brighton. photo courtesy:planetware.com
Brighton has a buzz to it and that is not only because of its Pier. It has something for everyone. Carousels for kids, arts and souvenirs for shoppers or tons of food options for the gastronomic tourist. But we realised that it is so imporant for the weather to stay good. 

Day 1 the weather was a treat and it was bliss to be out there. 

Day 2, there was a sharp contrast. Gloomy day, blustery weather forced us to beat a hasty retreat indoors making us realise how lucky we were to have enjoyed he sun the day before. 

However, Day 3 was once again good. We went looking for The Lanes, a beautiful cobbled street alleyway that took you to some offbeat shops. We soon found they did not have much to offer us.
i360 British Airways - a newly opened tourist attraction 

We did get on the i360, the newly opened tourist attraction by British Airways. It is similar to the London eye in terms of concept only this looks like a spaceship moving upwards in a linear fashion, showing off an aerial view of the city while pampering you with its inhouse bar as you take in the view. 

This is a newly opened tourist attraction that opened only weeks before and is steadily gaining popularity among tourists. Personally, we were struck by the novelty of it all. Having done it once, I do not think we will be doing it again. I remember reading about the Brighton Wheel which was pulled down this summer after some controversy and I thought this was intended to replace it. Apparently some zip wires will be put up soon. Good for us. Something else to check out the next time then!

Walking down the lanes we spotted a familiar structure and out of curiosity checked it out.
The Royal Pavilion. Its Indian architecture caught our eye.

It looked Indian and soon I was looking around to check out its back story. Walking around it we were struck by its intricate architecture and its mammoth size reminiscent of the iconic Taj Mahal. The suspense was soon revealed when we spotted a plaque that said that was a gift from the Indian Maharaja of Patiala to the people of Brighton. Strolling through the gardens it was easy to imagine how this place was used as a treatment place for injured soldiers before throwing it open to the public.

Riding back, we were happy to have timed our visit to the city well and will be back for more!

  • i360 - It is a one off but not a must. 
  • Walking down the promenade - A must. It gives you a feel of what the place has to offer.
  • Brighton Pier - A great place if you are a theme park fanatic. They offer some great deals on rides. But remember it can be quite time consuming. It can eat into your time especially if you are on short holiday.
  • The Lanes. A great place to walk around. However we felt it was hyped. Go there for a stroll and round it off with a meal. We went at an odd time and found there wasn't anything for us except food and antique shops. 
  • Ice-cream on the beach. A super must! especially if the sun is out.
  • We had some great crepes on the pier. The portion was so big, one was enough to bite into for us two and our two. Super tasty with a variety of options.  
Slight disappointment:

Expecting a beach, we had packed our buckets and spades hoping to build a sand castle. It is a pebbled beach with very little scope for sand and sand castles. Kids were a tad disappointed but soon perked up when they saw other attractions.

The Girl With a Clock For A Heart - Peter Swanson

Photo courtesy: Goodreads.com
A disappointing read especially since enjoying his other book.

I read Anything Worth Killing first and was suitably impressed. The style and the technique and the guessing game was neatly done. So when I heard rave reviews about his debut novel, I was keen to duplicate my previous experience. I was disappointed.


George Foss is an average guy with nothing much going for him. One day he is visited by a former girlfriend from college. She is in trouble and needs his help. They were a great couple in college but something disastrous happens that forces them apart. Can he trust her after what she did to him in college?

What works:
  • The plot. It is compelling and keeps you wondering what would have possibly happened. Even when you are reading the story and attempt predictions, the twist still throws you off. 
  • Character of George Foss as believable as Liana's sounds bizarre. However, Swanson makes you believe in the situations and the reader goes with the flow. 
What doesn't:

  • After the brilliant suspense of Anyone Worth Killing, this one seems like a draft, a test drive to see if the devices work well. The plot pales in comparisons and it sounds as if Swanson used this as the practice run for his next book that became a bestseller. 

Overall, the style and the writing is good. Reminds you of one of those Erle Stanley Gardener novels where action and plot twists are what the stories are made of.

An OK read but as I said, I prefer the second one.