Book Review: Recipe for Persuasion

“Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I have read Persuasion by Jane Austen a couple of times. Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth were engaged in their youth and meet again a decade or so later. There is one conversation in particular between Anne and Captain Harville that I loved in the book. In typical Austen fashion, there is a happily ever after ending.

Recipe for Persuasion is a romance novel influenced by Austen’s masterpiece. Ash and Rico are high school sweethearts and meet again a decade or so later. The similarity with Persuasion ends there, and Sonali has made this her own story. It is like an Indian dish, borrowed from several cultures and harmonized into a delightful curry.

I love Ash’s family. Aunt and the cousins add to the richness of the book. Portraying the strong and vibrant Indian family culture is a specialty of the author. Ash’s mother Shobi is a centerpiece to understanding Ash, and the author peels the layers gradually, revealing one thing at a time.

I enjoyed reading Shobi and Mina’s tales, two strong middle-aged women in their own right, and their relationship.

Ash and Rico’s present-day story unfolds through a cooking show contest that would be familiar to viewers of Food Network.

Not a fan of: Rico being completely in the dark about Ash’s father is a plot contrivance and did not seem believable. And while Rico’s feelings for Ash comes across clearly, Ash’s feelings for him are left to the readers’ imagination.

I did not read the first book in the Rajes series and that did not deter me from enjoying this book. I saw hints for the next book – Dashwood?!?

If you are a fan of Austen and the romance genre in general, this book is for you.

I am an author of medieval fiction “Heir to Malla” that is available on Kindle Unlimited.

I post reviews of books I have read, and you can view all my reviews in GoodReads or here in my blog.

My writing journey

Many writers come from backgrounds you typically expect: English majors, journalists, English teachers, history, or literature students. Then some writers like me have no background in literature or writing except for a deep love of books.

A few years ago, I along with thousands of others, waited for the next book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. This book series was made famous by the television show “Game of Thrones”. I had read every theory on the dark corners of the web about what would happen in books six and seven. As a reader, I was eager to find out what happened to my favorite characters. After waiting many years, a seed got planted, and I wondered what it would mean to write my own royal saga loosely based on Indian culture.

Without any training apart from having read many books, I started writing. Princess Meera, Prince Jay, the many supporting characters, and the land of Magadha took life on-page.

I only had a vague idea of the story I wanted to tell when I started. With no outline, my plot grew organically. Over 100k words later, I finished my first draft. In my edits, I chopped characters, rearranged plots and scenes but the core story of love, family, and duty remained.

Then I worked with a wonderful editor who helped me polish the story. As an engineer by training and trade, my writing before this book primarily focused on writing facts, charts, and technical specifications. A story needs settings, characters, scenes, conflict, and emotions. Each edit added depth to my tale. I am still honing my storytelling craft and having fun doing it, as I write book 2.

This year, Heir to Malla was published. Releasing a book is like raising a child and letting them go. My book is now in the hands of readers.

My hope is readers have as much fun reading the book as I had fun writing it.

My advice to writers is to write your story first. Pour your heart out. You can fix things later in the edits. And it is never late to start learning the craft.

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

I read all three hunger games books when they came out and saw the movies. While the trilogy was dark, the theme overall was uplifting.

In the prequel, Suzanne Collins takes a risk in using a POV character whose thoughts are cold and calculating. She is a talented writer and pulls off the challenge. But there were moments in the book when I wished I heard Lucy or Sejanus’s views rather than Snow’s.

Few parts of the book reminded me of reading Lord of the Flies. My outlook on humanity is hopeful, so reading Lord of the Flies depressed me, and reality is dismal enough that I prefer my reading to be inspiring.

I liked reading about the early hunger game structure and how it evolved. I loved getting the back story for the song “Are you…”.

Good to see katniss the plant, make an appearance.

Lucy Gray (Original by Wordsworth and modified by Suzanne) song featured in the book was beautiful, though Snow’s interpretation grated me. That is the challenge of being in such a mind. Lucy Gray’s character is haunting.

Overall, a dark grim book that is splendidly written to portray humanity and its flaws. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are intrigued by how the mind of an aloof, distant character works and what influences such a person, this book does a good showcase of it.

Guest Blog by JL Rothstein

Hello everyone! Anna Bushi, author of Heir to Malla here. I am happy to introduce a fellow author JL Rothstein to my readers. She writes in the Fantasy genre with an affinity for the Supernatural. Her debut novel in the Heaven Sent series is available now on Amazon.

Atonement Heaven Sent Book One is a Fantasy novel that takes place on Earth. It’s about a family of nine siblings, members of an elite fighting force referred to as Heaven’s Guard. They fight back against Hell’s unfair influence on humanity. This is book one of a trilogy, each book will focus on one of the O’Mara sisters, three strong female leads. The first book is Genevieve O’Mara’s story. The story has themes of family, love/loss, and the power of forgiveness. Though this is a trilogy the first book is a complete stand alone story and does not leave off on a cliffhanger. There is a lot of action and suspense, sprinkled with a bit of humor. The below snippet is from the back cover. 

To Hell, this world is fractured and faithless, perfectly ripe for the picking. Sent by Heaven, Guardians defend against a malevolent onslaught of demonic intrusion. For hundreds of years the nine siblings of the O’Mara family have been engaged in this merciless battle, fighting to protect the souls of all humanity.

Heaven and Hell have been waging this infernal war bound only by the rules of a contentious accord. On the 40thanniversary of her husband Gabriel’s disappearance, Genevieve O’Mara’s lingering sorrow manifests into a murderous rage unfurled upon a demon. Vengeance is coming, not just for Genevieve, but for all those she loves.

What is your social media advice for 2020 Debut Authors like me?

Finding readers is the question that every writer wants the answer to, especially Indie authors. When Amazon broke the barriers to publication, I think most writers, myself included, assumed our material would now reach the intended audience. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Self-publication fundamentally changed the industry and I don’t think it’s yet settled nor recovered. Most people would tell you the industry is still in flux. Nearly overnight, writers were producing material and throwing it onto an unsuspecting public. 

A lot of what went into the market back then, was not consumer ready. People were publishing unedited and unreviewed material. As a result the early days of self-publication gained a negative reputation. If you were self-published, that became synonymous with low grade. If you self-published, it was because no one else would publish you. That negative first impression is something the Independent industry is still trying to overcome. Fortunately, it is getting better, but I bring this up because a new barrier has emerged in the marketplace. A gatekeeper born out of need, one aimed at protecting readers from purchasing sub-par material. The birth of the book blogger/reviewer is now what Indie writers need to navigate through. Reviews are key, if you want to reach your readers you’ll have to work at reviews before and after launch. Once you establish your social media presence, you’ll need to use it to help with requesting reviews.

Use social media to build a platform, a brand, before you launch. Start a website and begin accumulating subscribers, people who like your writing and will be reading your work. Create social media accounts as early as you can, at least six months. If you are able, keep consistent with the naming convention, I am JLRothstein1 on both Twitter and Instagram. That makes it easy to find me across platforms. Writing is hard, for a lot of new writer(s) self-promotion is harder, be prepared to put yourself out there. Take risks, make connections, and stay positive. In time the readers will find you, but it will take time.

Book 2 Progress

Photo by Kim van Vuuren on

In Heir to Malla, set in fictional Land of Magadha, you were introduced to Princess Meera, Prince Jay, Rish Vindhya, and many other characters. If their stories captivated you, you would enjoy returning to this world in book 2.

This book starts a few years later and includes many of the familiar characters you met in book 1. Because I have spent many years in these characters’ heads, the story has been flowing more naturally. The human heart in conflict is what I enjoy writing about, and there is plenty of drama to enthrall the readers.

I recently wrote Chapter 12 of the book, so I am about 40% done with my first draft. We see a main character’s chambers for the first time in this book, and I was surprised by it. And had fun envisioning how it looked.

A chapter that simmered in my head for many months was finally penned. I will go back a few weeks later to read it. I hope you like it as much as I did when I wrote it.

The next set of chapters planned essentially completes the first half and will be an emotional rollercoaster to put in words. I will probably read light romances to balance it out.

Until next time.

Book Review: Talk Nerdy to Me

Book Review of the third book in the Bookish Boyfriends series, Talk Nerdy to Me, a YA Romance.

Hi there! I am the author of Heir to Malla, a medieval fiction loosely based on India. Family drama, sword fights, romance, game of thrones are all present in the book. The story revolves around the royal siblings, Princess Meera and Prince Jay, and their human hearts in conflict.

While I am not writing, I love to read, and I just finished reading the third book in the Bookish Boyfriends series, Talk Nerdy to Me, a YA Romance.

I love the premise for the series, the protagonist identifying with a character in a novel and drawing parallels to what is happening in their real lives to what is happening to the character in the book. This is the dream of most writers, and these beloved classics have brought comfort to many of us readers. I am waiting to see what classic book is used in the fourth book of the series.

I am a stem girl, and I have coached science olympiad, so the science fair and nerd talk all resonated with me.

I wore a T-Shirt and jeans all four years of college, so I understood Eliza’s struggles with her body and her desire to be valued for her brain. Her final embrace of both was a welcome first step.

Curtis and Eliza are cute together. I did wish Curtis exhibited a wider range of emotions, including anger and frustration, but he is adorable, smart, and thoughtful.

Eliza’s insecurities are no match for Curtis’s persistence. A good role model for a teen relationship based on mutual respect.

I did not quite understand Eliza’s parents. For two brilliant scientists who seem to love and respect each other, their blind spot towards Eliza is not well reasoned. I got hints of it. Overall though, they provide the needed backdrop for Eliza’s struggles and her growth.

Merri and her family provide the much-needed warmth in the story, especially her dad. And a cast of supporting characters that would be familiar to the reader from books 1 and 2.

This is an engaging story you can read in one sitting.

Writing as therapy

When the world around us is unpredictable and chaotic, we all need an outlet to escape reality.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

I can pick a book to read and get lost in its pages for hours. I can be following a Scotland Yard Inspector solve a murder mystery in gloomy grey London. I can be shapeshifting in a magical realm, chasing a dark lord bent on destructing the world.

I started writing five years ago, and quickly, Heir to Malla became more than a novel. Writing became a way for me to relax. The creative outlet allowed me to meditate about characters and plot, rather than worry about everyday struggles.

Writing my second book in the Land of Magadha series has kept me sane during this pandemic. I may not be able to travel anywhere in the real world, but my characters have been riding elephants and horses and sailing the seas.

These characters that have been with me for over five years feel very real to me, and I can forget about the virus for some time every day and write about Meera and Rish.

Imagining a dark corridor, hearing the sounds in a battlefield, or describing a palace feast let my mind savor these things. Instead of obsessing about things I cannot control, I can chart a course for my story.

What are you doing to keep your sanity in these times?

Foreword for Guest Blog

Readers and Writers, I published my medieval fiction Heir to Malla in 2020. The story unfolds as Princess Meera learns her brother Crown Prince Jay is missing. She sends the man she is in love with, Rish Vindhya, to search for him. Prince Amar of Padi, known for his penchant for violence, harbors desires for Malla and Meera. Suddenly, Meera is catapulted into the battle for her kingdom. If Jay is not found, the price she needs to pay is steep, her love and happiness.

As a 2020 Debut author, I wanted to showcase a fellow author’s book in my blog this week.

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Holland

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories follows Prue Clemonte as she returns home for her grandmother’s funeral. Settling back into village life isn’t easy, especially when Prue becomes the victim of village gossip. As she re-arranges her life Prue stumbles upon a web of secrets that is about to turn her life upside down. To complicate matters even further she’s beginning to fall for Elliot Harrington, however his father is intent on splitting them up.

Prue won’t let a village full of people who hate her stop her from living her life and being happy. With the help of Elliot, Prue is determined to win the village over and make herself a life back home in Ivy Hatch. However, she soon begins to realise that she’s lost herself in her quest for the truth. As Prue battles to find herself can she save the bookshop, whilst also stopping the village from ruining her life?

The story behind The Vintage Bookshop of Memories 

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories was created from my desire to write a book that felt comforting. I wanted it to encompass everything that I enjoy, from an idyllic village life to vintage fashion. This book is everything that I would want to read. Essentially the story is about a woman’s quest for happiness. 

Ivy Hatch is based on a quintessential English village and every village needs an old-fashioned bookshop. The description of the bookshop has an almost magical edge to it, drawing the reading in and making them fell as though they are standing in the middle of the shop. 

‘A gasp escaped Prue as she stepped inside the shop. The smell of mustiness hit her senses as she blinked to adjust to the dim lighting. It was beautiful, a hidden treasure trove of books. If Prue could have designed her dream shop, this would be it. She stepped into the shop, leaving the door open slightly to allow some light in. A switch was to the left of the door but as she flicked it nothing happened. She would have to make do with the little natural light that the door was letting in. Books lined the walls from the floor to the ceiling. On the back wall stood a balcony, overlooking the entire shop with an old-fashioned ladder leading to it. Prue tiptoed around the room, running her fingers along the spines of all the books, they were thick with dust but they’d be fine after a good clean. There had to be thousands of books in here. She had always known her mother was a keen reader but she hadn’t known the true extent of her mother’s love for books. To the right of the shop was a counter in the same dark wood as the bookshelves, perched on the top was an old fashioned till. It was beautiful. Prue had come across a few of these during her time working in auction houses but never had she found one in such pristine condition, at least it would be pristine if it wasn’t covered in a layer of dust.’ – Chapter 4, The Vintage Bookshop of Memories.

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories uses creative and imaginative language to make the reader feel as though they are within the pages of the book. 

The Character’s in The Vintage Bookshop of Memories 

When creating my characters I want them to be fierce and inspiring and yet I don’t want them to lose that human edge. Therefore I immediately knew that whilst Prue had to be strong and independent she still had to have flaws. She makes bad decisions, drinks too much gin and all too often allows her decisions to be swayed by her emotions. 

‘With a sickening realisation Prue saw a delivery driver stood on the driveway surrounded by boxes. She had forgotten that she had spent a small fortune (actually, there was nothing small about it) on clothes last night. With some reluctance she opened the door and signed on the dotted line…

With a growing sense of excitement Prue pulled out the first garment. A crop top. What had she been thinking? As Prue pulled more items out she noticed a few that she liked the look of and so she put them to one side, the rest she could return. She would have donated some of the items to a charity shop but she couldn’t see the women of Ivy Hatch wearing a spangly diamanté handkerchief top.’ – Chapter 29, The Vintage Bookshop of Memories

Prue is the kind of woman that I aspire to be. Strong, resilient, focused on her own happiness and occasionally ordering too many clothes. 

A final word…

The Vintage Bookshop of Memories will transport you to Ivy Hatch and you’ll find yourself not wanting to leave. 

Book Review: The Henna Artist

Alka Joshi brings Jaipur alive. I can taste the food, smell her herbs, and picture the beautiful henna designs. She has painted a beautiful portrait of two sisters: Lakshmi and Radha.

The yearning in Lakshmi is palpable throughout the book. For love, for recognition, for respect, and independence. She is a grey character whose growth happens organically. I am a mother, so I did scream in my head a few times to ask Lakshmi to go after her sister. To comfort, to guide, to scold, and to hug her. Sign of good writing to get me emotionally vested.

Radha is a child of thirteen. I was mad at Lakshmi for not understanding that. My heart broke many times for what this child had to endure. I had this insane desire to protect her from the minute she appears on the page. Hats off to Alka Joshi for creating such a beautiful character.

Many side characters are carefully woven into the story, adding depth to the story.

Lakshmi and Radha, two characters imbued with humanity and all its flaws. Looking forward to the sequel.

Book link

Book 2 Progress

Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

William Faulkner:

I recently finished chapter 8 of my yet untitled book 2. Since I scrapped the first few chapters of my book 1 during my edits, I have anywhere from 0 to 20% of my first draft completed.

I left plenty of hanging threads in book 1, and I am having fun pulling them to see what unravels and what tightens into a knot.

My protagonist Meera and my other POV character, who will remain nameless (Book 1 Spoilers), have plenty of conflicts – love, duty, and desires pulling them in different directions. What the self wants to do is not what is best for society. Love, that strong overpowering feeling, leading them down perilous paths with no return. And why is it so hard to do one’s duty? All happening in the backdrop of war for Magadha itself.

My next chapter is one I have envisioned happening in my head for a few months now, but sometimes these characters surprise me and take me down a road less traveled. I am excited to see how the images in my head translate into words on paper.