Running Barefoot by Amy Harmon: A book review

Blurb:When Josie Jensen, an awkward 13-year-old musical prodigy crashes headlong into new-comer Samuel Yazzie, an 18-year-old Navajo boy full of anger and confusion, an unlikely friendship blooms. Josie teaches Samuel about words, music and friendship, and along the way finds a kindred spirit. Upon graduation, Samuel abandons the sleepy, small town in search of a future and a life, leaving his young friend behind. Many years go by and Samuel returns, finding Josie in need of the very things she offered him years before. Their roles reversed, Samuel teaches Josie about life, love, and letting go. Deeply romantic and poignant, Running Barefoot is the story of a small town girl and a Native American boy, the ties that bind them to their homes and families, and the love that gives them wings.

 

Running Barefoot is an amalgamation of all my favorite romantic themes in books. Slow burn romance with a clear promise on the endgame? Check. Second chance at a relationship when the characters are more equipped to deal with it? Check. Hard working, sensible, loyal main characters? Check. Uncontrollable crying while reading? Check. Meaningful classic romance book references? Check. I mean their conversation started with that love letter from Persuasion that is the be all and end all of literary love letters for me.

A book I couldn’t put away? Check.

I went into Running Barefoot with zero expectations, without reading the summary. I can’t say what made me pick this one up. But I am so glad I did. It was an experience in technical brilliance and emotional character building…continue reading review

Running for time: Story and lockdown updates.

Me, trying to shave legs after a couple weeks.

Me, busted by the toddler who will keep banging the shower enclosure because she needs mommy now now now.

The husband, interrupts the meltdown and helpfully takes the kid away, puts on a cartoon and settles the tiny human with a lolly, hopefully for the next ten minutes.

Le me, wondering at the luxury of shaving legs and the five extra minutes I’ll have to condition hair.

Le husband, comes back, grins and locks the door behind him.

Le sigh…there goes conditioning and half of left leg hair!

Then again, he knows all about legs and hair and oh well!

 

I wrote things and am feeling quite proud of myself-

The Grave: Next Chapter

The Boy I Met In the Room of Requirement: Topsy Turvy

Haircuts in the time of Coronavirus (and story updates)

Me: Spends half an hour cutting my husband’s longish step cut hair, going centimeter by centimeter, sweating bullets, this being my first time cutting hair.

Husband (after the haircut): Huh. Looks good. You saved me thirty five dollars. I’ll do something else with the money we earned. Lets get the daughter a new toy.

Husband runs off to order a remote control car toy from amazon. Matte black with skull and web drawings.

Car Arrives. Time is spent on wiping and disinfecting. Daughter doesn’t play with it as she is busy banging the dishes.

Husband: I’ll test out the features. See if it is safe for a toddler.

Me all day: Avoiding the zip zap zooming car around the house as I do chores and pick up the dishes my daughter is spreading around.

Life goes on…

The End

 

Yayyy…I found time to work on some stories. Here are the updates-

 

 

The Boy I met in the Room of Requirement – On popular demand (AO3 and FF), I am extending this one shot to a multi chapter extravaganza. The next chapter is called Integral Differentials. Click on the pretty banner to get to the chapter

 

 

 

 

Dead Or Alive – At last, I am finishing this story. The next chapter is The M Word. After this one, only one more chapter to go, maybe an epilogue, and then we are freeeee (of suspense) 😀

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy! Do share some reviews. And stay safe….

Stories of my Life

Lockdown conversations with a Toddler be like…

Three year old daughter – Mumma it’s not time to work. It’s time to play now.

Me, the mumma – Mumma needs to finish her work and then we’ll play.

Three year old – No mumma. We can play now.

Me (full of doom and gloom) – Sorry baby. I can’t play. I need to work so that we can keep eating food.

Daughter runs away, rummages in the kitchen, comes back with a box of cheerios.

Three year old – Yaayyy. We have cheerios! We can play now!

Me – We will need more when these are finished. So I will work and then I get money. Then we go to the supermarket and get more food with our money.

Three year old – We no have moneys now?

Me (face in the laptop) – Nope.

Daughter runs away, rummages around the house, comes back with two pennies.

Three year old – Yayyy. Look mumma, look mumma, I found moneys. We can play now. ‘S not time to work anymore.

The End

 

So here are a few story updates I worked on this week. Click on the story banners below to get to the chapters.

The Grave-

Story Summary – After the death of the last remaining Stackhouse, Sookie gives up her life in Bon Temps and goes to the Fae with Claudine. But that was not the family she was looking for. Battered, abused and even more lost than she was, Sookie attempts an escape and literally falls into the arms of more trouble than she was prepared for.

 

 

The Dragon-

Story Summary – Hermione Granger is on a mission and she will do everything to uncover the secrets of Draco Malfoy. Malfoy is going to cooperate whether he likes it or not. But the closer she gets to winning, the more she loses herself. Now the mission is not just a mission, Draco is not what he seems and all of Hermione’s forbidden teenage fantasies want to come out and play. [Dramione][PostWar]

New Muses, New and Old Fan-fiction, Greener Pastures…

I hit a life block. Then I had a kid, lost a parent, got a real adult job.

I took a sabbatical from writing or reading SVM/True Blood books and fanfic and read books very different from the one romance genre I had been stuck to. It did me good. So much so that when I eventually got back to reading romance (proud of it too), I read more into it, absorbed more, felt more. I have gotten back to shedding tears while reading too. That is very good. So I guess, the numb has thawed and my inspiration is back.

I have started on some new fandoms and am finishing up my older incomplete works. To the readers who have given me so much love and motivation over the years, I want to apologize for leaving you awesome people for a while and not being able to finish things I started. I am working to be a better writer and a better reader now. I hope I am at least successful in that.

On to the fanfics then…

I am fairly new to the Harry Potter Fanfiction world, been swept up in it since a couple of months. I loved the books and read them years ago. What left me pleasantly surprised was the sheer possibilities with characters I used to think were one dimensional. I am working on a Draco Malfoy-Hermione Granger story (The Dragon) which has two chapters remaining till the end. I am also intrigued with the idea of Tom Riddle and Hermione Granger. In canon, there is so little interaction between Voldemort and Hermione but as students, they had so many things in common. I was intrigued enough to write The Boy I met In the Room Of Requirement, a Tomione romance. No time travel in this story on either end, but Tom and Hermione do meet as teens. What can I say? Hogwarts is a magical castle after all. It was a one-shot but I got a number of reader requests on AO3 to extend it, so I am working on that now.

Click on the Hogwarts Insignia to get to the Harry Potter Fanfics –

I also wrote two Star Wars fanfics, featuring Kylo Ren and Rey. The potential of these two characters is so off the charts. I cried out in rage when the last movie did what it did! Must makers always ruin fan favorite pairings like this? What’s the world come to !!! So I wrote fanfiction…Because I needed something happy and wholesome in my life…Because I was cheated of a happy ending some poor souls deserved…Because I may not own Star Wars but I can certainly write fan fiction…Thank the Maker for that. Also, Adam Driver!

Anyways, here are the links to the the Ben/Rey fanfics where I am giving them different endings and plots. Sue me JJ Abrams and Disney. I am not ashamed. Click on the gang to get to the stories –

With the coronavirus lockdowns all over the world, I hope people are doing as best as they can. We are all in this together. Things are very uncertain for now. I hope all of us can survive this crisis and that our friends and family stay healthy.

Try out the new work if it interests you and please share your thoughts/suggestions/critique. Until the next post then….

Warcross by Marie Lu: Book Review

Book Blurb:

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

 

Oh wow! What an unexpected surprise Warcross turned out to be. I will not summarize the plot here. After all, I went in blind too. And by blind, I mean I didn’t even read the blurb. I just jumped in. And I couldn’t jump out till I finished the whole damn book.

First, about the main characters.

Emika is an awesome protagonist; intelligent, street smart, independent, with a healthy sense of self preservation. The book is written in Emika’s point of view and captivates till the end. I developed a little girl crush on this girl, what with her hacking prowess and debugging abilities (I am a coder ha ha), though plot wise, things do work out for her a little too much. I don’t mind that. Emika is as far from a wilting violet heroine as can be. Which is great. There is a romance. This romance does not dictate her life and ideas. Which is refreshing!

Here’s a sample of her life process-

But sometimes, people kick you to the ground at recess because they think the shape of your eyes is funny. They lunge at you because they see a vulnerable body. Or a different skin color. Or a different name. Or a girl. They think that you won’t hit back – that you’ll just lower your eyes and hide. And sometimes, to protect yourself, to make it go away, you do.

But sometimes, you find yourself standing in exactly the right position, wielding exactly the right weapon to hit back.

See how more people (cough girls cough) need to think this way?

Read complete review here-

Click to read Warcross Book Review

My first spy thriller! Let Bhutto Eat Grass: Book Review

Without giving away spoilers (any more than I already have), I want to say that Let Bhutto Eat Grass blew me away and kept me coming back for more. The story flows seamlessly, sets a good pace and doesn’t slack whatsoever. The characters are well fleshed out, their progress natural. Once I started on the first chapter, I could not put the damn thing down. I read it while – brushing teeth, burning toast, doing the dishes, hopping on my feet to calm down a very cranky 2 month old followed by reading the story out loud to the same but considerably mellowed down two month old… etc etc… you get the picture. I loved Agarkhedkar’s dry sarcastic humor. It was the perfect voice to paint a picture of the sorry state of Indian politics in the seventies, and very realistically capture how relatively normal people might deal with the horrific.

Click to Get to the Review

Love and Decay, Volume One by Rachel Higginson: Book Review

Book Blurb by author:

Zombies- as if that wasn’t enough to ruin any girl’s dream of a happily ever after.

A vaccination gone oh so wrong and a huge portion of the world’s population was turned into Zombies. Reagan Willow is forced out of her home when her parents become casualties of the horrid Zombie Apocalypse. With the help of her best friend Haley, they’ve become somewhat of experts on surviving the dangers of a world thrust into chaos and decay.

Reagan and Haley are on a vague mission to find somewhere safe to live out the remainders of their terrifying life when they stumble upon the Parkers, a pack of brothers that seem to have the survival thing down in a much more efficient and successful way than Reagan could ever have imagined. They are also protecting their eight year old sister, Page, and will do anything to keep her safe.

The brothers decide that Reagan and Haley need help with being kept safe as well, and as a group they set off to find the Zombie-free utopia Reagan is dreaming of.

Zombies are a daily problem, constantly threatening the lives of their group, but they’re not the only peril on the journey ahead. Militia groups of power hungry men are also a constant concern. And settlements of paranoid, suspicious people turn out to be just as hazardous.

Admit it or not, apocalypses, end of the world scenarios, destruction of the world as we know it, all of these are subjects that fascinate us all on some level. Maybe it is about a morbid curiosity of watching a train-wreck. For some of us, it may be because of a doom and gloom kind of personality. Or maybe, the subject is so fantastically impossibly probable, that we can’t help but think about it every once in a while.

Love and Decay by Rachel Higginson is a dystopian drama, set in a world where a cure for STDs involuntarily triggered a mass infection turning humans into zombies. Right off the mark, here’s a few things that hooked me to this story-

  1. Narrators are two badass twenty year old women who fight zombies, face humans worse than zombies, are not whiny complaining sob-sters and have a deep friendship that does not shake.
  2. Zombies.
  3. Great and believable action sequences.
  4. Freaking zombies!

Continue Reading…(Click here)

 

Mortal Instruments Fanfiction: Secret Shadows

So Mortal Instruments. New fandom for me. I have read the books and quite a bit of fanfiction there is. Saw the movie and the TV series and developed a fascination with the TV Alec – Matthew Daddario. That boy is something else!

Anyways, so I was toying with this story idea for a bit now and today I finally decided to put it out there and see where this thing goes. I am trying a hand at writing a historical. It is actually fun when I can’t cuss in writing and have to come up with good words to express something instead.

Here we go then. The summary and first chapter of my new fanfiction “Secret Shadows”

Summary: What if the down-worlders ruled the world? What if the all powerful Fae, Vampires, Warlocks and Shifters made sure that the Half angel warriors, the Nephilim, were crushed and forgotten and relegated to myth by constantly hunting them down and killing them indiscriminately? In this world where most nephilim don’t know their true identities, there is a secret society of Warriors who still keep the knowledge of Angels alive and fights in secret, trying to keep their legacy alive.

In the town of Idris, somewhere in London, Clarissa Fairchild lives a sedate and mundane life with her proper law abiding parents, unaware of the fact that her strange but taboo fascination with the new history teacher Jace Herondale, is going to be her first step into a world she couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams – a world of dangerous secrets, broken rules, unending war, mythical magic and all consuming love.

Rating: M ; AU

Do let me know if the idea holds intrigue and if you guys are interested in reading more of this story.

Chapter Link – https://sakshichopra.wordpress.com/fanfiction/secret-shadows-chapter-1/

 

 

 

Kulti: Book Review

Kulti

Book Blurb: 

“Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”

When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to.

It didn’t take a week for twenty-seven-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon—why she’d ever had his posters on her wall, or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.

Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man that hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive, shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.

Nothing could have prepared her for the man she got to know.

Or the murderous urges he brought out in her.

“Sal, please don’t make me visit you in jail. Orange isn’t your color.”

This was going to be the longest season of her life.

A seven year old football nut (I won’t call it soccer because I am not American and everybody other than Americans calls the sport football because see, foot meets ball is football) Sal watches the debut of a nineteen year old German footballer Reiner Kulti on TV, watches him score an impossible goal and take his team to victory, and she is hooked for life. Literally. To football and to Reiner Kulti.

Kulti1

Sal did what the best of us with a childhood obsession, that stretches into teenage, do. Covered her bedroom walls with Kulti’s posters, wrote him fan letters declaring she was his #1 fan, had an imaginary relationship with him and informed her parents that one day she, Salome Casillas, was going to marry Reiner Kulti. Sal dreamed of playing with Kulti one day, no matter how out of the world her dreams looked like. So with the single minded focus of a girl on a mission, she played football, put her heart, soul and life into it, till her dream took a life of it’s own.

Of course, while Sal was busy perfecting her game, Reiner Kulti rose as an international superstar and became a world renown celebrity. He married when Sal was seventeen and in anger, she tore down all his posters from her walls. Then Kulti got divorced (but the damage was already done for the passionate teenager in love/hate with him), won more world cups and player of tournaments, allegedly got injured and retired. All in the course of 20 years.

The story starts however, with an announcement of a new assistant coach for a twenty seven year old Sal’s WPL soccer team- the Pipers. In a fun twist of fate, the new coach is none other than Reiner Kulti. But, and that was a big juicy but, Kulti is nothing like Sal and everyone knows and expects him to be. He is silent, distant and uninterested. Long past her childhood crush, the most aggravating thing for Sal now is, he does not even want to play football with any of them.

Thus starts ACT 2 of Sal and Kulti’s story (Kulti of course has no idea of Sal’s obsessive ACT 1).

Reiner Kulti is rude, infuriatingly taciturn and generally an ass. Sal, when she can’t take it anymore, calls him out on it. The after effects are good and bad. Kulti starts paying attention to the team. Which is good. He takes a special interest in Sal. That starts the bad (initially at least). Because when Kulti really starts coaching, he is relentless.

 

He kept going. “Twenty-three, this.” “Twenty-three, that.” Twenty-three, twenty-three, twenty-three…

Shoot me in the face, twenty-three.

There wasn’t affection in his tone, much less pride.

Every single time I looked at him when he called my number, his face was set in a rough expression. Glowering. He was glowering at me.

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But my favorite thing that came out of his mouth was “Is that how girls play soccer?”

Oh man.

I’d heard that one before. It still got me every time.

But if what he wanted, was for me and the team to show him just how girls played, he got his wish. We were all out for blood.

 

Tough love apart, over a period of time, Sal and Kulti form a tentative friendship when Kulti unexpectedly starts spending time outside practice with Sal, starting with Sal kicking a ball to Kulti and him kicking it to a goal (not) followed by a one on one match between the two when Reiner Kulti plays football for the first time in two years.

For all his standoffish rudeness, Reiner ‘the King’ Kulti is not as uninterested as he comes off to be. His interest in Sal’s career comes through in how he rips her a new one and threatens to bench her when she does not play as well as she can in a match. He protects her, even if no one sees it. He stands by her and through sheer stubbornness that rivals Sal, fights to be her friend even when she doesn’t want him (outwardly of course).

 

He might have started pulling on the shortest of short ends of his hair in what was a mix of annoyance and frustration. “Yes, goddamnit, get mad! If my coach had ever even hinted at taking me out of a game, I would have lost it. You’re the best player on the team—“

I’d swear on my life that my heart stopped beating. Had he just said what I think he said?

“You’re one of the best I’ve ever seen, period, man or woman. What kills me is that you are a complete fucking pushover who’s hung up on worthless words in front of a person that doesn’t matter.” His cheeks were flushed. “Grow some balls, Casillas. Fight me for this. Fight anyone that tries to take this away from you,”

 

The friendship becomes deeper. It thrives. Over the course of a season, Sal comes to know the real Reiner Kulti, not the superstar, not the celebrity. Sal pulls Kulti out of his iron barricades, inch by glacial inch. The silent German makes his way into Sal’s heart, inch by precious inch. Their relationship grows over sharing runs and workouts, sharing games, sharing ice packs and arnica oil, sharing meals. Oh and small rebellions against their PR department and team managers after pictures of them start appearing in the press and Sal is threatened that she’d be traded with another team if she doesn’t keep a low profile. But by then, Sal is fighting for this burgeoning but fragile bond too.

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Best thing about the heroine, Salome Casillas doesn’t do anything by halves. When she breaks her walls for Kulti, down the walls go with aplomb. She realizes she never really stopped loving her idol ‘the King’ and now, he means much more to her than a distant dream.

And by the Gods Reiner Kulti doesn’t half ass stuff as well! He loves Sal back with an intensity that took my breath away. He is tenacious, protective, possessive, obnoxiously honest, devious, a little needy and amazing with Sal and her family.

Yep! I swooned. I fell in love with Kulti too. Who wouldn’t? Reiner Kulti has now joined the ranks of my best book boyfriends. With honors!

Kulti2

Things I loved about Mariana Zapata’s Kulti-

  1. Salome is the best kind of heroine- never quits, works harder than possible, fights with the bitchiest of them and still has honor. She is completely awesome. Reiner Kulti is pretty awesome too. Together they are a force to be reckoned with.
  2. This is the best slow burn romance I have read.
  3. Sal’s relationship with her family. Both her parents are involved and loving. Her dad is a drama queen but her best friend. Her mom wanted something other than football for Sal, but supports her nonetheless. Her older brother Eric, also a footballer, is protective as brother should be. There is even a pest of a younger teen sister. They all talk to each other, matter in each other’s life and are as close knit as they can be while living cities apart.
  4. The book beautifully pictures the lives of athletes, one who is a superstar in contrast to the one who is as good but not valued as much as the other one. The sacrifices they make, the discipline they self impose, the everyday pain and sweat of keeping their bodies in top form to keep up their relevance, even the early bed times and careful food selections, everything reads genuine and real.
  5. The humor. Sal’s inner voice is hilarious.
  6. All characters are well written, well fleshed out and fun to read.

Things I didn’t like about Mariana Zapata’s Kulti-

  1. Not a damn thing…