Phoenix, written by Arti Chugpai, tells the story of Sonam Aggarwal and her trials and tribulations as she builds her life as a woman in India. Sonam is a complex character with beautiful soul, intelligence and integrity. Her presence demands authority, and as the Director of Publishing for a branch in India, she has certainly earned respect and accolades. However, there is a part of her that is broken by a moment in her life that she explicitly calls “The Betrayal”. Her family and friends judge her by her relationship failings rather than her career successes, leaving Sonam feeling lost and alone. Will Sonam be able to rise above the stereotypes and convictions of her family and friends to find true happiness?
Phoenix is a novel based on love, life and conforming to gender stereotypes. It’s the year 1998, and there’s a budding romance growing between a middle-aged business tycoon by the name of Kunal Vats and the main leading lady, Sonam Aggarwals. Set in India, Phoenix explores Sonan Aggarwal’s life through her ever-changing family, relationships, career aspirations and friendships.
The story then flits between two different eras of Sonam Aggarwal’s life, one part telling her life as it is in 2017 and the other turning back the clock to the year 1998. It’s here we learn about her life and the changing family dynamics and reoccurring expectations that seem to haunt Sonam, no matter how old her or her family members are.
It was refreshing to read a novel based on someone who is aged between their 40’s-60’s. Most modern love stories center around young adults in their twenties and Phoenix was a gentle reminder that age is no barrier when it comes to pursuing love and happiness. I enjoyed the sense of realism as the characters experienced a love that did not always result in happy endings. Instead, Phoenix dove deep into a raw and personal kind of love, where abuse, betrayal and forgiveness are all prominent players in the relationship game.
Phoenix also explores the events of Sonam’s life so thoroughly that at times you feel as though you are almost reading a biography of a real person. The novel also went into depth to showcase some of India’s culture, including foods, family life and working conditions. Arti Chugpai’s style of writing is confident and expressive, using strong descriptive words and phrases to demonstrate their points within the plot line. Fitting, considering the main character Sonam is a publisher herself.
Phoenix also brings to light the society changes and gender differences in India, and how things change over a period of time. It shows the difference in expectations between men and women, especially when it comes to love and relationships. Women are considered to be successful if they maintain a healthy, happy family, with their career aspirations and achievements often shadowed by the relationship, falls they have had in their life.
I would recommend this for anyone looking for a novel about budding romance, rising above the gender stereotypes and Indian culture.
Pages: 232 | ISBN: 1543701043
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The Woman Behind The Waterfall follows Angela as she struggles to help her mother find happiness while trying to avoid her dark past. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
When I started writing The Woman behind the Waterfall, I was at a crossroads in my life. I had turned 30, decided to leave my job running a business to write full-time, and had recently moved country to live in Barcelona. I was at a stage where I was evaluating what had happened in my life to date, and what I could consider mistakes or positive choices; also the example I was setting for my daughter, and the patterns I was consciously or not consciously following from my mother. Thus, the original idea was an exploration of choices and their consequences within the framework of generations. As the novel progressed, this developed into the wider theme of the search for happiness, and what happiness means at different ages and in different generations.
The writing in your story is very artful and creative. Was it a conscious effort to create a story in this fashion or is this style of writing reflective of your writing style in general?
I had always dreamed of being a writer, and at the age of 30, after many years of scribbling stories and poems, I decided to write full-time. This was my chance to create a novel that I hoped would be published and offered to the world. The language that came out when I wrote it was intensely poetic and full of dream and emotion. It wasn’t a style that I had written in previously, but it was the language that I found to express the story of the book – the generations and the regrets and choices, woven into the dream world of the subconscious.
As a contrast, in my second novel, I wanted to write in a style that was a clean, straightforward narrative. After the intense poetry of The Woman Behind the Waterfall, I wanted to focus on story and character rather than the beauty of the words.
Both Angela and her mother are both detailed characters that continue to develop in the story. What were the driving ideals behind the characters’ development throughout the story?
The character of Angela was intended to express the pure creative state that children exist in before their thought-patterns have been set by the surrounding world. I had observed in my own children this magical state when they hadn’t yet been told what was true and what was not, and so everything was possible. With Angela, I take this a step further and allow her to merge with the natural world. However, as the book progresses, she understands that she will lose this ability as she becomes an adult.
Lyuda, the mother, also goes through a transformation. She has been trapped in a debilitating depression and holds on for the sake of her daughter. When her daughter starts to see and be affected by this, Lyuda has to make a choice to come out of her internal world. This progression was really inspired by the idea of the things we pass on to our children, and the responsibility there is in being a parent, where each of your actions can create a pattern that can pass into your family for generations.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I published my second novel, The Unity Game, in May of this year, and I’m currently working on several projects which should be ready starting from 2019. The Unity Game was as different as possible to The Woman Behind the Waterfall, and is a speculative Science Fiction novel set in New York, a distant planet and an after-life dimension. It was a lot of fun to write and it has been getting some great feedback.
For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river.
All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother’s fateful choices.
Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?
Beautiful, poetic and richly sensory, this is a tale that will haunt and lift its readers.
Posted in Interviews
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A Billionaire Secret Baby Romance With a Hint of BDSM.
Natalie could be proud of herself. She had achieved her entrepreneurial dream of running her own Baking company.
But soon she will discover that the only ones who run this world of business are men with power and money!
To escape her worries about her business she starts exploring her hidden sexual fantasies….but little does she know that the Billionaire linked to her problems could be the remedy to them….after a few orgasms…worries always go away.
“F*ck. Your smell- I wonder if you taste like peanut butter… You’re going to stay with me, and at the end of the night I promise you- I’ll find out just how delicious you are.”
Get yourself a copy today!
(No cliffhanger, Happy Ever after 30k words Standalone Steamy Romance book for you)
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East of Mecca,by Sheila Flaherty, details the journey of Sarah Hayes from a wife and mother of two to a woman forever changed by her time spent in Saudi Arabia. Set in the 1980s, Sarah’s story begins when her husband Max, a highly-motivated but fairly unstable man, accepts a job with Ocmara, a lucrative oil company, and moves his family overseas. Sarah and her two young children soon experience oppression, fear, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness as residents of Al Hassa. Sarah’s life in the Middle East spirals out of control as she fights to keep her family together and save the life of a woman she never expected to adore.
Though I have fought hard to avoid the cliche, I have to say East of Mecca is a book I could not put down. From the moment Max tells Sarah of his job offer and their impending move, Sarah’s experiences flowed awkwardly with all the grace of a line of shaky but properly placed dominoes. I found myself holding my breath and waiting for the next collapse of Sarah’s world. At every turn, I expected her world to crash around her and ached alongside her while she slowly realized that her passport was not her own, nor were most of her choices–least of all her ability to work or make decisions.
Flaherty paints a bleak picture of life in Saudi Arabia while at the same time giving credit to its purity and breathtaking beauty. She manages to build a type of fear in the reader that I have yet to experience in any other book. Sarah, a strong woman in her own right, is the ideal character for the setting and events Flaherty creates. As I watched her virtually unbreakable spirit tested page after page, I was able to visualize with frightening ease the true depth of suffering and shocking brutality endured by women within the culture. Watching Sarah feel herself falter and face her own vulnerabilities drove home the plight of the other wives of Ocmara’s employees and the Saudi women. The author reveals heart-wrenching details of abuse and a sense of control by males that seems to spread like a virus to those who linger long enough within the country’s borders.
Sarah’s gradual meeting and ensuing friendship with Yasmeen is stretched throughout the storyline and keeps the reader yearning for just one more tidbit–one more clue. Flaherty manages to provide an element of mystery with Sarah’s sightings of Yasmeen, aloof and lonely on the beach, and then masterfully weaves it into a tale of two friends sharing a common bond of love and tragedy.
I am wholeheartedly rating East of Mecca a 5 out 5. Within its pages lies a tale all too true and far too common. There is an education of sorts to be had from absorbing oneself in Sarah’s utter desperation and final rebellion. The first person account is a must-read for women everywhere and a reread for myself. Flaherty’s Sarah and Yasmeen represent two ends of a spectrum, two cultures, yet they are one.
Pages: 300 | ASIN: B00FMY2CWI
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Pink Slips is a riveting tale of one woman’s desperate plight to keep her loved ones safe, even in the sights of a mysterious stalker. What served as the inspiration that made you want to write this suspenseful novel?
Fourteen years ago I was home alone with my newborn baby when I received a violent anonymous phone call. Flash forward to this year… I was working on a writing prompt asking to recount “receiving an anonymous phone call or note”. I instantly was transported to that frightful night. The story evolved as I fueled the idea with the “remembered fear” I experienced that night. I imagine that many women have had a similar scary situation, which made me think it would be a relatable story.
I found Betsy to be a very well written and in depth character. What was your inspiration for her and her emotional turmoil in the story?
Betsy is modeled after me in some ways. I have some of the little habits that she has, including talking to her dog as if Barney understood her. I’m confident my two Tibetan Terriers understand every word I say! I fueled some of my fears and concerns for safety into her persona, however the violence she experiences is completely fictional. Like Betsy, I’ve had my share of pregnancy issues, giving me authentic experiences to draw upon. My marriage is very happy, whereas Betsy’s needs some work! The emotional turmoil within Betsy grew with her characterization. At first she was just a victim of a parking lot mugging, but as the story developed, she gets pummeled in every chapter. Once I read a article about writing, where it said, “…happy stories are boring… add conflict where you can.” I throw a lot at Betsy, but as the story progresses, so does her strength and belief in herself; so I guess the conflict was needed in my manuscript.
What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this book?
The key theme in the book was shining the light on women’s safety in an information-sharing world. Nowadays, you can learn so much about people through social media, everyday forms we fill out, and even in medical offices. I’ve always tried to teach my children the importance of security, but this book highlights how we are all vulnerable. Another theme in the story, focuses on humans special contact with their pets. They are a part of our family and they rely on us. It’s only natural that there’s a mutual love and respect between us. Another theme is being “open” to your own intuition. We all have it (especially pregnant women), yet are often too busy, moving, talking, and “doing” every day, that we don’t always take the time to “listen”. There’s a lot to learn in silence.
Are there any emotions or memories from your own life that you put into Betsy’s life?
One emotion Betsy shares with me is the intense pain and sadness from losing a pregnancy. No one can understand that feeling unless they experience it. A memory that I share with Betsy is time spent in the kitchen with “Grandma”. I grew up loving food, cooking, and learning from both of my Grandmas. I studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, so it felt natural to make Betsy an expert chef. She has much more working experience than I have, however I did publish a healthy living and eating book (Real Moms Love to Eat; Penguin/NAL, 2012), whereas Betsy hasn’t written her book yet, but I don’t put anything past her… I bet she will publish a cookbook soon 🙂
Betsy Ryan is pregnant with her third child, and receiving threatening notes from an anonymous person. During what should be a joyful time in her life, she’s forced to face a decade old memory, and relive one of the most devastating nights of her life.
To uncover the mystery behind the threats, she enlists the help of an unlikely, but oddly reliable source, her dog Barney. As the menacing notes continue to arrive, her husband is still out of town for work, and she struggles to keep her composure while shielding her two young sons from danger. She trusts no one except her parents, best friend Misty, and her extraordinary dog—who has proven to literally understand everything she says. Is this person out to harm her? And how do they have so much personal information about Betsy? She can’t help but think it’s the same person who attacked her at the train station almost a decade ago, and changed the course of her life forever. To save herself and her unborn child—Betsy must face her fears and find her strength, to reveal who is after her and most importantly…why.
Posted in Interviews
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