Monday, July 30, 2012

Traffic - Book Review

I read Hardit Singh's short stories Crossroads and Fast Lane, before reading his novel Traffic and I have to admit at first it was a hard story to read. Traffic deals with the white slave trade, women who are kidnaped and forced to work in brothels.

I've read other stories that deal with sex trafficking, but they mostly show the detective side, in this story you will see in-depth the lives the women are forced into. The story follows Melanie Swift, a woman kidnapped by a man she trusted and thrown into a world of brothels with no way out.

In the first part of the story we see Melanie's inner and outer life. Melanie is a bright, confident woman with a great will to live who just happens to be very beautiful, therefore marketable. We see her day to day activities which include very graphic and disturbing sex scenes. We also get to see her inner struggles to remain sane and hopeful in spite of it all. Her strength of character does get her in trouble and punished more than once.

During this time Melanie meets several women with different attitudes towards their enslavement. Some accept it and thrive, moving up the ladder to become call girls while others will do anything to escape. Theresa is one of those women who refuses to accept that lifestyle and will be Melanie's reminder of what their lives should be. Time and time again freedom seems so close and by the end of the first part of the story, Melanie's situation does seem hopeless.

Now comes the second part in which we're introduced to Carla Fontaine, a detective who meets Melanie and Theresa thanks to an unorthodox personal matter. Carla will become the rope that helps them climb from out of the hole and the shovel that will help them bury all the bad guys from the brothel and the police department.

I particularly enjoy the way Singh creates detectives, they have deep issues from their past, they are very smart and they don't act like a stereotype. Carla Fontaine has a lot to offer with problems with her ex-husband, her partner and ex-lover, her convict sister and still manages to solve a few cases while uncovering the corruption deep within the human trafficking unit in the police department.

For me the story was entertaining and gripping, but it also made me think and shudder. When I pass massage parlors I wonder if they have a basement with kidnapped women. Customers would never know if they're dealing with kidnapped women since they have to act like its just a job. How could they get away if their families are being threatened? Is death the only way out for some of those unlucky women?

I wouldn't consider Traffic an erotic novel, but there is a lot of graphic sex scenes as well as a very thoroughly researched inside look at the sex industry. With three very strong female characters, Traffic is a great book to read!

You can read an interview with author Hardit Singh and if you're interested in purchasing his books visit his Amazon page.

Author Hardit Singh

Interview with Hardit Singh

I met Hardit Singh through Twitter, our first contact had to do with a Michael Connelly review I did on Goodreads. Since then we've become tweeps (Twitter/peeps) and I've become a fan of his writing.

While I've read his short stories Crossroads and Fast Lane, this interview focuses on Traffic, a griping story about sex trafficking in the U.K. Follow this link to read the review. And now...the interview:

Author Hardit Singh

Your books, with the exception of Crossroads, focus on detective stories. While the usual plot for a detective story would be murder-mysteries, with Traffic, you decided to focus on the white slave trade. Did you have any particular reason to write this kind of story?

I've always been interested in Murder Mysteries and I thought that this book would be one of those, however, while at my day job I came across an article about Sex Trafficking and that sparked the idea. I immediately began researching more of it on the internet just out of curiosity, as this was an issue that was so prominent but was under the surface, not many people were fully aware of it. The more I read up on Trafficking the more I wanted to write about it and create that awareness. 

What made Traffic very chilling for me were the details: the use of make-up bags, what kinds of things would be found in the drawers at the rooms, the cleaning duties, etc. Can you tell us about your research?

My research was primarily over the Internet. I did my best to just immerse myself in reading anything I could find on the subject matter without fear of finding the 'right' information. I read anything from news reports to personal accounts to white papers. I also watched some documentaries one which included a husband who tried to get his kidnapped wife out of the the sex trade. I didn't include this in my novel, but I have written a short story based on someone rescuing their relative from this industry. Hopefully this will be released in the future as a stand alone or part of a collection.

In Traffic we get introduced to Carla Fontaine, a detective who manages to solve a few crimes while she's unraveling the corruption in the Trafficking section of the Police department. This book barely scratches at the surface, she has a very complex past and in the present she kicks butt, will there be sequels for Carla Fontaine?

At the moment I don't plan on writing any sequels for Carla Fontaine, but perhaps she may make appearances in the future. I plan on writing a detective series but this will include a different character that I have been spinning together in my mind and one which I hope brings just as much to the table as Fontaine. But I will never say never.

What do you think Melanie and Theresa are doing now?

I think they are still together, perhaps sharing an apartment and working in the real world. I'm sure they will also be volunteering in some capacity to help women who are going through or have been through what they have - Theresa would've been insistent on that!

Are you working on something new?

I'm working on a Drama / Romance novel, that's based upon companionship. I feel like I needed to write about a lighter subject after Traffic, although I'm not sure how light it will be when I'm done with it!

To read my review click here or to purchase Singh's short stories and novel, check his Amazon page.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sign of the Times - Book Review

Even though I'm a big fan of Chick Lit, it's always a hit or miss; sometimes the cliches are so blatant that I just want to throw the book away and other times, like in the case of Sign of the Times, it's a gem that's a pleasure to read.

I have a habit of reading at least 3 or 4 books at the same time, reading one chapter here and one chapter there. But once I was hooked with the Sign of the Times, I stopped reading everything else - including my obsession: "Game of Thrones" - and just concentrated on this story. Something like this only happens when I read Marian Keyes (Rachel's Holiday, Angels) and Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse - The Southern Vampire Mysteries).

In the Sign of the Times, author Susan Buchanan, introduces a character with the characteristics of the different zodiac signs, they all have something to do with each other either directly or indirectly. One thing I liked was the fact that none of the characters were evil, even the ones that were making mistakes were likable and I didn't want anything bad to happen to them.

What got me hooked was how the story was told. Each character was introduced, their story was told and each chapter ended in a cliffhanger. But I didn't have time to dwell on the cliffhanger because the next chapter brought another interesting character I wanted to know more about.

I will be honest and admit I was concerned as to how the story would wrap up, since it took over 3/4 of the book to introduce all twelve zodiac signs - which meant twelve cliffhangers! But the final chapters gave a very nice wrap up that didn't feel rushed and answered all the questions.

I think everyone will have their own favorites and I was prepared to dislike Taurus since I've had several bad relationships with Taurus men (I'm Scorpio, totally not compatible) but Oscar, Taurus, was such a sweetheart! I really fell for Tom, Capricorn, and loved Lucy, Gemini and Czeslawa, Scorpio, is very strong, smart and bad-ass like a good Scorpio!

The story covers many different topics, like lust, love, cheating, parenting, immigration, work struggles and many more. All the characters have believable lives that anyone can relate to and maybe even find a mirror to their own lives.

Another huge treat was that the story locations were in Scotland and Italy, in places I wasn't familiar with, so I Googled them and got a better feel for the story and how the characters live.

The story is very professional, well written and something I can truly recommend. Susan Buchanan's debut novel, The Sign of the Times, can be purchased at and to check out an interview with her, click here.


Interview with Susan Buchanan

I'm very happy and giddy about meeting Susan Buchanan and having her as the first author reviewed on my new blog. I met Susan through, when she introduced herself by telling me how much she loved Maeve Binchy (a personal favorite of mine) and told me about her visit to San Diego - my lovely city!

After that we talked a lot about books and eventually I noticed she wrote one, Sign of the Times and decided to read it. So glad I did! She's a very promising Chick Lit Author and here's a short interview with her:

Susan Buchanan

1) How did you come up with the idea of using zodiac signs for your characters?
Basically, I was looking for something that hadn’t been done before, along a chick lit vein, but with serious themes too.  The seasons of the year, months, days, diaries, etc., had all been done, so I figured why not the zodiac. Then I started researching the signs, the traits and likely careers that the characters would need and it all began to take shape.

2) It is said that debut novels are semi-autobiographical. Are there any scenes from your real life that were added to the book?
All of the characters are fictional, but unless you are writing sci-fi, paranormal etc, I think often there are elements which are semi-autobiographical.  I also think this isn’t only true for debut novels. There are a couple of scenes in the book, one major, almost unbelievable scene,  which happened to a friend of a colleague. The only other anecdote  in the book based on fact is Maggie’s mother always being in the know about who has just died in the village – this is based on a family member of mine!  I won’t say exactly who, or I may be disinherited!

However, I believe the main semi-autobiographical element is the fact that many, although not all, of the locations I mention in Sign of the Times, I have been to, both in the UK and abroad. I have kindly been told by readers that I describe Italy amazingly well. I have been to Italy a lot, although to Bibbiena only once. But, I loved it and that can make all the difference.

In fact just today, I received a little tweet from a reader saying ‘thank you so much you have wrote a book which is speaking about our village, Bibbiena and our land Casentino.’ I was ecstatic!!

I have also been to Glencoe, in Scotland, many times, and Lucerne in Switzerland, which I loved. The tobogganing scenes set in Valais in Switzerland are based on a ski-ing holiday I had about 11 years ago in Austria, albeit there was no romance, just lots of apr├Ęs ski!

3) Are you working on something new? Now that the first book is out, do you find it easier to continue with a second book?
Yes, I am working on The Dating Game, which should be out later this year.  It’s too early to have an official blurb, but here’s a mini-taster.

Workaholic recruitment consultant Gill McFadden is sick of her friends trying to match-make for her. Up until now her love life has been a disaster and she’s going through a drier spell than the Sahara desert. Seeing an ad on a bus one day, she decides to visit Happy Ever After dating agency. Before long she is experiencing laughs, lust and… could it be love? But like everything in Gill’s life, nothing is straightforward and she ends up wondering exactly who she can trust.

To the question, is it easier to write a second novel? Yes. Is it easier to redraft and edit? Yes. Is it easier to write a 2nd book whilst marketing the 1st. Absolutely not!!

4) Anything you would like to say to your readers?
Thanks first of all to anyone who has downloaded/read/reviewed Sign of the Times. I hope you enjoyed reading about the characters as much as I enjoyed creating them. I would love to know who your favourites were and which scenes in the book you enjoyed best. You can send me a tweet to @susan_buchanan. I love receiving them and they totally make my day.

Future releases – there are two more concrete books already mapped out, after The Dating Game. The third book should be out this time next year and for the moment I am keeping its contents a secret. The fourth book will be a sequel to Sign of the Times, due out end 2013/early 2014.

Reviews are very important to authors, as it’s your way of giving us input. Due to the amazing feedback for Sign of the Times, asking for a sequel, I decided to write one. Originally it was meant to be a stand-alone novel. Also, since so many readers on Goodreads, Amazon and Twitter commented on how much they enjoyed the scenes set in Italy in Sign of the Times, I decided to include foreign scenes in The Dating Game. All I will tell you is that they will be set in Barcelona and that I used to live there, so don’t expect just the regular Barcelona haunts, as I know the city very well!

Finally, I would just like to say, you can chart my progress of writing The Dating Game, amongst other features, on my blog –

And follow Ellie’s blog!

Susan Buchanan's debut novel, The Sign of the Times, can be purchased at and to read my review, click here.