book review scorpio superstar sundari venkatraman

Book Review: Scorpio Superstar by Sundari Venkatraman

Series: Book 1 in the ‘Written in the Stars’

I remember reading an excerpt from one of the author’s books probably back in 2015. It was okay, not the kind that could push me to get the book.

So when I saw Ms. Venkatraman’s books in the Kindle Unlimited program I thought it’s a wonderful time to try one. Of course, it makes complete sense to follow your eyes and pick the book based on its cover. 😀

The premise of the story in the book ‘Scorpio Superstar’ and the other books in this series is loosely based on sun-signs.

Let’s see how interesting this tale is…

Genre: Contemporary Romance.

Main Characters: Ranjini, Chandrakanth.

‘Scorpio Superstar by Sundari Venkatraman’ ~~ Synopsis:

Ranjini is happy as she’s all set to meet her client and Kollywood movie star Chandrakanth. She is handling his social media presence for a couple of years now and has communicated with him via emails only.

She’s excited and nervous about meeting him. Ranjini feels tongue-tied in his presence, but when he begins to question her about work, she feels under attack.

She wonders if he’s interviewing her. But what’s the point of doing so now. She knows her work and has been doing it without much complaint from her clients.  

Chandrakanth is used to inspire instant awe and adulation from people who meet him. For the first time he finds himself in awe of anyone.

He doesn’t like it that his friend-cum-manager is better acquainted with Ranjini, so he begins to probe her about her work and somehow manages to offend. He only wanted to start a conversation. Now that she has his attention he wants her to reciprocate.  

They part ways amicably and Chandrakanth couldn’t stop thinking about Ranjini. So he makes up his mind to meet her. He asks her out and wastes no time in asking her to marry him.

Ranjini’s on cloud nine just to get some attention from such a famous film actor. But never in her dreams had she imagined getting a marriage proposal from him within days of meeting him.

His proposal surprises Ranjini, but she agrees and wonder if her parents would agree to the match as well. Much to her surprise, her parents agrees and Ranjini enters CK’s world.

She’s happy with her decision and has CK’s full support. But not when it comes to dealing with his aunt, who lives with him. There’s also a matter of his ex who seems bent on making her life hell. 

Review:

There’s a reason why I’m so fussy about reading Indian authors’ books and I’m talking about traditionally published mediocre stories. This is something I don’t like to put into words, but there’s a limit to my patience.

After this I’m sticking with traditionally published Indian authors and the ones with good command over the language they’ve chosen to write in, someone who knows how to tell a good story.

1: Show, don’t tell was said by some idiot so don’t apply:

‘Show, Don’t Tell’ wisdom has been beaten and thrashed so much in this story that you’d not be able to do anything other than shake your head in disapproval.

If you’re wondering what does that even mean. How could you show something on the paper? I think no one can, unless they draw or take a picture.

The way I’ve understood these three words goes like: a description that creates an image in your mind about how the character looks, behave, her motivations, feelings, thought process, connecting to their surrounding, their relationships etc. Good writers make you imagine someone who exists only in words.

I don’t know what the author wanted to show by saying ‘ultra slim’. What’s ultra slim? Anorexic? Apparently, Ranjini is not just the epitome of beauty (read: she’s too blind to see it, kind), but she’s ‘ultra slim’. Sorry, but not sorry, I didn’t get the picture or the author’s point at all.

Since the words are used a couple of times I had trouble overlooking them. I also had trouble imagining Ranjini as a healthy individual, if she was real. I understand slim even thin, but not ultra slim or thin.

Then there’s a certain kind of cheesiness present in the atmosphere of the story. I’d have overlooked much of it if it was the author’s first book. I do usually overlook some weirdness in the self-published books.

But I don’t read self-published books to read poor imitation of a popular formula exploited by a popular traditional publisher (Mills and Boon) for decades.

I have nothing against their formula or the sameness of their author’s writing style & voice. I read it and enjoy quite a lot of their novels. I also have nothing against self-published authors wanting or trying to recreate that same kind of magic. But only if they could manage to do it right.

As I was saying I would have overlooked the minuses in this case if it was the author’s first book. It isn’t. The ‘Scorpio Superstar’ is the author’s 19th (out of 21) published book and it’s terrible on all accounts. If someone has published 21 books, don’t be surprised if a reader expects more from that author. I did too, unfortunately.

I don’t even want to waste time thinking or exploring how terrible the first book probably is. I don’t have that kind of time to waste.

Another thing is I don’t read self-published books to get the same old idea packed & served in a terrible writing style and weird story structure. I’d find some good Mills and Boon novels. I’d also like to point out that adding exclamation marks would not add much needed drama, tension, chemistry and excitement in any story. What’s with the overuse of exclamations marks anyways?

As per my understanding, after reading romance novels for the last ten years, there are a few ingredients that are needed to write a successful Romance Novel:

1: Three dimensional and likeable characters. If you cannot connect with the characters then why bother reading the story.

2: All characters have motives, starting from the main characters to the secondary ones. The troublemakers, most certainly do have agendas.

3: Show, don’t tell. If you’re still having trouble understanding this then read ‘Scorpio Superstar’ alongside any other Mills and Boon novel or any other you’d find and you’d get what’s wrong with this imitation.

4: Chemistry, tension, drama, developed story line and satisfactory resolution of the conflict.

5: The writing style and the proper story structure. 

6: Last one — Sex? This one you could see as a spice that’s when added either adds more flavor to a story or simply destroys it.  Meaning: Add only if it blends into the story and the most important point…if you’ve no inhibitions writing these scenes.

Mammary…anyone? This one almost erased the torture of reading this book. I just couldn’t stop laughing when I remembered its meaning and realized I would not have to waste time searching Google.

If you cannot use the word breasts, stop writing sex scenes ASAP. I have never read this word in any of the romance novels till date and last time I saw it, it’s in the biology book. We had a good laugh after reading it.

In a scientific journal or medical ones all kinds of weird names for human body looks fine. In a Romance Novel they look out of place and funny. There are complicated and scientific words for all body parts. And using them in a Romance fiction is not a recipe for writing good fictional sex scene when it’s obvious that the very scene makes you uncomfortable. Anyone reading too many Romance novels could tell.  

The author has made a couple of grave mistakes with sex scenes:

1: There’s too many of them, they are all one dimensional, not blending seamlessly into the background, awkward, arrives out of the blue and no sense of why they are even there in the first place.

The worst part you cannot skip them because they arrive out of nowhere, abruptly ends and the next scene begins. If they were written by someone who knows how to, then the book would have landed in Erotic Romance and not Contemporary Romance.

2: They are written so poorly that they would either make you cringe or laugh. Pick your poison. I suggest you go with laughter, laughing, apparently is good for health and throwing Kindle is your loss.  

Another apparent trouble with them is: it seems the author picked some common words and phrases from other romances and sprinkled them in the story.

That reminds me of another author, who is busy blaming Indian readers for not being ready to read the so called adult fiction. I would like to point out, politely and respectfully of course, that not ready Indian readers have been reading Mills and Boon books for years. I have been reading them for over ten years now.

Also, as per my research (that is observing women selecting books in the libraries) Indian readers are reading Erotica. They seem rather too ready.

So the better question is: If the Indian authors are ready to leave their inhibitions and write a good adult content story in the 21st century? Or are they going to take another century?   

Anyways, to check That Author’s claim, I checked out her one and only book in my Kindle library.

(Pro Tip: If someone has trouble saying or even writing the dreaded ‘S’ word, then don’t waste your time trying to find out if they are any different than their contemporaries. The chances are (99.9 percent) the author cannot write a sex scene to save her life.)

After reading a couple of chapters and hunting down a sex scene, I admitted I had wasted my time as the author is not any better in writing them or even weaving an interesting story. If possible, she’s made mockery of the scenes to an extent that they are actually funny.

So it’s not fair to blame Indian readers.

Maybe she should also practice writing them or get rid of them or simply get an editor who might be willing to invest their time. I’m guessing an editor, hired to do some heavy editing, would ask for hefty fees as well.

And if an alleged Amazon bestselling author cannot afford one then maybe I should not hold it against That Author who wants to blame everyone but her own limited inhibited writing skills. 

Now let’s get to the point. There’s no rule stating that a good Romance novel has to have a sex scene. I don’t remember ever reading such a rule. But I do remember reading readers’ comments asking for clean Romance novels.

A good story is a good story without a sex scene. But a good story is not a good story without a well-developed plot, characters and a conflict and of course the writing style. Enough said on this topic!

Let’s move on to the villains of the story – CK’s aunt and his relatives, who do not like Ranjini, even before meeting her.

There could have been some good drama thanks to these characters. But the author fails to exploit these characters and waste pages after pages writing awkward sex scenes. Please practice writing them in a rough notebook. As a reader, I have no patience for reading drafts of any kind.

At the risk of repeating myself: Don’t write what you’re not comfortable writing.

Last complaint I have is about formatting. It’s so difficult to navigate chapters – I clicked on chapter 6 and landed on 7. Everything about this book is a mess.

I would not have been able to tell how terrible the writing is if it were my first romance novel. The author doesn’t have a raw talent to string two good emotional sentences together. I didn’t even detect a writing skill.

The only good thing about this book is the cover. But covers only sell books once and unfortunately they do not write engaging stories. If you want to read an engaging Indian movie star Romance Novel, you’d trySeriously Sitara’.

2: A Look into 5 Star Goodreads & Amazon Reviews:

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to decode this mystery. Just click on the profiles of the five star Goodreads reviewers and you’d know who they are.

Two kinds of reviews I never believe:

1: 5 star reviews given by the fellow authors.

2: 5 star reviews given by the Anonymous reviewers.

Authors usually are not stupid enough to set their profile setting anywhere near on ‘don’t let Google index my profile’. The more Google indexes their profile the better. Another reason could be: how they would prove that they wrote a glowing review so deserve a glowing review in return?

It’s simple: you write five star reviews for your author friends and your author friends would return the favor. (Meaning: when you’ve friends like that you’d not need enemies because they would prevent you from seeing your faults. If you’re not aware of the mistakes, then you’d never correct them or learn not to make them in  the future.)

“Beware of feedback from friends whose judgments could be tainted by feelings of envy or the need to flatter.” ~~ Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent

But you would 100 percent need a damn good professional editor who is not scared to tell you that it’s a bad practice to publish your first draft just because Amazon allows it…Damn it!

Yes, that’s how this book reads – like a first draft.

I have trouble believing the author’s claim that this or any of the previous books are bestsellers outside of India. I would like to know bestseller from the top or the bottom of the list. If you’re not in the top ten, then maybe you shouldn’t add Bestseller as if it matters.

Or maybe should mention the bottom numbers like maybe your book landed somewhere in between numbers 90-100 on the ranking. Don’t mind, but that’s no ranking at all.

If it’s true, then the Amazon threshold for declaring books bestseller in India must be the lowest of the low. Sometimes when traditional publishers reject you, it’s not because they’re snotty and they failed to see the next bestseller.

It could be because they saw a Herculean task of first teaching the new author the basics of English language, then creative writing and then waiting for the author to develop her craft. It’s just too much work. No one has that kind of time to invest, certainly not the people running a business for profit.  

Inside India, don’t ask me, how they become bestseller. Maybe we love the pedestrian writing style the most. I have not been able to decode that mystery. But outside of India…I’m highly doubtful of the claim. If it’s true, then why there are only a few reviews by the same fellow authors on Amazon.com that are on Amazon.in?

Probably people from outside India are reading Indian books and want to read more, but they don’t leave reviews so not to come across as a leg-puller. I also hunted down books by those flatters (read: liars) in my Kindle library and kicked their books out. If they think this is a book worth 5 stars (minus 5 stars is more like it), then chances are high that their own writing isn’t any better.  

Also, the company we keep says more about us than anything else ever would. If the company you keep is turning you into a liar, then maybe you should consider changing the said company.

Time for the Pro Tip for wannabe liars: When you lie, make sure you could defend it or say that it wasn’t you; otherwise the consequence of getting caught lying is bad reputation for you. Never forget once caught people would be hesitant to believe you again.

Protect your reputation instead of giving 5 star reviews without thinking about the consequences. The promise of getting a fake five star review from a fellow author is certainly not worth destroying your online image.   

3: Quantity is not equal to Quality:

In three years the author has published almost 20 books at the rate of approx. 6 books per year. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it if you’d pull it without compromising the quality. As a reader, I’m only interested in reading a well-written story that’s interesting to me.

Whether you write 6 or 30 books in a year is no concern of mine. But with this one I have issues….

Pulling a stunt like that would require a good amount of planning, talent plus writing skills and money to pay a couple of or more professional editors for good editing. And how can I forget about writing the first draft at least a few times before sending it to an editor.

But if you’re wasting (anyone who publishes 6 unedited books per year must think rewriting or editing is a waste of time) your time rewriting/editing every story to fix errors, then you would not be able to publish 6 books in a year.

Where are you going to get time to write each of 6 drafts a few times before submitting? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s not a stunt the author has managed to pull like a pro. What makes it all worse is the author is writing and publishing for three years.  

There’s a reason why some authors take years to write a book. You’d write and publish three books, but again you’d require good editors. By that I mean professional editors, not your author friends whose own writing skills are no better than yours.

No professional editor is foolish enough to waste her time editing a first draft. Editing a first draft until it’s worth reading is the author’s job.

Without a good editor, publishing 6 books per year is probably akin to writing suicide, if the writing is as dull and underdeveloped as that of ‘Scorpio Superstars’.

It’s certainly nothing to be proud of. Amazon has enabled anyone or everyone who could finish a first draft to upload it. Just do the readers, who are willing to take a risk on your book, a favor and get your first draft edited.  

Here’s a bonus tip in case you want to fool the editor: Don’t tell the editor that it’s your first draft as I don’t think an editor worth her salts would bother touching it. (If someone does, get ready to pay a huge sum.)

Also, whenever a romance hero wants to marry someone instantly, he has a reason: love, lust or some other reason. At least, that’s what I have read. But this CK guy seems to have no motives and intentions. We can blame the author for weaving a boring one-dimensional tale.  

These kinds of books give Romance and self-publishing a bad name. ‘Scorpio Superstar’ falls into a new category…

Hit or Miss: Spare yourself the torture.

Ratings: -1star/5.

Buy:  Amazon 

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Priyanka Sharma

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