Tag Archives: Fiction

Book Review of ‘Shades of Sin: Behind the Mask’ by APK Publishers

‘Shades of Sin: Behind the Mask’
By APK Publishers

Shades of Sin

Shades of Sin

Call it my love for short stories but I simply loved this book

An anthology of 25 stories by six authors connected by a single thread: the dark side of human nature in all its hues.

Vices in us, we know, exist and breed. What fans them further and do we tame them (if at all)?

The diverse settings, relatable experiences, and the very humane nature of each story intrigued me. Every single minute of my “me time” was dedicated to the book.

The book is divided in to three portions: Light Grey, Dark Grey and Black. The stories in each section portray/reveal related darkness – not depression. Most of the stories are sure to linger in your mind even after you put the book down. They evoke emotions that we deny ever exist in us.

I appreciate the selection of the stories. I like the way each author has consciously contributed to each section, bringing out the apt “darkness”. It’s not easy to pen out such feelings strongly that stir the reader with each sentence. It reflects maturity – the work of seasoned authors.

The narrative skills of Vivek Banerjee, Upneet Grover, Saksham Agarwal, Aanandita Chawla, Vrinda Baliga, and Shreelatha Chakravarty are praise worthy, offering a different perspective, a refreshing take, a unique outlook towards the different shades of the dark forces within us all.

For anyone who loves short stories, I definitely recommend this book. Pick It Up! No second thoughts!!

This is one book I will keep going back to- just like the Urban Shots series.

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Book Review of “2012 Nights” by Vipul Rikhi

2012 Nights

by Vipul Rikhi

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2012 Nights by Vipul Rikhi

Would the world really end as predicted by the Mayans in December 2012? And if it does we have a handful days to live life to the fullest and read as many books as possible.

Vipul Rikhi’s book, 2012 Nights, revolves around this (supposed) doomsday.

A paranoid and drunk writer, with a belief in the Mayan theory, begins the month (of December 2012) by telling a series of tales to his cat (Schahriar). Each night he spins a yarn of beautifully crafted stories – of Aladdin (with a mention of his brother Biladdin); of Abdullah; of Sindbad the sailor; of King Solomon; of Alibaba and the forty thieves; but all with a twist and a contemporary view. History, mythology, politics and a whole lot of wisdom become the weaving points of all the stories.

His wife (Karuna) has left him and he has no friends left (given his attitude and behaviour). All he is left with is a cat and thus the series of monologue that follow. The tales of greed, compassion, destruction, loss and search have a unique USP. You might feel you know all the tales of yester years, but reading it with the author’s perspective and narrative brings about a new experience.

The author captured my interest initially. But come fifth night and thereafter there was a massive drop. But then soon, his style picked up pace and I was hooked again. Most stories, you would realize, do not end on the night they start. That’s the connect…the temptation that keeps you hooked. The twists and turns are, no doubt, super. But at places it gets overtly preachy and makes you want to skip it all.

Totally worth a read.

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Book Review of “And God Made A Mistake” By Mohit Gupta

And God Made A Mistake
By Mohit Gupta

Let me begin by apologizing for not posting reviews for so long. Globe-trotting doesn’t leave me with much time to write online.

But none the less, here are a quick few reviews that I was supposed to post long back.

Mohit Gupta’s debut sci-fi novella lives up to quite a bit of our expectations.
The story of a scientist trying to figure out a way to achieve immortality by transferring knowledge and feelings from one brain to another (scientifically) got me hooked a few pages down the first chapter. And then it built a retreat of sorts for me to escape in to each night as I dreaded the end of the book.

Quite a riveting concept and ideation, with sound research it seems. Engrossing points in the book saw me admire the writing skills of the author, wondering how such thoughts of unimaginable consequences brewed in his mind. After 12 years when Ayaan traces the steps to reveal the truth behind the mystery and certain inferences, the climax gets more intriguing and fascinating.

Overall, this one was a pleasure to read.
If there is another off-beat writing spree the author wishes to embark up on- count me in to read that too!

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Book Review of “The Ordeal” by Mangesh Jadhav

The Ordeal

 by Mangesh Jadhav

We know that USA is capable of quite a lot. Or so it projects in movies and books. But interfering with nature…who would’ve thought!

Mangesh Jadhav’s first offering, a sci-fi one at that, (The Ordeal) is quite entertaining and thrilling. I wasn’t sure how well my mind would receive it- but I was zapped at being hooked on to it from the very first page.

So what’s the story like- you ask? Well we have NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) working on a satellite that can be used for military purposes. And then you have Russia with its undercover agents reporting the secret to its country, and them coming up with plans to counter it, and therein lies the fantastic plot. How it is brought forth and faced makes for a great read.

For a debut writer, Mangesh has used crisp, clean and very free flowing language that is not only easy but also grammatically fine. (Such relief there.)

The characters are very strong and impactful. Michael Jones, the lead protagonist is a CIA agent. His personality almost reflects through the pages. He is in charge of keeping the mission a secret, and what a fine job he does.
Then we have Suzanne Owen (Private Secretary of CIA’s Director) –a beautiful young lady and Michael’s love interest.
The other cast includes: Dr. Nina Portman, the greedy scientist who can’t but keep a secret for the country and sells her soul to the devil (read: Russians); Dr. Stephen Wilson of NOAA, the one to begin the experiment in the first place, and a bunch of Russians (Alexander Kofman, Andrei Yavlinsky, Vladimir Ivanov, Sergi Nemstor, etc.) who complete the picture in a splendid way.

Another good thing about the novel is the ease of reading it brings- well spaced lettering and smooth language- makes reading sort of uninterrupted and the 400 odd pages did not seem a task, really. The narrative is quite linear. Which is a good thing I guess.

The thriller was thoroughly enjoyed. Crisp plot, remarkable twists, pretty good detailing (sometimes a bit too much of it), it felt more real than just a story. Certain places the author could’ve/ should’ve left open-ended sentences/plots for the reader to interpret or assume or imagine. This would’ve engaged the reader more.

But overall, this is a MUST read- esp. coming from an Indian author- a great debut here!

Kudos!

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Interview with Parimal Kalikar

After having read “A Godly Blunder“, I couldn’t resist shooting a few questions to the debutant author- Parimal Kalikar. Here’s it all !

 

From Hotel Management to a Master’s in Human Resource Management; from earning the first buck as a bell boy to selling credit cards- let’s hear about it all from the beginning in your own words.
I joined Hotel Management with a dream of a suave lifestyle and good money but that dream was shattered with my first training at a five star resort in Goa. I ended up pulling luggage for wealthy guests (Yes you call them guests and not clients in the hotel management lingo). Lost my interest in the line as I did not want to spend years becoming a manager and that’s why I pursued a career in business management. I bagged a job even before I got out of college and I was happy. My hunger for growth and money brought me to Mumbai and I danced. I danced to the tunes of the fast local train schedule, to the tunes of my pushing boss and to the very demanding tunes of the elite clientele. The money was good but I was not happy so I decided to do something that will for a change make me happy.

 

 

What got you attracted towards writing? What prompted you to debut with a full length novel?
I left my job and started planning my own business but with the limited capital it was not easy. In the meanwhile I started writing a story that will talk about the way we approach our problems. Slowly and steadily it started taking shape and when the story was about 15000 words strong I could see the potential and I started putting a serious effort and within the next 2 months I was done with my first novel.

 

 

You know, the most difficult thing is to make people smile, let alone laugh. But your book delivers entertainment to the tee. How did you come up with the idea, the plot and the title?
The problem with us Indians is we get used to the problem very easily. If there is a pothole in the streets we very easily learn avoiding it rather than getting it fixed. We would rather lead unhappy lives and avoid confrontations that may lead to a solution. I don’t subscribe to this cowardly way of living. I started writing about the way a strong headed man from a developed country would approach similar problems and the idea itself seemed entertaining to me. For the plot I took problems from everyday life, some of them even faced by my family. The title was suggested to me by the publisher and I liked it.

 

 

When people write / publish for the first time, it is usually about incidents that they’ve experienced or have been related to closely. How easy / difficult was writing this humorous fictional tale? (I’m sure you did not have to experience “life-up-there” or a close encounter with God to write this.)
Imagining things and day dreaming is something I am very good at so the idea of creating a life up there was not that difficult. Creating a contemporary god was difficult and with a science fiction theme in     my mind I somehow convinced myself of the idea of a young, well dressed god. Conversations with god were the most difficult and with several attempts and guidance from my dear friend Abhishek I could bring out the aura of calmness in his conversations.

 

 

What was the first reaction from friends and family when you smiled and told them you were going to write a novel?
I did not tell anyone except my family that I was writing until I signed the contract with the publisher. Even my family was under the impression that I am writing to spend my free time and when the book was accepted for publishing, everyone was shocked.

 

 

An unforgettable experience that you’d like to share that happened before/during/after the writing process?
When I told everyone that a major publishing house has accepted my book for publishing the first question almost all of my relatives asked, ‘Is it in Marathi?’ As I had most of my education in Marathi medium no one expected me to write in English and it was a happy surprise for all of them.

 

How easy/difficult was it to get yourself published? A budding author like you, we’d like to know your opinion on the overall scenario of the publishing industry.
It was not easy to find a publisher for a novel without a love story or without a love angle what so ever. I was used to the standard reply, ‘Sorry we are unable to accept your work as it does not suit our publishing profile…’ and I had lost hopes when Rupa and co. gave me a chance. I think the overall opinion about Indian authors is changing and the place is getting better and better.

 

 

Name some of your favorite all time authors/ books
I love the works of Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson. I love Sherlock Holmes and Satyajit Ray’s Feluda. A couple of my favorite books include Hussain Zaidi’s Black Friday and Geoffrey Archer’s Not a Penny More Not a Penny Less.

 

 

Have you explored social media platforms to market your book? What’s your take on the growing popularity of social media networking sites?
Yes I have used social media to market my book and I must admit it is the most effective way of getting news around. I think social media websites have become an important part of everyone’s life as they give us a chance to connect with friends quickly and new people easily.

 

 

What next are you working on? And how soon do I get to read it??
I am working on a history based modern thriller and I hope I will finish it in a couple of months so it will be out by the year end I hope.

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Book Review of “The Newsroom Mafia” by Oswald Periera

It’s true…and proven time and again – men opt for a “crime-thriller-suspense” novel when it comes to writing. And rightly so. They have a knack to capture and portray the precise feelings associated with the genre. And Oswald Periera does complete justice to his debut novel- The Newsroom Mafia that offers more than just the thrill of being a media-related-crime story.

The story is about how the Mumbai police commissioner Donald Fernandez puts all his efforts in nabbing the don, Narayan Swamy, with the help of Oscar Pinto, a young crime reporter with “The Newsroom”, one of India’s most venerable newspapers. But we see how Swamy’s ties in the media are stronger, and more effective than Fernandez can think of. How some of the “exclusive” stories were planted and how most police officials, reporters and politicians were mere pawns controlled by the don, is scripted quite brilliantly by the author.
The battle of power, and wits, played with dirty tactics by both, the law breakers and the law abiders raises a lot many questions in the mind of the reader, regarding the authenticity and the truthfulness of the media and the people attached to it.
Rightfully the book description says, “The Newsroom Mafia captures the unholy alliance between the fourth estate, the underworld and the government”.
The narrative is riveting. The language is simple and lucid; the pace perfect to keep you turning page-after-page without a break; and the description of places/situations/events and the people so meticulous and faithful that it breathes life in to the words.
The story is more of an eye-opener about things that happen in the media industry and how people (read: cops, politicians, the underworld and media) work their ways around situations and their counter-parts. What happens behind the curtains and the camera is only known to the insiders. Oswald bares the truth, and how!
Who says money can’t buy everything. In today’s world, the media is offered a more-than-handsome-amount to not print/publish/uncover stories that are critical and important for the public.

To say that not everyone is as corrupt or dishonest is true. But the number (or percentage) of such honest folks is minuscule.

The author’s background as a crime reporter gives him the leverage to churn out such a fantastic piece of crime-thriller. With such in depth research and insight, the book feels more real than just “a piece of fiction”.

MUST MUST MUST READ!

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Interview with Rajiv Kumar

When I started posting book reviews, I wasn’t sure I’ll make it this far. I like it when authors appreciate the reviews (good/bad/ugly) and ask for more!

It always brings in a smile to see a new book awaiting my eyes and thoughts, and when Rajiv Kumar’s Navarasa By Lotus arrived at my desk, I was intrigued. The book definitely is a must read, and to know why I say that- read the review!

I could sense that for a first time author, Rajiv Kumar was nervous being interviewed (even over the emails!)
Don’t worry Rajiv, I understand how you feel (err…or maybe not!)

Anyway, here’s the author’s very first interview! (As confessed by him!)

Beginning with the ever clichéd question: What got you started with writing short stories? What are
your earliest memories of writing (I wouldn’t mind if you begin all the way back from school days!)
My failure in writing an interesting full length novel made me write short stories!
Somewhere in class four or five, the English text book contained a short story by Ruskin Bond. The story was about a half blind person traveling in a train and his beautiful co-passenger. The ending of the story left me in a state which is hard to explain. Even now, I get goose-bumps when I think about it. That is when I noticed the power of narration. But at that age I had no distinction between a short story and a novel. In class ten, I started an ambitious project of writing a story (novel)! Which I consider my first shot at writing, but the idea was immature and the interest faded out. The idea of writing went into hibernation until my
graduation. As soon as I got into a job after college, I started writing a novel based on a fictional illegal bike racing set in Bangalore, calling it “THE RACE CLUB” (does it sound familiar?Yes this name appears in “Seed”). Little did I know that my writing was really bad, however good and interesting the plot may sound. Soon I remembered the short story I had read long long ago and realized that narration is equally important as the plot. I tried to improve on my writing after that.

Instead of eating the entire pizza at once, I thought it’s easy to start by taking little pieces and it turned out that I was capable of cutting them in 9 pieces and still be able to finish it off one at a time.

Would you like to share a few details of your professional (and personal) life?
All my life so far, I have spent most of my time in Bangalore. Right from my kindergarten to my engineering and my current work place, they all have been within 2K.M from my residence! I enjoy walking. Walking  up to my destination gives me enough time and opportunities to observe and come up with story plots! In addition to that I am single, which I believe was a blessing in disguise to spend my weekends in writing and completing “Navarasa by Lotus”!
At office, during the breaks I get into discussions on movies, TV-shows with my friends.

Coming to Navarasa by Lotus – Why such a title? What was the thought behind writing 9 interlinked stories based on the 9 Rasa? (I did read about your contemplation with self, but I need more details on this. Yes, I am snoopy.)
The original title of the book was “Navarasa”. However I felt that the title was not catchy. I thought of renaming it into a vague English transliteration calling it 9emos, referring to 9-emotions. But my conscience asked me if I was embarrassed by an Indian name. In order to have a mysterious title and also to console my conscience I added “by Lotus” to the title though my pen name is not “Lotus”. I always like to keep the readers guessing. The moment anyone see’s “Navarasa” in the title they would get a fair idea regarding the theme of the book. However the rest of the title “…by Lotus” would keep them guessing and curious. The
blurb too starts with saying “every pen name comes with a story…” Though the mystery is unravelled to the readers by the time they finish reading the book!

On why I chose 9 rasas. Let me quote an iconic line from the movie Forrest Gump. My momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” It’s a very simple thought yet pretty much says a lot about life. Similarly I wanted to keep the readers in dark as to what is going to come up next in the line of 9 stories. Also it gives me opportunity to give variations in the mood of stories. I know that when a reader picks my book he or she is spending their most valuable time in reading it through. It becomes my top priority to make them feel redeemed for their time spent, when they finish reading the book (a cryptic message for the story title “Redemption”). A collection of stand alone stories, I felt would be predictable with an impending twist in the end. In order to give a different experience to the readers, I had to re-invent my writing skills to come up with non-linear narration, Rashoman style of narration, add more dimensions to the story with depth, varied timeline and finally link all the stories! I would call them as a hybrid of novel and short stories.

Coming to the 9 interlinked stories – the titles for all of them are quite weird, in a different, intriguing sort
of a way. I mean, Seed, Rat, Mutiny, T20, Loop, Wish, Office, N.H., Redemption…How did you stumble upon
them? What were you thinking?
“What’s in a name?” is what I initially thought, but I wanted to leave a mark of creativity in all areas of the book. A book’s each and every square inch according to me is a premium real estate for creativity! Be it the cover page, blurb etc hence I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. Being a title for short stories, it made sense to keep the titles as short as possible. More than a title, they serve as a cryptic one word blurb of the story, which may not be evident the moment one reads the title but eventually towards
the end of the story the name makes sense.For e.g: Seed, the title refers to the seed of hatred sown by the character “Dev” in his nephew’s mind. Also, down the line, the reader would realise that the first story “Seed” is literally a seed for the entire book as the following stories are one way or the other linked to this. Another example would be “Redemption” which I already mentioned previously.

 


Most first time authors end up writing/mentioning about incidents that they have experienced in life. Among the 9 stories, which one is closest to your heart or life?

All stories are purely fictional! Especially the story where mosquitoes wage a non-violent war against Humanity. However there is no denial in inspirations drawn. I would say that all story plots are a result of fantasized projections of my experience. For e.g: Once, my day was ruined because I hadn’t slept well the previous night, I couldn’t sleep well because the dogs were barking and on top of that the buzzing mosquitoes. When I thought about it, I wondered what could be going on with them and suddenly ideas
mutated and fantasized coming up with my theory “Mutiny”! I feel bad for other stories now that I pick “Mutiny” as the one closest to my heart!

Name some of your all time favorite authors/books.
I have been reading this book since maybe 5 years, and I am still unable to finish reading it as it is never ending with its main and sub plots, it’s written by V.Vyasa! The-Mahabharata. This is easily my most favourite book.

In recent times authors (pun intended) I would go with; Stephen King – Pet Cemetery, Matthew Reily – Temple and of course Chethan Bhagat’s classic – Five Point Someone. But it would be cruel if I don’t mention the books I began reading…Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

Any of the new-age young/budding authors that you think have potential and talent to gather more readers?
Err…I am sorry, I am not sure if I can justify by answering this as I haven’t read a book in the last 2 years as
I was writing mine…

What next do we expect from your desk?
Currently am working on a full length novel finally! It’s tentatively called “Once Upon a Time…Revenge of the Poet!” It’s a story set in a fictional medieval time, with cryptic character names such as Jaci, Jenjhan, Panvyr etc. It is to me the greatest challenge as I experiment with a complex story narration and a story plot which deals with Kings, Princess, Ministers, Masked Vigilante, a Poet and a very mysterious condition of the society they live in! I am hoping that I complete the first edit by the year-end.

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