Tag Archives: short stories

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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Interview with Dr. Vivek Banerjee

Dr. Vivek Banerjee, the author of ‘The Long Road’ is a self-confessed “full time pediatrician (by choice) and part time author (by chance)”. Also known by his pen name Ben, for his blogs earlier, Vivek shares snippets of his writing career with us. Read on.

Could you share with us your earliest memories of writing? What got you blogging and finally writing a fictional tale?
The earliest memories in writing are contributing to my school magazine and later editing it. Blogging started as an experiment and then became an addiction. Rediff iLand (the earlier and hugely successful avatar of now moribund Rediff Blogs) provided the proverbial fuel to the fire. The Long Road started as a serial story called Doctors on Rediff iLand. It was hugely popular and my fellow bloggers got more and more involved as the story progressed. Eventually, the idea of presenting it as a full-fledged novel came to me and I decided to take the plunge.

What kinds of books grab your attention?
I love fiction. From adventure to science fiction; thrillers to classics and novels to short stories, I love them all.

How was the experience of writing a novel, given the fact that your profession barely leaves you time for other activities? What inspired you to come out with a full length novel?
Agreed! There is hardly any leisure. This novel and all my writing is generally done deep in the night. Many a time, I have to attend calls at odd hours and find it difficult to sleep after returning.  The only option left is to pick up the laptop and start typing.


Any character from the novel that reflects or resonates with the real you?

No, I don’t think so. I do wish that I could be like Prof. Patil from the book.

The language used is quite simple and coming from a highly specialized industry, one tends to use the jargon of the field. How easy or difficult was it writing a book based around your profession?
It was very simple to write a book based on my profession and many parts of the book are inspired from real life happenings. I did make a conscious effort to avoid medical jargon or get too technical. I hope that I have succeeded in this aspect.


Would you like to share a memorable incident that happened during the writing process? Or an instance that clicked the writer in you (while at work), wherein you felt that the incident would make for an interesting mention in the book?
Considering the fact that I joined Medical College in 1983, I had a rich reserve of memories and experiences to draw from while writing the novel. But one repetitive incident that causes me a lot of anguish and finds a mention in the book is our inability to prevent very sick children from dying despite best efforts.

An ebook or a hardcover– your pick? and Why?
I guess I am traditional in this matter. I am a huge fan of printed books. If you visit my home, you’ll find a lot of books everywhere. E-books are not for me.

Name some your all time favorite reads.
To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is an all time favorite.
I am partial to almost all the books by Isaac Asimov, Wilbur Smith and Jack Higgins and have read them multiple times.

A Quote that inspires you – in personal life / professional life.
This too, shall pass…


A book/author in the recent past that has captured your interest?
Anish Sarkar’s Benaami and the Urban Shots series.

Any other genre that you’d like to explore now? What next do we see from your desk?
I am writing short stories. In fact, there are two projects in the pipeline. One is a collection of stories about the paranormal in collaboration with Faraaz Kazi. An anthology of stories about the darker side of human nature is the other project. Upneet Grover, Saksham Agarwal, Amit Kumar Gupta, Anandita Chawla and I team up for this one.

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Interview With Adithi And Chatura Rao

The launch of Growing Up In Pandupur in Mumbai gave us a chance to interact with two very versatile and creative authors – Adithi and Chatura Rao.

Growing Up In Pandupur is a marvelous collection of 13 short stories for children. And parents alike.

The writing is mature and stable, but at no place does it feel commanding or overbearing. So kids will have no difficulty breezing through the stories.

Talking to the author-sisters would really make you feel as if you are talking to a friend…a mature, responsible and a really caring friend, who will always guide you through difficult times.

Yes, the book in a way brings to light certain topics/issues that kids face but are unable to communicate with their folks. The book comes as a friend and a guide to not just children, but parents too.
Well, the sisters are good at hearing you out as well. No wonder kids and parents wouldn’t leave a chance to strike a conversation with them, at the launch. Their observation and insight to finer things, usually overlooked by most, is admirable.
I got a chance to interview the sisters and here’s a bit of the conversation:

How did you chance upon the title of the book?
There is actually a small town by the name of Pandavpur between Bangalore and Mysore. We passed through it many a times and it is quite scenic. While we were penning out the stories, we modified the name to Pandupur.

How did you think of writing a short story collection for kids?
Between us sisters we have three kids. And we discuss every issue our children are facing or undergoing. There are a lot more challenges you face as a parent. There are times when kids cannot really express what they feel, and this (writing stories of different themes that revolve around kids) was a way of connecting with them.
We already had a few stories around the theme of growing up, and we added a few more to complete the book.

Broadly, what would you say are the diverse topics the stories touch upon?
From sibling love-rivalry, to the loss of a family member, to child sexual abuse, to growing up –most of the stories cater to topics any child can relate to. For that matter, any parent can relate to.

Amongst the stories in this book, which ones are your favorites?
Grandfathers and Trees
Sister’s Song
The River Came Home
The House Painted Blue

Could you name a few of your favorite books?
Chatura: I like fantasy-science fiction work by Ursula K. le Guin, novels by Toni Morrison and John Steinbeck.
In children’s fiction, The Bridge To Terabithia, the Earthsea novels by Ursula K. le GuinJ.R.R Tolkien’s ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’Ruskin Bond and R K Narayan, and Winnie the Pooh, and Huckleberry Finn.
Adithi: I like the work of Harper Lee (To Kill A Mocking Bird). Her ability to get into the psyche of a child is commendable. I also like R.K. Narayan’s  Malgudi Days and The Christmas Miracle by Jonathan Toomey.


What were your growing up days like?
Charuta: We had a typical middle-class childhood. Grew up in south India, moving between Chennai and Bangalore. Played a lot with large groups of kids. Cycled, went for music classes, stole mangoes, befriended stray dogs and adopted their puppies, ran a book library from a friend’s garage, spied on crabby old neighbours, got together and put up plays and dances at Christmas in our grandfather’s garden…
Adithi: Pretty much as Chatu described it! Bangalore was my Pandupur, complete with the magician grandpa and a grandmother who was never too tired to read, cook, feed, sing, play, talk or listen when it came to me…

Would you share an incident (from childhood) that has stayed with you till date?
Chatura: I used to be petrified of having my nails snipped by my grandfather. He was an ex-armyman and believed in crew cuts! So I’d hide around the house, sneak around quietly, until inevitable he’d shout for me, and then i’d go to him like a lamb to slaughter! I remember the undersides of beds and tables a lot because i was often playing behind/ under them with my dolls, and also hiding from people. One time my sister got an injection and while she yelled, i hid behind the bed and cried too 🙂
Adithi: “About Grandfathers and Trees” pretty much tells of my most poignant childhood memory.


What next do we see from you – individually and / or together?

Chatura: I’m working on a collection of stories for adults in the style of magic realism. Nothing being co-written with Adithi right now.
Adithi: Together we haven’t planned anything yet, although we’d love to do a “Pandupur Too”! Individually I’m sure Chatu will come out with a book. As for me, it has to be a film or I’ll burst!


If there was one advice you could give parents today, what would it be?

Chatura: Listen to the kids.
Adithi: That if it’s happening with your kid it is probably happening with lots of others as well, so it can’t be that bad. Let it pass with a sense of humour, things do have a way of working themselves out. This is advice for myself as well as for parents out there… I too forget, more often than not.
Psst: For people who still haven’t picked up a copy of Growing Up In Pandupur, “fie fie!”
Get it here!

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Book Review of “Growing Up In Pandupur” by Adithi and Chatura Rao

Growing Up In Pandupur

by Adithi and Chatura Rao

Though this book is essentially for kids, I’d recommend everyone to read it.

The issues addressed herein are so real and touching.

Growing up in Pandupur is a collection of 13 short stories for kids. Now, Pandupur is a fictitious township in South India. It is a figment of the authors’ imagination. And truly a brilliant imagination.

The book opens with the map of Pandupur, situated near the River Dhun.

The township has the essential necessities: a railway station, a bustling marketplace, couple of schools, some residential colonies (societies); parks, playgrounds, an orphanage; the river Dhun and of course the Dhun river dam project. So essentially engineers working on the dam project have made Pandupur their residence, with their families. And all stories connect most of the residents of that town.

The book opens with a beautiful song dedicated to the river Dhun. Creative and lyrical, the authors capture your heart already with the very first page.

Actually, the cover page of the book is so darn colorful that it catches the eye and fancy of all. The two days that I had the book on my work desk, all my colleagues walking around made sure they picked it up. It is that inviting! They all appreciated the illustration and loved whatever part they read randomly. (*Cheers Priya Kuriyan!)

Some of them have already requested me to lend them the book, while others have already bought it from Landmark. This actually shows how appealing the book is!

Coming back to the stories, all of them are beautifully penned.

The first story –“Polka-dotted Party” is about Raghav’s birthday party that he ends up celebrating at the orphanage. And why so? Well, that is for you to read and enjoy.

In “Goblins”, we see naughty Tejas reign his kingdom of fantasy world as Hobgob Supreme, enslaving other mortals. A very cute story about growing up and sibling love.

Moving on to “Changing Chintamani”, we see how little Chintamani’s life changes as he takes up football coaching during his summer vacations.

“The House Painted Blue” sees three musketeers Thangi Timmayya and her friends, the twins, Situ and Gitu, trying to solve a a funny mystery.

“Mallipoo, Free” shows how love bonds humans and animals.

“Nisha” is the story of a small girl who faces child abuse. The way the story is put actually makes it more relevant to today’s age, and how children can and should distinguish between a good touch and a bad touch.

“About Grandfathers and Trees” is a tender story about a grandfather’s demise.

“Sister Song” portrays sibling love. “For Preet” is a coming of age story, showing how girls mature faster and boys…remain boys! This one I absolutely loved!

“A Boat in the Rain” captures the heart of a young boy and the grief/anger he carries with him.

“Evenings in 201” connects Brigadier Ahmed and Rohan in quite an unexpected way.

“Warm-fuzzy” is an absolute poignant story about children and how they actually see each other.

The last story, “The River Came Home”, deals with development issues and how it affects some people, but the moral is that nothing remains forever. We have to accept the changes and draw strength from our past to move on to a better future.

Through Pandupurs’ children, Adithi and Chatura Rao weave a web of stories–life lessons in growing up: laughter and tears, insecurities, small unkindnesses and surprising friendships, stories that will resonate in the hearts and minds of children everywhere.

No fancy gizmo talk or fantasy world magic fluttering around. Everyday tales of growing up that appeals and resonates with children (and young adults) of all ages.

The setting is ideal and the imagery drawn in the readers mind is so real that you can visualize every story as you read it.

The book truly has it all – the beauty of Pandupur; the innocence of the children around; real issues that need attention; awareness towards certain topics that children refrain from talking about; topics that grown-ups do not discuss or tell kids about; all subjects woven to perfection!

The stories remain with you forever. Reading about Pandupur, I really wish to make a pit-stop at Pandavpur (a town near Mysore that inspired the authors) to capture the images in my heart.

The authors, Adithi and Chatura Rao craft such beautiful stories, bringing to life the ordinary experiences in such a marvelous way that opens your eyes and mind to a lot many things that go unnoticed. Especially for children. It teaches a lot about friendship, sibling love, growing up. The narrative is smooth and flawless.

This one is definitely a MUST HAVE/MUST READ book!

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Book Review of “If It Is Sweet” by Mridula Koshy

If It Is Sweet

by Mridula Koshy

My fondness for short stories made me go lengths to find this book. And I definitely want to admit – it was totally worth it!

A fine amalgamation of perspective, imagination and reality. Conventional settings with contemporary outlook, without traditional facets taking over the characterization, reveal the writer’s flair of capturing your mind and lingering on for almost ever!

The Good Mother –breaks away the conservative facade and shows a mother agonizing over her failed motherhood. She ends up picking a young lover after her son’s death and commits a mistake she can never forgive herself for.

POP –walks similar lines of failed motherhood but with a newer perspective.

Jeans –is an intimate sort of a read. Who would have ever thought of writing about our pretty behinds in this way! And they do really juggle in four different sections! An erratically humorous read with an interesting view point.

The Large Girl –is a bold narrative. A tender love story beyond traditional norms and lines.

Companion – felt surreal and the emotions shared by the two companions come to reveal a surprise ending.

Stories like “Today is the Day, Romancing the Koodawalla, Not Known, Stray Blades of Grass and Same Day,” reveal the feelings of characters belonging to the lower strata of society. The stories show the humane aspect of the author and her keen observation skill. Some of the characters are the ones we would have come across in life but reading Mridula’s stories makes us see aspects we would have never considered earlier. She doesn’t sound preachy or gung ho about the fates or challenges faced by her characters –but simply puts forth their feelings and aspirations. Beautifully written.

When the Child was a Child, 3-2-1, First Time, and Passage” –deal with loss and mourning and lives of expats. Come to see, almost all stories have an underlying theme of sorrow and loss. Maybe that’s what binds the entire collection.

Overall, a well-paced, strikingly original and riveting collection that navigates locales between Los Angeles and Delhi. And all the seventeen stories in If It Is Sweet are unique and leave behind an everlasting impression.

Most of the stories make you go back to them. For a second read. And each time you read them, there’s a different aspect that comes to light. The stories create a stir…an unrest in your mind. They make you see the realities as the author visions.

Mridula’s writing is lucid and smooth. It haunts you in a desirable way. You are bound to find it demanding (or bumpy sometimes), but it is a style you will end up loving.

A myriad of emotions and a palette of feelings, the book deserves to be in your bookshelf forever!

Not to forget the unassuming title that leaves a very different taste in your mind. Astounding.

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CONTEST!!!

Down the Road is the latest anthology from Grey Oak Publishers, a book with 28 short stories about those unforgettable, warm, thrilling, and at times embarrassing memories of life in school and college campuses.

Helter Skelter is running a contest for the same.

here’s the link:

http://helterskelter.in/contests/downtheroad/

Give it a try. You could win a copy of Down The Road!

🙂

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