Kissing The Demon by Amrita Kumar | Book Review

If you have decided to embark on a writing journey, either professionally or as a hobby, you will soon realise it is a feat akin to kissing the demon. Fortunately though, Amrita Kumar, with the repertoire of her experiences spanning four decades, lays out a simple and effective method to traverse this seemingly arduous path.

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She starts from the absolute beginning – why one should write, for that is the most important question a writer must be able to answer. Not to anyone else but to the self.

Once that is established, she goes on to explain the integral elements of creative writing: plot, characterization, narration, setting, dialogue, that help form a compelling story. She explains with examples which are relevant to the aspiring as well as the seasoned writer. Kumar draws parallels from notable films as well as award winning and popular books to drive the point.

What is most important, however, that sets this book apart from almost all others on the subject of writing, is that she dedicates an entire section to the publishing process, specifically tailored for the Indian writer.

Starting from when, how and where to look for a publisher and/or agent, pitching your manuscript, waiting for a response, negotiating a contract, understanding advances & royalties, to the actual editing, and finally publicity/marketing, she brings focus to an otherwise blurry image that few debut writers can claim to have fully understood.

Last but not the least, she also helps with tips and tricks to manage the complicated balance of dealing with everyday life, and staying fit while indulging in an altogether sedentary writing habit.

You may choose to read this book before you start writing, or after you have written a first draft, nonetheless it has a wealth of information on both creative writing and publishing that you would otherwise rarely come across. One you cannot afford to miss.

Title: Kissing The Demon
Author: Amrita Kumar
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers India
ISBN: 978-93-5264-303-5
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 268
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Amrita Kumar is an anthologist, novelist, writing-mentor and creative writing teacher. She began her career in the godowns of Daryaganj to select books for a chain of bookshops, moving on as research writer for the Department of Culture, Government of India, then on to publishing as associate editor, Penguin India; editor-in-chief, Roli Books; managing editor, Encyclopedia Britannica; editor, Indian Design & Interiors magazine; and vice-president, Osian’s Literary Agency. In addition, she has freelanced for Rupa & Co., HarperCollins India and Oxford University Press.
She lives in New Delhi.

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The Windfall by Diksha Basu | Book Review

I had been seeing this book pop up on my Instagram and Twitter feed every now and then and had made a random note of it somewhere on my TBR list.

Then, I landed at the bookstore to pick up a few books that had been out of stock when my trusted bookseller pulled out a book from the large display table on his right and placed it in front me. “Read this,” he said, his gaze pointing at the copy of The Windfall by Diksha Basu. His recommendations having always been spot on, I couldn’t refuse and returned with a book that was to soon become one of my favourites.

The Windfall begins by introducing Anil Kumar Jha who has worked hard and is now ready to live well. Having sold off his website for what he thinks was an unbelievable price of twenty million dollars, he and his family are moving out of their modest flat in East Delhi, that had been their home for thirty years, into a spacious bungalow in upscale Gurgaon. But, his wife, Bindu, is heartbroken at the prospect of leaving their neighbours and doesn’t want to wear designer sarees or understand interior decoration. Meanwhile, their son, Rupak, is failing business school in the US and secretly dating an American girl. He has still not summoned the courage to talk to his parents about either of these developments.

Once installed in their mansion, the Jhas are soon drawn into a feverish game of one-upmanship with their new neighbours – the Chopras. When an imitation Sistine Chapel is pitted against a crystal-encrusted sofa imported from Japan, and each couple seeks to outdo the other with increasingly lavish displays of wealth, Bindu begins to wonder where it will all end.

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Diksha Basu presents a hilarious tale of a middle-class Delhi family struggling to fit into the mould that comes with their new-found wealth. Their discovery of a lifestyle they have never known, one which Mr. Jha is determined to embrace while Mrs. Jha is fearful of accepting, highlights the insecurity that plagues us all.

Basu’s prose is simple and easy going, much like the family whose story she tells. She infuses a sense of humour in her writing which makes one laugh out loud at every page. The novel is paced exceptionally well, discouraging the reader of any urge to pause. She weaves a captivating narrative of the Jhas’ new lifestyle in Gurgaon entangled with the confusion Rupak experiences in the face of his parents change in mindset.

The Chopras play their part as supporting characters to perfection. Dinesh Chopra, the new neighbour, is as nosey as they come. Watching every move the Jhas make, he is determined to prove he is better and richer.

I particularly loved the nuanced character of Mrs. Ray, the 37 year old widow who is Mrs. Jha’s best friend. Basu loops her story in the narrative effortlessly, and draws attention to the meaningless stigmas associated with being a young widow in India.

The Windfall is a tug of war between values and aspirations. As Michael Mandelbaum said, ‘The windfall of great riches can, if mismanaged, make things worse, not better, for the recipients’. This book simply shows the reader how, albeit with dollops of humour.

If you’re looking for a better-than-good book that will spread warmth in your heart after reading it, I recommend this one. I guarantee it will make you laugh so much that you will cry.

Title: The Windfall
Author: Diksha Basu
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
ISBN: 978-93-86606-62-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/General
Pages: 304
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Diksha Basu is a writer and actor. Originally from New Delhi, India, she holds a BA in Economics from Cornell University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times , Cosmopolitan , Buzzfeed and the BBC. She divides her time between New York City and Mumbai.
To connect with her, find her on Twitter.

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Jukebox: A Short-Story Anthology from Writersmelon | Book Review

There are these lines in the song All I Want by Joni Mitchell, from her album Blue:

I wanna be strong, I wanna laugh along,
I wanna belong to the living.
Alive, alive, I wanna get up and jive,
Wanna wreck my stockings in some jukebox dive.

This is as close as it gets to how I feel when I read the stories in Jukebox – Writersmelon’s newest anthology – a product of fifteen best short-stories handpicked from Melonade 5, their annual nationwide writing competition.

Each of these stories is written by a fresh, new voice: The story you wish was never narrated to an eight-year-old. A cold December morning and a lone gravestone that changes a woman’s life. A teenager who, struggling to deal with the challenges in her life, believes she is cursed. An ageing alcoholic superstar who finds a magical cure for his baldness. The love story linked to a missing earring. A teacher’s faith in her student that bears fruit fifteen years later. These are just a sampling of what the book has to offer.

Categorised in three sections – Suspense, Humour, and Romance – these stories take the reader on a journey where the characters’ lives would have been very different, were it not for the choices they made. They display the protagonist’s strength in drawing courage from within. To do the unthinkable, the supposedly taboo, or to simply follow their heart.

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I can’t deny the fact that I was caught in the web of this jukebox right from the first page.

Abhishek Mukherjee’s ‘Story’ had me biting my nails from the sheer anticipation of what his protagonist was unravelling. His pointed questions to his mother, about his father’s murder, were something you wish no child had to ask. Mukherjee narrates it with the innocence and curiosity of an eight-year-old.

In ‘A Deep Fried Love Story’, Diptee Raut weaves an interesting tale of fat, fried, and love on fire. A woman’s chance sighting of a delicious snack in the hands of a man, puts both man and woman on the fast track to love. The absurdity of such a normal encounter is what endears this story to you.

Purba Chakraborty describes a teacher’s affection for a student unlike others in ‘Her Favourite Pupil’. Her leap of faith in pushing him to test his limits backfires and she ends up losing him. This story is as inspiring as beautiful, and reading it brought tears to my eyes.

‘One Day in December’ by Deboshree Bhattacharjee Pandey is so full of spine-chilling suspense that I am still reeling from the shock of how it turned out in the end.

Avishek basu Mallick begins ‘Lizard Grass’ with a disclaimer that is difficult to ignore. His tongue-in-cheek humour and the obvious reference to reality makes this an absolutely hilarious read.

I could go on to review every story but it wouldn’t do justice to them. There is something unique and special about each one of them.

I did feel that some of the stories could have been edited better, though Priyanka Roy Banerjee has done a remarkable job with most.

Even so, once you pick it up, you will find yourself lost within its gripping tales, losing all sense of time. This jukebox sure carries a delectable selection for aficionados of all genres.

Title: Jukebox
Author: Various
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858543-3-0
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 176
Source: Writersmelon.com
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About Writersmelon:  They are a leading community of book lovers, constantly buzzing with ‘real conversations’ around Books, Authors, and Writing.
Budding authors & bloggers can explore interesting writing opportunities to review books, contribute articles, or cover a book related event in their city.
Writersmelon has a unique approach for new release books, combined with other professional services which have been widely appreciated with glowing testimonials from authors, their agents, and reputed publishing houses.
They also run a nationwide writing competition – Melonade – which is an attempt to provide a platform to young and upcoming writers from all walks of life. It gives them an opportunity to get judged & reviewed by some very respected & widely read authors and  showcase their stories.
With hundreds of entries received every year as part of Melonade, the best stories are published as an anthology, the first of which was First Brush on the Canvas.
Jukebox is their second anthology, edited by Priyanka Roy Banerjee and with a Foreword by Preeti Shenoy. 
Follow Writersmelon on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Also check out their website http://www.writersmelon.com/wm/ for some great articles.

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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The Tree with A Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta | Book Review

Noted Historian and Travel Writer, Jan, Morris said of Kashmir: Kashmir has always been more than a mere place. It has the quality of an experience, or a state of mind, or perhaps an ideal.

It is no wonder then, that the author, Sanchit Gupta, dedicates this book ‘To the people of Kashmir—
those who live there,
those who used to live there,
and those who will continue to live there…’

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Inspired by true events, the story follows the lives of Deewan Bhat, Safeena Malik and Bilal Ahanagar, three innocent children growing up together in the Kashmir Valley. Amidst cups of spicy kahwa, and cricket matches paused by a broken antenna, they live in and around the protective shade of the tree with a thousand apples, whose roots and branches spread in peaceful coexistence. Until the night of January 20th, 1990, when insurgency destroys the tranquility within this beautiful valley.

Deewan is forced to flee his home, leaving only with a memory of the tree that still bears a thousand apples. Safeena’s mother becomes collateral damage, and Bilal finds himself in a life of poverty bound by fear. Overnight, paradise becomes a battleground and friendships struggle with fate as they are forced to choose sides against their will.

Twenty years later, when the three friends meet again at the cross roads, an exiled pandit longs for his home, an innocent civilian fights for justice, and a ruthless rebel aches for redemption.

At a time when all sense of right and wrong is lost, will these three friends choose to become criminals, or saints?

To find out more about this book, read my detailed review as published at Writersmelon.com.

Title: The Tree with A Thousand Apples
Author: Sanchit Gupta
Publisher: Niyogi Books
ISBN: 978-93-85285-51-6
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 284
Source: Writersmelon.com
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Born and brought up in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, Sanchit Gupta began his career as a part-time copywriter with an advertising agency in Mumbai. He went on to co-found his own theatre group, worked as a freelance film screenwriter and as executive producer – fiction for a leading television network. His short stories have been published in several esteemed publications and literary journals and have won acclaim in leading literary festivals and online forums. One of his film scripts (fiction) has been long-listed in a globally reputed screenwriters’ lab. He has worked with All India Radio as a talk show host and regularly features in poetry recitals at Prithvi Café, Mumbai. This is his debut novel.
Apart from being a writer, he is a brand management professional with a wide range of brand building and communication development experience across FMCG, automobile and media industries. His works explore his fascination for global cultures, societal structures, vagaries of the world and the human mind.
He welcomes interaction on Twitter @sanchit421. Find out more about the author and his work at http://www.sanchitgupta.in.

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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Unns: The Captivation by Sapan Saxena | Book Review

Much has been said and written about love, the most profound of emotions known to God’s creations. I believe French Novelist and Memoirist, George Sand, wrote it best – “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved”.  

While love may provide an all-encompassing feeling, its quest and fulfillment cannot be experienced in this one emotion alone, but in stages. The mystical philosophy of Sufism describes seven stages of love – beginning from Hub (Attraction), moving onwards to Unns (Infatuation), Mohabbat (Love), Aqeedat (Respect), Ibaadat (Worship), Junoon (Obsession), to Maut (Death).

Some may know of these stages, fewer may have lived through them. With his new book, Unns: The Captivation, Author Sapan Saxena takes the reader on a journey through these seven stages of love.

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Atharva Rathod and Meher Qasim meet as adolescents and are drawn to each other, only to be separated by circumstances shortly thereafter. Many years later, when they meet again, Atharva is on a covert mission. Caught in the battle between circumstances and destiny, willingly or unwillingly, Atharva and Meher transcend the seven stages of love.

Unns is a quintessential tale of love and romance, set against a backdrop of international espionage.

To find out more about this book, read my detailed review as published at Writersmelon.com.

Author: Sapan Saxena
Publisher: Inspire India Publishers
Edition/Year: 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance Thriller
Pages: 244

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Sapan Saxena is a software engineer by profession and an author by choice. Born in the city of Nawabs, Lucknow, he earned his Engineering degree from MNNIT Allahabad. Sapan started writing when he was coding for a complex algorithm and found that a fictional story would at least make some sense.
Currently based in Nashua, New Hampshire, he is the author of Finders, Keepers. Unns-The Captivation is his second attempt at writing fiction.
To connect with him, visit him at facebook.com/authorsapansaxena or follow him on Twitter @sapansaxena.

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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Finding Juliet by Toffee | Book Review

When you’re young and beginning to grapple with emotions which until now had been unknown to you, it may seem difficult to find your way around them and emerge victorious. Put to test, you then do what seems best – use analytics and reasoning, and by a trial & error method, attempt to deal with it.

Alas, when the heart is naïve and the mind has not quite found its way, logic rarely makes sense, as the protagonist of Finding Juliet finds out.

Arjun is a simple, straightforward guy who believes cupid’s arrow will strike him when the time is right. The arrow strikes him all right. Not once, not twice, but three times. But when he starts to believe that this might be his true love, he finds himself rudely pushed away.

Dejected, he decides to move from Bangalore, in order to put the heartbreaking episodes behind him, and seeks strength from his childhood friend, Anjali.

In Hyderabad, Arjun meets Krish – an irresistible flirt, who claims to have deciphered the most complicated species on Earth – Women. Using Arjun’s past experiences as case studies, Krish teaches him the code to understanding them.

And then, Arjun enters a new phase of his life.

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Will Arjun also become a flirt like his mentor, or will he manage to find true love? Will his goal of everlasting happiness remain, or change track along the way? Finding Juliet is Arjun’s journey to discover the meaning of life, love, and lust, like he has never experienced before.

To find out more about this book, read my detailed review as published at Writersmelon.com.

Author: Toffee (The Alter Ego of Taufeeq Ahmed)
Publisher: Srishti Publishers & Distributors
Edition/Year: 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/YA Romance
Pages: 224

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Toffee is a simple guy who loves the complications of life. Earlier, he wrote code by day and books by night. Currently he is busy writing assignments and chasing deadlines in his Master’s in Business Analytics from the University of South Florida.
Toffee loves narrating interesting stories with subtle insights. Through books he wants to share beautiful stories, reach out to people and touch their hearts. Finding Juliet is his second book, written specially for India’s Generation-Y.
To connect with him, visit him at facebook.com/ToffeeIdiot or follow him on Twitter @ToffeeIdiot.

Note – I received this review copy from Writersmelon.com in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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Book Announcement – Kunti’s Confessions and Other Short Stories

The year 2017 could not have started on a sweeter note for me. Earlier this month, Women’s Web announced a book containing short stories that represent the very best of short fiction published on their website in 2016. I am honoured and thrilled that this book includes a short story written by me.

Kunti’s Confessions and Other Short Stories, was launched on 7th January 2017 at the Orange Flower Awards in Bangalore.

Drawing inspiration from leading contemporary female authors in India today, including Anuja Chauhan, Anita Nair, Jaishree Misra, Jhumpa Lahiri and Namita Gokhale, every month readers of Women’s Web send in their own short fiction based on a writing cue from a novel by one such author.

Fifteen of these short stories have found their way into this book and they reflect some of the quiet joys as well as deepest fears of Indian women today.

My story, Personal Effects was selected as a winning entry for their December Muse of the Month Writing Contest and I have received wonderful reviews for it from the Women’s Web community of readers, and friends. No doubt, it comes as a wonderful surprise that it is included in this publication.

The book is now available for purchase on Amazon (as ebook) and Pothi (paperback).

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I am positive you will enjoy reading this as each of these stories emerge from the reality of women’s lives today and will therefore, resonate with all of you.

Don’t forget to leave your feedback on Amazon and Goodreads.

Image Courtesy – Women’s Web

The Girl in Number 315 – Unbound Emagazine Issue #3

The latest issue for Unbound Emagazine has been released on Amazon and I am beyond thrilled as it carries a short story I wrote, titled ‘The Girl in Number 315’.

This story was submitted against the magazine’s theme for this issue – ‘The Child in Us’ – and it explores human relationships at an age when life has withered towards its end.

Being a part of this magazine also holds special meaning as I find my name amidst published authors whose books have been bringing in rave reviews.

Unbound has a wonderful collection of short stories, poems, and personal experiences, each of which are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on you. There are also reviews of some great new books in varying genres.

Unbound Emagazine Issue #3 is curated by the Facebook Group For Writers by Authors and edited by Pen Paper Coffee.

It is now available for download to your Kindle device or App. Click here:
UnBound EMagazine Issue 3

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I hope you enjoy reading this issue and will share your feedback on the stories, poems and experiences that touched your heart.

Image Courtesy - Unbound EMagazine