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.

This post is participating in #MyFriendAlexa because I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.

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Revelations of an Imperfect Life by Sankhya Samhita | Book Review

One of my favourite quotes I learnt growing up, is that Home isn’t a place; it’s a feeling. It is the people who you live with, amidst those four walls of your house, who provide a sense of belonging.

What, then, is one supposed to do, when the feeling of home is no longer there, and the people whom you regarded close, seem far, far away?

One utterly ordinary day, thirty-three-year-old Tanaya realizes that she is stuck in a perfunctory marriage, nursing a resentment at having to live life like a rolling stone and in an impulsive moment, decides to leave her indifferent husband and uninspiring apartment to go back to where it all began: the sleepy town of Tezpur, Assam.

Back home, in the company of family, friends and unavoidable wagging tongues, Tanaya is forced to face her indecision and confusion, even as she tries to find answers to the unsettling questions running in her mind. Dealing with the aftermath of a decade-long heartbreak, coming to terms with new revelations, when she reaches the fork on the road, will Tanaya be able to make the right choice?

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Revelations of an Imperfect life is a book that evokes memories of idyllic life, of growing up in simpler times, of roots, and of being home. The story is one you would want to read over and over again, for it imparts the feeling of being snuggled inside a warm blanket on a cold, rainy day.

The author starts off with a delectable description of maasor tenga (the signature Assamese dish), and just as your mouth starts to water from the flavour of the tangy gravy, she decides to jolt you from your reverie with the hard-hitting monotony of a life that is far from what one would desire.

Her protagonist travels to a time and place in her past, as a way to move forward, and along her journey she is reminded of the things that she misses today – Little gestures that would go a long way in bringing joy to her life.

Samhita’s characters are delightful, whether it is Dueta, Ma, Aita (one of my favourites), or Nobou Mami from across the fence, Nila (the sister who, for all you know, could be your kindred spirit) and even Nibir (whom one only hears on the phone for most of the book).

She writes them all with such perfection, despite each of their flaws, that after a point you can feel them being a part of your life. They hold on to you and gently pull you in, tugging you along into every memory and conversation.

The plot builds around recollections of growing up as a young girl within and around the walls of her family home, which then connect with the present-day events like a natural flow of the river current.

Her prose reads like a song – every note mellifluous with picturesque descriptions. Her expressions captivate you with the gorgeous play of words she weaves.

She brings Assam to life through the food, the clothes, the festivals, the seasons, and the wonderful people, right before your eyes.

The buildup to the climax and the end leave you amazed at Samhita’s talent and finesse which is akin to that of a seasoned writer. It seems impossible to believe that this is indeed her debut novel.

Tanaya’s account, as described here, may all be about the revelations of an imperfect life. However, as the author remarked at the end of her book launch: No life is imperfect. Your life is your own perfect, as long as you find what makes you happy.

That is really the essence of the book –  to know where and how to find what makes you happy. And for that simple reason, amongst the many others I described above, this book will be endeared by all those who read it.

Title: Revelations of an Imperfect Life
Author: Sankhya Samhita
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858544-2-2
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction/General
Pages: 270
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Born in a small sleepy town in Tezpur, Assam, rebelling against the name her Dad had given her in the hope of turning her into a mathematician, Sankhya Samhita fell in love with words from the moment she realised that syllables make up a word, words make sentences and sentences are basically magic. Despite a short-term affair with Physics and Computer Applications, she refused to give up on words and started her blog seven years ago. She was a part of the editorial team of the online magazine Fried Eye for five years and responsible for the feature articles and music reviews, a role she relished. She even dabbled in teaching the English language to adults in far-flung Vietnam and Malaysia after her marriage, until she settled down for the more challenging role of a stay-at-home-Mom to her daughter.
She currently lives in Singapore with her husband, her daughter and more books than she can ever hope to finish reading.
To connect with her, find her on Twitter and Facebook, or follow her blog https://ssamhita.wordpress.com/ for more of her delightful writings.

UPDATE 8th Aug 2017: This review is now also published on womensweb.in

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Confessions on an Island by Ayan Pal | Book Review

I once read somewhere that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Anger generates negativity. It does not have the capacity to be positive. And this anger is what leads to Confessions on an Island, both literally and figuratively.

An abducted woman trapped on an island is given a chance to escape, provided she tells stories emerging from the stories her intriguing abductor tells her. Clueless about why she is being forced to participate in this game of Russian Matryoshka Dolls, the woman, a bestselling author, decides to play along. And therein begins a thrilling tale, narrated in part by an island while also seen through the eyes of the abductee. The tale of a man and woman consumed by the power of their imagination and truth, even as the stakes are gradually raised. Soon the only way out is in – into the past, heart and mind. The island is ready to confess. Are you ready for the truth?

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I was lured by the title of the novel. Confessions on an Island has a unique format to it. The story is revealed through different characters: The island which is a silent spectator to the events unfolding before its eyes, the woman who finds herself trapped on an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere, and the stories themselves as narrated by the abductor and abductee in a twisted game of Matryoshka. Every chapter moves in sequence between its three protagonists.

In the course of these stories, the author lays out myriad human emotions which are inexplicable in the normal course of events. His characters display shades varying between greys and black as he reveals a dark psychological game of thrill and torture leading to an unexpected climax.

In my reading of the book, while I found the concept intriguing, the plot did not resonate with me as I expected it to. I was unable to connect the events as they moved from one story to the next. The character sketches appeared to have lost their way in the goal of creating dark players of this torturous game. Editing was another area which I felt was not as clean and crisp as it could have been.

However, knowing that the author has planned two more books, I gather this will intrigue readers of this genre and pique their curiosity enough to find out what happens next.

Title: Confessions on an Island
Author: Ayan Pal
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858541-3-2
Edition/Year: 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 192
Source: Author’s Copy
Rating: 3 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ayan Pal is a Kolkata-based IT professional and author who has received several accolades in his career so far. These include the honour of his book being a record holder in the Limca Book of Records, the title of ‘Distinguished Toastmaster’ from Toastmasters International for demonstrating outstanding communication and leadership skills, and a ‘Brandon Hall Award’, considered as the ‘Academy Awards’ by Learning, Talent and Business Executives worldwide.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from VTU, Karnataka and has completed a course in Education Technology from SDSU, California.
As an author, he is known for his acclaimed short stories in the Amazon bestsellers ‘Chronicles of Urban Nomads’, ’21 Tales to Tell’, and ‘When They Spoke’. He has also contributed to India’s first composite novel, ‘Crossed and Knotted’, ‘Upper Cut’, ‘Her Story’, ‘Rudraksha’, ‘Arranged To Love’, ‘Tonight’s The Night’ and ‘Long Story Short’. He is a columnist of lifestyle magazine ThnkMkt and blogger at Open Road Review.
Passionate about public speaking, Ayan also loves reading, creative writing, watching and reviewing films, listening to music, and binge watching his favourite TV shows. ‘Confessions on an Island’ is his debut novel.
To connect with him, find him on Twitter @ImAyanPal and Facebook @AuthorAyanPal.

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

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Cantilevered Tales by Jayant Kripalani | Book Review

This is not a Builder v. Helpless Citizen epic. In fact that is the least important part of the book. This is about a group of inept people who you want to reach out and protect but you discover are more than capable of taking care of not just themselves, but of you too.

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In the voice of his protagonist, the author decides to answer what was meant to be a rhetorical question, by launching into the history of the Howrah Bridge – the third-longest cantilever bridge at the time of its construction, thereby alarming his mostly quiet co-passenger and colleague of ten years.

From there, he delves into the back story of said colleague, winding his way around to the various other people who form the narrative of the book. Like his slow journey through the bridge traffic, he takes his time to unfold their stories and build them up as the eccentric characters they are meant to be.

He paints each scene with bright shades of tongue-in-cheek humour, paired with the most colourful Bengali phrases that dazzle his prose. I am not familiar with the Bengali language, thus the glossary at the end of the book was most helpful in deriving a full reading experience. It wouldn’t be the story it is, without the originality of the language, which proves its own inherent role.

The pages turn themselves at a foot-tapping pace as the reader gets wound up in the hilarious turn of events created by the seemingly ordinary Chingdi Kaka, Banshi Mama, Ashutosh Babu, The CM, and many more entertaining people.

I also couldn’t help but notice that the book is edited extremely well, absolutely flawless, something that I have rarely seen from Indian publishers. I only recommend that the glossary be more extensive to include other Bengali terms and phrases which are currently missing explanation. It would make a world of difference for readers who do not understand Bengali.

Cantilevered tales is a story about the quirks of ordinary citizens and their response to situations around them, which in turn makes them the people they become. All laid out with generous servings of wit and humour.

What Author Kripalani has created here is a literary masterpiece, as evident from his writing style that spotlights the sociopolitical theme he has chosen. Right from the pond caretaker, to the members of the Bird Witchers (you read that right) Association or the outrageously comic Oleek Babu, every person you come across is endearing.

Cantilevered Tales is clearly my choice for must-read novel of the year and goes right up to the top of my list of favourite books.

Title: Cantilevered Tales
Author: Jayant Kripalani
Publisher: Readomania

ISBN: 978-93-858542-7-9
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 250
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Jayant Kripalani is an Indian film, television and stage actor, writer and director. Known for his performances in television series such as Khandaan, Mr. Ya Mrs. and Ji Mantriji, he graduated from Jadavpur University with a degree in English Literature. He has played character roles in movies like Heat and Dust, Rockford, Jaane Tu. . . Ya Jaane Na, 3 Idiots and, most recently, Hawaizaade and The Hunger.
He had directed and produced a number of films and is actively involved with theatre. He wrote the screenplay for Shyam Benegal’s film Well Done Abba.
He is the author of the heart-warming and nostalgic New Market Tales, set in the historic New Market area of Kolkata in the 1960s and 1970s. His recent foray into writing performance poetry has brought him acclaim in poetic circles around the country.
When he is not in Calcutta, he is either fishing in Himachal, pfaffing in Bombay or being a beach bum in Goa.
To connect with him, find him on Twitter @JayantKripalani.

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The Accidental Artist | Winner | Memories from Books Contest

Just like the surprise showers that brought some respite from the scorching May sun, I received some delightful news last evening.

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The Accidental Artist – A short story (flash fiction) I wrote for Readomania’s Memories from Books contest – was adjudged the Second Prize winner.

The cue for this contest was to write a fictional story, inspired from real life incidents, about your dearest memory with a book.

The Accidental Artist weaves a fictional story around my earliest memories with my favourite book. To this day, I vividly remember sitting by my mother’s side as she read it out to me.

To find out more about this book and be a part of my experience, follow the link to read this story – The Accidental Artist.

Don’t hesitate to share your own stories around your favourite books so we can relive some wonderful memories together 🙂

Image courtesy: Google Images.

Following Rules – Short Story on Readomania

Here is another short story, which was written in the genre of humour/satire, sometime last year. It received a very special mention for the quality of writing and has now been published on the Readomania website.

Following Rules is a humourous take on how we, as a society, tend to complain about issues which, in fact, may have been created by us.

Pratichi considers herself to be a responsible driver who stays within the confines of road and traffic rules. She is also a bit a feminist, and believes women drivers are unnecessarily given a bad name.

So how does she manage when she is running terribly late on one of the most important days of her life? Can she stick to the rules while all the rule breakers zip past her? Or will she succumb to the pressures of traffic.

Find out more by reading the full story at Readomania.com.

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If you have any such crazy traffic experiences to share; they could be yours or someone else’s; tell me, so we can all have a hearty laugh together. 🙂

Image courtesy: Google Images.

Birds of Prey by Archana Sarat | Book Review

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We, as humans, take form from what happens to us. Every incident we experience – be it of joy, sadness, or simply contemplation on the events around us – shapes us into the person we allow ourselves to become.

There are some who choose to walk with the flow of these events and let nature take its course. There are others who find the strength to fight the natural flow and use their experiences to change the norm.

Ex-ACP Anton Pinto reluctantly joins an investigation into the mysterious disappearances of men from affluent families in Mumbai. Despite the lack of any connection between victims, all clues indicate a similar pattern of abduction. However, with few witnesses and no ransom demands, the trail has long gone cold.

As Anton starts following the clues, he discovers a common link between the victims. Further investigation misdirects him to a few dead-ends, until another man is reported to have gone missing.

Driven by rage at not having his head in the game, he races between schools, old-age homes, illegal dingy hospitals, and dilapidated bungalows, in his quest to find the perpetrator. New leads take him through a labyrinth of incest, abuse, torture, and suffering, spanning decades, that makes his hair stand on end.

Will Anton uncover the motive behind the crime? How is the seemingly harmless, yet mysterious old woman connected to this case? Can justice be served before it is too late?

Birds of Prey is a thriller that leaves a deep impact on the reader. The unfolding events are narrated from two different points of view standing at opposite ends of the spectrum.

With each clue, the author peels back the dark, untold horrors of child abuse plaguing our society. Her treatment of the subject urges you to pause every now and then – to introspect on the harsh realities it reveals. As the story progresses, the reader can’t help but get emotionally tangled in the riveting plot that gets your heart racing.

Archana’s writing style is simple, with a clear line of thought maintained throughout the book. She switches effortlessly between the two points of view to create drama and build suspense. The protagonist and antagonist have been written with strong personality traits to fall in line with their role in the plot. Supporting characters are also etched and added with the precision of a near perfect recipe.

I did feel the Criminal Profiler seemed more whimsical, rather than an analyst of behavioural psychology as I expected him to be. Nonetheless, with his small role in the play of events, it was not something that would bother one very much. Besides, it was probably all the episodes of Criminal Minds I have binge-watched, that made me even notice it in the first place.

I also noticed a few sentences seemed grammatically incorrect. In the first couple of instances I thought it may have been deliberate on the author’s part, but later I realised it was more likely an editing oversight.

Birds of Prey throws light on the lost innocence of victims who are haunted throughout their lives by the psychological trauma of the crimes they are subjected to. However, when trauma sets out to seek justice, the fight sometimes gives rise to a form of misdirected vigilantism that could well turn into crime.

David Rains Wallace, a writer of Conservation and Natural History, wrote in this book ‘The Untamed Garden and Other Personal Essays’ – “Every time we exterminate a predator, we are in a sense creating a new predator.”

Rarely have I come across a novel which is as horrific in the crime it reveals, as it is subliminal about the state of our society.

Archana has handled the subject with the tenderness and sensitivity it craves. I expect her work will receive many accolades in the coming year.

Title: Birds of Prey
Author: Archana Sarat
Publisher: Readomania
ISBN: 978-93-858542-0-0
Edition/Year: First Edition 2016
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction – Crime Thriller
Pages: 192
Source: From the Author
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Archana Sarat is an Author and Poet for the last ten years. She shuttles between Chennai and Mumbai and loves both cities passionately. Her works have been published in various popular newspapers, magazines and anthologies like The Times of India, The Economic Times, the SEBI and Corporate Laws Journal, the CA Newsletter, Me Magazine, the Science Reporter, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the WRIMO India Anthology, the Glo Mag Literary Journal and many more. She is popular in the online world for her flash fiction that appear every Saturday, called ‘Saturday Shots’. Though she is a Chartered Accountant by qualification, she took up her childhood love for writing as her vocation. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from the Writers Bureau, UK. She lives with her husband and two sons in Mumbai.
Birds of Prey is her first novel.
To connect with her, visit her webpage – http://www.archanasarat.com or follow her on Twitter @archanasarat and facebook.com/archanasaratauthor.

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

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Unchained – Readomania Short Story #3

I bring to you my latest short story, published at Readomania, which also happens to have been selected under Editor’s Choice. This is the third time in a row that Readomania has selected my writing in this category, following both my previous stories – Timeless and Heartitude.

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Unchained introduces you to Amrita, whose world is turned upside down when she notices a man from her past standing beside her son. The secret she thought she had so closely guarded, is now threatening to reveal itself. What happens that leads to Amrita finding herself in this position?

To find out, click on the link above or on the Facebook/Twitter posts shown below, where Readomania has also featured this story.

As always, please do leave your feedback/comments on the Readomania website or on this blog post in the comment section below. I look forward to reading your thoughts on Unchained.

Image courtesy of www.readomania.com

Heartitude – Readomania Short Story #2

I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for the wonderful feedback that has been pouring in for Timeless – my first story published by Readomania. I extend my heartfelt thanks to each one of you for your appreciative and encouraging words.

Imagine my unbelievable surprise, when I received another email from Readomania earlier today, saying they had published a second story I’d submitted to them.

To give you a little background – both these stories were originally submitted as entries for a short story contest, organised by a different institution. Each story had to be built around a specific passage, provided by the lead author on the jury. As the copyright still remains with the story writer, I decided to send these to Readomania for some feedback. Luckily, their editorial team selected them for publication.

This second story is titled Heartitude (available at http://www.readomania.com/story/heartitude) and is a soul-stirring tale of a miracle, trying desperately to survive in an unforgiving world.

Readomania has also featured this story on their Facebook page today.

Due to the Terms and Conditions of Use specified by Readomania, I cannot publish these stories on the blog. However, you can follow the link above to read and leave your feedback on the Readomania website (if you happen to be a member), or on this blog post – in the comment section below.

I am eager to know what you think of this one. So go on, give it a read and let me know! 🙂

Published: My First Short Story

It has been a long break since I posted on the blog and some of you have been asking me the reason behind it. It’s just that I have been busy with other things, that took precedence over the last few months. Hopefully, that will be rectified soon!

Today, I am extremely excited to share that my first short story has been published on www.readomania.com.

Readomania is an online initiate that promotes reading and writing. They have a vast repertoire of short stories and poems on their website, which they showcase through talent hunts, and are instrumental in nurturing the creative writing process. In addition, they also publish novels and anthologies via traditional print publishing.

My story is titled “Timeless”” and is available at http://www.readomania.com/story/timeless.

I would love for you to read and leave your comments on the Readomania website (if you happen to be a member) or on this blog post in the comment section below. Your feedback will go a long way.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers and have a great weekend!