Jul 27, 2015

Tell Me A Story- Book Review

Book Title: Tell Me a Story (An Anthology)
Author (Compiled by): Ravinder Singh
Publisher: PENGUIN metro reads
My Rating: ***1/2
About the Author/s: 
Ravinder Singh who compiled this anthology is a software engineer by profession, brought up in a very small town of Orissa called Burla. 
Before editing and compiling this anthology, Ravinder Singh had also launched an anthology of Love stories titled 'Love Stories That Touched My Heart'. The author has many other published books to his credit.
The twenty one other authors who have contributed to the anthology come from different professional backgrounds but are storytellers for sure!

'Tell Me A Story'- the name of the book itself is a promising title that will compel lovers of the written word to reach out for the book. The subtitle says that the anthology has inspiring, touching, funny and heartfelt stories from life. And I'm a big sucker for true stories, so one can imagine my excitement to read this collection of short stories.

The cover is undoubtedly cute. The floral background and the flowing font translated 'touching' very aptly. And the cup of coffee by the side is just the perfect ambiance for a book lover, isn't it? It was drizzling beautifully outside when I received this book. What luck! 

I think when Penguin put me on their Book Reviewer's list and sent me the paperback for a sneak preview, it had been an extremely opportune hour. This is  a beautiful book to start off on my stint as a book reviewer for Penguin India. 

The book opens with an Editor's note that says "We all have stories to tell. And we love telling them, don't we?" And the writer in me thoroughly agrees with a vigorous nod. Tell Me a Story is a collection of heart-warming stories about events and incidents that affected or changed the lives of the contributing writers. They have narrated stories of episodes that left an indelible mark on their lives. 

Going through the table of contents, 'Pages from a Writer's Life' by Shamita Harsh immediately drew my attention. I knew, I would definitely be able to connect with that particular story and I did but before getting to it, I decided to follow the order and read the stories as they came. That would do justice to the anthology.

'The End of the Tunnel' by Krishnashish Jana is the curtain raiser story of the series. And after having finished reading it, I realised why it had been handpicked to set the ball rolling. The story is absolutely tear-jerking. Told in simple yet well chosen words, it pulls at the strings of the heart and how! Death of a loved one is not easy to face and even more difficult to understand at a tender age. Giving consolation to a grieving loved one requires unimaginable inner strength. This story was just as the title suggested  and more. 

There are some more stories in the book that are heart-wrenching stories of death and grief,of  the sorrow and struggle that a heart goes through to bear with the pain of losing a loved one. The experience of waiting in a hospital lobby, losing a parent and mourning the grave loss is not alien to me and I could relate with the author's anguish. These stories are rife with emotion, alright!

'The Smile That Said It All' by Kamalika Ray is a story with a social message. Its so easy to reach out to another soul and yet we don't! You needn't burn your pockets to 'give'. Giving is highly overrated. It should be as natural as breathing. A simple heartfelt smile of gratitude that you get in return brings so much happiness and yet we look for that elusive 'happiness' in all the wrong places. 

'And Then The Planes Came' by Sanghamitra Bose is my favourite story from this collection. It transported me into another era and also into the mind of a child. This story brought a smile to my face and also left me thinking, at the same time. On a much lighter note is the short and sweet story- 'The Untied Shoelaces' by Dalia Jane Saldanha. Children and the stories from a writer's childhood experiences, can both leave you with a smile as well as a lesson to learn. 

'Tell Me A Story' is definitely a thoughtfully compiled collection of true stories which not only make for a good read but also leave you with life lessons. I will venture to compare this book with the 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' series. Similar in genre and style, it has full potential to keep surfacing time and again because I'm sure there are many more writers out there with their own touching and riveting real life experiences to share. Only, I would like it even more if the next time around I get to read stories that touch a wider plethora of emotions. In my opinion, too many stories revolving around the death of a loved one in the same collection was the  downside here. The nit-picking critic in me sees that as one reason why the book loses a star. Besides, there were a couple of short stories that lacked the flare with which the other stories were written.

"I don't crib, complain, and curse any more. Each time I recall this twenty-minute interaction with a stranger, the soreness of my problems subside automatically. I'm sure you'll experience the same."
- Opening lines of 'We The People' by Anjali Khurana. 
Can there be a more profound quote than that? We indeed can learn a lot from the lives of others. Happy or sad, their stories teach us a thing or two, if we are ready to read and evolve as human beings.

Jul 8, 2015

When I See Your Face: Book Review

Author: Devika Fernando
Publisher: Kindle Edition
My Rating: ****
About the Author: Devika Fernando is a widely published  romance novel author and prolific writer from Sri Lanka. Having lived and completed her education in Germany, she now works as a self-employed German web content writer and also as  a translator, based in Sri Lanka. 

While reading this book I must say I felt like that child who receives the choicest confectionery and never wants it to end. Its undoubtedly sweet all over but sends a myriad delicious feelings racing through your heart. Simple yet interesting storytelling with the appropriate use of good words makes it a smooth read. 

Roughly 17 months of marriage and at least twice as many bruises later, Cathy takes courage and makes an overnight exit to a remote village. She dreams of reclaiming her life and plans to start a cake business with some help from old Mrs. Grindle- her new-found aunt who's the owner of the guesthouse she's put up at. How love comes searching for her when she least expected it is a wonder! 

The love story blossoms slowly and in an absolutely sweet way. The relationship is more emotional and that makes it more romantic. Cathy and Michael's characters develop so beautifully before our eyes, actually falling in love with each other. Hats off to the author for keeping the characters on an emotional plain instead of having them merely tangle in lust.

The author has crafted such intelligent repartee between the two that it makes the story very interesting and entertaining. The quick wit in the dialogues, the natural situations and locations make it a very believable story. All the time, while I was reading, I realised a movie based on the story was playing out, scene by scene in my mind, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. LOL! I am a die-hard romantic and totally enjoy reading such books and watching such movies. I feel the emotions, I cry along and nose-dive into the protagonist's life. 

Like I said before, Devika Fernando's stories are like sweets but I wish this one had lasted longer. I would have loved to read this as a full-blown romance novel instead of just a short story. It had all the potential to show Cathy, Michael and the antagonist flare out in all their colours before the reader's eyes.

Kaleidoscope of Hopes by Devika Fernando is yet another MUST READ love story, if I may say so! 

Jul 1, 2015

Maya's New Husband- Book Review

Book Title: Maya's New Husband
Author: Neil D'Silva
Publisher: Kindle Edition
My Rating:****
About the Author: Neil D'Silva is a teacher by profession who was bitten by the writing bug, quite early in life. Born and brought up in Mumbai he derives inspiration from the metro's idiosyncrasies. The author says " I tried to create a blend here, a blend of my penchant for writing and my astute sense of observation of the things that go around me, and weave my yarns."

Neil D'Silva has also published a small collection of short stories titled, 'The Evil Eye and The Charm'. 

Think Indian horror thriller and what instantaneously comes to mind are a slew of ghost stories, haunted places and such other clich├ęs. When I read the title of the book, I inadvertently began imagining a murdered newly- wed bride, draped in a red saree ready  to haunt the daylights out of me. Even the hand-illustrated book cover said so! If it wasn't for Neil D'Silva's previous collection of short stories- The Evil Eye and The Charm, that had impressed me through the roof, I probably wouldn't have ventured to read this novel. I am extremely thankful to the author for writing such a fantastic book and giving my interest in Indian Horror Thriller tales a 360 Degrees turn around. I couldn't help gushing through a Facebook status update- 

"Just cannot put this thing down until I finish it. Horrible, terrible and scarily delicious!

 — reading Maya's New Husband. "

What starts out as a simple story of a school teacher called Maya turns into a tale of gore within no time and in the most unexpected way. The reader journeys along with Maya through a plethora of changing emotions and one cannot help but feel intrigued by this pivotal character Bhaskar Sadachari who's also employed as a drawing teacher at the same school where Maya is the head of the Biology department. I feel Neil D'Silva's story telling was so flawless and beautiful that anything I say will only be a spoiler. Horror Thriller lovers would read and understand what a captivating book this is, top to toe.

There's so much attention to detail, in the description of scenes and characters, that I could totally visualise the incident playing out. At many points I even felt the stench being spoken of, suffusing my nostrils. Even the titles given to each new chapter were thoughtfully crafted- 'Kidney Beans on Toast','Placed like a pastry', 'Thigh Food'. I found it very amusing that the words chosen had a tongue-in-cheek humor in them, pointed at tickling the taste-buds of another kind! 
There's also a spidery 'tattoo of death' included at the top of the chapters that intrigued me to bits. Reading about it as the book progressed, had my stomach churning. 

The story shifts into top gear in the second half of the book and I found it absolutely unputdownable. The author has obviously undertaken a whole lot of research while writing this book.The seamless descriptions, twists in the story and the solid foundation of facts given to the fiction showcases the author's understanding of the lifestyle of the Aghori Sadhus. The most enjoyable fact about this book was that it keeps the reader on the edge of the seat and intelligently engaged. There's gore, there are irksome details, there are many explicitly described sexual encounters too that all came together to successfully create a growing feeling of fear in my heart, as I read it. Not a single element out of place or forced into the story for the sake of generating interest. Everything has been written with a great sense of timing and finesse. I could actually feel my mouth going dry but I was not reaching out for the bottle of water because no horror story had ever been able to get me hooked and thrilled all at the same time, like this book did.

Like I said, deliciously scary, scarily delicious, horrible, terrible book that will remain with me for quite a while. Maya's New Husband is MNF- My New Favourite!