Fate and Fortune: A Collection of Short Stories by Nrupal Das

A collection of six short stories, Fate and Fortune is an engaging collection for all ages. The titles include Tea and Magic, Catch Me If You Can!, Knock on My Doors, A Novel Comes Knocking, Lime Diary, Babe on A Beach. 

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Title: Fate and Fortune: A Collection of Short Stories

Author: Nrupal Das

Publisher: Diffon ePress

Date of Publication: 30 September 2017

Rating: 3.7/5

fate

A collection of six short stories, Fate and Fortune is an engaging collection for all ages. The titles include Tea and Magic, Catch Me If You Can!, Knock on My Doors, A Novel Comes Knocking, Lime Diary, Babe on A Beach. 

The book begins with the story of a newly widowed lady waiting anxiously for her son to return home while talking to her neighbour Sudha Aunty in Tea and Magic. Over a cup of tea, their conversation leads to the revelation that the lady had been a victim of domestic violence for several years but it was on one fateful evening that Sudha Aunty heard her screams and rescued this frail neighbour. Ever since Sudha Aunty is a motherly figure to the lady. But things are never so simple and magic unlike illusion is never free of the dark.

Catch Me If You Can is the story of a lazy horse who grows up to be a race horse called Rome lovingly by the others. He is a swift stallion and the story is an interesting monologue on his behalf about his childhood, his human masters, training sessions and his other horse friends. Compared to the other stories it is rather light and comical.

Ghosts haunt A Knock at My Door as a man relates the story of the captivating Madhupur girl Annapurna and the series of unfortunate events that surrounded her marital life ending in the tragic deaths of her husband and son. She is termed as a witch by the villagers and the listener is startled with the news sudden death. It is dark and interesting.

A novel arrives at the door of a young boy and it surprisingly reveals every incident that is to happen in his life in A Novel Comes Knocking. Nothing happens otherwise and the novel relates very closely to the people in his life too.

In another story, Suman’s diary entries are published by a friend who has been looking for her and has also filed a missing person report. Suman had named it the Lime Diary out of the belief that it will bring her to the limelight. Repetitive patterns of events are constantly noted in the diary particularly the stains of blood found frequently on the kitchen floor, slab or on the switch board but CCTV cameras don’t record anything unfamiliar. Whose blood is it then?

The book ends with a light story of a couple Sid and Shruti who are holidaying on the beach and find their swimwear clad photos all over the internet and in the news the next morning. This high profile couple find it extremely hard to keep things out of public eye while Sid regrets not making things known to the public earlier to save themselves from this scandal. It is Shruti’s wit and openness that helps sort things out later giving the story a fruitful ending.

Above all what really sums up this short compendium is the book’s simple yet thoughtful cover. It is a dice that shows three sides with the words live, die and run written on it. These three words aptly summarise the ethos of the stories and the variety provided in the collection. The stories are full of emotions, quite refreshing and may at times feel very much like short films.

The Average Joe’s Super Sports Almanac: All-Star Stats, Amazing Facts, and Inspiring Stories by Steve Riach

Perhaps, for the average reader what will be of most interest are the chapters on the origin of the games that traces the history of games that might have been started by a group of friends on their college campus.

Title: The Average Joe’s Guide to Sports Almanac: All-Star Stats, Amazing Facts, and Inspiring Stories

Author: Steve Riach

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

Date of Publication: 3 April 2018

Rating: 3.5/5

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Spanning over eleven chapters is this short guide which is a result of Riach’s many years of fascination with unique sports stories and people from the world of sports. Much of the content comes from his work earlier with athletes for films, television, radio or books. The chapters are of moderate length and the information is presented in a rather systematic manner. The individual chapters include inspiring performances by athletes, information about legendary sports figures, strange and true facts as well as miscellaneous ideas about memorable moments in sports that have caught Riach’s eye and are cherished by him.

The book is highly informative so much so that at times it feels over loaded with technical knowledge. Be it the trivial or the glamorous, every bit has been recorded with accuracy and consistency. The content of chapters do not evade individual chapter titles and fills up the reader with valuable information to the brim. Though aimed at the average person who has little or no knowledge about sports, the title of the book is elusive. The data provided is a lot for any average person to remember or understand. It is herein that the book loses its entertainment quotient. Midway through the guide, the bullet points provide short paragraphs of data next to dates of tournaments, names of players or other statistical information making it too factual. The lack of illustrations for a sports guide is also another negative. Moreover, the guide only focuses on hockey, baseball, basketball and football and leagues based in the States or games that are staple mostly to Western audiences. Surprisingly, cricket (once considered a gentleman’s game provides ample stories of rackets, scams, match fixing scandals and an entirely gravely commercialized enterprise) is now played globally and more recently in leagues, has been given a total miss.

Certain chapters, however, are interesting as they cover in brief the debates around all time best teams like NFL, NBA, MLB and a list of the greatest players with their jersey numbers alongside. Key sports dates, important years of remarkable sporting events and other numerical data make up a significant portion of the book that mentions the number games that go on behind these games. Leagues are not merely about crowds cheering their favorite teams at state of the art sporting arenas but also the excellent business that they all make, from the trading of players to the art and science behind the drafts. Undoubtedly, the research and planning that goes behind putting together an organised guide is commendable. Written in an almanac style, the guide is useful but audience specific. Perhaps, for the average reader what will be of most interest are the chapters on the origin of the games that traces the history of games that might have been started by a group of friends on their college campus. The chapter on inspirational quotes by world class players is exemplary of all that they did and not just said. On the whole, the book is a good pick for big time sports buffs.

Sister of Saidnaya by Rose Ann Kalister

Sami is full of praises about the New World in America and the many benefits that it’s government provides to it’s citizens. As he counts every bit of what he has seen and known, his children who comprise his audience are rapt in attention.

Title: Sister of Saidnaya

Author: Rose Ann Kalister

Publisher: Boyle & Dalton

Date of Publication: 9 January 2018

Rating: 4/5

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“Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou
among women…”

Set in a small town of Saidnaya in Syria is the story of a family in which the father Sami has just returned after a trip from America. Everyone is eager to hear his stories of America and what he has seen there. Sami is full of praises about the New World in America and the many benefits that it’s government provides to it’s citizens. As he counts every bit of what he has seen and known, his children who comprise his audience are rapt in attention. They cannot believe their ears as such a society is beyond their imagination. The amount of money that a person can make in Syria in 10 years can be made within a single year in America. But above all, in America they do not need to live under the fear of the Turks or the French. It is a land where all Christians are free.

Little Nadra feels her heart may burst with joy and hope. She does not want to be of the few siblings who may be left behind this time as her parents and a some others plan to migrate to America. She does her chores around the house well to be selected for the trip to America. “The times were influenced by the Red Scare, fear of foreigners, race
riots, and terrorist attacks.” Starting his own confectionery business in Hedley, Sami Zahir was soon becoming the face of the town for all the yummy candies he could offer. Not just that but also the fact that he became a part of the Church where he could call people to the path of God as someone who’s already seen and lived in the Holy Land.

Growing up in the New World and suffocated with the absence of her sisters, Nadra grows up amidst the loneliness and chaos of her new life in the West. She actively works in the confectionery store and blossoms into a beautiful young woman. Much against her choice, she is married off to John and together they run their own grocery and confectionery store. The novel focuses on Nadra and her development all through teenage into adulthood in this new society that is much different from the one she actually belongs too. Though Syrian immigrants are shown to be entrepreneurial and far ahead of other immigrant communities, Nadra is much like other immigrant home makers who mostly shuttle between home and their family stores and hang out with members of their own communities.

But times are hard as the land of opportunities is hit by the Great Depression and business is not as prosperous as before. They see the successful launch of a business and its downfall due to turbulent economic times. While they celebrate the joy of a new born baby boy, she also gives birth to a still born later. The story builds on through the dialogues and Kalister has worked on several short exchanges one after the other. There is frequent use of Arabic as well though mostly short phrases. The story revolves around Nadra and her four children as well as a few other characters that are introduced since the beginning. The plot is not too cluttered with many characters making the story very homely. Individual chapters are named after characters such as Aurelia, Sonia, Dowla and so on as they describe that person and their influence in Nadra’s own life and story.

The Japanese invasion of the Pearl Harbour leads to a war like situation as the characters are plunged into panic about what might happen next. They struggle through World War II and much later the dark clouds fade as the good years start to roll in. The novel weaves historical facts with the story of Nadra in and engaging manner. The story is one of a kind and highly innovative though a bit lengthy. The novel weaves about themes of immigration, naturalization and the challenges of building new lives in foreign far fetched lands but most importantly about a woman who wanted to be empowered through education and was denied. Till the very end of the novel, Nadra has a loving family and kids but feels the grief of having an incomplete education which she believes could have made her life different.

 

 

The Boy by Nrupal Das

There are not too many twists and turns though it is somewhat of a thriller in the sense that it deals with the mystery of the missing child.

Title: The Boy

Author: Nrupal Das

Publisher: Amazon Asia-Pacific Holdings Private Limited

Date of Publication: 10 February 2018

Rating: 4/5

boy

Childhood is a fascinating time in the life of young minds who are ever eager to learn and all ears to every story they come across. Young Amit is no different. He loves playing cricket with his friends and always  listens intently to the stories that his grandfather relays with zeal about the mysteries of the universe. His anxious mother’s worries know no bounds when one fine day Amit does not return home after cricket practice with his friends.

The boy in The Boy is featured on the lead character Amit who is in his early teens and like any other boy his age, likes to eat all the yummy dishes that his mother cooks and play a good game of cricket with his buddies. The story is written in a plain and simple style with a unidirectional narrative. There are not too many twists and turns though it is somewhat of a thriller in the sense that it deals with the mystery of the missing child. Though the horrors and thrills are not over emphasized by hinting at any abduction scenes and does not have a lot of adventure. The language used is very simple to follow and flows with the narrative. The vocabulary is not too difficult making it an interesting read for children and young adults. Though it can be read by all, the target audience for this book is ideally the teenage group.

The story ends positively when the entire neighborhood come together to hunt Amit down. He only ends up revealing himself to his mother’s and everyone’s surprise. Was Amit hiding? No. Amit was in fact on a secret duty and it is something he performs everyday. Set at a length of only fourteen pages, this short story can be easily read in a single sitting and on-the-go. The surprise ending is unusual and cannot be easily guessed. With themes of spirituality centering around Lord Jagannath of Puri, the story ends with anecdotes of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses as well as their attributes. Das is particularly very descriptive of the scenes and surroundings that help in building the story while the characters are slowly added. But the story still remains rather simple and unembellished. However, it ultimately focuses on the relationship of the mother-son duo, Amit and his mother.