Godfall and Other Stories by Sandra M Odell

The stories are murky, grim and slightly futuristic but based on places and locations of the present world. The stories move from one place of the globe to another and portray other wordly events that are apocalyptic and cataclysmic in nature.

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Title: Godfall and Other Stories

Author: Sandra M Odell

Publisher: Hydra House

Date of Publication: 18 April 2018

Rating: 4/5

godfall

A collection of twenty two odd tales, Godfall and Other Stories by Sandra M Odell is an interesting read for lovers of short fiction. Varied with a tendency to be obscure and far fetched, this collection is brilliantly written to cater to the tastes of readers who are always on the go and do not have time to sit and read lengthy novels.

Just like the title of the collection, individual stories revolve around human and non human creatures who can leave the reader equally shocked and surprised with their funny ways. By funny of course, there is no reference to humour of any kind. The stories are murky, grim and slightly futuristic but based on places and locations of the present world. The stories move from one place of the globe to another and portray other wordly events that are apocalyptic and cataclysmic in nature. It can be well understood that if what is understood to be the Omniscient and Omnipotent Divinity that has its reach to the farthest corner of the earth ends of falling off from the sky then what will become of the events of this world? It is this chaos that is imagined up by Odell in imbibing a fiction that is one of its kind and very refreshing. Some interesting titles include Ink, Curtain Call and Lost in Translation. 

Each story is followed by a brief explanation in short passages regarding its conception, the real life events that triggered them and the methods used by Odell to configure these into the stories that leave traces of bewilderment in the minds of the readers. Though largely the stories are indescribable that a sort of frantic mode of narration creates, they are filled with pathos and grab the reader’s attention immediately. There is also a mix of ancient mythology and mysticism in creating and naming the characters and their attributes. It all adds to an enchanting vibe to the collection that is rare considering the absence of multiple authors. Yet, every story is unique, highly speculative wonderfully thrilling in a close knit manner without any loopholes. What adds to the interest is the wonderful book cover that depicts a horned goat like figure leaning onto a soldier character who are rowing a boat over bones, skull, human remains and a fallen cross which shows the condition of religion in this make believe world.

Scary, quirky and mysterious.

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. 

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

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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 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.

Undelivered Letters by J Alchem

Buried emotions are rekindled, old friends reunited on paper and un-mourned acquaintances are grieved for heavily as emotions run wild in this heartfelt masterpiece from the critically acclaimed author and winner of StoryMirror Season 1, J Alchem. The stories project a startling realisation that every person we come across has a unique value and that lives of random passers-by are intricately intertwined beyond their own comprehension.

Title: Undelivered Letters

Author: J Alchem

Publisher: AdProm Media

Date of Publication: 24 October 2017

Genre: Short Story

Rating: 5/5

“If I meet kind people like you, then I’ll learn that too.”

Back in 1993 when letter writing was the norm, an honest and hard-working postman discovers a mistake that unnerves his trustworthiness. Will he be able to race against time and bring closure to all the lives affected?

It is the hope of seeing someone again that makes waiting for them easy. But how can one accept the wait knowing that the one to be waited for will never return? It is under the garb of white lies that a mother consoles her daughter about seeing daddy again. Cathy is also a wife in waiting. An endless waiting. Cathy repeatedly tells her daughter Kara about the return of her dad after his first mountaineering trip with bruises and bandages. But deep down in her heart she knows that he never returned after leaving for his first trek.

“We live in each other, we both will die if we fall apart.” Samuel and Elizabeth are college sweethearts. They spent most of their time together but her father rejects Samuel’s proposal to marry her. They get married against his will. Years later Samuel is convicted of domestic violence and immolation of his wife charged by his father-in-law. Samuel laughs his head off in the court room to the utter shock of his audience. Little do the others know about that day’s accident in the kitchen.

Book thieves run rampage across the city bookstores as more and more books go missing from the shelves. This ‘theft of knowledge’ brings together many detectives as book lovers possessively hoard the remaining ones before all wisdoms runs out. Some call it ‘an act of God’, “a holy happening” or even a “marketing gimmick”. Vigilantes are appointed and prayer meets organised. Famous detective Carl is asked to snoop on the bookstores. In the middle of the night a monstrous dwarf like creature arrives and steals several books. Carl follows him to a jungle where the books are dumped in a large pit. Lenit is thirsty for revenge and he is willing to go to any extreme to hit back at his opponents. But what kind of a revenge is this?

Opening with these little stories in a small town where everyone knows each other, the central protagonists Aron and Sara are bamboozled at the unintended mistake on Aron’s part. A humble postman, Aron forgets to deliver a bunch of letters that are long due. Having discovered them in his old satchel twenty years later gives rise to guilt and anger. He must find the recipients and hand them over their lettered messages. In an effort to offer reconciliation and erase guilt, Aron sets on a journey from door to door to become the ghost writer of their incomplete lives. Though busy with shifting apartments, Aron and Sara make all possible efforts to complete each of the stories as they try to undo their wrong. Buried emotions are rekindled, old friends reunited on paper and un-mourned acquaintances are grieved for heavily as emotions run wild in this heartfelt masterpiece from the critically acclaimed author and winner of StoryMirror Season 1, J Alchem. The stories project a startling realisation that every person we come across has a unique value and that lives of random passers-by are intricately intertwined beyond their own comprehension. Recognising the sensitivity of the situation pushes the couple to help bring the lives of others to a fruitful end. The story within a story within a story framework may seem a little confusing initially but it beautifully describes the brittle circumstances regarding matters of the heart. It also comes with a stark reminder that some mistakes at work are just unaffordable. Aron makes the choice to fulfil his task though he could have easily thrown away the tattered letters. It is this sense of understanding that withholding information is as debauched as cooking up information. Each and every character is well drawn and the subtle shades of their roles are depicted with a distinct finesse in this easy to read book that takes barely an hour to complete. Above all is a brilliantly done book cover that adds to the vintage antiquity of long lost reminiscences about days without technology.

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy Reading!

The Quarter Note Tales by Arthur Wenk

Despite his calm and composed writing style, Arthur Wenk redefines suspense for the contemporary reader who will enjoy the holistic experience of Wenk’s eye for detail with several smashing sub plots that dissolve and quickly emerge into the major plot without ever losing track of the main theme.

Title: The Quarter Note Tales

Author: Arthur Wenk

Publisher: Wingate Press

Date of Publication: 24 April 2006

Genre: Novella

Rating: 4.5/5

A spell binding collection of three novellas skirting between the power play within the scholarly realms of Academia and the quiet spirituality of the Church.

A scandalous professor of the English department has committed suicide at Chihuahua State College. His suicide becomes headline news when his suicide note gets published in the college’s student newspaper, The Bowser. Musicologist Axel Crochet gets surprisingly tangled in a fag at this new workplace when he figures out that his colleague from the English department may have in fact been murdered. Astonishing facts and mysterious characters crop up in an endless array of twists and turns as the plot gets murkier each working day. Grant Jarman’s suicide note is not a letter but a poem. Just as Axel is about to unbolt the poetic mysteries gnawing at the throat of departmental politics and murdered colleagues, news breaks out about the death of the female student Jarman had been romantically involved with. She falls off the college roof while trying to click her own picture. Accident, murder or suicide?

The heart of any university, other than in the cafeteria, can be found underneath the piles of books at the university main or departmental libraries. As Axel enters the library to find some bibliographical information that he has received at an event from a friend regarding musicology; his eye falls upon a student newspaper clipping that reports the murder of the Music Department Chairman Edgar Frost. The department’s vocal instructor Viola Mordant is in police custody. The suicide of a student whom Professor Frost had terribly belittled gives rise to an altercation between Frost and Viola. Is that reason enough for murder?

Beginning at a more sombre note in what constitutes the precipitous haste for Christmas service at the Allegheny United Church, Axel is given responsibility for playing hymns and conducting the Junior Choir. Reverend Armstrong rubs his fingers to his forehead, squints his eyes as if in excruciating pain and collapses behind the pulpit vomiting blood across the chancel carpet. A physician from the Senior Choir rushes up to the pulpit and orders the others to call for an ambulance. But John Armstrong is dead. “The dictatorial leadership style that might have suited the small churches that he served earlier in his career brought muffled complaints from some parishioners at AUC.” Shirley Bellinger, a soprano at the Senior Choir and a friend of Axel’s, discloses information about her turbulent marriage with husband James while she’s been seeing another man all along. In the fear of being caught she names John Armstrong as her beau in lieu of his reputation as a lady’s man. James is in custody for alleged charges of murder. But autopsy reports claim Armstrong’s death is caused by drinking Compound 1080. Did he obtain the banned substance all by himself or was he intoxicated? As more people get added to the ‘suspects’ list, the means of acquiring poison remains deluded and the exact manner of death vaguely understood.  Will this mystery ever find a solution or will it jeopardize the reputation of the Church forever?

The Quarter Note Tales is a wholesome read with a bunch of topsy-turvy twists accompanied by a dark sense of humour that never lets the suspense drown. At any moment if the reader feels he can guess the criminal, the narrative only bends to reveal newer confusing information. It is not too often that one gets to read about the more honest aspects of life as an academic specially in a poorly funded institution and its challenges along with tackling a student community that is not up to the mark. Throughout the three tales, the protagonist Axel finds responsibility thrust upon him while he is merely going about his everyday duties. The events shake him up more than any other character but it is his presence of mind and patience that makes others count on him to get them all out of the mess. Speaking as the first person narrator, Wenk provides oodles of information through Axel about each and every incident that unfolds. Constantly moving to and fro between the past and the present gives the stories an added dynamism but requires readers to effectively use their capacity to remember and recall the details and characters as and when the narrative requires. Hence, though the factual data at times lengthens and drags the stories causing a monotony which only pushes the reader to want to know exactly how they will end. The tales are very realistic with an exceptionally honest tone and thoughtful manner of story -telling. Despite his calm and composed writing style, Arthur Wenk redefines suspense for the contemporary reader who will enjoy the holistic experience of Wenk’s eye for detail with several smashing sub plots that dissolve and quickly emerge into the major plot without ever losing track of the main theme. The tales are predominantly alarming but they are Gothic to the extent of being intellectually puzzling and not exactly hair-raising scary. The narrative flair is candid and doesn’t leave out any point that is relevant in keeping readers on the edge by creating a vibrant atmosphere in the backdrop of grim incidents. The Quarter Note Tales comprising the three novellas An Unfaltering Trust, Murder in the Music Department and Murder in the Pulpit is a chilling weekend read for all lovers of thrillers, murder mysteries and uncanny short stories.

Unconventional, suspenseful and un-guesstimatable.

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy Reading!

Christmas by the Sea(Surf’s Up) by Beth Wiseman

Racing against time and the final cries of a helpless man, she locks her car and decides to dive into the reckless waters only to realise that it is of little use trying to battle a furious Mother Nature.

Title: Christmas by the Sea( Surf’s Up)

Author: Beth Wiseman

Publisher: Beth Wiseman

Date of Publication: 4 November 2016

Genre: Short Story/ Novella

Rating: 4/5

Nature’s Fury brings together two complete strangers.

A man is drowning in the middle of a raging hurricane. His hands can barely be noticed as he tries to shout for help. As he gets tossed from one end to another by the burgeoning tides, he contemplates dying instead. It is the thought of his little son that makes Parker struggle for life. But how long will he be able to keep his spirits high while his energies vanquish under the engulfing waters?

This short novella of barely fifty pages finds a relieving twist with the arrival of Alex at the rescue site. She makes frantic efforts to call 911. With gushing winds tearing at everything around, she can only manage to guide the operator to her location before the lines go dead. Racing against time and the final cries of a helpless man, she locks her car and decides to dive into the reckless waters only to realise that it is of little use trying to battle a furious Mother Nature. The story gets dense as they get to know and take a liking towards each other while trying to keep alive. The scenic descriptions and intensity of expression is commendable. What is most appealing is the emotional content of the individuals and the situation. Rescue teams eventually arrive but will Alex ever get to know whether Parker made it alive? Will Parker remember his saviour even if he did live through?

Heart touching story of life’s bitter sweet conspiracies.

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy Reading!

Magic O’Clock by L.S.Fellows

But what if memory decides one day to walk out of someone’s life? Can new memories be made while befriending forgetfulness?

Title: Magic O’Clock

Author: L.S.Fellows

Publisher: Pronoun

Date of Publication: 7 May 2017

Genre: Short Story/ Novella

Rating: 5/5

magicoclock

“If tears could build a stairway,

And memories a lane,

Then I’d walk right up to Heaven,

And bring you home again.” (Anon)

 

Heart wrenching novella of a family beaten down by the loathsome disease of Dementia.

Reminiscences are what people live by. It is memories that make good and bad stages of life. Though ironically happy memories hurt the most but it is some memories that make life more bearable. In this rugged terrain of existential absurdities that make up human life on this planet, it is memories that provide solace, hope and some bitter sweet lessons. Memories warm people from the inside and life becomes an endless effort of making unforgettable memories. But what if memory decides one day to walk out of someone’s life? Can new memories be made while befriending forgetfulness?

L.S.Fellows rattles both the mind and the heart in this crisp fictional tale of dementia and hope. Acceptance is one of the greatest lessons of life and the earlier it is mastered the easier it becomes to live. The loss of a dear one is difficult to accept. But it gets much harder when one has to live with the thought of being with a loved one who fails to recognise anyone or goes missing one fine day. The story treads this field of unfamiliarity experienced by a child whose retired father can no longer recognise anybody. The status quo is reversed as the parent who’s supposed to be the first guide in a child’s life has become the child in need of some guidance from his own progeny but refuses to receive any. It is this unfamiliarity that is crippling to the author.

The writing style is fluid and ideas roll in easily. The narrative is very descriptive to the extent that the pictures rise out of the page and can be seen like a film on screen. These vivid descriptions add to a good eye for detail. It is reflective of someone who not just writes for leisure but writes often and understands the art of storytelling. The story is told from the first person narrator’s perspective. Throughout the narrative the vocabulary used is simple but stress is made on the mode of expression of everyday ideas. Certain ideas are put forward in a way so as to have expressions hurled at the reader’s face to arouse a shudder or a slight chuckle. The humour adds to the pathos but it is not a hilarious account by any sense. The despair is maintained throughout the narrative along with a sense of respectful devotion that the narrator has towards the old man Archie. The death of a parental figure is hard to accept but their absence in their presence is much harder. The core of the suffering lies in the fact that all one can do after a person’s loss is to console oneself by recalling how well the deceased one had lived and how much they had enjoyed their sustenance.

It is ironic that a man who otherwise cannot recall anything is able to narrate such interesting tales articulately and with all the information intact. It is as if Archie takes up a different persona all together during the storytelling sessions at his old age home. He becomes a regular, normal person for those few hours. The narrator’s comments not only add to the reader’s idea about Archie but also give a sense of grief that is gnawing at the narrator’s heart who can merely sit and watch and do nothing at all. It is the helplessness at the hands of an irreversible situation. The child sits through the story telling sessions in hiding as a member of the audience and cannot even go and hug Archie due to the fear of rejection. The longing of a child to be recognised for its efforts and the longing to belong somewhere is overwhelming. The surprise ending baffles the readers who are left to sympathise with the narrator. The novella is very well constructed within barely twenty five pages. There is the constant criss crossing of laughter and tears. Readers familiar with Lisa Genova’s Still Alice will find the two books working along similar lines.

Heartfelt and difficult to swallow with a pathos that is every child’s dread.