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

sports

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.

Exam Warriors by Narendra Modi

There are several puzzles, brain teasers and games centered around the examinations. The idea is to make taking these exams casual though they are much anticipated and a matter of stress. They determine the streams the students will be able to take up depending on the scores they attain.

Title: Exam Warriors

Author: Narendra Modi

Publisher: Amazon Asia-Pacific Holdings Private Limited

Date of Publication: 3 February 2018

Rating: 3.7/5

exam

Dedicated to the youth of India who comprise almost two-thirds of the population under the age of thirty five, Exam Warriors is written in a workbook style. It is an interactive and interesting book written with the annual Indian Board Exams in focus. Almost 2.824 million students will be appearing for the grade X and XII board exams in 2018. (CBSE class 10, 12 board exams to begin from March 5.) It serves as an extension of the February 2015 ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

The book is a unique experience and also highly engaging if used through the Narendra Modi Mobile App. The book has about 25 chapters which are short and are periodically interrupted by unique activities that include students to express themselves through writing, poster designing or drawing images. There are several puzzles, brain teasers and games centered around the examinations. The idea is to make the preparation for these exams casual though they are much anticipated and a matter of stress for both students and their families. They determine the streams the students will be able to take up depending on the scores they attain.

The colourful illustrations are done well and add to the interest of the book and function as stress busters. The book cover shows the Prime Minister waving the National Flag making the kids empowered with their weapons like pens, pencils and other stationery in hand. They skate and glide on segways to the finish line. The back cover also has a real photograph of the Prime Minister being greeted by young students and shaking hands with them. Though the book is highly interesting, it is difficult for a young and playful mind to stay away from the rat race that lies immediately ahead after the board exams.  With sky rocketing cut offs each year, eligibility for higher education is largely becoming a matter of fortune telling.

The book is highly relevant considering the time of release and also very technologically advanced. It has frequent QR codes presented in the book that can be scanned and uploaded to the Prime Minister’s Office directly. The tips are more or less what is usually told to students in terms of mental health, sleep, maintaining a schedule and being organsied with their study and exam day plans such as keeping their hall tickets and stationery in place. Most of it is presented in a fun manner. Along with the moral lessons stating examples of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Rani Laxmi Bai and Subhas Chandra Bose there is almost a mini yoga book in the end with some easy to practice and simple asanas explained with illustrations and simple steps. It is almost a back to school experience (for those who’ve not revisited their school in a long time) as one makes their way through the tasks. Keeping the cost of the book in mind, the quality of glossy pages is amazing.

The Prime Minister’s usual charisma is maintained and reflected which is undoubtedly the reason behind the book’s warm reception especially among the student community. It is definitely the first of its kind but how far it will sustain amidst the re-examination hullabaloo is hard to determine. An audiobook to go along with the paperback is a personal suggestion.

Interview with Rich Marcello

I write every day for five or six hours, mostly in the morning.  I find I do my best work when I go from one kind of dream time ( sleeping) right to another( writing). 

Rich is a poet, an accomplished songwriter and musician, a creative writing teacher at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative, and the author of three novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, and the forthcoming, The Beauty of the Fall, due out in 2016. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.

The Color of Home was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press, and melds together honest generative dialogue, poetic sensory detail, and “unforgettable characters who seem to know the complete song catalog of Lennon or Cohen.” The Big Wide Calm was published in 2014, also by Langdon Street Press. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.” The Beauty of the Fall will be published in 2016. Faulkner Award Winner Mark Spencer commented, “Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.”

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet.

For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Rich lives in Massachusetts on a lake with his family and two Newfoundlands, Ani and Shaman. He is currently working on his fourth novel, The Latecomers.

Commercial Photography

 

Tee: Firstly, talk me through the exquisite book cover.

Rich: Well, for my other book covers, Langdon Street Press did most of the work, but for this book, I had a clear idea of what I wanted.  Several years ago, I acquired the rights to the photo that eventually became the cover.  What I loved about the photo was the image of connected branches opening up to the sky.  I thought that image mapped well to the theme of The Long Body That Connects Us All, so I submitted it to Langdon Street and they took it from there.  I love all of the covers to my books, but I am particularly fond of this cover.

 

Tee: What does the title of the collection actually signify to you?

Rich: In general, I tend to not talk about the meaning of my titles mostly because titles can mean different things to different people, and all of them are equally valid.  Of the people who’ve read the book, the title has signified a number of things.  One interpretation is that we are all connected by the long history of the human race, and though we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture, there’s wisdom in our connected history if we look for it.  Another interpretation is, at its most fundamental level, being human, being a good woman or man, is about learning to see another person clearly and about being vulnerable enough to be seen by the person you are trying to see clearly.  If we could all do that not so simple thing, the world would be a fundamentally better place.  I like both of those interpretations.

 

Tee: How long did it take you to compile this collection? Which are your favourite poems from it?

Rich: I worked it for two years, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. I love many of the poems, but if I had to name three,  I would say, “Passing,” “The Blue Line,” and “Belong to No One.”

 

Tee: What are your previous books about?

Rich: My books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. My goal is to fill my novels with rich characters and ideas, to continually improve my craft as a storyteller, and to tell my stories with the eye and the ear of a poet. For me, writing and art-making are about connection and making a difference to a least one other person in the world.

 

The Color of Home was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press, and melds together honest generative dialogue, poetic sensory detail, and “unforgettable characters who seem to know the complete song catalog of Lennon or Cohen.”

 

The Big Wide Calm was published in 2014, also by Langdon Street Press. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.”

 

The Beauty of the Fall was published in 2016. Faulkner Award Winner Mark Spencer commented, “Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.”

 

Tee: When did you decide you wanted to venture into poetry?

Rich: I’ve written poetry all of my life, but I didn’t get serious about until a few years ago. I had a dear friend encourage me to publish, and I took it from there.

 

Tee: How would you describe your writing style?

Rich: I write every day for five or six hours, mostly in the morning.  I find I do my best work when I go from one kind of dream time ( sleeping) right to another( writing).  My style is an interesting question.  I’m most interested in writing in a way that emotionally resonates with my readers.  Sometimes that means writing poetic passages. Other times it’s about character voice. Other times it’s about the story itself.  But overall, the more psychologically honest and emotional work is, the better. So I guess that’s my style.

 

Tee: How do you go about the process of writing poetry?

Rich: Typically, I get an idea for a poem or a single image, and then I develop it from there.  If I started with the idea,  I spend my time making the poem more physical and concrete.  If I start with an image, I spend my time working on the poem’s thematic payoff.

 

Tee: What are your upcoming books about?

Rich: The Latecomers is about aging in America and about how we as a society have systematically devalued the pursuit of wisdom.

 

Tee: How can readers get in touch with you?

Rich: The best way is through my website www.richmarcello.com

Alternately, people can find my work on any of the following websites:

Amazon

Goodreads

Instagram

 

Read the review Here