Sunday, August 18, 2019

#649 : Classic Cuisine and Celebrations of the Thanjavur Maharashtrains by Jaishri P Rao : A Review


Food is an integral part of life. There are people who live to eat and then there are the others who eat to live. I belong the former category. Cooking, I realized since I started having my own kitchen, is an art. A pinch of that, a dash of this, a cup of that - all of it just works in putting up an edible dish. To bring out a tasty dish which would fill the soul of the eater is herculean task. For novice experimenters like me, cookbooks and videos on Youtube are saviors. Gooblegram, Tasty, Hebbar's Kitchen, all help, but they can't possibly replace a written material. I'm sure that many would disagree with me, but let me elaborate. 

With the advent of Internet, Youtube and such channels, a recipe is just "Google" away. Voila! you have plenty of how to videos with step by step instructions to cook up a storm. However, imagine few years down the line. You've perfected the art of say, making a Payasam (Sweet porridge) with the help of these videos and some learning of your from repeated experiments, how would you record it? how would you pass it on to the next generation? I do agree that these videos are forever since they are digital, but would they contain memories of all your experiments? Of course not. Think of it as our school text books. On a cheeky note, would Harry have become Slughorn's favorite if not for the Snape's portion book? (Pardon me, I cannot just not use a Harry Potter reference here!) You get the drift. 

This is one such gem of a book. Organized based on the festivals celebrated by the a particular community - The Thanjavur Mahararashtrains - the book is a celebration of Indian cooking. It has tested and perfected recipes which work like magic if you follow it to dot. I can personally vouch for that, having tried out a handful of ones from them. The book is also organized according to the traditional Indian calendar (Maharastrian particularly). This is one truly unique aspect of the book since other cook books commonly are organized alphabetically. With rich pictures of the food and other customs they follow, the book is a true celebration of soulful Indian food. It is evident that the author has put in a lot of thought and meticulously researched about various customs and presented a work which would aptly serve as a primer for that particular community for generations to come. Every photo, every recipe reeks of her passion of Indian cooking and customs. In spite of being oriented to a particular community, other than a few specific recipes, the rest are fairly common to most of South Indian state's food palette. The book will most certainly be a good place to start for people  who have very basic knowledge of cooking. 

It took me months to get around to reviewing this book, since it is truly one of a kind. I do not say this because the copy was gifted to me, some books just stay with you forever for what they are and this is of that kind.

Do buy the your copy from Amazon here (or PM for it)
Share:

Sunday, July 7, 2019

#648 : The Antagonists by Tina Biswas : Review

                                                  
Political stories are something which I don't pick up often. Living in a "developing country" filled with an average political system and below average politicians, a fictional account of politics often pales in comparison with what happens in reality. This story turned out to be a bare, blunt and raw take on the political system in place. The dynamic yet dark side of the system consisting of people who believe in sticking to their principles which hinder growth, or worse, promote oppression has been portrayed vividly.

The protagonist (or should I say antagonist,) the chief minister of the Bengal state, Devi, is hell bent on ensuring that the coal mining project in Balachuria is not executed since it is handled by the "Marwari" Lohia group. In another thread, Anima Acharya, a neurosurgeon who returns back from the UK discover that her husband is cheating on her. Unable to handle it, she goes back to her ancestral town of Balachuria where she spent her childhood. 

With rich literary narration and an engaging style of writing, the book turned out to be a complete page turner. Having raised by a father who is a lobbyist, I could associate so much with the thread of the plot where one set of people were lobbying to get the coal project done, while the other set, namely Devi's side was lobbying to ensure it does not happen. 

The book turned out to be a pleasant surprise in terms of plot and characters. 

One engaging read!

Thanks to Fingerprint! for a review copy.  
Share:

Sunday, June 30, 2019

#647 : Eternally Artemesia by Melissa Muldoon - Review


Having read this writer's previous book, I was utterly confident that this story would end up increasing my desire to visit Italy and soak in it's culture. The writing and the story ended up exceeding my expectations. 

The story goes back and forth between two different yet very similar strong woman across different timelines with a beautiful converging point. Maddie, an art therapist is drawn to Italy by the art and culture the country has to offer, while Artemesia was a bold 16th century painter who was brutally raped and faced trial and was finally made an outcast for standing up for her rights. While Maddie has an inkling that she has lived a previous life, the proof to it just seems too far to reach until she moves to Italy to meets Camilla, an descender of the noble Crociani family who is a part the sexual assault and abuse survivor group who is counselled by Maddie. Camilla invites her to a family gather and "the past" of which she has an inkling blends with her present. 

The writing and the story was such an absolute delight to read. The writer has beautifully woven an intricate tale with multiple tones which perfectly captures the strength and determination of women who thrive brilliantly in testing times. Sadly, the book has been very aptly titled as "Eternally Artemesia" for all the trials that she faced, the rape, the abuse, the gross injustice, seems to be meted out to women of today's times as well. It literally feels like an "eternity" of  problems for women. 

With a perfect blend of history, art, romance and a bit of gore, the book was an absolute delight to read. 

Thanks to Laura of Italy book tours for picking such a book yet again! 



Meet the Author:  

Melissa Muldoon is the author of three novels set in Italy: “Dreaming Sophia,” “Waking Isabella,” and “Eternally Artemisia.” All three books tell the stories of American women and their journeys of self-discovery to find love, uncover hidden truths, and follow their destinies to shape a better future in Italy.

Melissa is also the author of the Studentessa Matta website, where she promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog written in Italian and English (studentessamatta.com). Studentessa Matta means the “crazy linguist” and has grown to include a podcast, Tutti Matti per l'Italiano and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram feed. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Programs, which she co-leads with Italian schools in Italy to learn Italian in Italy. Through her website, she also offers the opportunities to live and study in Italy through Homestay programs. Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master's degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

She has also studied painting and art history in Florence. She is an artist, designer, and illustrated the cover art for all three of her books. Melissa is also the managing director of Matta Press. As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Eternally Artemisia, Waking Isabella, and Dreaming Sophia.

She also curates the Dreaming Sophia Art History blog site and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy, where you will find companion pictures for all three books. Visit MelissaMuldoon.com for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest  ~ Instagram
Share:

Sunday, June 16, 2019

#646 : Mystical Tales For A Magical Life by Shuba Vilas : Guest Review by Vignesh RL



Mystical tales for a magical life – a book by Shuba Vilas is a collection of 11 short stories from the Puranas. The author has tried to relate some incidents from these stories to today’s life. The learning from these stories will definitely shape a man into a good human being. In the book cover – A guru teaches a king and his family and also being listened to by others sitting in front of a cave in forest attire. The guru in this book cover wears a tiger skin that depicts Lord Shiva sitting in the Himalayas and teaching his disciples. The book is aptly titled as ‘Mystical tales’ as some of these stories may not be accepted in today’s scientific world. For an atheist, the mystical stories in this book will remain a mystery. The transition from Dhvapara yuga to Kali-yuga and the characteristics of Kali-yuga has been explained in an effective manner.

The author claims that these are unheard stories of. However, with an orthodox and traditional upbringing like mine, I have been fortunate enough to have learned and enjoyed oral versions of these very stories narrated by my grandparents and parents. One minor difference of version I noticed was that Lord Indira has been portrayed as King of Gods; Lord Indira, according to the versions I know of, is the God of heaven. The book focuses on good moral thoughts and will serve as an apt primer for parents who strive to inculcate these values in their children from a very young age. After each story, the author explains the context and relates it to today’s life. There is a belief that if you chant the Rama Mantra ‘Srirama Rama Ramethi’ three times, it is equivalent to reading complete VishnuSahasranama. In a similar manner, the two to three pages of explanation after each of these 11 stories, serves as a perfect gist of the entire book. However, it is solely in the perception of the reader to accept and imbibe learning from the book. The stories in the book can certainly serve as a refresher in times of crisis.. On the whole, the book is a good read.

Thanks to Fingerprint! publishing for providing a review copy. Do buy this book on amazon here.


Share:

Monday, May 27, 2019

#645 : The Seduction Expert by Saya Lopez Ortega : Review


The Seduction Expert is the story of a young woman who choose to call herself "The Baroness". Labeling herself to be a hard core proper feminist, the baroness deals in helping women finding about their partner's unfaithful activities. She also helps love stuck women (wealthy teenagers) "achieve" men of their liking by training neurologically to reach their target.  She is essentially a dominatrix who believes in destroying the men who cheat their partners. While her own "love life" has just got interesting, her to be mother-in-law quickly becomes her arch enemy. She treats her own "love" Louis as a case and trails him just like she would do for any other man who is her target. 

While the lead character, "The Baroness" does feel a lot like Miranda  from The Devil wears Prada initially, she is nothing like that as the story progresses. The premise of a feminist victory of sorts by outing a cheating man did seem exciting initially, but as the plot progressed and her "love life" came in to play, it felt cold and bitter. The book ends with such a smart and powerful cliffhanger that the readers would surely be prompted to pick the next. However, I personally felt that the writer might as well have finished the book. As such with satirical writing and sharp humor, the story was a pretty good read!

The writing is a bit odd in a way that it reads like as it if it were a work of translation. That's explicitly not mentioned anywhere though!

This book is strictly for people who enjoy satire and mild drama. 
Share:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

#644 : Beast by Krishna Udayasankar : Review


Indian fantasy thrillers are always a bit of a gamble to pick up. It's a rather a matter of preferences than the actual writing in question. With such prejudices and apprehension in mind, I decided to pick up the book and I didn't come to regret my decision. The pacing, the structure, the characters and the most important of all, the plot by itself made this book one good read. The story, which starts off being like a mystery at the slightest morphs into a fast-paced thriller as the plot moves along. 

Set in a typical Indian backdrop, Beast is an urban fantasy thriller. Incorporating interesting elements from Indian mythology, the story which starts off as a simple mystery quickly becomes an interesting adrenaline-pumping thriller. 

The female protagonist, ACP Aditi Kashyap is called in to solve a gruesome murder. The whole murder scene looks like as if it was handiwork of a ferocious animal. In parallel, an "enforcer", Pritivi, is called upon to solve the case and hunt the murderer. Together they embark on a dangerous journey involving werelions (or Saimhas) who have co-inhabited with humans since ancient times yet are hidden in plain sight. 

The writing was an absolute delight to read with rich detailing and crisp dialogues. Though the story initially did sound like a cliched werewolf kind, it was far from it as the plot thickened. The story is certainly very well laid out with no characters out of point or purpose. 

A good fantasy thriller after a long time! 

Do buy the book from Amazon
Share: