Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book Review : The Hunger Games

Book Title : The Hunger Games Trilogy
                  The Hunger Games
                  Catching Fire
Author : Suzanne Collins
Genre : Science Fiction

ISBN : 9718184771695
Publisher : Scholastic
Publication : 2008 - 2009 - 2010
Pages : 1163
Binding : Paperback

The Hunger Games trilogy takes place in an unspecified future time in a dystopian post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, in the ruins of North America. The country consists of the wealthy Capitol located in the Rocky Mountains and twelve (formerly thirteen) poorer districts ruled by the Capitol. The Capitol is lavishly rich and technologically advanced but the twelve districts are in varying states of poverty – the trilogy's narrator and protagonist,Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, the poorest region of Panem, formerly known as Appalachia, where people regularly die of starvation. As punishment for a past rebellion (called "The Dark Days") against the Capitol wherein twelve of the districts were defeated and the thirteenth supposedly destroyed, one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, are selected by lottery to participate in the "Hunger Games" on an annual basis. The Games are a televised event with the participants, called "tributes", being forced to fight to the death in a dangerous public arena. The winning tribute and his/her home district is then rewarded with food, supplies, and riches. The purpose of the Hunger Games is to provide entertainment for the Capitol and to serve as a reminder to the Districts of the Capitol's power and lack of remorse.

My Rating : ☆☆☆☆☆

With the final movie released this year, the hunger games have officially reached an end - but have they? With so many of us fangirling/boying and rooting for EverLark - '"You love me. Real or not real?" "Real."' - it is not an end. 
I guess more number of people would have seen the movie than the ones who would have read the books. Well I have read all three books and I have seen first three movies. And let me tell you, the movies have been made beautifully; but even then, they can never match up to the written matter. For one thing, the story-line changes in some places, some of the characters go missing from the movie, some scenes cut - which almost always, always disappoints a reader. But we are not here to review the movies.
So moving away from the movies and moving on to the books, the first book is as always a capturing novel - a novel that grips you, that makes you want to read more. 1st book in a way is complete in itself - you read it and leave it at that - no need to read all three books. But then again, why would you not want to read a very interesting story - full of all the drama you would want - there is love, there is hate, there is violence, there is tenderness and then there is so much more.
Second book, started off with a bang with another year of hunger games but towards the end it became a bit of drag which continued into the 3rd book in the beginning as well. But second book creates a proper link between the first and the third book - has a momentum to some extent and leaves you wanting more. The plot thickens and greater conspiracies revealed - making a base for the third book.
Third book, provides a fitting end to the series - hearts broken, love kindled; family separated by death and families come together; the bad guy dies (which is a cliche), the good lady turns into a bad guy - things change and things change again - you will see some twists and turns in this one. 
At the end, I was left disappointed, not with the end of the book as such but because of the end of the series - because there was nothing more to read in the series.
Anyways, if you have seen the movies and you liked them any bit, try reading the book - I promise you wont be disappointed.

Happy Reading!

Written Affair : All Alone

This poem highlights the fact that whatever we do in our life time, we still come alone in this world and leave alone. No one accompanies us in either of these two situation, but human beings are still afraid of being alone... They forget, that they themselves are the only people who stay with themselves till the end and then afterwards and thus never enjoy the lone time they get...

A baby born,
Comes alone...

Then why does he,
For a company craves...
So why does he,
For some love craves...?

Why does he wants,
To be accepted...
Why does he needs,
To be wanted...?

What does he need, 
Friends for...
What does he fear, 
Making enemies for...?

Why does he smile,
When he finds someone...
Why does he cry,
On loss of someone...?

Why does he have to,
Feel lonely...
Why, when no one's around
Should he want some company...?

For an old man dead,
Dies all alone...!

Recipe : Khandvi (with coconut and coriander filling)

Going through the posts on the facebook page of CAL, I stumbled upon this wonderful 7 minute microwave recipe for khandvi by Ms. Charu Bhargava. I decided to try it out, since it was the simplest recipe I could find on CAL page and least time consuming. How I thought I would surprise the husband, if the dish came out perfect.
The joy, when husband came in, saw the dish and simply said, "arre waah, kahan se mangaya" and when I told him, I made it. But the joy was only short lived because when I asked the husband to taste it, he simply said, he didn't like the khandvi much.
Well, I said, if you don't want it, its okay. I can have it all since I love khandvi; I picked up the plate and started eating it all on my own. And the husband gave me such a look and said, "zyada pasand nahi hai, lekin thodi to khaunga". That certainly made my day. Since then, I have been wanting to give this plain and perfect recipe a twist of my own. And today, I finally found some time to try the filling waali khandvi.
Here's the recipe with the hope, that husband likes this one as well :)

Difficulty Level : ☆
A Note to Difficulty Level : even though its a very simple recipe and can be made by anyone, difficulty is increased in handling the hot batter - do take care to not burn your hands :)

Time Required : 
          Preparation - 
                     Before Cooking ~ 10 minutes
                     Post Cooking ~ 20 minutes
          Cooking - 7 minutes

For Khandvi:
Bengal Gram Flour (Besan) 1 cup
Curd 1 cup
Water 1 and 3/4 cup
Salt to taste (I used 1 tsp)
Haldi 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida (hing) 1/4 tsp
For Tadka/Tampering:
Oil 1 and 1/2 tbsp
Til 1 tsp
Rye 1 tsp
Curry Leaves 4 to 5 nos.
For Filing and Garnishing:
Dry Coconut Grated 2 and 1/2 tbsp
Coriander Leaves Finely Chopped 2 tbsp

1. Mix all the ingredients of khandvi in a microwave safe bowl.
2. Blend them together till there are no lumps left.
3. Put the bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes.
4. After 2 minutes, take out the bowl and stir the mix well till no lumps remain.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 two more times. Total 6 minutes.
6. After 6 minutes, put the bowl in one last time for 1 minute.
7. While the batter is cooking, ready your spreading area (you can use back side of steel thalis or spread foil sheet on the platform or use platform directly).
8. After 7 minutes of cooking, take out the batter, put about 2 spoons of batter on your spreading area (depending on the size of your area you can alter the number of spoons to be put)
9. Using a flat steel spatula spread the batter as thin as you can.
10. Repeat the process till you have spread all the batter. Steps 8 and 9 to be performed very quickly as batter hardens very fast - but don't burn your hands :)
11. Leave the spread batter aside while your ready the tampering.
Without Filling
12. Put the oil in a small wok and let it heat.
13. Once oil is hot, add rye and til and let them splutter. 
14. Add the curry leaves to it and take off the burner. Leave aside.
15. Cut the spread batter as per the size you desire. 
16. Spread 3/4 amount of coconut and coriander each evenly on the spread batter.
17. Start rolling the batter to form khandvi rolls and arrange them in the serving dish.
18. Put the tampering on the arranged khandvi.
19. Garnish with remaining coconut and coriander.

1. If you don't want the filling, you can skip step number 16. The quantity of coconut and coriander required can be changed to 1 tbsp each.
2. In the tampering, you can skip til.
3. In the tampering, you can also add half slit green chilies.
4. Spread the tampering evenly. For best results, you can spread the tampering using spoon.

With Filling
Cook with Love...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Book Review : An Ember in the Ashes

Book Title : An Ember In The Ashes
Author : Sabaa Tahir
Genre : Young Adult Fantasy
ISBN : 9780857502896
Publisher : Bantam Press
Publication : 2015
Pages : 492
Binding : Paperback

Plot :

Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. 
What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?

My Rating : ☆☆☆

Review :
Truthfully, I couldn't decide, whether I liked the book or not - thus I decided to give an average rating to the book.
What wasn't right with the story was:

  • The character and world buildup was very poor
  • The story was dragged in most places unnecessarily
  • Furthermore, the narration seemed very disjointed - in the sense, there didn't seem like a logical end to one part/chapter before the next began; it took me first few chapters to realize what was happening
Despite the flaws, the book was gripping and made you want to read further, to get beyond all that chaos and get at the cusp of the story. This was the only saving grace for the book!
On the other hand, previous statement also means that main story was hidden behind a lot of fluff. 
Also, my bad, I didn't know it was first book in a series - I thought it was stand alone book. But on second thoughts - the only reason to have the story surrounded with all that fluff was because the author never wanted to end the story in a single book
Anyways, my verdict - yes I would read the next book and the next one (or however many are in the series) but I won't be investing in their physical copies and let them crowd my bookshelves. Yes, I would be reading the ebooks because I have started this series and I won't be able to lie still till I have reached the logical end to the story.

Happy Reading! 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Book Review : The Architect's Apprentice

Book Title: The Architect's Apprentice
Author: Elif Shafak
Genre: Historical Fiction / Architectural Fiction
ISBN Code: 9780241004920
Publisher : Viking (Penguin Books)
Publication : 2014
Pages : 452
Binding : Paperback

Plot :
An epic tale spanning nearly a century in the life of the Ottoman Empire. In 1540, twelve-year-old Jahan arrives in Istanbul. As an animal tamer in the sultan’s menagerie, he looks after the exceptionally smart elephant Chota and befriends (and falls for) the sultan’s beautiful daughter, Princess Mihrimah. A palace education leads Jahan to Mimar Sinan, the empire’s chief architect, who takes Jahan under his wing as they construct (with Chota’s help) some of the most magnificent buildings in history. Yet even as they build Sinan’s triumphant masterpieces—the incredible Suleymaniye and Selimiye mosques—dangerous undercurrents begin to emerge, with jealousy erupting among Sinan’s four apprentices.

A memorable story of artistic freedom, creativity, and the clash between science and fundamentalism, Shafak’s intricate novel brims with vibrant characters, intriguing adventure, and the lavish backdrop of the Ottoman court, where love and loyalty are no match for raw power.

My Rating: ☆☆☆

Review :
Okay, so I love buying books at the airport - because I feel, at the airport, you just might come across a title, which you wont normally find in most book shops. And thus, I stumbled upon this book. Truthfully, I bought this book for one reason and one reason only - the book title. Yes, the book title - being an architect, it was one of those books, that I had to, had to, had to read!
Anyways, book bought, at my boarding gate, finding a seat, I sit down and turn the book around to read what's the whole book about and I truly wasn't disappointed - for it promised to be a great read, what with discussing architectural marvels and secrets hidden - I knew I hadn't made a mistake with this book.
I start reading the book, the first chapter - a flurry of activities - to reveal a secret, a secret of deaths. I knew, this book was going to be an amazing read. And then I read further. Frame changed to the past - I knew, the background buildup was necessary for the story to properly unfold. So I kept my patience and I kept reading.
But then, it just dragged on and on. Somethings were discussed in grave detail, I mean the work in progress. Being an architect, that was fine with me - for I enjoy reading about how the structures were erected. But it was still a drag - I was waiting for that bang - the secret I was promised. But it didn't come.
All I got were few incidents here and there, which at that point felt insignificant - for they just highlighted, how difficult a task it was to construct buildings, how many problems one could face, how much resistance there could be - but it was no secret to me - being in the profession, having worked in the industry - so where was my secret?

*Spoiler Alert*

The secret came out in last 100 - 150 pages of the book - where they finally connected these incidents to the mystery - but it still wasn't that great a mystery - just a distressed girl, taking revenge on her father, not realizing how it was affecting others.
And then fast forward to the protagonist's life after Istanbul - he constructed the Taj and hid his Lady Love's name amidst it. So was it the secret hidden beneath one of the stones? So was this, what the whole story was about? Was it the daughter's revenge that was the secret he was trying to hide?
Maybe to others, who have read the book, they understood the secret better than me. Maybe I still haven't arrived at the secret - but then what's the point, if reader at the end of the book is still unsure of whether he has arrived at the right end or is there more to it? That I pondered over it for a couple of days and moved on to next book, having forgotten about the unsure end I faced... That the book failed to leave a mark on me?
Another issue with the book - time frame! Yes, you don't realize how much time has went by - that the little boy of 12 is suddenly grown up, and that he is old now. It just keeps on moving ahead and ahead and ahead without any time reference and then you are left a little more confused than you already were.
Yes the book, hooked me to itself in the beginning when I was trying to figure out what happened next. Yes I was hooked, when I was reading those last 100 odd pages. But did I enjoy the book, as much as I had anticipated - not really. Probably what I was looking forward to was a combination of the essence of 'The Fountainhead' and 'Robert Langdon' books - as in something revolutionary being taught by the architect to his apprentices down the line of secret messages hidden in various architectural elements - maybe!
Maybe, to you, to the next reader who picks up this book, maybe the mystery will unfold itself better - maybe I lack the understanding of the mystery - maybe it wasn't that grave a mystery for me. But it still turned into a disappointment for me - the book.
So, if you do pick up this book, I wish you luck and like always, I wish you...

Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Book Review : Life and Death (Twilight)

Book Title : Life and Death
Author : Stephenie Meyer
Genre : Young Adult (Supernatural Romance Fiction)
ISBN : 9780349002484
Publisher : Atom
Publication : 2015
Pages : 387
Binding : Hardbound

When Beaufort Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edythe Cullen, his life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With her porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice and supernatural gifts, Edythe is both irresistible and enigmatic. 
What Beau doesn't realize is that the closer he gets to her, the more he is putting himself and those around him at risk. And it might be too late to turn back...

My Rating : ☆☆☆1/2

Review :
So this book is a "bold and compelling reimagining of the iconic love story that will surprise and enthrall readers."
Being a twihard fan (yeah actually in my case it's multiple fandom - but that's not the point here), I was looking forward to reading this edition of the much loved story included in 10th anniversary issue. 
Initially it got me excited to see all the roles reversed and wanted to know how it will unfold. But from the very beginning, what jabbed me constantly was that when every role was reversed, why Charlie and Rene√® remained the same - why weren't they reversed. 
I read on, overlooking this little fact here - but the story hugely disappointed me - because there was not much difference - even the dialogues at many places remained same. In fact, it took quiet some time for me to get into the book - because for the better part of the book, I kept wishing to put the book on the side and leave it be. At that point I was ready to give this book only 2 stars.
But then subtler changes began to appear. Because the series had to end in one book and not be a series at all - they started including histories or rather background of the vampires in between which was refreshing. I particularly longed to read about Royal's background and I wasn't disappointed.
But the story was still more or less repetitive until the very end. And how she (Stephenie Meyer) delivered the end in style - is commendable. The climax delivered in last two chapters and the epilogue seemed worth going through the repetitions (only as much). The end was quiet unexpected or maybe not - but it was a good read in the end.
Anyways maybe because I had read the Twilight books a couple times and watched the movies a 100 times, I kept imagining Bella and Edward Cullen - even though Edythe fitted perfectly in the shoes of Edward Cullen, I just couldn't digest Edward as Beau - it was too much for me to take.
As an honest reviewer, I would say that every Twilight fan would and should read the book because it's quiet refreshing and a fun read (towards the end especially) but at the same time, those who didn't like Twilight in the first place might end up hating this version of the story a bit more.

So is it a yeah or nay for you...?
Happy Reading!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Personal Musings : Breastfeeding - A Taboo

Okay, so breastfeeding isn't a taboo per se, but yes talking about it or worse doing it in public sure is... but why? The benefits of breastfeeding are known wide and far - then how come anything to do with it be a taboo?

Recently, Facebook had been doing rounds of one Ms. Ashley Kaidel from Australia, who's proven to be one badass momma, feeding her baby in public and giving a bad stare off to someone who was contemptuously watching her feed.

If you ask for my opinion (actually it's my blog, and I'm here to give my opinion whether you want one or not) - she is an awesome momma and I would totally do it myself faced with a situation where my son is refusing the bottle feed and needs to breastfeed to calm down and/or satiate his hunger.

Actually let me share my version of the Ashley incident...
I had gone with my husband to attend a farewell party. My son, aged 5 months, took his first feed there with a bottle. After that he refused to take the bottle for his second feed. When I asked the management to put a chair in the washroom so that I could feed my son, they very kindly offered me the manager's room to feed. But it was hot in there and my son was pretty uncomfortable and thus refused to take the feed.
So I took him outside in fresh air for a stroll - he was hungry and thus inconsolable. I saw a spot where I would be hidden from direct view but it was next to the road and I wanted to feed him there but the husband got jittery - it's too public is what he said. I said, I don't care, I sat down and fed my son - he was, is and will always be a priority!

Now having read this, what are you gonna do, shun me / boycott me or shame me for doing so? Whatever you choose to do, doesn't reflect anything on my behavior, but on your mentality. I am from India, and of course, even though, I hate saying it out loud, I am going to say it, India is one country with huge number of incidents of rape and sexual harassment - even then, I chose to breastfeed my son in public - because for me, my son is of utmost importance.

Let me share something else with you...
If you have read my other 'personal musings' post, you would know about my birthing experience and the conditions in which my son was born. I saw him fight everyday in the NICU and knowing the benefits of breastfeeding and knowing too that I can't feed him just yet, filled me with such dread. Every time I would go sit next to him, I would hold his tiny hand in mine and will him to get better, get better enough to start accepting the feed, even if through a tube in his nasal passage or through a spoon - telling him, dude you are letting a lot of liquid gold go to waste! And then the day he got better enough to accept feed, he was offered 5 ml through his nasal passage. But, that's not the whole story, the real part comes now - within 24 hours of first feed, he was ready to accept 20ml of my feed, 10 through nasal passage and 10 with a spoon - that's the power of a mother's feed! And I am not that sort of momma, who would deny my son this magic potion because in the public eye its wrong to do so in public! He needs it, he is gonna have it!

Since that day on, and since the day I was able to breastfeed him directly, I haven't stopped looking at his face when he is feeding. It was very difficult for me to decide to let him have the bottle even if for a couple of feeds during the day before he turned 6 months but I only agreed to it, because I felt he was not fully satisfied and was left a bit hungry. But then again, I didn't introduce the bottle for first 8 weeks (2 months).

I am sure, every breastfeeding mum would agree with me that the look of pure contentment and relaxation on their baby's face, when (s)he feeds is enough to forget about where you are and who is around you. Its that special moment where you are closest to your baby and life apart from them ceases to exist - what matters is just your baby suckling on you and getting all his nutrition from you and getting stronger by the day. Each suckle is so satisfying because I know, my baby is satisfied. All the raw and tender nipples are every bit worth it because I know, my baby is getting his immunity from me and getting stronger - yes, there have been many a nights, when I have fed my son with tears flowing down my cheeks because the pain from raw nipples was unbearable - but I couldn't take away from my son, what he needed most.
I am sharing pics of my baby's face when he is feeding, for everyone to see - what I am talking about when I talk about that look on their faces of pure contentment and relaxation. I am sharing this pic because I know from where you look at, at a breastfeeding mum and shame her, you can't see what she can and I WANT YOU TO SEE IT. I would be happy if even a small percentage of people change their attitude towards a breastfeeding mum, I would feel my post has served its purpose...


99% of the times, my baby falls asleep while taking a feed and only 1% of the times by other ways (rocking, walking, swinging etc.)

Another anecdote maybe...
we were booking flight tickets today for a friend's wedding and I warned my husband that if needed, I will have to feed him on flight; don't start complaining and he was like - all I am saying is cover yourself up! And I was like, *I was out of words* - I mean my own husband is thinking down that line??? And as I am typing this, my husband comes and tells me to buy a pacifier and get the baby used to it as well as formula milk for the trip and I was lost for words again. He made it sound like I am dying to bare my chest in public every chance I get - though breastfeeding is never the first choice when I am in a public spot - but of course I am not going to let my baby cry himself to sleep on an empty stomach!

I am not saying, or asking anyone to start flashing all the time, every time in the name of breastfeeding. All I am saying is don't shy away from it, if your child needs it and people who are watching, shame on you, for its your mentality (which is down in the dumps) that you are showing, when you try to shame a breastfeeding mum. Leave her alone, for its all a very natural thing to do - its not like the sky has fallen down that you have to look at a breastfeeding mum. Let her feed the baby in peace and let the baby feed in peace...