The flower of patience and hope

17 Sep

I love sunflowers. I have always loved them.They are special to me.

I love their bright, cheery yellow and their soft black centres. I love the way they signify hope. I love the way they turn towards the sun always, turning their back to darkness. They never fail to make me smile.

I have always wanted at least one sunflower plant in my wee garden at home. I searched high and low for sunflower seeds, but never found any that were suitable for home use, till the Krishi Mela happened in Bangalore last year.

The seeds lay forgotten in a drawer in our house for long, and were accidentally discovered by the OH a couple of months ago. I planted some in some flower pots and kept watering them diligently. I was not really sure if I would really see the flowers growing in my home some day, but they did.

About a fortnight ago, we saw a sapling grow from one pot and go on to become taller and taller. I continued to care. A few days ago, we noticed two little buds on the sapling. One of them remains tightly closed, like a baby’s fist, while the other one continued to open bit by bit every day. Yesterday, it revealed a seedy centre and hints of yellow around the edges. Today, after years of patient waiting, we have a lovely little sunflower looking admiringly at the sun, in our balcony. It looks like a little sun in itself.

Like a spot of bright yellow after several days of cloudy, gray skies, the bloom brings us courage, hope and love. It is magic for us. The magic of nature.

I am reminded of Pia’s words -

When things don’t make much sense, when the news is a constant flow of abject misery, I look at sunflowers. Sunflowers make sense. Their orbs are filled with positive, yellow purpose; you can see why the world would need them. And you can see why a man who cut off his own ear, and later shot himself dead, needed to paint them. Sunflowers are made of hope.

I couldn’t agree more.

Just Read

11 Sep

I got lucky! I read three books lately, and all of them turned out lovely! :)

Under The Duvet – Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes is best known for her ‘chick-lit’ novels, like Watermelon and Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married. I never knew that she has also had quite a few articles published in a number of newspapers and magazines. So, when I came to know that this girl found a collection of her published works in Blossoms and loved it, I knew I had to give it a shot.

Honestly, I didn’t like the one book by Marian Keyes that I had read before (Watermelon) – it was way too dumb, in my humble opinion. I have a feeling I will feel the same about her other books, too, or about most of her other books. Under The Duvet, however, was different. It contains short pieces depicting a variety of experiences from the author’s real life, from her travels and her work to her husband and friends. Each piece is very well-written, concise but witty and humorous to the core.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this book, which makes for a different sort of light read from her usual. Recommended? Yes.

Korma, Kheer & Kismet – Pamela Timms

Remember I told you guys, some time ago, that I was eager to read Pamela Timms’ Korma, Kheer & Kismet? Well, I went ahead and grabbed a copy. And, I wasn’t disappointed. Not at all. It turned out to be a beautiful, beautiful book.

Korma, Kheer & Kismet is all about the foodie heaven that the winding, narrow lanes of Old Delhi are. Now, I have visited Old Delhi only once or twice in my lifetime, and haven’t really explored it much. I have heard of all the gastronomical delights that decades-old establishments in Old Delhi churn out, but haven’t really had the chance to sample much of the fare. Pamela brings alive the world that the gullies of Old Delhi contain within them, particularly with reference to the glorious food therein. I could picture each of the places that she has mentioned, in my mind’s eye, and taste each confection that she has written about. The black-and-white pictures supporting some parts of her writing helped, of course.

Korma, Kheer & Kismet was such a delightful read for me that I dreaded the book coming to an end. I bookmarked a huge number of passages, and shared them with the husband and friends. I dreamed of visiting Delhi soon, and exploring the Old Delhi that Pamela Timms knows well and so dearly loves. I longed for the delicious treats – sweet and savoury – that she has recommended in the book. The author’s writing style is crisp and evocative, and I couldn’t help but be charmed.

This is, most definitely, a book that I would recommend. Especially if you are big-time foodie, like me.

Confessions Of A French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, And Recipes – Peter Mayle

In A Year In Provence, Peter Mayle mentions buying heavenly bread from a bakery called Chez Auzet. The book went on to make the bakery quite famous, which led to several tourists landing there and inquiring about the art of breadmaking. The bakery owner, Gerard Auzet, requested Peter Mayle to put together a book containing more than just breadmaking recipes for these interested tourists – a book that would be much more than a recipe book. Gerard Auzet and Peter Mayle joined hands in this endeavour, and the outcome was Confessions Of A French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, And Recipes.

This is an extremely short book, which begins before it ends. Recipes occupy a large part of the already little number of pages in this book, the rest of which are occupied by charming breadmaking secrets, legends, pictures and real-life accounts from Chez Auzet. In spite of the short length of the book, it was a lovely read. It takes the reader to Provence, and brings the world of Chez Auzet alive before his/her eyes. In fact, I rued the fact that the book was so short, and that it had to end almost before I had started getting into it. I would have liked more, for sure.

I would highly recommend this beautiful book, short or not. Ideally, read this after you read A Year In Provence, but it won’t really make a difference even if you haven’t read it.

What are you reading now?

Top 10 Under-Rated Books In The Chick-Lit Category

9 Sep

There have always been people bashing the entire genre of chick-lit books on the internet, which I don’t really understand. First off, I don’t understand what constitutes chick-lit – what makes people classify a certain book into the chick-lit category? Is it the storyline? Is it the level of intelligence of the heroine? Is it the hero’s never-done-wrong character and wonderful looks? Or is it the fact that it is, mostly, women who will read the book? If so, aren’t all of these things highly assumptive? At least, I think so. I find it annoying that a book has to be stuck with a derogatory (as seen by many) label like ‘chick-lit’ on the basis of a few vague presumptions.

For me, a book is a book is a book. I want to enjoy myself while reading it. There are different things I expect from a book at different times – sometimes, I want to forget my real life, sometimes I want something that will inspire thoughts, sometimes I just read without any intention in mind. I have read a fair amount of ‘chick-lit’ books in between others that comprise ‘heavy reading’ for me, and I love doing that. I need something like that between my heavy reads, in fact. I have enjoyed many chick-lit books – I have found them extremely well-written and thoughtful. That said, I have found several books from the category extremely dumb – especially the beautiful but brainless heroines – and have bashed them myself. What I am saying is I don’t find anything wrong with reading a so-called chick-lit book. I find it unfair to let an entire genre of books go unexplored just because they have a particular label to them.

Anyways, today’s topic for Top 10 Tuesday is ‘Top 10 Under-Rated Books In X Category’, and I thought of writing about the, largely misunderstood, chick-lit category. Here is a list of 10 books that I have found classified under ‘chick-lit’, but have found very well-written and enjoyable. Some of these books have been quite deep and thought-provoking. Some have been just.. beautiful.

1. The School Of Essential Ingredients - Erica Bauermeister

I read this book recently, and simply loved it. The intricacies of human relationships and the concept of the ‘real person behind the veneer of a smiling face’ has been brought out beautifully by the author. The writing is sheer poetry, I thought, though many have found it saccharine sweet. The descriptions of the food in the book are simply perfect. Don’t be misled by the genre of this book – grab a copy and read it!

Here is my review of the book.

2. The Camel Bookmobile – Masha Hamilton

I picked this one up in a store second-hand books, went into it without any expectations at all, and was amazed by what I found. What a book it turned out to be! The Camel Bookmobile is about a small, impoverished community in an African village and how a certain camel library finds its way to them. It is quite a simple book, but the characters are very well etched out, and it makes for some lovely reading. The book has been written by a very intelligent woman, as I found later, in my interview with her.

Here is my review of the book.

3. The Bridges Of Madison County – Robert James Waller

I have harped on and on about how much I loved The Bridges Of Madison County, on this blog. This one remains my favourite books of all times, my favourite love story of all times. Just knowing the fact that someone else is reading this book makes me high. I read it a few years before and still remember how I felt while I was reading it – touched, happy, sad, helpless, hopeful, all at the same time. This is one book I cannot recommend highly enough. It is so sensitively written. It is so much more than ‘just chick-lit’, it is an entire life laid out on pages, in beautiful, beautiful, beautiful words. If you don’t read this book, you are missing out on something extremely wonderful, I would say.

I’d even love to have lunch with Robert Kincaid and Francesca from the book!

4. The Girl Next Door – Elizabeth Noble

The Girl Next Door is another book that I picked up from the chick-lit aisle of a bookstore, and loved immensely. It is not at all about dumb heroes and heroines, illicit romances and silly love affairs, though that is part of the book as well. It is all about the real lives of a bunch of a people who live in the same apartment. It is a book that touched me greatly, especially the character of Violet. A beautiful read, that I would recommend for sure!

5. Things I Want My Daughters To Know – Elizabeth Noble

This is another book classified as chick-lit, which I found to be beautifully written, and very much rooted in real life. I devoured this book over the course of a few days, a couple of years back, and still remember it. One that I would heartily recommend, for sure.

6. Lucia, Lucia – Adriana Trigiani

This is such a lovely book, and not just because it is set in Italy. The heroine is a strong, independent woman, who dares to deviate from her circumstances, pursue her dreams and make a life for herself. A wonderful read, definitely.

Here is my review of the book.

7. The Rescue – Nicholas Sparks

I know Nicholas Sparks has always been associated by many with sappy books that only women love to read. Yes, I have found a few of his books to be incredibly sappy, but I have found a few very beautiful ones too. For instance, his The Rescue falls into the latter category. Very well-written, very much real-life based. I loved the book to bits, and would recommend it to you, too.

8. The Last Letter From Your Lover – Jojo Moyes

This was the book that led me to Jojo Moyes. I read about it on a blog, and found the premise quite interesting. I picked it up, and was hooked instantly. This short book led me to read many others by the same author. The Last Letter From Your Lover is a book about a woman who loses her memory (not another one of those books, I hear you saying, but this is different, trust me.) Very well-written, very hard-hitting, very touching. Go read it now, if you haven’t already.

Here is my review of the book.

9. Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

A beautiful book about the very sensitive topic of mercy killing, Me Before You grabbed my attention right from the first page and held it till the end. It would be sacrilege to classify this book into the ‘brainless’ category, I think. A must-read.

Here is my review of the book.

10. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

Such a delight this book turned out to be! It is about a book club that was formed in the Channel Islands during World War II, and which went on to become much more than that for the participants. A lovely read, which no one I have ever recommended it to has disliked so far. Highly recommended!

Have you read any such so-called chick-lit books that have turned out quite different from the rest? Do let me know. I badly need suggestions for such books now!

Top 10 Book People I’d Love To Lunch With

3 Sep

This week’s topic on Top 10 Tuesday made me think quite a bit: Top 10 Book Characters I’d Love To Lunch With. It came as a surprise to me that a very few characters have really stuck with me, in all these years of reading books. It is these few characters I’d love to invite over to lunch. Other than that, I’d love to have over a few of my favourite authors, too. So, my list this time is a mix of book characters and authors.

Here goes…

1. Robert Kincaid from The Bridges Of Madison County

I ADORE Robert Kincaid. I fell in love with him while I read The Bridges Of Madison County. He is such a dreamy character, full of passion, full of life, with so much of love to give. And, oh, so much of wanderlust! And a photographer for National Geographic, to boot. What’s to not fall in love with?

If I do get around to having lunch with him, I’d love to listen to him talk about his myriad travels, the books he loves, his life in general, his work and, of course, about Francesca.

2. Violet from The Girl Next Door

The Girl Next Door is one of my favourite books by Elizabeth Noble, and Violet is one of my favourite characters from the book. She’s a character that I still remember vividly, even after four or so years of reading the book. I admire her for her love of life and her curiosity about the world. Hats off to her for making the most of her circumstances, and not giving up on her dreams in spite of the not-so-great life that was hers.

Over lunch, I’d love to talk to Violet about her life story, and where she got all that motivation from, from within her, to pick up the pieces of her life and run after what really mattered to her.

3. Gulzarji

Gulzarji stole my heart away at last year’s Bangalore Literature Festival! Such a humble person, such a wonderful way with words, such an eye for the little things in life – of course, I had to be awed by him.

I’d love to have him over for lunch some day, and listen to him wax eloquent about things little and big.

4. Rabindranath Tagore

I admire Rabindranath Tagore for much the same reasons as I love Gulzarji – his eye for the little things around him, his ability to convey a wealth of emotion in just a few words and for his many talents.

Like Gulzarji, I’d just have Tagore talk about anything under the sun, or over it. I am sure he would convert everything into sheer poetry.

5. Frances Mayes

If you have been reading my blog regularly, you’d know what a great fan of Frances Mayes I am. I love the wanderlust in her, the way she explores places, and the way she is ready to travel anywhere at the drop of a hat.

I’d love to have her over for lunch, and talk to her about all the exotic and common destinations that she has travelled to.

6. Marlena de Blasi

I loved Marlena de Blasi’s books about Italy. I love the way she looks at the things and people around her, the dreamer’s soul inside her, her wanderlust, and her desire for a simple life that reflects in her writing.

What would I talk about with her? Italy, and about the other places she has travelled to.

7. Ruskin Bond

Bond Aiyyah! I love his non-fiction books, his child-like innocence, his simplicity, and his love for nature. I love that he has decided to make the mountains of India his home.

I would talk to him about how he likes living in the mountains, and his tales about life there.

8. Helene Hanff

The lady inspires me with her passion for learning and her endless curiosity. 84, Charing Cross and Q’s Legacy remain two of my most favourite books of all times.

I’d love to talk to her about her correspondence with the staff members of 84, Charing Cross Road and about her subsequent visit there. Oh, what an interesting conversation that would be!

9. Francesca from The Bridges Of Madison County

As I grow older, the more I relate to Francesca’s character, the more I understand the choices she made. Her heart broke into a million pieces, but she still held strong.

I would just love to hear her talk about Robert Kincaid. I am sure it would be one touching and beautiful conversation.

10. Teodora Angelini from Very Valentine

I loved the character of Teodora Angelini, grandmother of the heroine, Valentine Angelini. She is so full of verve, so much in love with life, so much fun, yet so mature. She has the backbone to keep her husband’s business running after his death, learning the ropes from him. She is so capable, so fiercely independent. She hasn’t given up on love and romance even in her eighties! Of course, I would love to have this woman at my lunch table.

I’d love to listen to her talk about her life, Italy and about her oh-so-romantic second marriage.

Who would make it to your list?

PS: As the OH says, I seem to be attracted to older, more mature characters in real and book life, rather than young ‘uns. :P

PPS: I don’t think I’d be able to get much lunch eaten if I had a table full of guests as interesting as these! I’d better meet them over cups of tea and snacks. :D

PPPS: Yes, I know it is not Tuesday today. I couldn’t get this post done yesterday, and I badly wanted to do it. Better late than never, eh? :)

Liebster Award

2 Sep

I’ve been nominated by Jennifertheprincesz for the Liebster Award. Thank you so much, Jennifertheprincesz! :)

The award comes with 11 questions, which I need to answer to the best of my abilities. Here we go!

1. What made you start blogging?How is blogging different than keeping a diary for you or is it the same?

It has been over seven years since I started blogging. I was new to the internet then, new to the idea of blogs, and new to writing out my thoughts and voicing them to the world. I am a late bloomer, yes. So, the world of the internet and blogging fascinated me, and I wanted to explore more of it. Also, I was experimenting with writing in different forms – I still am – and a blog sounded like the perfect platform for doing that. That’s how my blogging journey started. I no longer blog at the place where I started, though. For certain reasons, I gave up on that blog. Later, I started this blog, and it has been a faithful companion for the past few years.

How different is blogging from keeping a diary? For me, both are very different things. My personal diary would reflect the heart of me – the true me – while my blog reflects only the surface of the iceberg. I am so not comfortable with sharing anything and everything about my life on my blog – that is for certain ears (and eyes) only.

2. Do you have a pet? If yes, which one? And if not, why?

I would love to have a dog but, sadly, we don’t have any pet at the moment. The OH and I have always had busy schedules, so it didn’t seem fair to bring a dog home, though both of us would dearly love to. Here is a post I wrote about the very same thing, a couple of years ago.

Things have changed now. I don’t have a full-time job any more. In spite of that, we are not ready to get a pet. Yet. So, that will have to wait for a better time in future, I guess.

3. Which city do you think is the best to settle down in India? And why?

I have lived only in two cities long-term so far – Ahmedabad and Bangalore. I love both, for different reasons. Ahmedabad appeals to me for its small-town feel, the vibrancy of life, the food, the culture, the (comparitively) lower cost of living, and the ease of commuting. Bangalore occupies a place in my heart for its beautiful, beautiful weather, the cosmopolitan culture, the thousands of things I can do here, the wonderful employment opportunities, and the things that I can learn here.

In the long run, I think living in a smaller city like Ahmedabad is great, in the later part of life when most experiences have been had. It is much easier on the nerves.

4. What is the one thing that you ordered in a restaurant and it turned out to be totally yuck and expensive?

A green pesto pasta in an Italian restaurant. I ordered it out of curiosity, and it scarred me for life.

5. If you see your enemy (or simply somebody you dislike) in a helpless situation, will you go forward and help them? Or leave them and enjoy mercilessly?

I would go ahead and help, if the other person is willing to receive it. I am not the kind of person who would stand back and ‘enjoy mercilessly’, in such a situation. Fool? Maybe, yes, but that’s who I am.

6. Have you ever been caught by your parents doing something totally inappropriate for your age?

No. I have always been a role model of a child and adolescent. I am not sure my parents still think the same of me. :)

7. What is that one thing that you criticize publicly, but do the same in private?

Usually, I don’t do that. First off, I am not a big public voicer of complaints or a criticizer, considering that I am a big-time introvert. Secondly, if I don’t like something, I say so. I try my best not to do it just for the sake of doing it, and then stew inside.

8. Do you like water sports? Which one?

Nah. I am not at all a sports person, water ones included. The closest I have come to water sports is walking in the rain, and I love doing that.

9. Have you ever thought (or actually did ) of harming somebody very badly in order to get back at them? How?

No. That, again, is so not me. The worst I would do in such a situation is shout at the other person in my head, and leave the rest to life to take care of.

10. Do you fart and behave like the other person is guilty of the crime?

No.

11. Have you ever been caught by the police ( or worst locked up)? For what reason?
No.

Jennifer, it was fun answering these questions! :)

I am not tagging anyone in particular for the award, since most of the bloggers I read have received it already. If you want to take up the tag on your blog, please do feel free to do so!

H is for…

1 Sep

… Horlicks burfee. :)

The OH had suggested some time back that I make Horlicks Burfee for the letter H, for the Alphabet Cooking Challenge. I made it immediately, but didn’t get the chance to put it up on my blog till date. Gah!

The burfee turned out well, just like mysore pak, though I was horrified at the amount of ghee that went into it. Not something to be had while you are dieting, for sure!

I used the recipe here to make the burfee, and followed it to the letter. I will reproduce the recipe here, just for the sake of reference.

Ingredients (for about 20 pieces):

Gram flour (besan) – 3/4 cup

Horlicks (regular) – 1/4 cup

Sugar – 3/4 cup

Ghee – 10-15 tablespoons

Method:

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a kadhai and add the gram flour. Fry it till it begins to emit a nice fragrance, and starts turning a darker brown. Take the gram flour in a plate, and let it cool down completely.

2. Mix the Horlicks into the gram flour. Ensure that both powders are thoroughly mixed together. Keep aside.

3. Take the sugar in the pan and add enough water to submerge it. Keep the pan on a low flame, and let the sugar and water heat up. Let the sugar syrup come to one-string consistency.

4. At this stage, add the Horlicks-and-gram-flour mixture to the sugar syrup, stirring constantly to ensure that no lumps are formed. Keep the flame medium. Keep adding the ghee to the pan little by little, stirring continuously. Continue this process till the ghee starts to separate out from the mixture. Switch off the gas.

5. Keep a greased plate ready to pour the burfee mixture into, as you continue to stir it.

6. Transfer the burfee mixture to the greased plate as soon as you switch off the gas. Let it cool down completely. Cut into pieces at this stage.

Yumminess, I tell you! :)

Just Read

28 Aug

The Guestbook – Holly Martin

When people get to know that the owner of Willow Cottage, a seaside resort, is called Annie Butterworth, they assume that she will be a grandmotherly figure who loves serving her guests home-made tea and lemon cake. They are pleasantly surprised to know that Annie is quite young, in her 30s – in fact, she is a very beautiful, young widow. Annie loves Willow Cottage, and loves making her guests comfortable. One of her ideas to go about doing this is to have a guestbook at the reception, wherein every guest can write their heart out. Guests can write about their plans for the day, suggestions and complaints, or about their family or themselves. The guestbook is very much a public book, but that doesn’t prevent guests from writing anything and everything in it. That’s how the story of Holly Martin’s The Guestbook takes shape, through entries in the guestbook of Willow Cottage.

I picked up the book because the premise sounded quite different and cute. And, yes, the book did turn out to be cute. It is chick-lit, yes, and no literary masterpiece, but a fun read. I was quite charmed by the descriptions of Willow Cottage, Annie and her guests, her eccentric friends, and the sea. I doubt any real-life guest would write quite so much in the guestbook of a resort that he/she is staying in, but I chose not to dwell too much on that.

If you can ignore that little thing, The Guestbook is quite an entertaining story, well told at that. Grab this book if you are looking for a fun, breezy read, which is not disgustingly dumb.

Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found – Sophie Blackall

You meet a stranger on an elevator, and exchange glances with him/her. You find him/her extremely interesting, but don’t initiate any conversation apart from, maybe, a ‘Hi!’. The elevator door opens at a certain floor, and the person gets out. Soon, you reach your destination, too. You aren’t able to forget the stranger, though, and regret that you didn’t talk to him/her. Maybe the other person had the potential to become a great friend or lover? The story is now, however, over. Or is it? Well, if you really want to pursue and find out if you two are destined to meet, you can advertise on a forum like Craigslist’s Missed Connections. If the other person reads the advertisement too, you have a second chance at meeting and talking to each other! And who knows what stories might come out of that?

I found the concept of these Missed Connections fascinating, as did Sophie Blackall. In a way, it is incredibly romantic, isn’t it? And I am a sucker for such real-life romance stories. Sophie Blackall found these personal advertisements so charming that she decided to convert them into colourful illustrations, and give a new life to them. That’s what the book Missed Connections is all about. I have Ramya’s Bookshelf to thank, for getting to know about this book.

I loved the sound of the book, and began reading it immediately, as soon as I got my hands on it. I finished it in two days, reading it off and on, and LOVED the experience. The ‘missed connections’ that Sophie has chosen are quite interesting, and makes one wonder what happened after the advertisement was placed. The illustrations are wonderfully done.

Check this out, as an example…

Image Source: Here

… or this one…

Image Source: Here

I have no complaints with the book at all. It is a piece of art – a collection of many beautiful pieces of art, actually. A book collector’s item, for sure. Quite a quirky and unique book, I would highly recommend it.

If you wish to know more about the book, I would suggest you visit the author’s blog on the project.

Have you read any or both of these books? What are your thoughts on it/them?

Top 10 Books I Really Want To Read But Don’t Own Yet

26 Aug

As you guys probably already know, I’ve been having a tough time finding books that are good enough. Something or the other is just not right with the ones I pick up. So, the other day, I sat myself down with a pen and a notebook, referring to book blogs and Goodreads and the recommendations of friends, and made a list of the books that I really, really, really would like to try out at the moment. Coincidentally, the topic for Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke And The Bookish this week happens to be ‘Top 10 books I really want to read but don’t own yet’, so I decided to put up my list here.

toptentuesdayHere we go…

1. Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage - Molly Wizenberg

I adored Molly Wizenberg’s debut book, A Homemade Life: Stories And Recipes From My Kitchen Table, which was a memoir and one of the very first foodie memoirs that I read. In fact, it was this book that started me on a foodie memoir-reading spree. Now, her second book, the sequel to A Homemade Life - Delancey – is out and I am eager to read it. I hope it is as good as the first book, or even better!

2. Korma, Kheer & Kismet: Five Seasons In Old Delhi – Pamela Timms

I am an occasional reader of the largely-Delhi-related food blog Eat And Dust. I have loved the author’s posts whenever I have read them. So, when I came to know of her book – called Korma, Kheer & Kismet: Five Seasons In Old Delhi – I wanted to read it immediately. I hope it will be a scrumptious read, like her blog. Who can resist that title, BTW?

3. My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (With Recipes) - Luisa Weiss

It looks like there are quite a few more foodie memoirs that I want to read. This is a book that I came across, by chance, in a bookstore some time back and was attracted to instantly. I walked out without buying the book – I wanted to think over the purchase – but now, I have decided I do want to read it. I have a feeling I will like the book.

4. The Italian Wedding - Nicky Pellegrino

This book is on this list because I want to read something light and frothy, because I usually like books with Italy and food and weddings and wedding gowns, and because I have read and reasonably liked one of Nicky Pellegrino’s other books – Delicious.

5. The Hat Shop On The Corner – Marita Conlon – McKenna

While making this list, I remembered reading about this book on this girl’s blog a long time ago and thinking that it sounded cute. I searched for the post in question, and the book still sounded cute. Hence, the addition to this list. I think the book is yet to be released in India, though – I am unable to find it anywhere.

6. The Guestbook – Holly Martin

I am quite fond of books in which stories are told through devices like diary entries, letters, scrapbooks, e-mails and the like. So, when I came across this book, in which the story is told entirely through entries in a guestbook in a holiday home, I knew I wanted to give it a try. This is the first time I have heard about this author, and I really hope I enjoy the book.

7. The Complete Calvin & Hobbes – Bill Watterson

I discovered the inimitable brat, his best friend and their antics quite late in my life, and fell in love with them instantly. I so want to own and read the complete C&H collection, to read off and on, and smile and nod at their philosophies, but have never gotten around to doing that. The boxed set, which I really really want, is quite expensive, an inhibiting factor for me. Kind friends have sent across the PDF versions of part of the collection, but that hasn’t held the same charm. I have, hence, held off reading these books till I get hold of the paper books. If anyone is wondering what to buy for my birthday/anniversary/Diwali/Christmas/any other occasion/without occasion, just like that, you now know, right?

8. Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found - Sophie Blackall

I am a sucker for romance, real-life romantic stories all the more. So, when I heard about this book on Ramya’s Bookshelf some time ago, I knew I wanted to read it. The book contains drawings by illustrator Sophie Blackall, based on Craigslist’s Missed Connections. Now, if that isn’t romantic and very unique, what is?

9. Ruskin Bond’s Book Of Nature

I have loved Ruskin Bond’s books that have been based on the places that he has lived in. I love the simplicity and the honesty with which he writes, and the way his words paint lovely images in my mind. I now want to get my hands on his book based on nature, Ruskin Bond’s Book Of Nature.

10. That Book Woman – Heather Henson and David Small

This book sounds delectable to me. Plus it is reminiscent of a book that I read some time back and loved, Masha Hamilton’s The Camel Bookmobile. I so want to read it! I know I will love it. I just know.

I so hope these books turn out to be just what I need at the moment, in terms of reading.

Have you read any of these?

Just Read

25 Aug

Chocolate Wishes – Trisha Ashley

Chloe Lyons loves making chocolate, and she is good at it, too. She specialises in making chocolate angels, which contain messages for the people who eat them, much like fortune cookies. She believes the right message reaches the right person when the time is right. Her business is flourishing, thanks to the novelty of the concept and the Mayan chocolate charm that her warlock grandfather, Grumps, has given her. She still misses her first boyfriend, Raffy Sinclair, and all the antics of her quirky family haven’t been able to make her forget him. There are changes set to happen in the beautiful English village of Sticklepond where she lives, and where magic is accepted as part and parcel of life, though. How these changes affect Chloe’s life is what makes up the story of Chocolate Wishes.

Charming storyline, right? Is it any wonder that I was seduced by that kind of description on the dust jacket – all that quirkiness and chocolate and magic and a pretty English village in the story? Sadly, though, the book disappointed. I came away utterly untouched by it. Chloe is nothing but a typical dumb chick-lit heroine, who doesn’t seem to have a jot of brain in her head. The story was so predictable that I could see what was going to happen next, at almost every stage. I could predict the end less than half-way through the book.

Some of the characters are quite colourful, and I enjoyed meeting them. I liked the village of Sticklepond too – it sounded like a place where a lot of fun things happen on a daily basis. I loved the descriptions of the chocolate-making, too. Only the story was a total let-down. I finished the book because I didn’t want to abandon the book, and that’s about it.

I picked up Chocolate Wishes without knowing that it is a sequel to Trisha Ashley’s A Winter’s Tale, but that didn’t make much difference to my reading or understanding of the book. It is a pretty simple storyline to follow.

Overall, this was not a book that I would recommend. Go for it if you want something simple and extremely light, and some pretty descriptions of chocolate-making and English villages.

Extra Virgin: Amongst The Olive Groves Of Liguria – Annie Hawes

Annie and her sister come to Liguria, a small coastal town in Italy, on work and find themselves enchanted by an offer made to them – one to buy a ramshackle cottage on a hillside, dirt-cheap! Annie has always wanted real estate of her own, but has never been able to buy some. This is the perfect chance to do so, and she persuades her sister to go for it, with her. This, in spite of warnings by the villagers that no one ever buys a hillside cottage to stay in permanently – such cottages are only used to lodge in while working on the fields on the hills. Annie and her sister do end up buying the cottage, and becoming Ligurian citizens. Are they accepted into the Ligurian community just as easily? Do they regret their decision of buying the cottage? How do they manage living on the hillside, something they have no experience in doing, coming from the city of London as they are? All of this and more is what forms Annie’s memoir, Extra Virgin: Amongst The Olive Groves Of Liguria.

I liked the book and enjoyed reading it, though it didn’t work the same magic on me as Frances Mayes and Marlena de Blasi’s works have. Maybe it is unfair to compare author styles that way? I thought there was way too much detail in the book, more than was required, adding an unnecessary hundred pages or so. Some parts of the book are charming, though, like the one where Annie and her sister learn how to make their own wine. The book was quite enlightening too, in the sense that it opened my eyes to how tough the lives of people in certain parts of the world actually are. The quirky characters of the villagers of Liguria are fun to get to know, too.

Would I recommend this book? I would. Be prepared, though, for quite a bit of detailed writing. This is not one entirely breezy read.

Have you read any or both of these books? How did you find it/them?

What are you reading, at present?

 

An Afternoon At The Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp

23 Aug

My blog posting on the occasion of World Elephant Day last week triggered some more memories – of a beautiful trip to Kerala that we undertook a couple of years back. One of the high points of this trip, at least for me, was a visit to the Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp in Guruvayoor. Our entire family had travelled to Kerala then for a wedding, after which we visited the Guruvayoor Shree Krishna temple and the sanctuary. Little did I know, when the trip was planned, that I would end up loving the camp so much that I would yearn to visit again even years after the trip!

The Punnathurkotta Elephant Camp is located just 3 km. away from the Guruvayoor temple, and houses the elephants that belong to the temple. When we visited, there were about 60 elephants housed in the camp. Not only are the temple’s elephants housed and maintained here, but also trained to participate in the various festivities undertaken in the temple. Most of the elephants here are offerings made by devotees to the temple, at one point or the other.

It was a sunny, but pleasant afternoon when we entered the camp. I still remember the sight that met our eyes then, and the collective gasp that escaped our mouths. Lush greenery all around, a number of elephants – some walking, some standing, some eating, some drinking, some bathing, some just sitting. Overall, an extremely beautiful sight. Considering that we are an elephant-crazy family, we started snapping away with our cameras as we explored the little sanctuary, my brothers-in-law chatting away, nineteen to the dozen, to the elephant keepers there.

The pens built for the elephants

We learnt that some elephants were kept in pens, unchained for most of the day. Some others were a bit ferocious, and had to be chained. Some were recuperating from diseases, and hence had to be kept in seclusion. It was rather sad to see the ones that were chained, but we were told it had to be done for certain animals. Overall, the elephants did look happy and well-maintained, and the place was quite neat and clean.

An elephant, chained to a tree

An elephant being walked inside the sanctuary

Feeding!

Feeding, again!

We were utterly fascinated to see some of the elephants being bathed. The mahouts use bits of brick and coconut fibre to scrub them thoroughly, and then hose them down with clean water. It was such a beautiful sight! The elephants seemed to be revelling in the experience, soaking in all of it!

Look at the way this elephant has lifted his trunk to enable the mahouts to clean under his chin! Cute, no?

The camp is located in the grounds of Punnathur Raja, a former ruler of the place. The complex also has a traditional Keralite home, which used to belong to the Raja. Presently, this house is used as a training school for mahouts. (We were too fascinated by the elephants to take any pictures of the home, in case you are wondering why there aren’t any!)

All in all, the elephant camp is one lovely place, a must-visit according to me. Definitely one of the lesser-known places in Guruvayoor. Don’t miss it!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 405 other followers