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Friday, March 25, 2011

Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer

Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer is based on a true story. It is the story of George Mallory who dreamed of conquering the Everest and perished on his third attempt. On searching about it in Google, I found that his body was found in 1999, and it still remains a mystery whether he ever reached the summit. He was last seen six hundred feet from the top.

Story Summary from the book:

Some people have dreams that are so magnificent that if they were to achieve them, their place in history would be guaranteed. Francis Drake, Robert Scott, Charles Lindbergh, Amy Johnson, Edmund Hilary, Neil Armstrong, and Lewis and Clark are among such individuals. But what if one man had such a dream, and once he’d fulfilled it, there was no proof that he had achieved his ambition?

Paths of Glory, is the story of such a man. But only after you’ve turned the last page of this extraordinary novel, inspired by a true story, will you be able to decide if George Mallory’s name should be added to the list of legends, in which case another name would have to be removed.
                                  --------------------------------------------------------------
The book summary speaks pretty much a lot about the content of the book. The cover page of the book also said, 'He loved two women and the second one killed him'. That was intriguing at first, but soon I figured out who this second lady was.

The book starts with George Mallory and how even as a kid, he showed his natural talent for climbing. He is married to the love of his life and is blessed with two daughters and a son. After his education is finished he takes up a job as a school master. But his passion for climbing never dims or dies. The novel also touches on the horrors of World War I and how life of common people were affected by it. What, I liked about the novel was the love Mallory had for his wife and how they wrote letters to each other when Mallory was off to his Everest expeditions. In fact, a good part of the novel is told in the letters they write to each other. But, in the end Mt. Everest proved to be tough lady to please and whether Mallory reached the top or not remained a mystery and a controversy. But, in the end, Archer made clear what he felt the truth was.

The writing style is average and Mallory is portrayed as a hero throughout even though there are other fellow climbers who seem quite good. There are some shallow details about the adversaries of nature on high altitudes, the preparation involved in mountaineering and the perils involved but all that did not make the story more convincing for me. To me it sounded more fictional than real.When you read something involving adventures, it should make you excited as well. This book failed to ignite that excitement. The book is different from all the other books I have read of the author. It is kind of rather slow paced than I would like it to be.
I was not amazed or annoyed by it. For me it falls into the average quick read.

To know more about the author and his works visit http://www.jeffreyarcher.co.uk/site/

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

#5 Teaser Tuesdays

After a break  last week, I am back with a teaser this tuesday. This comes from the book, The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks.

'Blaze studied the table top, toying with the pile of salt. When Ronnie didn't answer Marcus rose from the table and headed for the door without turning back' 
Page: 77

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page


BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Holi Wishes and little chit chat!

I know my wishes are coming a day late, but still its never late to convey best wishes on festive occasions. Hope you all had a happy, safe and colourful 'Holi'.

Holi is the Indian festival of colours. It marks the victory of good over evil and to celebrate it people play with colours. It stands for reaffirmation of hope and goodwill. To know more about it read this.

We had a holi celebration event here this weekend. There were a host of cultural performances followed by circus plays. Then, we played with colors and danced to holi songs and the recent bollywood dance numbers. It was great fun!

Holi is also a time for good and festive food. We also had our share as I prepared some festive dishes!

It was a fun week overall but it was a lazy week in reading. I am still to finish Miss Conceived by Emma Hannigan. Hopefully, I will finish it this week. Most of the time, I was cooking or watching cricket. A big match awaits India on Thursday when they play the Aussies. Fingers Crossed!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is the tale of two 'Indias'. One is downtrodden, poor, illiterate and neck deep into slavery and darkness and the other one - effluent, educated, modern and rich. The story in the novel revolves round the life of  Balram Halwai akka Munna akka 'The White Tiger' who tells his story in a series of seven letters which he writes to Mr. Premier, The President of China who is making a visit to India to understand the secret behind the success of Indian entreprenuers. In these letters he tells his rags-to-riches story, how he fred himself from the clutches of poverty and slavery and set himself up as an entreprenuer in Bangalore, the silicon valley of India.

Born in a village in the dark heart of India, Balram is the son of a rickraw puller. Despite the fact, that he is intelligent, can read and write, Balram is taken out of school to work in a teashop to earn a few bucks for his family. As he crushes coal and wipes table, Balram nutures a dream of geting away from the Darkness and make it big in life. His first chance comes when he gets a job of a driver to a rich family and finally when he makes a move to New Delhi with his master. It is then, in the capital of the country, his re-education begins. He learns that success often involves corruption, cruelty and any successful man must trod and trample the lesser men to make his way to the top.

The story is about how circumstances compel an innnocent and loyal person to be filled with hatred and wickedness and even if he knows it is all wrong and immoral, he goes at length justifying his acts by citing, 'Any successful man must spill a little blood on his way top'.

The author has dwelled on the widespread corruption that is prevalent in Indian politics, the ever widening gulf between the rich and the poor and how this contrast in the standard of living of the Indian people is making a mockery of 'The Great Indian Democracy' and shaping the future of the country. The novel provides a dark satarical view of modern day life in India.

What impressed me most about the novel is not the story but the way the author has narrated it.  Every Indian has come across this dark side of the country at some point of time in their life. It is a stark truth about India however hurtful it may be. Even if the politician may brag about the success of Indian democracy, its nuclear power, unity in diversity ,the truth is even today a sizeable population of the country is living below poverty line and cannot even earn their daily bread. Through the character of Balram Halwai, the author has expressed the angst of the down trodden Indians and he has done a great job at it.

The book is thought provoking and engaging. I will definately recommend reading it.

It is the debut novel of Aravind Adiga and has won the Man Booker Award in 2008.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Eggless Chocolate Brownies

My first memories of having  brownies dates back to my college days. There was (in fact its still there) a restaurant in Guwahati named JBz which served sizzling 'Brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce'. Oh Boy! Having that dessert all for myself was sheer indulgence! I used to savour each bite and even today when I think of it, it sets my mouth water!! But, in those times, I had never once thought of finding out how to make it, cooking was never my cup of tea! But neccesity is the mother of invention and now that I have developed a liking for baking, I keep trying new recipes.

This recipes comes from Nita Mehta's book which I borrowed from my elder sister on my last India visit. I had made it once for our girl's get together. But, that time I had baked it in an about less than 7" square cake tin and it puffed up and was more like a cake. Never the less it was tasty. Last week, I was in a mood of baking and tried these brownie again. This time in a 9'' square cake tin and they came out well. Moist and fudgy and it was great when combined with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Here comes the recipe:


Eggless Chocolate Brownies:
(Click here for the printable version)


Serves 12.
1¼ cups low fat milk
1 tbsp white vinegar.(Original recipe had 2 tbsp. See Notes)
1½ cups AP Flour.
¼ cup cocoa.
1 tsp soda- bi-carb.
1¼ cups sugar. (Original recipe had 1½ cup+2tbsp).
½ cup oil.
1 tsp vanilla essence.
2 tbsp crushed walnuts and chocolate sauce for decoration.

9 ” Square tin.




Process:

  1. Grease the tin and dust it with flour. Preheat the oven at 160 C.
  2. Boil milk and add vinegar. When the milk starts to curdle, keep it on fire for 30 seconds and take it off gas. Let it cool down completely.
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients and keep the mixture in a mixing bowl.
  4. To it add the paneer with whey and oil. Add essence and milk well with a wooden spoon till well combined.
  5. Pour the batter in the prepared tin and sprinkle walnuts over it.

6. Bake at 160 C for 40 minutes. When done remove from oven and let it cool completely. Remove the brownie from the tin. Sprinkle powdered sugar over it. Cut into peices.
Warm it in microwave for 20 seconds and serve with ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce.

Notes:

1. A few days back, I was seeing Barefoot Contessa. Ina Garten was baking a Brownie and shared a tip. She asked to give a nice tap to the cake tin on the rack after baking it for 30 mins. It helps in releasing any air that might be formed because of the leavener and makes the brownie more fudgy. I will try this technique next time, I bake a brownie.

2. I have tried this recipe with both 1 tbsp and 2 tbsp Vinegar. First time when I had baked it, I used 2 tbsp of vinegar. On adding 1 tbsp vinegar to boiled milk, it curdled instantly.  But since the recipe called for another tbsp, I added it. Vinegar helps in leavening which makes it more cake like.So, next time I tried it with 1 tbsp only and got better results. I was more fudgy and moist. I will recommend using 1 tbsp vinegar only.

3. I reduced the sugar by 1/2 cup from what was given in the original recipe and it was perfect for me. Adjust sugar to your own liking and taste.

Enjoy!


Friday, March 11, 2011

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

Imagine life in a rural French countryside, in a place that is greatly remote, has a scarce population, in fact barely a few souls in the neighbourhood. And what it might be like if you are not a native of that place. That is what Rosy Thornton has given a picture of in her book, The Tapestry of Love. It is about Catherine Parkstone, who is seeking an idyllic life in a small hamlet in the Cevennes mountain in the French country side.

Catherine is divorced for the past few years and has has come in terms with it. She has two grown up kids, Tom and Lexie, whom she loves and adores. At the age of 49, Catherine wants to make a fresh beginning in her life. She sells her house in England and moves to a small house in Cevennes. She has great skills in tapestry work and wants to set up a small business as a seamstress to earn a living.

Slowly Catherine, adjusts to the place, gets acquainted with the neighbours, gets accustomed with the weather and sinks into the lifestyle of the place. She befriends her neighbours and has cordial relationships with all of them  and  gradually, they too develop a liking towards her. But, she is very intrigued by one of her neighbours, Patrick Castagnol because of his reserve nature, part English name and fluent French. Equations of relationships between them changes when Bryony, Catherine’s younger sister visits her. She is smitten by Patrick's charm, leaving Catherine feeling decidedly uncomfortable. Catherine also faces challenges against setting up her business from the French bureaucracy and she has a hard time dealing with all the paper work.

This book is about the little things of every day life. Rosy has drawn the poignancy of ordinary life. I just loved how she has portrayed a spectrum of relationships in various lights and shades. I also loved the way Rosy has given intricate details of the tapestries which Catherine creates. The description of the place is so vivid that one imagine the pictures of the location in their minds and the readers are gradually absorbed in the slow paced and relaxed life of the countryside. I found the book very relaxed, warm and quiet. In fact, I needed one like this after reading 'The Lovers'.

Take this book, lie down and immerse yourself in reading it and let the magic of the book work on you. One of the best contemporary women literature of modern time. I picked this book after reading Lindy's review and I am glad I did. I will definitely recommend reading it to someone looking for a relaxed and soothing read.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

# 4 Teaser Tuesday

Today's Teaser comes from the book, Miss Concieved by Emma Hannigan.

'But, as they sat in the taxi on the way home, Serena's pleasent buzz had evaporated and she realised that no matter how much she drank that night, she could not fully shake the feeling inside. Drink was kind of her friend.' 
Page: 64

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page


BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists!

Please leave a comment with the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays, so that I can check them too! Thanks.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Eggless Almond and Cherry Cake

I love baking and keep experimenting new recipes. But, the main constraint is my baking experiments is that I do not use eggs. Now, that is a vital ingredient in baking. So, I am always in the search of eggless recipes and sometimes try my own ideas to create some. Check this page on the home page to know more about egg subsitutes in baking and cooking.

One of the basic recipes of making an eggless sponge cake is using sweetened condensed milk (Hopefully, I will post it sometimes in near future). In India, it is a very common recipe in every vegetarian household. I have tweaked that recipe to come with this Eggless Almond and Cherry Cake.


Most of the time my DH and my friends are the scapegoat to taste my experiments. I had made this one for a tea party at one of my friends place. It tasted good and my friends liked it. Coming to the recipe now:


Almond and Cherry Cake:
(Click here for the printable version)
Ingredients:

1 cup AP Flour.
1/4 cup ground almond powder.
1/2 cup glace cherries.
1 tsp baking powder.
1/2 tsp baking soda.
1/4 cup butter.
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp condensed milk.
2 tbsp flaked almonds for garnishing.
About 1/2 cup milk (more or less)


Process:

1. Grease a 1 lb loaf tin or an 8" rouns cake tin and flour it.
2. Shift flour, almond powder, baking powder and baking soda 2-3 times so that the mixture is uniform.
3. Wash the glace cherries and wash off any syrup sticking to it. Pat them dry.
4. In a separate large bowl cream the butter and condensed milk, till it is well mixed and the mixture is light and creamy.
5. Add the dry mixture to the creamed butter and condensed milk mixture, mixing all the time. Add the milk little by little to get a dropping consistency batter.
6. Fold in the washed and dried glace cherries and spoon the mixture into the prepared tin. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over it.
7. Bake it at 180 C for 25 minutes and then lower the tempreture to 165 C and bake for another for 10 minutes, till the top is light golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.


8. Cool it in the tin before taking it out on a wire rack. Cool completly on a wire rack before slicing.
9. Slice and serve. Enjoy!

Notes:

1. If you do not have almond powder, try using equal amount almond puree ( almonds, soaked, blanched and pureed). Beat it into the creamed condensed milk and butter and proceed.
2. The almond flavour in this cake is mild, for a stronger flavour try adding 1/2 tsp almond extract (not essence as it has a very fake flavour).

Linking it to Champa's Bake Off.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Lovers by John Connolly

This is the first book of John Connolly I have read. I had done a Teaser Tuesday from this book a couple of weeks back and a review was long due. I had picked it up from the library after seeing it short listed in Bord Gais Energy, Irish Book Awards Books of the decade. It is a crime thriller novel with the story revolving around the protagonist, Charlie Parker. In fact it is the seventh of the Charlie Parker series & the ninth book to feature this character. Since, I haven't read any other book from the series, I was really not sure what to expect from the book. The title of the novel might be misleading if you are looking for a romantic thriller as it is not one. It is a altogether dark crime thriller and it is only towards the end of the novel, one will understand why the novel is named so. That adds to the charm of the novel as it keeps you thinking about it till the end.

The story starts with Charlie Parker who is a private investigator but has lost his PI license and is under the scrutiny of the police. So, he takes up a job in a Portland Bar to earn a living while his lawyers are seeing that his license is restored to him soon. Charlie Parker has a disturbed past with his wife and daughter killed by a serial killer. And also, he has questions related to his childhood that need to be answered. This enforced break from his investigation work makes him look back to his own past and inquiry into the death of his father, who took his own life after apparently shooting two unarmed teenagers. In the quest of finding answers to these long buried unanswered question, Parker comes to know about some seriously disturbing truth about his own lineage.

There are other plots in the novel which goes on simultaneously. There is a young boy who has been found dead in mysterious conditions. Her ex girl friend Emily Kindler suspects it has been killed by someone who has been haunting her from a long time. She tries to flee from this unforeseen threat. There is Mickey Wallace, a journalist turned writer who write true crime stories. He decides to write a biography of Charlie Parker and the various events surrounding his life since the death of his wife and child. And there are other forces too, two supernatural figures : a man and a woman who seem driven to bring an end to Charlie Parker's life. There are both first and third person narration in the book. Charlie Parker tells his own story while other plots continue in third person narration. It is only towards the end the reader comes to know the interconnection of the plots and that works for the story  as it builds up the suspense.

Connolly writing style is very fluid and he has a good grip on the story. He has very deftly depicted the anguish of Parker as he struggles to find answers to the darkest secrets about his own origins.The story reveals itself in bits and pieces and the supernatural elements adds a new dimension to the story. However, those elements are not fully revealed in the story and I am eager to discover them in the next sequel. There is a haunted feeling throughout the novel and a tinge of trauma and tragedy too. That is because the novel starts with a murder, the protagonist has a disturbed past and there are some disturbing incidents taking place through out the novel. But all questions about Charlie Parker are not answered in the end and to know about the future one is lured  to read the next novel in the series from Connolly. This is not the genre I read usually. So, it was a welcome change and I am sure to pick up the next novel in the series, "The Whisperers".

If you like crime thriller, you will like it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

#3 Teaser Tuesday

I have 2 teasers from the books I am reading now, to share this week.

First one is from 'Paths of Glory' by Jeffrey Archer.

"Was Finch right when he had suggested that at some time George would have to decide between them? No choice was neccesary at the moment, thought George, as both ladies in question were studiously ignoring him." From Page: 120.

The second one comes from 'The White Tiger'by Aravind Adiga.

"The car stopped half a foot in front of me, with a screech of burning rubber. I cringed: how my poor tyres had suffered, because of this woman." From Page: 162

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page


BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists!

Please leave a comment with the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays, so that I can check them too! Thanks
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