Friday, December 13, 2013

Reading with Laya: What do you do when a Monster says Boo?

Book: What do you do when a Monster say Boo?
Author: Hope Vestergaard
Illustration: Maggie Smith




This is a really nice book targeted towards older siblings. The 'monster' in this book is a naughty little sister that pesters her older brother by throwing things at him, pulling his hair, etc. And the book offers the victimized older sibling some wisdom on how to handle the bratty little torturer. But to make the whole reading experience playful, a couple of naughty alternatives are presented before the actual "correct answer"..

 It's a very interesting book and after reading it multiple times, you realize that it isn't necessarily restricted only to older siblings. My daughter uses these tactics to deal with pesky little friends that trouble her. and I have realized that I can use some of the wisdom myself when my little monster is having one of her temper tantrums. Laya and I really enjoyed reading this book. And I think we've both learnt something from this!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reading with Laya: My daddy is a pretzel

Book: My Daddy is a pretzel: Yoga for parents and kids.
Author: Baron Baptiste
Illustration: Sophie Fatus



This book is a fun way for preschoolers to learn about various professions while picking up some yoga moves along the way. The illustrations are very eye catching and the language very simple. Laya loves to do Yoga and every time we read this book, we are on the floor twisting in various positions that are clearly explained in the book. The step by step yoga instructions are definitely preschooler friendly. She looks at the pictures and knows exactly what to do. "I can do it myself, mommy!".

And in the middle of all the yoga, we sneak in a little lesson about the different professions as well. Our dinner time conversations now include talk about architects and vets and gardeners thanks to this book.

This book can also be bought in a package along with Yoga Pretzels Card Deck with 50 yoga activities for both adults and kids. 


Want to buy this book/card deck?

Buy "My Daddy is a Pretzel" on Amazon.com
Buy "Yoga Pretzels (Yoga Cards)" on Amazon.com
Buy "My Daddy is a Pretzel" on Powells.com
Buy "My daddy is a pretzel" at your local Indie Bookstore.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review: Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe

Book: Meet me at the cupcake cafe
Author: Jenny Colgan
Genre: Chick Lit
My Rating: 4 Stars




I was at the library a couple of days ago to pick up some books I had requested. I sneaked in 5 minutes before closing time and while waiting in line to check out my books, a little pink book with cupcakes on the cover caught my eye. In spite of all the warning bells in my head about the number of books in my TBR pile and all those half read books in various corners of my house, I picked it up. After wrapping up all my duties I home, I grabbed a bowl of popcorn and opened the book. 5 hours later I turned the last page - warm, happy and relaxed with an intense craving for some fluffy cupcakes topped with some yummy butter cream frosting:)

"Meet me at the cupcake cafe" is a heart warming story about following your dreams and doing what you love, while finding some great friends and the right man along the way. Issy Randall is a lovable central character. Her passion for baking and all things sugar is highly contagious. Only she could have made me want to taking out some flour, eggs and my mixing bowl at 2:00AM to whip up some ridiculously delicious cupcake/scone from one of the recipes scattered throughout the book. Luckily, sanity prevailed and I didn't wake up a sleeping family.

If you are looking for a light read, this is definitely a good book to pick.

Can't wait to read more books by Jenny Colgan

Buy "Meet me at the cupcake cafe" at your local Indie Bookstore.
Buy "Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe" on Amazon.com
Buy "Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe" on Powells.com

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reading with Laya: The Animal Boogie

Book: The Animal Boogie
Illustration: Debbie Harter
Sung by: Fred Penner


The first thing that you (and your little one) notice about the Animal Boogie book is the colorful illustration. The jungle comes to life with bright green leaves and big friendly looking animals. and when you finally tear your eyes away from the illustrations, you realize that the lines are short with an easy rhyming pattern. Perfect for a quick read aloud with the kids!
 What more could one ask for from a read aloud book for preschoolers? A catchy tune to sing along with? Well, that's included too! The book comes with an entertaining singalong CD.
Before you realize it, the littles ones are talking about various actions like leaping, swinging, stomping, slythering, etc!

Right from the first read/singalong, this has become one of Laya's favorite reads and sometimes, when she's preoccupied doing a puzzle or coloring a page, I even catch her humming the tune!

 Buy the book at an Indie Bookstore!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: The Last Song of Dusk

Book: The last song of Dusk
Author: Siddharth Danvant Shanghvi
My Rating: 4 Stars
Review: A wildly entertaining award winning novel by a very talented young writer.




The last song of dusk, Siddharth Danvant Shanghvi’s debut novel, is set in 1920s India. When published, the book took the literary world by a storm winning the Betty Trask Award in the UK, the Premio Grinzane Cavour in Italy, and was nominated for the IMPAC Prize. Much to the author’s discontent, the book is usually categorized as magical realism and he is compared to the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie. Lofty comparisons for a debut author, I must say; especially when he was just 22 years old when the book was published.

When a book comes with so much acclaim and so much hype, it’s hard to not have expectations before you’ve read even a single word.

The last song of dusk is a love story - a complicated love story that dwells in the “happily ever after” stage of a fairy tale. Why references to a fairy tale here you might ask. I don’t do it without reason. This story starts with Anuradha, a beautiful young bride with a haunting voice that even stops the moon, traveling to Bombay to marry Vardhaman, a young smart doctor known for his good looks and the number of women feigning illness just to have him treat them. To add to the fairy tale like quality of the book, Vardhaman even has a wicked step mother! Anuradha and Vardhaman get married despite minor obstacles and even have a beautiful son, Mohan who is a musical prodigy.

But instead of ending the story with a “and they happily ever after”, Siddharth Shanghvi uses this tale as just a prologue to his novel where he delves in to the complicated web of emotions that Anuradha and Vardhaman weave when their son dies suddenly. They move to a beautiful yet haunted house that has a fascinating history and a will of its own. At the core of the book is a character called Nandini. Nandini is a 14 year old promiscuous orphan that enchants Anuradha and comes to lives with her. She is a glamorous, devious, talented, cunning painter who charms her way in to people’s hearts and breaks them easily without rhyme or reason. For me, Nandini was the most memorable character in the book. It’s hard to dislike her. She has a wild streak that is entertaining and at the same time midly scary!

In this book, Siddharth Shanghvi comes across as an amateur author - one with immense talent but a little too willing to please. The central plot of the story is very original and holds your attention all the way through. There are a lot of deviations from the main story line. Some of the deviations are apt while some seem to dilute the central theme.

He has a beautiful way with words and there’s no scarcity for adjectives in the book. Most of the descriptions are vivid and easily help in painting the right picture in you read along; but some seem forced and superfluous.  

The last song of dusk is definitely an entertaining read.
Buy "The Last Song of Dusk" at an Indie Bookstore!
Buy "The Last Song of Dusk" from amazon.com
Buy "The Last Song of Dusk" from Powell's Books

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Lust: A Reader's Book of Days

Any book lover will want this book on their bookshelf.. esp after watching this super cute video that the author made:


How A Reader's Book of Days Was Made from WW Norton on Vimeo.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Reading with Laya: Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots

Book: Do Princesses wear Hiking Boots
Author: Carmela LaVigna Coyle
Illustrator: Mike Gordon and Carl Gordon
Age: 3 to 6



"Do princesses wear hiking boots" is a fun book to read to little girls with a new take on the whole princess concept. It is about a little curious girl asking her mom a series of questions about princesses. Do they ride trikes? Do they climb trees? etc etc.. And the mom's responses are reassuring that being a princesses is not only about wearing a pretty gown with a tiara and some fancy jewels but it is about who you are inside. This book is a joy for little girls to read.. The lines are short and have a catchy rhyming pattern. The illustrations are wonderful and they love everything about the book. For moms too, this is a fantastic book. We love the message that every little girl is a princess in her own way!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Mountain of Light by Indu Sundaresan

Title: The Mountain of Light
Author: Indu Sundaresan
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4 Stars
Short Review: Fascinating book surrounding the history of the world famous Kohinoor diamond. A must read for all historical fiction lovers and those interested in Indian history.





Indu Sundaresan, as an author, needs no introduction. Her Taj Mahal Trilogy books (The twentieth wife, the feast of Roses and Shadow Princess) introduced the rich, colorful Indian history to historical fiction lovers around the world who had never imagined seeing beyond the wildly popular British historical fiction. Her books pack a wealth of historical information but the information is blended so well in to the narrative that it doesn’t feel like you are sitting through a history lecture. The Mountain of Light is Indu Sundaresan’s sixth book.

‘Mountain of light’ is a literal translation (from Persian/Arabic) for the name of one the world’s most famous diamonds – The Koh-i-Noor diamond.  The diamond, originally believed to have been mined in India, was owned by various rulers in Persia, Afghanisthan and India before finally making its way across the oceans to England (where it still resides). The lure of this stone is further enhanced by a curse that it is supposed to carry –

"He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all
its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity."

The book by Indu Sundaresan follows a part of the extensive journey of this precious stone from Afghanisthan to England via Punjab. And through the story of the stone, we learn about the various people that came in contact with it and the rather entertaining interactions between those that had it and those that wanted it. It is fascinating to see how much lie, deceit, power play, pride and other negative emotions a stone no larger than the size of a closed fist can trigger.

I have always been curious about the history of the Kohinoor diamond – the only piece (from the tremendous amount of wealth transferred from India to Britain during the British rule) that a lot of people in India still feel strongly about. And this book satisfied my curiosity in the most delicious manner. If every history fact I needed to learn was coated with the right dose of fiction in the hands of Indu Sundaresan, I would definitely remember a lot more about than I do right now!
But, in addition to the history of the diamond, I learnt something that I didn’t expect from this book – the ruthless manner in which the East India Company slowly took over India – kingdom by kingdom, empire by empire; the smooth maneuvers with which they hoodwinked the na├»ve rulers under the pretext of helping them out. That was definitely eye opening.

The Mountain of Light is a well written book and definitely not intimidating. It was a quick, easy, and very interesting read. There are no slow moving parts where your attention dwindles. The extensive research that has gone in to creating this story is inspiring! I always feel that historical fiction is one of the hardest genres to write. It takes way more than just creativity to blend historical facts with fiction seamlessly. Indu Sundaresan’s attention to minute details in her books has always amazed me. She casually inserts snippets of descriptions that help in creating a complete picture of the time period the book was set in. Only when you sit back and think about it, do you realize that these casual snippets are not really casual at all. They are well researched fragments of history that provide so much background to the historical period the book was set in.

It did have a lot of characters, but definitely not too many to confuse you. The story of Maharajah Dalip Singh tugs at your heart. You can’t help but feel sorry for the lonely young boy uprooted from his homeland and stripped of his powers and wealth who doesn’t really realize what happened to him until he was must older and jaded. But I did feel that some of the characters are introduced in a strong manner with a lot of potential but fade away without much impact.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Mountain of Light. It was educational and entertaining at the same time. I can’t wait for Indu Sundaresan’s next book to come out.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: The Married Kama Sutra - The World's Least Erotic Sex Manual

Title: The Married Kama Sutra
Author: Simon Rich
Illustrator: Farley Katz
Genre: Humor
Rating: 4 Stars





I don’t know about you, but I am always on the lookout for coffee table books. Books that can capture the attention of someone with just a glance and can turn in to a conversation piece rather than just stay as an adornment. This weekend, I think I found a perfect addition to my existing coffee table books. Who can exist a second glance when the taboo words “kama sutra” dance on the cover? When the two words have caught your eye, you pay more attention and read the full title – “The Married Kama Sutra – The world’s least erotic sex manual”. And right there, you know you are in for a treat when you open the book!

Simon Rich and Farley Katz have “unearthed” a valuable new document – a missing section in the original kama sutra -  positions that lovers frequently indulge in AFTER they are married. Hilarious, yet oddly insightful, descriptions of the various “positions” are accompanied by full page illustrations in the style of the original Kama Sutra (with a modern twist, of course).

I haven’t laughed so much for a book that is less than 50 pages in length. It doesn’t take you more than 10 minutes to go from cover to cover but you find yourself reaching for the book constantly. Position names have already made their way in to regular conversations with friends and family… “It was such a ‘perverse lovebirds’ moment” or “don’t give me that ‘wounded hippopotamus’ look”, etc..

Here's a little slideshow to give you a little teaser.



This is definitely a must have book for every coffee table!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh



Title: The Hungry Tide
Author: Amitav Ghosh
My Rating: 5 Stars
Short Review: Fabulous story that is as complex, mysterious and hauntingly beautiful as the fascinating sunderbans that it is set in.




Amitav Ghosh is one of the most prominent Indian English authors. I have always read great things about him and his books but after one failed attempt at comprehending Calcutta Chromosome a long time ago, I have always shied away from trying any other book of his. I made an exception for “The Hungry Tide” only because of the place the book was set in. I have always been fascinated by the area that is called the Sunderbans – a swampy archipelago at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal. The dense mangrove forests and the hundreds of salt water waterways are home to some of the most terrifying animals – the royal Bengal tiger, crocodiles, snakes, etc. But what’s fascinating in this place is that humans have little to no control over the land here. Landforms are constantly changing as the sea comes in and goes out at its will. I’ve always been very intrigued by the power of nature in this area and when I found out that the hungry tide was set in the Sunderbans, I decided to read it. The book was completely unlike anything I expected. The Sunderbans wasn’t just a location in the book; it was a living entity - one of the most compelling characters! Amitav Ghosh descriptions almost transported me from my quiet little american suburb to the fascinating Sunderbans teeming with dangerous wildlife.

                                                                          
The settlers of the Sundarbans believe that anyone who dares venture into the vast watery labyrinth without a pure heart, will never return. It is the arrival of Piyali Roy, of Indian parentage but stubbornly American, and Kanai Dutt, a sophisticated Delhi businessman, that disturbs the delicate balance of settlement life and sets in motion a fateful cataclysm. Kanai has come to visit his widowed aunt and to review some writings left behind by her husband, a political radical who died mysteriously in the aftermath of a local uprising. He meets Piya on the train from Calcutta and learns she has come to the Sundarbans in search of a rare species of river dolphin. When she hires Fokir, an illiterate, yet proud local fisherman to guide her through the mazelike backwaters, Kanai becomes her translator. From this moment, the tide begins to turn.

The characters that Amitav created in this book are so memorable – Piya Roy – the born and raised in Seattle cetologist. Her parents are Bengali but for Piya, Bengali is just a language that they used to fight. With no knowledge of her parents language, Piya bravely ventures to the sunderbans to study a rare species of dolphins that has been spotted in the area. To help her in her quest, she hires Fokir – an illiterate fisherman who knows the waters better than the back of his own hands. The relationship between Piya and fokir is fascinating. They couldn’t be any more different from each other. But in spite of having no common methods of communication, they sense a level of bonding and are able to understand each other on a completely different plane. They share a love for the mysterious waters of the sunderbans. And if this wasn’t complicated enough, we have Kanai – suave, arrogant, educated Kanai who meets Piya on the train from Calcutta and follows her to aid her as translator in her quest.

One of the aspects that I really loved about this book was Ghosh’s effective play with multiple timelines. One thread is set in the present with Piya, Fokir and Kanai navigating the Sunderbans waterways in search of the elusive dolphins. A parallel thread takes us back in time through a manuscript written by Kanai’s revolutionary uncle that he has come to translate. Through the manuscript, we learn more about the 1979 Morichjhapi eviction of refugees and the political war between the government and the settlers in the Sunderbans area. Ghosh manages to intersperse another love triangle in the politically charged past as well.

The Hungry Tide is a complex novel and has so many different aspects and layers to it. It is an amazing creation. Amitav Ghosh is a fabulous writer and he successfully transports you to the world of Piya, Fokir , kanai and the mysterious sunderbans. He daringly sprinkles the text with mythological references, folklore, scientific research, political history. He jumps erratically between the two timelines. The pace of the writing is just perfect through the book and I feel that there’s something in it for everyone who reads the book.

I definitely want to read the book again. And this time, I want to read it at leisure because there’s no anticipation. I already know what’s going to happen to Piya and Fokir and Kanai. I can relax and grasp the many nuances and multiple layers of this fabulous fabulous book.