Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

March 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

Farseer Trilogy: Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, Assassin’s Quest
Rating: 4/5
Verdict: One of the must read for fantasy fans

How do you know you have stumbled onto something great? When you spend 7 hours reading, so you could know the whole story. And then you spend rest of the day just thinking about it.
This is what Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb did to me. Not in the beginning, mind you. It was good, of course. It was engaging, no doubt. But there was a slowness to it. Then I read next one in series. It’s end only meant that I pick up last one immediately and immerse myself in it. And by the end of it, you are a fan. Of the series. Of the Author.
While it has all the common fantasy elements – medieval world, Royalty, Court intrigue, Magic, loyalty, war, sibling rivalry; it still managed to be different. War is just backdrop to the story. Magic, just a tool. It’s characters in the series who shine out. It’s their story, told by the illegitimate child of prince. As a Hero, he’s not perfect. He stumbles and falls. He refuses to heed advice given by his mentors. But that’s what keeps you engaged. It’s the imperfectness of people that one identifies with. They are human and they make mistakes. Til the end. Of course, there are times when you want to yell at them about obvious stupid choices. And it’s only by the end, you realize how each of those choices developed those characters, gave them the strength to be what they should be. You feel their pain and the triumphs. This is what makes it such an interesting series.
Book begins with bastard child of king-to-be brought to the castle, which is ruled by one shrewd King (and that’s his name too). His kingdom includes 6 duchies which bicker amongst each other. On arrival of this child, his father abdicates his claim to the throne and leaves child in care of his stable master. This child catches eye of the king who decides to train him as an assassin like his own bastard brother. New king-in-waiting, his uncle, likes him but next heir in line of throne detests him. This child, apart from skill magic of farseer line also carries old blood magic known as wit. Wit allows him to bond to animals and skill lets him talk to his uncle using mind. This wit also causes people to mistrust him and even his death and eventual resurrection.
Throw in King’s murder by his own son, real king away on a quest and declared dead, war brought by enemy from far, lost love and you have a trilogy. Engaging read and somewhat dark. End was very much a surprise. And you should be reading the series to find out what it was.

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Did I hear Bakery?

August 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

People close to me know about my affinity for desserts. If given a choice, I would happily skip main course just to have desserts. Needless to say, every time I hear about a new bakery, I have to give it a try. (That’s not saying my local bakery is bad, it’s pretty awesome to say least, but still. greedy me..) This time, my attention was caught by a particular post on a travel forum that I frequent. Someone was looking for good Bagels in Delhi, and someone else found a bakery serving authentic ones. So, as usual, I made a note to visit it. Chance to do so came soon. U wanted to catch up on breakfast. What better place for breakfast than a bakery. So we headed to Red Moon bakery in Sarita Vihar. (Now you know how crazy I’m for this stuff. Driving all the way there just to sample few things). So here’s the review –

Ambiance: Zilch. It’s a bakery where you buy stuff and leave. No place to sit down. 4 people would be too much for the tiny space it has. But the smell of freshly baked goods is heavenly.

Food Items: It was hard to decide what to order by just looking at the display. Everything looked so tempting. After much deliberation, we ended up ordering lemon tart, butter tart, lemon meringue tart, scone and of course, sesame bagels. First we tried butter tarts, yummmm. Then Lemon ones and I thought I would die of pleasure. But I hadn’t tasted the Meringue ones yet. Have I? Once you try Lemon Meringue Tart, you just can’t go back. Meringue cloud has to be one of the best I’ve tried. Soft, melts in your mouth. Lemon tart below the could was as delicious as the could above. A perfect compliment. We had bagels afterward. Unfortunately, all these experiments were done in U’s car, so there was absence of butter. Bagels were good. But after tasting that polishing off that Meringue Tart, it was hard to appreciate them. 🙂 Same goes for Scone. It was delicious. But doesn’t come close to heavenly Meringue Tart. Next time, I’m saving this Tart for last, So I can enjoy everything fairly first.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 (I’m taking away .5 star for not been able to sit and keep on ordering). Definitely one of my favorite bakeries now. If they ever decide to have a seating place, I think I’ll become a fixture and happily get fat. Maybe I should take baking lessons from them.

Additional Info: They do deliver to different areas of city, but not to Noida. As Anna (Owner) explained, the inter state taxes eat up their profit. So there’s another thing you can blame government for. Here’s the link http://www.redmoonbakery.com/

Was Name worth the price or hype?

August 28, 2010 § 2 Comments

Finally a restaurant review. (Lot of people have told me that I need to do this, considering I’ve really strong opinions about food and restaurants)
Almost a month back, I went to Punjab Grill (Select mall, Saket) with E. Now, little background here. I really wanted to go to O Palazio and finally try main course there. Unfortunately, it was closed and This discovery did cost me a pair of flip flops. With Punjab Grill, my history hasn’t been good. Few times, we didn’t get table and wait was too long. 1-2 times, I ended up going to the bar downstairs and forgot that I was supposed to have dinner there. Anyways, this time, we got the table. Good part, it was on terrace. Bad part, no alcohol is served there.

Ambiance: It’s ok. Not so great, but not very bad either. We sat on outer side looking at the DLF entrance. yes, even the terrace has 2 partitions. One is covered by plastic sheets and other is out open. Waiters are polite. Hostess explained that they couldn’t get the license for serving alcohol on terrace. (Yes, I did mention Tabula and AI terraces, she says they don’t know how others managed it).
Seats are comfortable enough.

Food: For a Punjabi restaurant, there were quite a few fusion dishes. Expected from Jiggs Kalra. E suggested Duck in starters. I’ve never had it, so we decided to give it a go. Other starter dish we ordered was Chicken Kurkuri. While I liked the way duck tasted, I felt there was bit too much marination on it. E is the duck expert here, so he can judge it better. Chicken Kurkuri was kind of fried wontons, served with dip in shot glass. It was yum. Must try, if you visit it.
For main course, we decided on Daal and Morel Mushroom dish. Earlier in the day, E was telling me How Morels are in season for only 4 weeks in a year and I have to try them. Lucky for us, it was on menu. Daal was good. (I did expect it to be even better though). Morel Dish (I can’t remember the name now), reminded me of the papad Salan that Mom makes. It wasn’t very spicy, bit sweet for me. My Gujju friends should like it a lot :). However, Morels were really nice. If I see them on menu again, I’m so ordering them.
Waiter had advised us against the roti platter (too much for 2, he said) and we were glad he did. We had Pudina Paratha and Tandoori Roti. Both pretty good.
Apart from that, I had Lassi, which I really liked. Though I don’t get the concept of Barfi (Indian Sweet dish) inside it, I would order it again.

Pricing: It’s definitely on the expensive side. However, the ones used to Big Chills and Punjabi by Nature, will find ok. Anyways, I don’t think Select has any cheap place.

My verdict: 3 out of 5. I would visit it with friends who like Indian food, but want it bit less spicy and different from usual affairs. For hard core Butter chicken people, It needs to be Karim’s or Punjabi By Nature for me. (PbN also has Vodka Golgappas, so it’s always a favorite 🙂 )
Overall, a good place but I expected bit more with Jiggs Kalra’s name. That’s what happens when you grow reading a certain person’s reviews. You start expecting too much from them.

PS: E, next time, we are definitely going to Karim’s. Promise 🙂

PPS: Do tell me how it was? Should I do more of these?

Good Omens

January 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Note: Copy-Paste from Jun 07

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Rating: 4/5
Verdict: Must Read for 2 hours of unparalleled fun.

What happens when Angel and Serpent become too cozy in their earthly lifestyle and apocalypse is near, threatening an end to this comfortable life? Do they simply resign themselves to their fate and help God and Satan in final war or is there a way out of it? This is what we read and explore in ‘Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch’ by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Some of you would already be familiar with Neil Gaiman, courtesy Sandman. For those feeling bit left out, Neil Gaiman is author of many science fiction novels, comics and graphic Novels. Terry Pratchett is a fantasy author too, more known for his Discworld series.
Moving back to Good Omens, Book starts with angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley, both of whom are representing God and Satan respectively on earth and are quite used to life style on earth. Crowley is proud owner of Bentley whereas Aziraphale has his books collection, quite rare ones at that. Apocalypse is near and son of Satan has been born (omen, anyone??). Both angel and demon realize that if final war happens, they would have to leave all materialistic things behind and would have to go back to heaven and hell. For them, this is beginning of life full of boredom. Now, after centuries of working against each other, they have developed mutual respect and are good friends. So, together they decide to thwart the war with plain logic of “freedom of choice” given to humans. Their plan, very simple, influence son of Satan with both good and evil. So, he doesn’t turn out to be fanatic for either side, cannot decide on a side and in the end postpone the war. Just one small glitch, the boy they had been watching wasn’t son of Satan. Due to small mix up in hospital, they ended up focusing on wrong kid. Result, son of Satan had a very normal life uninfluenced by both good and evil and unaware of his powers. Now, time has come for him to gain the throne. Add to this, 4 horsemen of hell (War, Famine, Pollution (Pestilence having retired in 1936 following the discovery of penicillin), and Death) searching for boy to serve him, and you’ve got perfect recipe of roll-on-floor-while-laughing book.
Oh, did you ask why Agnes Nutter in title? Well, because she wrote the prophecies leading to final doom day which are very accurate And it’s up to her descendant to figure them out. Slightly confusing you see 

The space between us and millions like us

January 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Note: From Jun 07

“The space between us” by Thrity Umrigar
Rating: 3.5/5
Final recommendation: a good read

This book revolves around two women in Mumbai. One called Sera, an upper-middle class widow, another is called Bheema, her maid. While one faces the hidden brutality of her husband while he was alive, the other silently suffers through her husband’s treachery and children’s loss. Both women comfort each other, yet never crossing the line of class that divides them. When Sera’s daughter and her son-in-law comes to live with her, both women see their love as something they wished for. Sera supports Bheema’s family through tough times – Bheema’s husband’s accident, daughter’s death and grand daughter’s education. Yet she cannot get herself to treat Bheema at equal level. She feels guilty about it, chastises herself but can’t break the society’s bonds.
It reminds me of us at a certain level. The bit of hypocrisy which is inherent in all of us but we never let go of it. This book is sad. Pessimist to major extent, but then again, that’s what life is, unfair.

Of Authors who think they can write..

January 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Note: From Jun 07

“What would you do to save the world?” by Ira Trivedi
Rating: 0/5
Final recommendation: Just Stay Away from it

Read this book few days back and I’ve to admit this book deserves a prize for being one of the crappiest book of century.. It seems she has written it from her own experiences, but does that mean you would torture readers like this. Book is about Miss India contest & the contestants.. Which means it could’ve been a really interesting novel.. gossipy, bitchy.. perfect chick-lit. But, by trying to convince readers that she wasn’t one of the Bimbos who take part in such contests, that she was too good for it.. too brainy.. She has at least convinced me that she’s reallllly tooo goood to be ever read again..
Thank you very much. Now I would like my money back please.

The Hindi-Bindi Club: A Nice Surprise

January 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Note: Again from Aug 07

The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan .
Rating: 3.5/5
Final recommendation: a good read

To be frank, the only reason I had bought this book was that it looked light hearted enough to be read in Hot afternoon and to be forgotten later on. And was I in for a surprise. Unlike other Indian Authors, Monica Pradhan doesn’t try to find her roots. her characters are well settled and confident in their Indian-American Identities. of course, they have issues (Or how else we will have this book) and Generation Gaps but somehow, they are not over-cooked here.
The main character Kiran is a successful physician, born to Indian immigrants in USA. She married a Rock Musician against her parents wishes and divorced him after finding him in bed with another woman. Her parents didn’t approve of this marriage. However, after being treated for breast cancer, Mother has learned to see things from daughter’s perspective as well. Her struggle is keeping her family together esp after her husband still can’t forgive their daughter. Kiran is now trying to accept her parent’s ways and agreed for
semi-arranged marriage which means posting her profile to matrimonials sites and meeting prospective grooms.
Other characters are Kiran’s childhood friends – Preity and Rani. Both happily married to Americans. While one is haunted by a childhood love she lost due to religion, other struggles to keep her creativity going. Their mothers – Saroj and Uma form the Hindi-Bindi Club along with Kiran’s mother Meenal. These 3 women are long settled in US with their husbands and have raised kids. And now they are facing their own demons. One is having an affair and other is still hurt over being boycotted from her family in India for marrying an Irish-American.
Monica has captured the constant struggle between mothers and daughters in a beautiful form. From understanding the other’s point of view to giving up to gain approval or simply accepting the other the way they are, We all have felt like that at one point or another.
Book is not just about generation gaps or cultural differences, it also touches on religion, partitions and Indian Recipes. Yes, you heard it right, at the end of each chapter, there’s a recipe. Mouth watering dishes and quite good instructions.
I like Monica’s writing style. It’s in narrative form, Chapters by these 6 characters and so beautifully intertwined. It keeps you engaged til you finish it.
Of course, I felt end was bit cliched. But what the heck, you can’t have it all. And sometimes, world does deserve Happy Endings.

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