Book Review: Europa

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Book: Europa

Author: Hywel Richard Pinto

Genre: Science Fiction

Publishers: Story Mirror

The closest I have come to read science and fiction together are books by the ‘Robin Cook’ who mixed medicine and thriller for his stories. And I loved his stories. Though in past few years haven’t read him.

I grew up watching television series ‘Star Trek’ with Captain Kirk and Mr Spock. It used to be a much awaited series every week with the crew of the space ship tele-porting from one place to other, fighting aliens and traveling non-stop in space.

It is with these kind of influences playing on my mind, that I started reading the book ‘Europa’ by Hywel Richard Pinto.

The book is very ambitious in its space travel story. Though the unmanned spacecrafts have flown past planets Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune but as yet no man has traveled and walked on surface on these planets.  The story of Europa however sees a crew of astronauts and biologists travel to Europa, the moon of planet Jupiter, in search of earlier mission survivors and collect samples from the surface.

The time that the space ship Europa takes to travel is over one year when most of the crew sleeps in life-sustaining pods. But two of the crew who have been planted by the crooks to do nefarious activities wake up earlier than others to carry out the plan. However surprisingly the captain and his first officer wake up too. Mystery shrouds the strange waking up cycle till the time other crew members wake up six months later. And then the discovery of a crew member’s death creates trouble.

When the crew lands on the moon of Jupiter, they come face to face with not only the previous mission’s survivors but also strange hypnotizing creatures who all have survived in caves of that moon which is surprisingly filled with pure oxygen and has a large water body.

Through various twists and turns the mission is accomplished and the crew returns to earth where the captain of the Europa mission has to answer a lot of questions about deaths of crew members during mission. The crooks meanwhile out of greed become each other’s doom and all ends well.

The book is high on imagination and sees continuous action without losing its grasp on story. The investigative court however seems to have not been given much thought and it ends abruptly. The part of story dedicated to assassins though written well but doesn’t really concern the mission. It is parallel and mentions the mission very marginally.The Indian connection of the assassin and his master was not really required.

The book also has some grammatical errors. Another big mistake on part of publisher may be is that pages 7,8,9,10 and page 66 are repeat pages. The problem this creates is that if you are involved in reading the story and suddenly similar text starts appearing, it breaks not only the rhythm but also confuses the reader for few seconds.

But even with such silly mistakes, the story is a good science fiction with thrill and suspense thrown in. Not a bad read.

Indeed a courageous and good effort by the author.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

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Fit At Forty

“Eat those greens” was the regular admonition administered by my doctor mom.  But who pays heed in childhood to well-meaning nagging of parents?

A year ago I weighed 67 kg.

Fat Forty at Golconda fort

For a person who had not put on any extra weight even after pregnancy, I looked fat. My girth was not at all flattering, my face seemed puffed up and I wasn’t really feeling confident. I had become laid back, my clothes seemed ill fitted and I looked ‘old’ to myself.

I had turned forty… An age they say to be naughty and flirty! But I felt fat and fifty!!

That is when I pulled myself together. I did not want to enter on other side of middle age huffing and puffing with pills and pains. I joined a gym…

It isn’t that I was eating junk all the time, but the nutritionist pointed out that my carbohydrate intake was definitely much more than the proteins and iron. While proteins help in building muscle mass, iron too is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in many bodily functions. Lack of sufficient amount of iron may lead to anemia, headaches, hair fall, brittle nails, breathlessness and even irritability.

Iron is important

I had no clue that my headaches could have been due to insufficient iron.

Found in two forms in foods, heme in animal products and non-heme in plants, the average intake recommended is 18 mg per day which may vary depending on age and gender of a person.

We women often suffer from anemia. Anemic women may even have trouble during pregnancy with mother’s anemia adversely affecting the fetus. With menstruation being added burden on women, we need at least 27 mg during pregnancy.

Meat eaters have the advantage over vegetarians as the iron content from animal products is easily absorbed in our bodies. Hence the vegetarians need to have more iron rich food and more frequently.

So now at 63 kg, though  yet miles away from an hourglass figure, I know where I went wrong. Besides a daily exercise routine, I brought some changes in my eating habits especially the breakfast.

Reduced weight gives more mobility and fresh look

Now my breakfast menu looks something like this:

Monday:   2 boiled eggs, 1 bowl oats garnished with almonds, colorful tutti-fruity, raisins, walnuts and sometimes banana slices.
Tuesday:   1 generous bowl of spiced boiled sprouted black gram and 1 boiled egg
Wednesday:  2 boiled eggs, 1 khakra
Thursday:   1 generous bowl of steamed spiced sprouted Moth and Moong (brown and green lentils)
Friday and Saturday repeat either of these. Sunday is for either poha, upma, sabudana khichdi or bread-omelette.

I also changed my dinner habits by eating smaller portions and twice a week I eat only sautéed broccoli and mushrooms. Some may however not relish these exotic vegetables, not to forget the exorbitant price these days. Legumes work best for vegetarians, if I may say so, both in cost and iron content.

Now Livogen, aims to educate women on importance and benefits of iron intake for a healthy lifestyle by sharing iron rich food recipes. So here is an easy recipe for vegetarians with cooked lentils.



  • Soaked sprouted whole moong (green lentil) 1 cup
  • Soaked sprouted whole moth (brown lentil)   1 cup
  • Ginger julienne 1 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds 2 tsp
  • Seasoning : Mustard seeds, Asafoetida, salt, sugar, green chilies, curry leaves, dry mango powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder
  • Oil


  • Soak overnight the two lentils. Drain excess water and let these sprout for a day. These can even be eaten as quick snack. (Quick snack recipe: mix raw sprouts with finely chopped onion, tomatoes, capsicum, spinach, chat masala, pepper powder, salt, pinch of sugar and juice of half a lemon).

    Sprouted lentils rich in iron

  • Pressure cook the lentils for just about one whistle to avoid over cooking. The cooked lentils should keep their shape.
  • In a pan heat 1 tbsp oil preferably mustard oil or olive oil for added advantage.
  • Add hing(asafoetida) and mustard seeds.
  • As the mustard seeds crackle, add curry leaves, green chilies, turmeric powder, pinch of red chili powder.

Season it away…less oil, just about spicy with sweet and sour taste to balance

  • If the spice in green chili is not very strong add red chili powder; aim is to prepare a breakfast which is easy for digestion and not that will burn your insides.
  • Add cooked lentils. Add a pinch of sugar or little more, salt and dry mango powder.
  • Add raw ginger julienne and raw cumin seed after the water is almost dried.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander(I did not have fresh coriander at home though) . Serve hot.

Usal, ready to eat

The best chefs also recommend cooking food in iron skillet for that iron content in food.

There are however some foods that reduce the absorption of sufficient iron which may not be totally avoidable but can be eaten in moderation. Similarly there are foods that facilitate the absorption of iron. White wine is one such thing.

So what are you waiting for?

Grab that bottle of bubbly, a bowl of sprouts or a roasted chicken and get your fill of the iron!

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Book Review: Then The Door Bell Rang

Book: Then The Door Bell Rang

Author: Capri Jalota

Genre: Fiction

Publication: Inkstate Books

Another book that has been long overdue for review is “Then The Door Bell Rang”. Reading through the blurb, I was little worried about not making it through the entire book…well I am not exactly comfortable reading about suicides and self harm. At least that is what I assumed the story to be.

I was only partially right.  The story is of ‘Jane’ with Indian father and British mother. Jane’s mother leaves her in her father’s care while she is still young and the failed marriage of her parents subconsciously affects her.

When Jane does fall in love with Uday and marries him eventually, she is not ready to mingle with his side of the family assuming bad vibes…all this because a letter from her mother elaborates the experiences her mother had with her in-laws in India.

Suddenly Jane is swallowed by grief as Uday meets an untimely death. It is then while going through his stuff that Jane learns more about Uday. She realizes that the ways Uday used to woo her were not his after all but of his dear friend, Rahul. She comes to know real Uday through a journal that her husband kept hidden in his cupboard.

An attempt, to later find Rahul and inform him of his friend’s death leads Jane to India where she gets to know her in-laws and meets another couple who help her in her efforts to locate Rahul. An untoward incident causes the death of the man who had been helping Jane hunt for Rahul. A panicky Jane runs back to Dubai without as much a courtesy call to the bereaved widow and the two little girls who had grown fond of Jane.

Years later, Jane does find Rahul with two young girls under his care. That the two girls belong to the man who helped her in Mumbai, makes her reach out to them. Events lead to Jane feeling lonely and suicidal.

As she finally contemplates to end her life, the door bell rings bringing her back from the brink and her world is completed.

The story many a times becomes monotonous and bit stretchy. Though the events in Jane’s life do take the story forward but I would have preferred if Jane’s interactions with different people were little crisper and tighter. The story doe not dwell enough on bond between Rahul and Jane which seems so minimal almost non-existent and stretched over a long period of time.

The story also wears a gloom in most part of the book.

However Jane’s self doubts and battle within herself make her look real and not just another fictional character. Her growth as a person because of various events happening in her life has been depicted very well.

The story is well written with good command over language and makes for an okay read. The story does have a happy ending but I prefer a more lighter atmosphere.

Read and decide for yourself if the book is for you.

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Of Bookworms and Jelly Bellies

 Book: Bookworms and Jelly Bellies

Author: Rajini Rao & Ruchira Ramanujam

Genre: Cookbook

Publication: Hachette India

You may call me pompous and a brag,  but I take pride in being a good cook. I don’t innovate or concoct new dishes but I do follow the cook book instructions to the T and hence have successfully hosted elaborate parties and several surprise visitors ‘bouncers’ as we call them in fauji lingo.

I have a hoard of cook books tucked away in kitchen shelf with tell-tale signs of spills and subsequent successes. So when this book arrived at my door step, I was quite excited.

The colorful cover even caught my daughter’s eye instantly. Looking at her eagerness to flip the pages, the title ‘Bookworms and Jelly Bellies’ aimed to attract kids of all ages lives up to its expectation.

There are very few cook books that solely target young cooks who are entering that curious phase of making something on their own and the usual cookbooks even have some recipes whose ingredients might not be easily available. The end product after following all the instructions most often does not even look like the big glossy picture. This one however aims to make kids love kitchen work. It looks real and comprehensible for kids.

Divided into various sections for age groups ranging from three to fourteen,the book has some cute recipes with varying degree of execution difficulty.  From a twisty curvy cucumber slices caterpillar to baked scones to pasta dishes all the recipes are easy and create a curious enthusiasm in the kid…well my kid is enthusiastic to try her hand out. So I assume kids her age would be too.

Another adorable twist in the cook book is this reference to children’s stories. Each recipe has a corresponding children’s book with little trivia for that fun element. So if the recipe is of  ‘cookies’ the corresponding story is ‘If You Give A Mouse A Cookie’ by Laura Joffe Numeroff…a recipe for ‘Avalakki Pavalakki’ has devdutt Pattanaik’s ‘An Identity Card For Krishna’ for company…’Chocolate Snow’ recipe is paired with Roopa Pai’s stories ‘The Taranauts Series’ and Asterix in Switzerland is obviously for ‘Cheese Fondue’ recipe which even I fell in love with!

What this book is doing is killing two birds(…not for eating!)… One it attracts the kids to try something new with new name perhaps and two, it introduces many story books which the kid may or may not have read and after seeing it here would be curious to read. So it’s a win-win for the parent, I suppose. I quite liked the idea of this cookbook.

Some of the recipes are even good for serving as snacks during parties that I host. Now till my daughter finds time to experiment and play little chef, I, myself shall start trying some of these for may be her tiffin!

The book is a wonderful experiment of putting up recipes with a spin. It would be good thing to have on your kitchen shelf.

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Book Review: The Aravan Head

Book: The Aravan Head

Author: Arvind Narasimha

Genre: Fiction

Publications: Inspire India Publishers

Amidst house shifting, setting up a home and travel I have lagged behind in reviewing some wonderful books that came my way.

Honestly, when the book The Aravan Head arrived, I had not heard of the character ‘Aravan’ from mythology though I knew of the related story. At the beginning of the story, I assumed it might be one where modern-day characters would be in some way related to mythology. But I was wrong.

The book however does introduce the hero of the story, Arya, with ‘Aravan Head’ as the backdrop. Arya, a cop is that super hero of Indian movies who does all the right things and escapes unscathed ninety-nine percent of times in the story. His character is unblemished, his attitude is rock solid but yet he has a softer side. He cooks well, he stands up for what is right, he respects women and he is handsome too…a perfect man who every woman would love to have around.

A series of events sends the super cop on trail of perpetrators. He goes undercover and stays at the farmhouse of the leader of underworld and discovers all his nefarious activities. Along the way he rescues an eunuch from clutches of criminals and falls in love with a shy pretty and simple girl.

In his pursuit of justice and bringing an end to criminal activities he puts up a tough fight. Of course he succeeds but pays a big price for his efforts.

Though the story is typical ‘masala’ movie kind of thing but what I liked about it is that the entire story line is knit tightly with no languishing moments. It is fast paced and keeps the reader engaged all through. The characters are well-defined and blend in the story seamlessly.

A well written story, it might as well be made into a movie which would definitely please the masses. The subtle emotional feelings and brewing love between Arya and Pavitra, the shy girl has been shown to blossom softly without unnecessary erotic presentation. The  end of story brought a little twist which was quite necessary to bring some realness to the human characters.

I loved reading the book because it kept me involved and eager to turn the page however, the perpetual success of the lead character became slightly predictable throughout the story but then again that is what the Bahubalis and Rajnikants of cine-world do…

All in all a mass entertainer. Go ahead and read if thrillers are your choice of weekend reading.

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Yaari Dosti….

अमीरी गरीबी से परे हो
अहं से न घिरी हो
शर्तों में न बंधी हो
जिंदगी के तूफानों से लड
लौ जिसकी न बुझी हो
दोस्ती वो निराली है
नखरे उठाती नखरे दिखाती
उसकी नोंकझोंक ही बडी प्यारी है
गुनगुनी धूप सी
मन हरा कर जाए
दोस्ती तो वही निभाने वाली है
गिनती के ही हों सही
अपने यारों की लेकिन
खासी ऐसी यारी है

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Book Review: Bhrigu Mahesh, The Return Of Damayanti

Book: Bhrigu Mahesh, Return Of Damayanti

Author: Nisha Singh

Genre: Thriller

Publication: Partridge Publications

Whenever I go to book stores, I invariably reach out to the mysteries and thriller section unless there is some super attractive history book that I was waiting for. Needless to say, crime fiction and thriller stories are my favorite genres for a leisure evening.

But the books that I have been reading in past few months were luke-warm as far as nail-biting thrill is concerned. I wasn’t really very sure whether I did the right thing by applying to review this book.

It turns out that I was wrong. Bhrigu Mahesh, the detective in “The Return Of Damayanti” by Nisha Singh reminded me of our very  own Vyomkesh Bakshi or the Brit pair of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.

A keen observer who analyzes every situation in detail, Bhrigu Mahesh is approached by a retired petrified clerk  with a strange request. The poor clerk is at his wit’s end as he is scared of the ghost of his dead wife and he wants Bhrigu Mahesh to get rid of the ghost. Intrigued at this odd request, Bhrigu Mahesh drags his friend and confidant Sutte to the village of Krishnadwar. As is his habit he observes all the people closely related to the household of the clerk to zero in on the culprit who has been troubling Natraj Bhakti, the clerk.

As he contemplates, Natraj Bhakti’s sister is murdered and the story takes a sinister twist. Investigations lead Bhrigu Mahesh to the mastermind who for satisfying his weird experiment on human behavior has been manipulating unsuspecting people into doing out-of-ordinary acts that lead to eventually killing.

Though this is not a fast paced action story yet strangely the narration doesn’t bore you and you don’t feel like skipping anything. Story meanders through the lanes of the village and grows on you with little details hidden in the narration. Characteristics and habits of the people involved become evident subtly in the story. The friend of detective, Sutte, provides interesting breaks in the narrative by showing his annoyance about the village facilities and Bhrigu Mahesh’s habit of slipping into thoughts.

What I liked about the narration was that all the suspects of the ghost mystery and later of the murder are treated equally which keeps the reader guessing who the murderer was or who was troubling Natraj Bhakti with ghost activities. The culprits that emerge after complete investigations and deliberations of Bhrigu Mahesh are a surprise for the readers.

Even the title presents a mystery. Reader becomes curious to find who Damayanti is. While the reader is getting used to the idea of story revolving around a paranormal phenomenon, the sudden twist gives a new dimension to the story.

There could have been though more details of the house and village to complete the picture in the mystery. The house, the murder scene and the temple where the god-man instigated ordinary folk seem little less connected. Even the room which Nataraj Bhakti built for himself is described to be little away from the haunted room so I wondered how the clerk knew about ghost visits.

But in all the book is an engaging read. Readers who find thrillers interesting will enjoy this. Have a read.

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