Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Review: Of Fear and Faith by ND Jones

One of the books I had the pleasure of reading during the month of February was "Of Fear and Faith" by N.D. Jones. This is the first book of the "Death and Destiny" trilogy. I accepted this book for review because it sounded so different from anything I have read before. I am a huge lover of mythology - I grew up hearing tales from Indian mythology and much of my own writing has been heavily influenced by these stories. When I was older, one of my favorite college classes was a world literature class. Most of these myths were from Asian and European countries. Unfortunately, I have had limited exposure to African mythology, which is why I was very excited to learn more.

The prologue hooked me right from the first sentence. The author set the scene beautifully, describing the ancient land of Yoruba, and the legend of the Fire and Water witches who would be born in 500 years.  Once I finished this intro, I couldn't put the book down.

In the next few chapters we meet the main couple, special agent Assefa and Sanura, a psychology professor; as well as some of the supporting characters - Sanura's mother Makena, her godfather Mike (who is also Assefa's partner), and her ex boyfriend, Richard. The introductions are very well done and the characters are fleshed out well. Mike and Assefa are investigating the murder of a couple in their own home. Mike suspects that there is something unusual about this crime, so he asks his goddaughter to weigh in. Here we get our first clues that the main characters are not quite human.

Of Fear and Faith has a little bit of everything. It is a well written love story and compelling mystery. It has drama and horror and includes various paranormal creatures. The relationship between Sanura and Assefa develops at an appropriate pace, and the love scenes were well done. The various mysteries in the book kept me eagerly turning the pages.

My only qualm is that I felt that Richard's secrets, which were revealed much later in the book, felt like an afterthought. I would have liked a bit more insight into this character and the reasons for his actions in the book.

In technical terms, the book is well written with no noted typos. I am looking forward to learning more about the ancient legends of the fire and water witches as well as seeing how Sanura and Assefa's relationship progresses. I would be interested in reading subsequent books in this series as well as other works by this author!

My Rating: 4 stars. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Chai Time Buzz # 2 - "Snowpocalypse" Edition

Hi Guys,

Being snowed in has been a blast this weekend! I'm a lover of winter, having been born during a snow-storm. Below are things that have "struck my fancy" while I was holed up in my apartment.

Featured Wine: 

"The Seven Deadly Zins" Old Vine Zinfandel from Michael David Winery in Lodi, California.The wine is a blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah Grapes, and it is delicious. Probably one of my top 5 wines. Although I tend to be a Malbec girl, I'm glad I gave this one a try!

Featured Recipe: 

Sorry for the terrible picture! I made crispy quinoa patties with yogurt sauce this weekend, courtesy of the website "Sally's Baking Addiction". They were easy to make and delicious!

Here are the links to the recipe:
Quinoa Patties
Yogurt Sauce

Featured Song: 
Like I'm Gonna Lose You: Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend

The "All About That Bass" singer WOWED me in this beautiful slow song, accompanied by the always wonderful John Legend. I didn't realize she was hiding such a beautiful voice! The video itself is also very cute, showing relationships of different kinds. Not only do they show romantic relationships which include gay couples, interracial couples, and disabled couples; but they also show other kinds of love, such as the relationships between a young woman and her grandmother, and another woman and her newborn baby.

Featured Show: 

I recently started re-watching Scrubs, the medical comedy-drama by Bill Lawrence, which follows the lives of residents and other employees at the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital. Of all the medical shows out there, Scrubs will always hold a special place in my heart for its accurate description of how it feels to be an overwhelmed resident dealing with illness and death lurking around every corner; and despite it all trying to find time for your own life.

Featured Photo (s): 

Location: Ben Franklin Bridge, December 2015, Philadelphia

I took this picture on an outing with my family to Philadelphia last month. I am by no means a skilled photographer, but I am rather proud of this picture! Philadelphia never ceases to amaze me with its beauty.

Location: Thailand

This is a picture of my younger brother scuba diving in Thailand. I am insanely jealous of his adventures this winter!

I'm having difficulty linking to the original photo as I saw this on instagram but this hauntingly beautiful picture of DC (the city that will always have my heart!) during the recent storm was taken by Nick Cobbing, a photographer for National Geographic. Here's a link to the National Geographic Instagram Page.

- Etsy: I recently bought a picture from artPause, who resides in the UK and sells beautiful pictures of skylines from all over the world!

- Stitch Fix: I would HIGHLY recommend this website, especially if you are a busy career woman. Stitch Fix has you take a style quiz, and then each month (or less frequently depending on your preferences), will ship you five items to try on based on your style preferences. You can keep as many items as you want and Stitch Fix will only charge you for those items you keep. If you don't keep any for that shipment, they will only charge you their stylist fee ($20). If you keep all 5, you get a 25% discount. Shipping is free for whatever you choose to return.The service is convenient and perfect for someone like me who hates going to the mall. When I return things, I give the stylist feedback, and I can definitely see that reflected in my next shipment. So far I've gotten four shipments and each one has gotten better than the previous shipment.

Use my referral link to sign up!

-Dear Wendy: an advice blog that I've been following for many years. Wendy is smart, blunt and to the point. Her advice (and advice from her readers) is always worth a read.

-"Before I Go" by Paul Kalanithi, a young Stanford neurosurgeon who recently died of metastatic lung cancer. His memoir, "When Breath Becomes Air" was published this month. I just downloaded the audible version, so stay tuned for my review.

Enjoy! And send me interesting links you find from around the web!


Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (Audible Version)

Happy "Snowmaggedon" everyone,

Hope you are staying warm. I finally finished Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (audible version). Before I begin my review, lets take a brief detour and discuss audiobooks.

Growing up, I always preferred the smell and feel of paperbacks. I remember huddling under my covers with my lovingly worn copy of The Little Prince or one of the Harry Potter books, hoping my parents wouldn't come in and find out that I was still awake, and ruin my fun.

As I got older, and the age of the iPad was thrust upon us, I became used to the convenience of my Kindle app. I have downloaded tons of Kindle books. Without the popularity of Kindle, my blog wouldn't exist. As a busy student and now resident, I don't really have the time to go to the library and check out tons of books (although I will always have a fondness for libraries and I'm so sad that many of them are closing down). I also don't have the money or space in my apartment to make frequent trips to the bookstore. Kindle books are cheaper and provide me with an easy way to take my library on the go. Sadly, the busier I get, the harder it gets to sit down to read. Additionally, I spend a lot of time on the road, driving back and forth between the state that I currently live in and the state I consider my hometown. I spend tons of time in traffic. I have been also making a more concerted effort to get out of my apartment during my free time - to go out and explore, go on dates, and sign up for classes (i.e. kickboxing, which I highly recommend). All of this involves more driving or using public transportation. Audiobooks are a very convenient way to listen to books while I'm driving. Additionally, with the right narrator, my enjoyment of the book is taken to a whole new level.

I am very glad that I chose to listen to the audiobook version of Modern Romance, narrated by Aziz Ansari himself! I knew very little about Ansari before reading his book - I haven't watched any of his stand up routines, or his show "Master of None". That is about to change however, because I found him to be insanely funny and I found his book to be very relatable.

Modern Romance explores how love and what people are looking for in a relationship has changed over time, as well as why the advent of online dating has made it easier to find love in some ways, but has also made it extremely difficult.

In one early chapter, Ansari discusses his parents' arranged marriage as well as the love lives of residents at a nursing home he visits. Although the concept of arranged marriage seems so foreign to many Americans, you can see through his conversations with the nursing home residents that their marriages weren't that different. In each situation, the couples approach the relationship with a practicality that is often missing in modern relationships. Their decision on whether or not to marry is based on whether the other person is a good "fit" for reasons including upbringing, family, and personality. Not once is the concept of the "spark" mentioned. Not once is the phrase "true love" spoken. Of course, not all of these relationships can work out and by no means am I a "strong proponent" of arranged marriages. However, it is food for thought, especially when you compare it to the struggles of dating in the modern world. As someone who has been actively dating for a few years, I have to say that it is extremely aggravating for many reasons, but the main reason is because of how hard it is to predict whether a conversation will lead to a date, or whether a date/dates will lead to a worthwhile relationship.

People come up with all sorts of ridiculous dealbreakers in the modern dating world. Ansari makes fun of this when he describes a young man he interviews who doesn't think one woman is a good match because she likes a sports team that he hates. This is of course an extreme example, but in modern dating, potential couples and established couples fight over stupid things like bands or tv shows, or over a text message or post on social media. Sometimes the dealbreaker is a physical "flaw,"  i.e. the other person is too fat, too tall, too short, etc. Race, religion, occupation, etc. of course will always play a big role. And after all this, sometimes things fizzle fast and without warning for no rhyme or reason. You may connect online and have some good conversations, which never lead to a date, not because they don't like you, but because life happens and people get preoccupied. Ansari also brings up one MAJOR problem with modern dating and the use of dating apps - the fact that we have so many options. Who would settle down with one person when Tinder, Match, Coffee Meets Bagel, etc. promise you that you can find someone hotter or smarter? These apps hold the promise of "true love" and "the one". How could any human being resist? The problem of never being completely satisfied will always be part of the human condition and thanks to this, dating has become a nightmare.

In other chapters, Ansari discusses infidelity, the concept of "ghosting" (which is when someone disappears and stops talking to you, which can happen in my experience after a few dates or a few months, but as some of the examples in Ansari's book show, can even happen after years!). He also travels to Buenos Aires where men don't take no for an answer; to Paris, where mistresses are commonplace, raising the question of whether monogamy is actually necessary for a successful relationship; and to Tokyo, where the women are becoming increasingly frustrated with the passive or "herbivore" men who require constant reassurance to work up the courage to even speak with a woman.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at this stand up comedian's thoughtful approach to the perils of Modern Romance. The book is well-written and funny. Oftentimes, I found myself laughing nonstop at a conversation with a young single, or one of Ansari's ridiculous scenarios such as an imagined affair between his girlfriend and Tyrese Gibson, who really does have a Benihana-style restaurant in his backyard (he invited Ansari!).

My Rating:  5 stars

I look forward to reading more by Ansari, if he chooses to publish another book. In the meantime, I will be enjoying Master of None. Thanks to the Great Snowpocalypse of 2016, I binge-watched all of the episodes yesterday, and will be reviewing the show shortly, along with Meet the Patels, a movie that I didn't really like, but is worth reviewing because it hit a nerve (actually several nerves) with me, as a young South Asian woman.

Stay Tuned and Happy Reading!