Posts Tagged ‘multi-cultural books’

The main character (MC) in my current WIP (Work-In-Progress) loves Mango Lassi. Her dad, who is the better cook in the family and who also happens to be putty in my MC’s hands, makes it for her whenever she craves it.

This version of the recipe has been customized for my MC’s tastes. Basically, it’s simpler to make, but tastes as good as the original. :=)

Owing to its colorful personality, this drink lends itself very well either for a lazy summer afternoon or a rollicking garden party.


Mango Lassi
(Mango Milkshake)



¼ cup Mango pulp (available in tins at specialty Indian grocery stores)
½ cup milk (skim or 1% will do)
½ cup buttermilk
a pinch of salt
a few cubes of ice


Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly in a blender. The mango pulp usually comes sweetened in the tins. In case it is not, you can sweeten the milkshake using half-a-tablespoon of sugar.

It is as simple as that and makes about 3 servings.

To make this less heavy and more like a punch, dilute it by adding ½ a cup of Sprite or Club Soda to the milkshake.


In case you’re interested, here’s the recipe for Aloo Subzi (Potato Curry), also from my WIP, that I posted last summer.

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Here are the first two installments: Whodunit -1 and Whodunit – 2

This three-part series has been my version of a shout-out to all my ‘sisters-in-crime’ – thank you, for having my back!!     

More of those amazing mystery series around:    

  • Southern Sisters Mysteries by Anne George: This author herself reminds me of Miss Marple. The humor in these books is sharp as a blade, and you never have a chance to recover from one farce before another is lobbed at you. The contrast (on all fronts — physical, emotional and behavioral) between the two sisters, Patricia Anne and Mary Alice, is just hilarious, and it lands them both in the funniest of pickles imaginable. I only wish that the author had lived longer to churn out some more of these gems – call me selfish!


  • Rei Shimura Series by Sujata Massey: This is set in modern-day Japan (at least half of the series, after which the author moved the whole setting to America – go back to Japan, Rei!!). Rei is an antiques dealer who finds herself in the most bizarre (and sometimes compromising beyond belief, during which the author finds it necessary to give the reader lurid and intimate details that only act as needless distractions for me) situations and sets about solving the conundrums behind them. The author does a wonderful job of introducing the cities and towns of Japan and their customs in a seamless fashion, thus making the books very attractive to me.


  • Ellie Quicke Mysteries by Veronica Heley: Taking place in a nondescript modern-day suburb of London, it features Ellie Quicke, a widow, who is coming into her own and finding her ‘self’ after being a wife and a mother forever. She lives in the coziest of houses, whose backyard borders the green on which her church is located. Throw in an insensitive daughter, a bossy aunt-by-marriage (who constantly reminds me of Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations), demanding church co-patrons, and two fervent beaus and you have a winner. Watch out, though — this author can actually wring your heart with her direct, yet sensitive, treatment of some of the subjects (such as pedophilia and domestic violence) in these books.


  • Benni Harper Mysteries by Earlene Fowler: Benni Harper and her husband, Police Chief Ortiz, enjoy one of my very favorite relationships in all the novels I read. It is so sweet, yet so complicated like any ‘real’ relationship. (I’m not much of a fan of those books that depict relationships as if they can thrive and coast along without any bumps. C’mon, how real is that? Which relationship ever gets to the point of complete complacency? Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.) Anyway, Benni is a horse-riding real, live cowgirl (and stubborn as a mule when it comes to solving crimes). And you can’t help but love her sassy 70-something grandma, Dove, who is like a tablespoon of nutmeg in eggnog. This series has an underlying theme of quilting and folk art, which I love reading about.


  • Melanie Travis Mysteries by Laurien Berenson: This involves single-Mom Melanie Travis (at least for part of the series) and her travails in life. Because of her steamroller of an aunt, Peg, who is an authority in dog (standard poodles) breeding, Melanie and her son, Davie, find themselves owners of a poodle and busy dog show participants before long. As the titles of the books indicate, dog-show-world is where Melanie gets embroiled in mysteries, which she manages to unravel time and again. Even if you’re not up to the challenge of breeding and showing dogs yourself (or, especially in that case), you may just vicariously love to lose yourself in the fast-paced and muddling life of Melanie, like I did. Give it a try!


And this is only the tip of the iceberg. I could do a whole ten-part series if I wished to cover all the mysteries I’ve tried and liked over the years. (No, I won’t. Please don’t run away!)    

Btw, Happy Valentine’s Day (Sunday), everyone!! I’m not much of a red roses and balloons person, so that’s all I’m going to say about the subject. Besides, who needs pink candy when one can have black coffee?    

I know it doesn't look like much in the picture, but it is really a lot for those of us who try to make snowmen out of the few flurries that stick to the ground


P.S: Where I live, it doesn’t usually snow. But it did all day yesterday and some into the night resulting in a 10 inch accumulation (the highest in the last 100 years). Standing at my window, I feel like C.S. Lewis’s Lucy about to step into Narnia.    



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Meet ‘Blue Billi’, an amateur detective. Does she remind you of another feline in bubblegum pink? She should! They’re cousins, you see, and sleuthing runs in the family.


 Here’s the first installment of mystery series that I like: Whodunit – 1 

To continue my list of must-read mysteries:         


  • China Bayles Mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert: China is an ex-criminal lawyer who gave up the rat race to retire to the small town of Pecan Springs in the hill country of Texas, near Austin, where she runs a small herb store called ‘Thyme and Seasons’. Almost against her will, she continually finds herself embroiled in murder and mayhem, which her left brain cannot help but pursue until they’re solved. Impractical, whimsical and new-age loving Ruby,China’s best-friend, adds color and contrast to the super-practical China and her exploits. What’s not to like about this combination?


  • Sano Ichiro Novels by Laura Joh Rowland: Set well in the past – in the 16th century Japan teeming with warlords and samurai – you get to see a Japan (and world) in these books that you may not have chanced upon anywhere else. San Ichiro, a samurai and a detective, finds himself getting ever closer to the Shogun and the tangle of political intrigue that surrounds him. Ichiro gets married, a little into the series, to an intelligent woman (with nuances of an almost 20th-century feminist), who begins sleuthing against her husband’s wishes, thus adding tension to the already pulsating drama of the series. Sometimes, though, the icky factor on the physical side of the relationships seems almost gratuitous to me, and I put this series aside for awhile. And then I begin to miss the amazing imagery and the enigma enfolded into every page, and I run back to the library for more.


  • Miss Marple Mysteries by Agatha Christie: This series doesn’t even need any introduction. I like this series better than any others that Christie has managed to spin in her lifetime. The unassuming granny-like Miss Marple and her sharp wit are so much in contrast with each other that it is a downright winning combination. The episodes when she uses her doddering appearance shamelessly to her advantage are just scrumptious. And being the sucker that I am for high-teas and the English countryside, this has always been one of my favorites.


  • Goldy Culinary Mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson: One of the few culinary mysteries that really caught my imagination. Goldy Bear, a divorced single Mom (at least for part of the series), is trying to bring up a son and keep herself afloat and her sanity intact, all the while fending off a violent ex-husband. This is set in the exotic Rockies of Colorado, where Goldy runs a catering business. She finds herself, along with her best friend Marla Korman (now, how they both become friends is in itself an absurdly hilarious thread running through the whole series), entangled in many a murder-web. And just reading through the detailed recipes that Davidson includes in these books makes me feel full and soporific, like the little rabbits in Beatrix Potter’s ‘Peter Rabbit’.


  • Aunt Dimity Series by Nancy Atherton: Aunt Dimity is a ghost with a quirky sense of humor and a strong sense of honor. She almost makes you wish that you’d encounter a phantom or two in your own lifetime, if they all promise to be cousins of Aunt Dimity in how she conducts herself. Apart from the mysteries themselves, the beautiful location of the village of Finch and the idiosyncrasies of the various characters living in it make for a delightful read. Don’t forget to make yourself a pot of tea before you sit down with a book in this series.


  • Amelia Peabody Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters: Amelia Peabody is a Victorian archaeologist/Egyptologist who digs alongside her husband, Emerson. This series takes place in England and Egypt (mostly the latter) at the turn of the 20th century. The author is quick-witted and has an incisive humor, which Peabody embodies, naturally. The situations in which this couple (and later the next generation) finds itself are always larger-than-life and can happen only in books, but you still can’t help but embrace them. The only beef I have with the author: the cloyingly-sweet love that Emerson exhibits towards Amelia sometimes grates on my nerves. (Not a very appropriate thing to say in February and that too this close to Valentine’s Day, is it? But, there you have it.)

To be concluded on Friday…

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Ugh! Why did I have to go and make that promise so prematurely? I gave you word a few days ago that I wouldn’t do music clips in my posts, right? Now, I’m absolutely regretting it.

I’ll just depend upon your innate goodness now. I know how annoying it can be when you have to make allowances for other people’s ineptitude, but could you humor me just this once?

As you read this post (and the next two), could you please imagine the original score for ‘Pink Panther’ in the background? There’s a dear! The personality of this post just begs for that theme.

With that taken care of, what is it with mysteries and human nature? What draws us to the inexplicable and the unknown? I have no idea. (Hey, I never told you that I have an answer!)

I myself am a self-confessed mystery buff. I love books that deal with sleuthing and crime-solving. However, I have some stipulations to liking a mystery:

  • The person who has managed to get himself killed should be neatly dead and cold by the time the detective arrives at the crime scene. I’m not for those books in which the murdered, gasping and squirming, scribbles an enigmatic message in his own blood on the pristine white walls of his room before he finally croaks.


  • There’s shouldn’t be much happening at the scene in terms of blood and gore that the author feels compelled to describe in detail to the reader. Trailing entrails and oozing plasma? NO!


  • I can take it when the average Joe, or Jane, turns out to be the murderer, and that too only because they were sort of cornered into it. Depraved souls like serial killers and mass murderers? Nope, definitely not for me, thank you! I have a very impressionable imagination and I like to sleep, even if only occasionally, at nights.


  • If the book has some (multi-)cultural elements weaved into the storyline – especially those that I haven’t had a chance to come across personally in real life – then that book becomes a must-read for me.

Without further ado, here are some of the series I like and why I like them (in no particular order).

  • Mary Russell Novels by Laurie King: This is one of those many series of books that tried to resurrect Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. What sets this series apart? To begin with, Holmes is taken away from his habitual 221b Baker Street in London and plonked in the countryside. And the books manage to breathe life into Holmes in a whole different way: in these novels, he is as close as he can get to being a regular human with regular emotions, even if his intelligence is as other-worldly as ever. (We wouldn’t even want it any other way, would we?) But, there is this delightful twist — Holmes takes a backseat in this series to his protégé, Mary Russell. She matches wits with him again and again and comes up on top most of those times. An intelligent series that takes the two protagonists, and hence the reader vicariously, detecting all over the globe.


  • Constable Evans Mysteries by Rhys Bowen: Evan Evans (yes, you read that right – looks like ‘Evan’ is a very popular Welsh name) is as unassuming as protagonists could get. The simplicity of life in the village of Llanfair located at the foot of Mt. Snowdon (and the imagery used in the descriptions) makes me ache with the desire to go live in that village. Every book in this series leaves you with a good feeling about the world in general, notwithstanding the murder(s) that Evans solves in them. This author is extremely prolific. She has two other full-fledged mystery series in her kitty: Molly Murphy Mysteries set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century and A Royal Spyness Mysteries set in the 1930s London. She does justice to both the settings with élan and ease. It is hard enough to write one long-running mystery series without repeating yourself and the plotlines. To do three of them? That is just mind-boggling to me! If truth be told, I’m a bit jealous of this author, even as her vast talent enthralls me.


  • Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn Novels by Tony Hillerman: I don’t have enough superlatives to talk about these novels. They are set in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The protagonists, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, work for the Navajo Tribal Police and solve crimes in that area, all the while subtly educating the reader about the customs distinctive to each of the Indian tribes in the area. The stark, parched beauty of the southwestern desert comes to life in these books like it must never have done before. Medicine men, skinwalkers, shapeshifters, witchcraft — there is something to cater to tastes of every kind in these novels.


This post will be continued on Wednesday, to be concluded on Friday… What am I to do? I told you I like my whodunits!

You might have noticed how I snuck it in – yes, I’m going to post only every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from now on. Even though I joked about not pacing oneself and keeling over, it is a serious possibility in this multi-tasking life. So, I’m really trying hard to proactively find a better balance in all the things I do in a day. So, please bless me, and more importantly, keep coming back to visit me!!

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"To go first or not to go first": That is the question with which the two protagonists of my tale are grappling this morning...



“Finally, you are awake!” Meenagchi exclaimed, as she skipped into my view. “Come on, slowpoke, take this neem twig and clean your teeth.” She held out what looked to me like a small, dark-brown stick in her hand. “Mother refused to let the rest of us have our morning meal until you were up.” She stuck her lower lip out. 

This is a dialogue from my book. (Are you going: “Who talks like that?” The girl who’s talking is from a long time ago in the past — that’s why her speech pattern is quirky and different from ours, and that’s what makes her interestingly different from us, in my opinion, at least. I don’t want to give too much away, because I’m saving parts of my book for another series of posts for a later time.) 

Okay, I have a confession to make: the anxiety of not having any coherent thoughts to write about that I alluded to in my previous post? It’s not an entirely fabricated fear — you know, me being new to this blogging and everything? So, I’m currently hoarding up all the subjects I can think of, sort of like squirrels storing away nuts for the winter. Yeah, that’s what it is: survival instinct! (I just made the connection, too, and my brain has ordered the italics.) There! I feel much lighter, now that I put it all out there… 

Now, where was I, before I digressed and went all over the map? I know I had a point… Oh yeah, those lines at the top. One of my friends who is reading my book, read that scene and sent me an email yesterday, asking: “They are brushing their teeth before they eat?” 

That question just nonplussed me! “Of course they are” was my automatic answer, before my mind suddenly coughed up a memory from about fifteen years ago, when I first came to the U.S… 

I was watching T.V — reruns of “I Love Lucy”. I love that show! Even though I have watched every episode at least twice already, I can still never walk away from an episode, if I come across one while channel-surfing. Oh, wait! Another possible subject for the future – record, check, move on… 

So, I was watching T.V and a commercial for a breakfast cereal came on — I don’t remember which one it was after all these years. In that commercial, they show the kids running down the stairs in the morning with alacrity, sitting down at the kitchen table to gobble up their cereal, and then walking back upstairs to brush their teeth. When I first watched it, I smirked and thought: “The editor for that commercial made such a faux pas and nobody caught it. Now they are airing his blunder every day.” 

Seriously, it never occurred to me that people would eat their breakfast before brushing their teeth. See, where I come from, the very first thing everyone does after waking up is brushing their teeth. We don’t even have coffee on a stale mouth (as a pre-brushed mouth is referred to, colloquially). I can safely say that this is true of almost every country in the Indian subcontinent. (Please correct me if I’m wrong – would love to hear yeas or nays about it.) 

That’s why that commercial flummoxed me, before I came to understand that it was my view – for where I was living by then – that was skewed. And I definitely began to pay better attention to the happenings around me after that. 

See, this is why I love reading books based in different cultures. They are my little windows through which to peek at how the rest of the world lives. (Oops, did that actually come out sounding like the confessions of a Peepin’ Tom? Let me assure you, I’m definitely not one – I don’t have the nerves of steel that are required of one, to begin with.) 

As a reader, I’m always on the lookout, whether in children’s or adult literature, for multi-cultural books. That is exactly why I am writing one, too – in the hopes of getting someone else to experience the same amazement that I do every time I discover one of these little quirks that make us who we are.

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