29 March, 2020

Sealed by Naomi Booth - [Book Review]

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Book Details:


Title : Sealed
Author: Naomi Booth
Genre: Horror, Suspense, thriller, Psychological literary fiction
Print Length: 240 pages
Publisher : Titan Books
Sold by : Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Source: A copy from the local library




Blurb:


Sealed is a gripping modern fable on motherhood, a terrifying portrait of ordinary people under threat from their own bodies

Heavily pregnant Alice and her partner Pete are done with the city. Alice is haunted by rumors of a skin-sealing epidemic starting to infect the urban population. She hopes their new remote mountain house will offer safety, a place to forget the nightmares and start their family. But the mountains and their people hold a different kind of danger. With their relationship under intolerable pressure, violence erupts and Alice is faced with the unthinkable as she fights to protect her unborn child.

Timely and suspenseful, Sealed is a gripping modern fable on motherhood, a terrifying portrait of ordinary people under threat from their own bodies and from the world around them.


Purchase Link :


My Review :


I am very picky when I have to select some random books from the library. I always scroll through best sellers or read the blurb and decide. The blurb and cover of this book seemed interesting.

Sealed is a psychological thriller. The suspense lies in many aspects - the plot, a disease with unknown reason, the narration of the story, the characters, the scenes, the environment etc., I really liked the narration. At a few places, the thoughts of the protagonist itself are spine chilling. 

The story starts with Alice and Pete moving to the quiet mountain town away from city life, planning to start their new life with baby. But the fears of the past are not easy to forget. 

Alice who used to work in a government office is haunted by the events, people and her investigations related to a disease 'Cutis' which seals some parts of the body making people die. The reason is not known, but Alice finds through her investigations that the disease might be due to air pollution, heat waves, chemicals etc., Wherever she goes, whatever she eats, she is concerned and scared about catching Cutis. 

To add to the problems, she is heavily pregnant and there are no medical facilities in the place they move. Without even a working phone line or internet connection, she is isolated. Pete strikes off her anxiety as pregnancy hormones and she doesn't have anyone to clear her doubts about her current state of body and mind.

The story takes some unpredictable turns after this and there are shocking scenes in the climax. The ordeal she has to go through alone makes us numb with shock. 

I liked the suspense and narration. I would have loved to read an epilogue or prologue about Cutis. If you love mystery and psychological fiction, you will love this.

My Rating : 4.5/ 5

Until next time,






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Sealed by Naomi Booth - Book Review






26 March, 2020

Route 13 : Highway to Hell - [Book Review]

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Book Details:

Title: Route 13: Highway to Hell
Authors: 
Varadharajan Ramesh (Goodreads Author),
Srivalli Rekha (Goodreads Author)
Priya Bajpai (Goodreads Author)
Meha Sharma
Sarveswari Sai Krishna
Ell P
Anshu Bhojnagarwala
Venkataraman Ganesan
Kanika G. 

Tina Sequeira 
Jaya Pillai, Sreeparna Sen, Yatindra Tawde 
The Hive
Genre: Horror
Print Length: 290 pages
Publisher: The Hive
Source: A free e-review copy from the author




Blurb:


What happens when 13 writers of horror are trapped in a bus on a stormy night?

They try to outdo one another with blood-curdling, spine-chilling tales. Read these riveting, terrifying tales, where the authors themselves become the characters.

Be warned; it is Route 13- a highway to hell. Will you survive the journey?

Trigger warning: This book contains scenes of abuse, violence, death, rape, and swearing. It includes instances of children being harmed.

Note: The stories are written in US and UK English.


Purchase Link:

My Review:

I love horror and short stories as well. This book is a collection of 13 unique horror stories. But, I should warn you that it is not for children and there are certain scenes related to rape, abuse, and violence in some stories.

The book starts with different authors traveling on a bus getting bored about passing time until they reach the destination. So, each author recites a thriller/ horror story one after the other to pass time. What happens to the Bus and the passengers on that dark rainy night is a suspense.

Stories :


Welcome by Sarveshwari is spine chilling but it is disappointing that we can't understand the reason behind the happenings in the story.

Pastel of the past by Priya Bajpai is beautiful with enough twists and a great climax.

Ill-conceived by Meha sharma felt wonderful. The story is unpredictable and had good twists.

The silver beast by Srivalli Rekha is interesting and emotional as well. I loved the narration and pace.

Old McDonald had a farm by Varadharajan Ramesh is a supernatural revenge story that is awesome though gory.

The Haveli by Anshu B is real with emotions. Not very scary to me but I loved the way the author explains the Rajasthani dishes, culture, and houses as part of the story.

The Artist by Yatindra Tawde is quite a creepy and unique story. Enjoyed reading it.

The adventures of a Virgin by Tina Sequeira
Wow! This is dark, intense and mysterious with unpredictable twists in the story.

Macabre melody by Sreeparna sen
I enjoyed this story. It is like a moral story that we read in childhood but not that scary.

Memory of a face by Kanika G is a scary one based on suppressed memory. The mind plays really dangerous games!

The case of Seance by Ell P
Oh my God! This story is my favorite from this book. A perfect horror, best narration, and a climax like a bang.

The following 100 word stories are nice and worth a mention.

The Environmentalist by Shwetha Bose, Mistaken Identity by Pavi Raman, Nurse Elena - Riddhi Katira Bhatti, The Spirit - Moonmoon Chowdhury, Forbidden - Natasha Sequeira, and The Specimen - Seema Taneja.

Overall, this is an interesting collection of horror stories that you might enjoy on a lazy day. The book cover is great. The climax is good. I wish, a few stories are scarier.

My Rating: 4/5


PS: I have received a review copy from the author and this is my honest opinion on the book.

Until next time,





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Route 13 : Highway to Hell - Book review





21 March, 2020

Top 10 Activities to engage kids at home

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 Due to #CoronaVirus, work from home policies for Parents and schools being off to kids, it's becoming stressful for parents to engage kids for the whole day and also manage work and home.

 The current situation seems like this #SelfQuarantine will stay till April end or the worst-case till August.  The main question is how do we engage kids all these days without them being bored?





Like all other mothers, I have been collecting a lot of information on Educational apps, interactive online learning programs, different activities and exploring the family movies as well from the past 1 week. 

So, Here is the list that I finalized which might help you as well if you have kids around 5 to 8 years of age.


Top 10 Activities to engage kids at home


1. Educational Activities / Apps
2. Entertainment
3. Games
4. Creative Fun
5. Books
6. Free Play
7. House help and Learning
8. Hobbies or Learning New skills
9. Physical exercise
10. Cleaning up and Recycling

I have divided all activities into these 10 categories. There might be a bit overlap between each one of them, but they sure make your kids busy and engaged.


1. Educational Activities / Apps

Top 10 Activities to engage kids at home
PC: www.pixabay.com


Recently, all our social media exploded with shares on Global learning resources and apps for kids both free and paid. I have got a big list which I collected from multiple sources.


Online resources:

- BrainPop
- Curiosity Stream
- Tynker
- Outschool
- Udemy
- iReady
- Beast Academy (Math)
- Khan Academy
- Creative Bug
- Discovery Education
- Adapted mind 1-month free trial
- Scholastic Resources
- Freckles
- Lexia

I am sure you can find a lot of other resources as well online. 2 to 4 hrs a day on these platforms might be good to engage them.

2. Entertainment


Why can't this #SelfQuarantine be some fun? There are a lot of good Children and Family movies in multiple networks/channels. I need not tell much if you have Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription. Options are a lot.

We are watching one good movie a day these days and here are some of our favorites:



  • A Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • National Treasure
  • Indiana Jones - All parts
  • Jumanji
  • 2012
  • Monster House
  • Back to the Future - All parts
  • Bee Movie
  • Leap
  • Chicken Little
  • Kungfu Panda - 2 parts
  • Hotel Transylvania - All Parts
  • Trolls - All Parts
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • Up
  • Incredibles
  • Bolt
  • Richie Rich
  • Spiderman
  • The Karate Kid
  • Gnome Alone

The list is soooo big to type here. We also watch some good Netflix series. Read this post to know our favorite from Netflix

One more option is unlimited free videos on Youtube. Youtube has some educational and learning options as well. Here is a list of good options from youtube

3. Games


We have many options for the card and board games to play at home as a family. While games like Scrabble and Monopoly take hours and hours, it is easy to get kids engaged for a long time. Chess, Checkers, Ludo, Chinese Checkers, Battleship, UNO, Zenga etc., ensure fun. 

We also like word building, anthyakshari, spending time on legos, building blocks and all other toys from cars to drones.

We don't encourage games on phones and tablets to avoid strain on the eyes. 


Top 10 Activities to engage kids at home
PC: www.pixabay.com

4. Creative Fun


I love spending time making crafts with my kids. I feel Origami is easy to follow and learn quick. I usually search for craft ideas on Pinterest and try to make them. We use a lot of waste material for crafts like Egg cartons, toilet rolls, pistachio shells, Ice cream sticks, straws, etc., 

Check this awesome book to get ideas on crafting and my review here.




Got this book for review and we are yet to try all the Origami exercises in this book:



Also, check these craft related books from Amazon:






5. Books


Fortunately, we could go to our local library before it's closed due to #CoronaVirus and get some good books for us. If libraries are closed, try downloading some books on Kindle. There are many free books available on Kindle.


Top 10 Activities to engage kids at home
PC : www.pixabay.com


We enjoy reading books every day for at least 1 hr. My elder one even reads out stories to the younger one. I feel so proud of watching their interest in books.

I loved this cursive handwriting book. My 8 yr old practices cursive writing with the exercises given in the book.



This book is very useful - 300 write and learn sight words for my 5 yr old.



Logic puzzles for Clever Kids by Molly Lynch is very useful for my 5yr old to work on puzzles on his own without my guidance.




Got this book for review too - Creativity for Kids by Trisha Riche. It is lovely and detailed.


We just started reading this Holiday Stories by Ruskin Bond and these stories are amazing!



So, those are some book suggestions from me. Check it out!


6. Free Play


We need not be organized and go by schedule every day right? So, we leave our kids for free play at least 2 to 3 hrs a day. They do a lot of imaginative play as well. Since they cannot play hide and seek or tag inside the home, they build castles with pillows and blankets and imagine ruling in a kingdom.

They build cities, roads, structures with legos and building blocks and play treasure hunts. I am happy that they think creatively when they get time for free play. Once, they built tankers and created a war scene with soldiers and canons. Cool, Isn't it?

Top 10 activities for kids
PC: www.pixabay.com


We just came out from a walk around our apartment and they enjoyed a snowball fight. Never underestimate the free play as it is good for their imagination.


7. House Help and Learning


I never helped my mom in my childhood. But, I don't want my kids to make this mistake. Fortunately, they have an interest in learning cooking and helping me with chores. 

My kids can make cheese sandwiches, popcorn in the microwave and eat their snack when I am busy. The elder one wanted to learn to make an omelet but I am telling him to wait for one more year. Nowadays, setting up the table for dinner is completely their job. They are able to help me in the laundry and bring hangers while arranging clothes after laundry.

Since we are at home now as schools are closed, I feel this is a great opportunity to teach kids some life skills. Don't you agree?



8. Hobbies or Learning new skills


We all love painting. So, I usually play Youtube painting tutorials and encourage my kids to paint. I am also teaching my elder one the technique of Zentangle. My younger one is still 5 yrs, but there is a lot of material available for them to paint like animals, birds etc., with step by step instructions on youtube. We also enjoy coloring.


Top 10 Activities to engage kids at home
PC: www.pixabay.com


My kids are learning Spanish in school, so we are watching Beginner level videos to improve on that. I also teach our mother tongue Telugu at home, So they are working on learning that language at home. My next plan after 2 years is to start teaching the Hindi language. 

My elder one is learning music too and I believe, the arts like Dance and music should be introduced to kids right from 6yrs of age. These will help them in improving their focus and memory in the long term.


9. Physical Excercise


Physical exercise has hit hard after schools are closed. How can I ensure kids get enough physical exercise at home?

One option that we can consider is yoga / Aerobics. If we cannot take them to swimming classes, at least we can make them do aerobic exercises or yoga. Simple warmup exercises like jumping jacks and stretches might help too. Anybody using skipping rope these days? 


Top 10 Activities to engage kids at home
PC: www.pixabay.com


10. Cleaning up and Recycling 


At last, since schools are closed, we got time for some cleanup. Many old toys that are not being used, which are damaged, cannot be fixed or which will not be played again are sorted out and separated. Cleaning up of toy room is the biggest task always for me. This time, both kids participated in the activity and finished it successfully.

We are also working on a few things that can be sent for recycling - old batteries, plastic bags, old clothes that can be donated etc., I think, everybody should spend time on this activity. 

Cleaner rooms, Fewer items, less clutter implies Peaceful and Happy home, right?

So, these are my suggestions to keep kids engaged at home. Any more ideas? Please do share in the comments.

Until next time,






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Top 10 Activities to engage kids at home
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17 March, 2020

A Day at Carlsbad Caverns National Park #NewMexicoTrip #Day2

Read our #Day1 Travelogue of New Mexico trip here.

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is unlike any other caves. These caves were formed 20 - 30 million years ago in Guadalupe mountains. Around 110 caves were formed with stunning formations due to the mineral-laden water seeping through the fractures of ancient limestone sedimentation. 

Geologists found that sulfuric acid played an important role in the dissolution of all Guadalupe mountain caves.

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Our whole New Mexico trip was planned around spending more time exploring Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument. So, we decided to stay one night at Whites city to start early to the caves and explore the caves with full energy after breakfast.


Caves open at 8 AM itself. Since we were visiting the Caves with 2 kids - 8 and 5 yr olds, we had to plan enough breaks. 

We have booked the only one ranger-led tour which allows 5 yr olds - The King's Palace tour. We booked this tour online at least 2 weeks ahead. We reached the Visitor Center by 9 AM. Roamed around to understand the geology of park through the exhibits, took the map and Junior ranger guide material for kids. 


The King's Palace Tour


By 9.45AM, we reached down through the elevator to the starting point of the tour. The King's Palace tour is a 1.5 hr tour which takes us through 4 highly decorated and stunning chambers of the cave. The elevator takes us down to around 700 ft underground. 



The guide was very knowledgeable and explained the different types of formations like Stalactites, stalagmites, draperies, columns, popcorn, and soda straws. 




She also explained how Jim White found this cave, explored in those days and worked to make this beautiful place open to the public. We were amazed at the dedication of national park service in preserving these delicate and stunning formations inside the caves.



This tour was very informative and it was like a good starting point for us. 




The Big Room Trial


The Big Room trail is the trail going through the largest cave chamber and it is a must-visit. The trail is relatively flat 1.25 miles which goes through all unique formations in the cave. 

It took around 1.5 hrs for us to complete this trail and there are no restrooms in between. Restrooms are available near the elevator at the starting of the trail though. 



Kids were too tired after this trail and so, we headed back to the visitor center through the elevator. We had a tasty traditional Mexican lunch in the cafeteria. The food was great.



Now, we were left with the famous Natural Entrance trail. We knew this will be the toughest trail with kids, especially with our 5 yr old. Hiking up the trail is too difficult, so we settled to hike it down after lunch. 


Natural Entrance Trail


I wouldn't say it was not tough, but it was the most memorable trail in the caverns for us. We struggled, took breaks, huffed and puffed but it was completely worth it.



This 1.25-mile trail was extremely steep and took us down to 750 ft. It was amazing in all aspects. We took a lot of photos on the way to the Big room. We returned back to the visitor center through the elevator.

We visited the Caverns in Feb, so we missed the bat flight program. I heard it is amazing to see all the bats flying outside together in the evening from August to September. The park even arranges to sit in the amphitheater for the bat flight program. 


Here are some quick Facts about Caverns:



- There are 120 known caves here by this time.
- The caves are at 56 F throughout the year
- There are at least 17 species of bats in the park. The most famous one is the Brazillian free-tailed bats.
- Lechuguilla caves are famous (the deepest limestone caves in North America), but not accessible to the public and only open for research purposes.
- Apparently, the bat pop - guano was a powerful fertilizer and people used to visit these caves to mine the guano and export it.
- If you know the famous movie 'The Journey to the center of the Earth', you might realize that some parts are picturized in these caves!

Now, that you know about Carlsbad Caverns National park, don't miss it if you are near Texas, New Mexico or Colorado. 

Until next time,





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11 March, 2020

From Fostercare to Millionaire by Cody McLain - [Book Review]

Book Details:

Title : From Fostercare to Millionaire
Author : Cody McLain
Genre : AutoBiography, Parenting & Relationships, Memoir
Print Length : 332 pages
Source : A free print copy in exchange for a review


Blurb:



Cody's story offers all the components you'd expect from the success story of a young entrepreneur with Aspergers-motivation, drive, perseverance, focus, and passion. 

You might call it a rags-to-riches tale, and you wouldn't be wrong. But that here-to-there narrative is only the top layer. 

Cody's story unfolds to reveal a narrative that is more complicated and yet simpler, more central, to the human experience. 

What remains is the story of a boy, burdened like all of us with deep wounds and great gifts, searching for a purpose. What remains is a story that will inspire readers to find their true calling and work like hell to achieve their dreams.

My Review:


I am usually not into biographies and memoirs, but I loved this book. This is not preachy but genuine. 

Cody's life is an inspiration to many and this book sure motivates us. Cody's story proves that when there is a will/desire, there will definitely be a way to achieve it. Irrespective of multiple failures, with very little family support, no good friends and no educational support, Cody achieves success in his business through hard work and perseverance.

While we see that these generation kids disappointed by small failures and give up so easily, this book will surely be a motivation for them. 

What I liked?


The narration is genuine, authentic, inspiring and we could really feel what's happening in Cody's life. It is motivational to read about someone who didn't give up even after he fails in the business which he builds from scratch. For any other person, it is a big deal to overcome this and start anew. 

The photos of the people and places in the book helped with understanding the circumstances better. 

What might have been better?


The whole book is good except for the last 2 chapters. The last chapters felt like they were written in a hurry. I would have loved to read more about what happened after selling the company. 

My Rating: 4/5

PS: I have received this book for free in exchange for a review and this is my honest opinion on the book. 

About the Author:


After starting his first company at the age of 15, Cody has gone on to start a string of successful (and unsuccessful) businesses, many of which grossed millions. 

Today, Cody is the founder of SupportNinja, a company which employs hundreds of people worldwide and services some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. He has been featured on Forbes, Mashable, Entrepreneur and more for his expertise in Entrepreneurism, Productivity, and Outsourcing.
Until next time,




05 March, 2020

White Sands National Park, New Mexico - A Travelogue


This post is the first part of our #NewMexico Family Travelogue. Read my post about the Top 5 places to visit in New Mexico, before this post. 

White Sands National park is around 500 miles from Colorado Springs. So, we decided to start driving from Thursday afternoon and reach Albuquerque by night and relax for the night before visiting the park. 

On the way to Albuquerque, we stopped at Santa Fe for dinner. If you love South Indian food, don't miss eating at 'Paper Dosa' restaurant in Santa Fe. We all enjoyed a hearty meal with Dosa and uthappam. Even the interior and decor are simple and pleasing. 

Paper Dosa






We reached Albuquerque by 10 Pm and relaxed for the night. The next morning after a full breakfast, we started our drive to White Sands. The drive is around 3.5 hrs from Albuquerque. So, we had lunch near Alamogordo, NM and reached around 2PM to White sands national park.

White Sands National Monument

White Sands is the world's largest Gypsum dune field. With white everywhere, even our eyes strained a bit. The dunes were white with soft sand. Fortunately, it was cloudy on that day with no/ less breeze. So, we had a lot of fun sledding on the sand.

White Sands national park is located in a dessert in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico. Around 100 million years ago, the water evaporated here leaving behind the deposits of salt and gypsum. 

As per Wiki,


The Sacramento and San Andres Mountains, with the Tularosa Basin between them, took shape approximately 250 million years ago. Giant upheavals in the Earth's crust distorted the land along with the gypsum deposits, forcing them high into the air about 70 million years ago. Rainfall and melted water came from the mountains causing the gypsum to percolate out and the concentrated solutions were washed down the mountainsides. The gypsum solution accumulated in Lake Lucero, the lowest part of the Tularosa Basin. Water in the lake does not have any means of escaping except by evaporation, which leaves behind thin layers of crystallized gypsum, or selenite. Weathering then reduced these crystals to fine, sandy grains. Winds then carried the grains farther up the basin, and the grains piled in steep dunes that often reach as high as 15 m (50 ft). The winds carved more dunes and, while at the same time, carried small amounts of the gypsum grains by distances of up to 9 m (30 ft) a year.


This constant movement still occurs today, and with the added alkaline and the little amount of rainfall makes it difficult for plants to grow here leaving the desert as desolate as it appears today.

The Visitor Center has many exhibits about the sand formation. $25 is the entry fee for each vehicle. You can get water only at the visitor center and, there is no availability of food and water inside the park. There are many picnic areas inside, so we can pack food and eat. Restrooms are available at the Visitor Center. The native plants of Chihuahuan dessert at the Visitor center are interesting!
 
Dunes Drive


We took the map, bought a sand sled, wax cube and started our drive. Dunes scenic drive is an 8-mile loop that goes into the heart of the White sands. There is sand on the road as well. At the starting of the scenic drive, there is a boardwalk built to walk and watch the dunes. We took some photos there, learned about desert life from the information posted.

Sand on the way too



The Rangers told us that the place where the drive takes a loop is good for sledding. With sunglasses ON, we walked, climbed on the dunes and enjoyed the sledding. Time went quickly and I would say, Kids easily spend 2 to 3 hrs on dunes by sledding.

Huge dunes of soft sand for sledding


We went on a cloudy day, but I suggest not to forget Cap, sunscreen, and sunglasses when you visit Sand dunes. Bring more water!!! There is an option to buy sleds and return them to get a few dollars back at the Visitor Center gift shop. We also bought a wax cube. By rubbing the wax cube on the sled, it slides better. 

These Picnic areas are so stylish!


We specifically wore bright color clothes just to look bright on a white background on all our photos. We had such a memorable experience and Kids enjoyed it a lot.


Our next stop was to Carlsbad. We took accommodation at White's city near Carlsbad Caverns national park. This decision was really helpful as the hotel was just 15 mins away from the entrance of the cave. So, it was easy for us to reach Caves early the next morning. 

Carlsbad is around 3.5 hrs from White Sands national park. We came through a route crossing a curvy road and mountains through Cloudcroft. The drive was beautiful and scenic. My next post will cover our travelogue on Carlsbad and the remaining New Mexico trip.

I hope you like my travelogue!

Until Next time,




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