26 June, 2022

Burying Eva Flores by Jennifer Alsever - [Book Review]

 Book Details:

Title: Burying Eva Flores

Author: Jennifer Alsever

Genre: Paranormal suspense, Middle-Grade Fiction, thriller

Publisher: Sawatch Publishing

Print length: 386 pages

Source: Review copy from the author





Blurb :

Everyone thinks I killed Eva Flores.

Sure, I hate how everyone was over the moon about her TikTok fame. And I suppose I got a little bit carried away with vengeance when she tried to ruin my life.

But seriously, when my friend gave me that leather journal, I’d never had so much power in my life. It was intoxicating. Who wouldn’t have done what I did to Eva?

Now everyone thinks that just because she vanished in the forest after a party, that I killed her. That the blood on the jackets is proof. Or the text messages. The slightly weird thing I had with Eva's dad. The fire.

The whole thing is far more complicated than you’d think.

What happened to the horribly obnoxious, very complicated Eva Flores? I can't really say.

Perfect for fans of Holly Jackson and Karen M. McManus, this book will grab you and won't let you go!

Purchase Link:


My Review :

The new high school girl in the town and a TikTok influencer Eva disappears suddenly. Eva's dance moves on TikTok videos attract many and so, she is popular with many fans. 

But, no one could understand how the rivalry started between Eva and Sophia Palmer. Sophia is not an attention seeker and loves fixing cars. She is opposite in character to Eva. When Eva's stepdad Manny is seduced by Sophia, everyone thinks that Sophia is jealous of Eva and trying to destroy her life.

But, these high school students are after all kids with their shortcomings, insecurities, and fears. Who can be trusted and who not? Who has more secrets that the outside world is not aware of? What reveals from the investigation of the disappearance of Eva Flores is the remaining story.

The story doesn't seem very complicated as you read my review, but the author definitely made it unpredictable and engaging. The book is unputdownable and the characters have many layers which surprise readers.

The Magic Journal which makes everything written in it true in real life makes the story mysterious. I liked the climax where humanity wins. 

I loved the book cover. Amazing design and completely apt. The title cannot be better than that. This is my first middle-grade fiction and I had never picked a book of this genre earlier. I am glad I accepted to review this copy. 

I would recommend this to middle-graders and high schoolers. 

My Rating:

5/5

About the Author:

Jennifer Alsever is the Colorado-based young adult author of Extraordinary Lies and the Trinity Forest Series, which includes Ember Burning, Oshun Rising, and Venus Shining. She is also a national journalist who has contributed to such publications as Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.

Check out her books at www.jenniferalsever.com and www.TrinityForestSeries.com.



Until next time,

20 June, 2022

The Gardens and Sculptures - Zilker Park & Umlauf Sculpture Garden in Austin, TX

 Here it is - My Latest travelogue from Austin.

Zilker Park came on the top of the list from the suggestions of friends on places to visit in Austin. Umlauf Sculpture Garden has some good reviews too, but our visit was a coincidence.

Starting our travels this summer, we drove downtown on a Saturday noon to visit Zilker Park. We weren't sure where to park, thus, we drove towards a parking lot opposite Umlauf Sculpture Garden, which is also the parking for Barton creek swim area.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum

The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum is an art museum and an outdoor sculpture garden, with the artistic works of an Americal sculptor - Charles Umlauf. This garden is adjacent to Zilker Park. 





This peaceful 6-acre garden has over 40 sculptures set under shady native Texan plants. The area is serene and very relaxing. 









Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for students below 13 years. Parking is limited but there is free parking available on the opposite side of the road.

 Zilker Park

This 351-acre park is the most loved park in Austin. But, beware, as it's always crowded.





Entry is $5 per car. The place is popular for botanical gardens, Barton Springs pool, fields for volleyball, disc golf, and nature trails.

We can also board the mini train called Zilker eagle which circles the park. Zilker hillside theater, Mcbeth Recreation center, and Zilker nature preserve are some other attractions.








I loved strolling through the rose garden, herb garden, Japanese garden, and Hartman Prehistoric garden. We also loved the Woodland Faerie trail which will be on display every year till August. Every year Faerie architects create homes for fairies. Aren't these mini-homes artistic?










Hope you like these photos. Let me know in the comments how they are!

Until next time,





Linking this to #MondayMusings hosted by Corinne at everydaygyaan.



14 June, 2022

Top Gun and The Great Indian Kitchen #MondayMusings

 It has been 3 weeks since we returned from India, still, our brains are set in Vacation mode. Not our fault, when we are pampered so much by the family members :-)

We took one week of complete rest watching just movies and tidying up the home. Overcoming Jet lag also took around 5 days, so you can guess that one week has gone so quick.

So, this post is about a relaxing week that we had and 2 movies that I watched.

Top Gun

Have you watched Top Gun by Tom Cruise? It's an old movie of course, but fortunately, I managed to watch it along with my kids. 80's movies are much different than our current movies. We all loved it. The plot, actors, photography, and action scenes are very good.





Since Top Gun: Maverick (sequel to Top Gun) is released the same week, we all watched our first movie after covid in a theater. It's a great experience. The first half is a little slow like 80's movies but it slowly catches up in the second half. 

The combination of emotions and action is well depicted. Like everyone else, I also couldn't see much difference in Tom Cruise when compared to part 1. Part 1 spirit is maintained and emotions are carried from it.

It is not that easy to explain war strategies to the movie audience in an engaging way with emotions. Top Gun team has done well in that aspect. The background score is a big plus to the movie. 

Overall, a must-watch for anyone who loves action with emotions. 

The Great Indian Kitchen

This movie is on Netflix and you can catch it in Malayalam with English Subtitles if you haven't watched it yet.

What's the movie about?

There are only a few characters and the female protagonist is an educated lady who enjoys classical dance and teaching. It is her story of trying to be a submissive wife married to a person in a traditional Kerala family. Like any other bride, she tries to adapt to new customs and traditions but reaches a saturation point atlast. 





This is directed by Joe Baby and it is critically acclaimed for the way it is bang on patriarchy and the rules set for women in the majority of traditional families.

This movie talks about many subtle things about patriarchy that women can relate to. Cleaning the dirty dining table , washing the dishes, mopping the floor, cooking, and performing Pooja in the evening.. there is no end to the list of tasks that we see the protagonist performing.

The movie also touched on the traditions related to menstruation. The age-old practice of sleeping on the floor during periods, and not being allowed to touch anything, etc., The scene where the woman is scolded for trying to help her husband get up when he falls from the bike sparks our thoughts on why menstruation practices are considered more important than taking care of another person.

I also liked the way the movie ended. The man marries another woman and our heroine takes out her anger on her in-laws and starts her life as a dance teacher as she wanted to. It feels bad that the man marries another woman, but that's how society is and the movie didn't try to hide the truth for a good climax.

Overall, it's not an entertaining movie but a natural movie that Indian women can very well relate to. This movie tries its best to show the ignored unpaid work done by homemakers with a zooming lens.

If you are an Indian woman, then it's a must-watch. If you don't prefer natural movies with social issues, this is not for you.

Until next time,

 




Linking to #MondayMusings hosted by Corinne at everydaygyaan.com






27 March, 2022

Gratitude List

 It's been a long time since I wrote a Gratitude List. But, it's better to be late than never!

So, here it is - My Gratitude List for 3 months :-)

Gratitude List





A Move to Warm weather

Moving from a place after living 5 years is not very easy. Though change seems scary at the beginning, I am glad that we took that step to move to a warm place. 

I have put my health on high priority which is the main reason for the move. I was mentally prepared to move to Austin from Colorado Springs by December and was planning to celebrate the new year in the new place.

This mental preparation took some time before December.  The good thing about me is that I don't waver from my decision / don't think negatively after the decision. I usually prepare myself for the impact of the decision.

This move proved to be good for my health and also for a lot of other reasons. I am grateful to all my friends, colleagues, and students in Colorado Springs where I made many great memories in my life.





New Beginnings and Change

I am grateful that the new beginnings and changes are not as painful as I expected them to be. 

Work:

I happily transitioned to my new work at office due to a supportive team and manager. My team made the transition smooth and I am thankful to God for the opportunity to learn a new programming language. It's really interesting and challenging to learn Kotlin, Appium, and mobile testing. Being promoted to the next level is an added bonus of course.

Dance School:

I am grateful to the temple committee of Sai Baba Temple, Austin for giving me an opportunity to teach Kuchipudi in the temple. I am also grateful to the Parents and students who enrolled in the dance classes here. I settled quickly in the new place and started dance classes from March itself. I am also thankful to the students who are continuing their online classes from Colorado.

The best is yet to come regarding dance classes and I am very excited to train students in Austin, TX.

House:

I loved the house that we live in. We watched the house only once through video chat and I didn't expect it to be perfect. We faced some problems initially but we all loved the house as well as the location. We could walk to the park and a lake nearby. Kids are enjoying biking and playing in the playground nearby. We could find art classes and a Library not very far from here. 

I am really grateful to the old friends from Colorado Springs who moved here one year before us. Their guidance and help are much appreciated. 

Health:

I didn't achieve much but I am happy to be staying nearer to a park where I can go for a walk any day. I could start my Yoga classes again though I could join only twice a week. Due to dance classes, Yoga, and walking, I feel fit and happy. 

Reading:

I have been reading a lot of books lately. I am enjoying my reading time every night before I sleep. I didn't get time to review them on my blog, but the recent one - Inner Trek by Mohan Ranga Rao is impressive. 

If you want to see all the good books that I read, here is my Goodreads link. You can follow me there.


How is your year so far? we will complete our first quarter of the year soon. Should I say this as My Quarterly Gratitude list? 😁

Until next time,



22 March, 2022

Inner Trek : A Reluctant Pilgrim in the Himalayas by Mohan Ranga Rao - [Book Review]

 Book Details:

Title: Inner Trek: A Reluctant Pilgrim in the Himalayas

Author: Mohan Ranga Rao

Genre: Non-Fiction, A travel Memoir

Publisher: Coriander Press (November 30, 2021)

Print Length: 248 pages

Source: A free review copy from Rachel's Random Resources



Blurb:

After being threatened by a Bangalore mob boss, a retired Indian businessman Mohan Ranga Rao makes a vow: if he somehow gets out of the situation, he will thank the gods by going on Kailash Mansarovar, a holy mountain pilgrimage in Tibet. What starts out as merely a challenging high-altitude trek soon becomes a life-changing adventure. With a blend of humor, honesty, and keen insight, Mohan journeys toward a deeper understanding of the world around him.

A memoir of a road less traveled and a true story of self-discovery at 18,000 feet.

“A modern Canterbury Tales, telling of a fascinating real-life adventure.“ Dr. C Naganna, University of Mysore

“A heartwarming read; a spiritual adventure.” Anuradha Goyal, The Mouse Charmers

Purchase Links:

Amazon

Amazon -UK




My Review:

Inner Trek is a travel memoir of Mr. Mohan Ranga Rao, a businessman in Karnataka, India. The book is specifically about the Mt. Kailash Parikrama (Circumbulation) and the visit to Manasa Sarovar lake. This trip is considered holy and auspicious by many religions including Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.

This trip is not only sacred as Lord Shiva's adobe, considered a once-in-a-lifetime experience but also very dangerous due to the unpredictable weather at high altitudes.

The author mentions in the prelude itself that he is not a religious, but a spiritual person and he is taking this trip seeking an adventure. Eventually, he experiences a spiritual inclination at the end of the trip. He feels insignificant and small leaving all his ego before the majestic mountains in the treacherous trip.

The trek around Mt.Kailash covering 52 km in 3 days through the highest pass Dolma La reaching an elevation of 18000 ft above sea level is an impossible task for a normal person without fitness. Even for a fit person, the high elevation, and less oxygen might become dangerous if they are not acclimatized to the altitude.

What do I like?

I usually don't read non-fiction and I don't quite enjoy that genre unless it feels honest. I liked this book as I felt the author's experience was genuine. Unlike some biographies/memoirs that gravitate towards boasting about their good qualities, the author of this book focused more on the Mt Kailash trip and his experience keeping the unnecessary details to a minimum.

 Like many other Hindus, I also learned and read a lot about Mt.Kailash and this impossible trek. The mystery of the mountain attracts me to learn more. I am happy to have read this book and to know about the weather, sherpas helping the trekkers, treacherous conditions affecting the trip, the people visiting from places around the world, the beauty of nature and the experience of people who could complete circumambulation, etc.,

The photos printed in the book and the maps gave an idea of the trek and helped me to imagine the beauty of the place. By the end of the book, I was elated and had the great satisfaction of knowing about the myths, legends, and facts about Manasa Sarovar. The book is riveting throughout and I never felt bored reading it.


A few snippets that I liked from the book:







There is nothing that I didn't like about this book. It gave me immense satisfaction and I would recommend this book to many other readers who love to read about Mt Kailash and the experience of trekking the Manasa Sarovar. I would also recommend it to the readers who want to know about this life-changing adventure and the spiritual significance of this holy pilgrimage.

My Rating: 5/5

PS: I have received this print copy from Rachel's Random Resources in exchange for a review and this is my honest opinion on the book.


About the Author:

Mohan Rango Rao is an accomplished businessman, an avid traveler, and a generous philanthropist. He has visited over thirty different countries and is drawn to places of natural beauty and physically challenging trails. He plays tennis daily, takes frequent hikes, and reads anything from scotch labels to quantum physics to Vedanta.



Until next time,





26 February, 2022

The Oasis on Lake Travis - Austin, Texas - Photo Post

 The Oasis Restaurant on Lake Travis in Austin, Texas.

A Photo Post

















Until next time,


21 February, 2022

Chalk Ridge Falls, Belton - TX - A Travelogue

Chalk Ridge Falls Park in Belton is 1 hr away from Austin TX near Still House Lake Dam. This park is free to enter and hike. It has a waterfall, suspension bridge, wooden bridge, water access, and hiking trails. 

Pin it for Later!





Here is our first day trip in Texas.

Chalk Ridge Falls Park

We were looking for a simple, un-crowded place for weekend hiking with kids. Chalk Ridge falls is really a fun place to hike with kids. The parking area gets full mostly on weekend, but people park along side the road. Restrooms are available at the entrance.

Hiking

The park has around 2.5 miles of hiking trails. Not a well marked trail, but we walk alongside the creek and it is easy to find the waterfalls. We can reach the falls in 0.6 miles itself, but the trails continue further.



Chalk Ridge Falls








The hike is very easy. There is a swinging suspension bridge near the falls, which is cool to walk and experience it. Kids loved it. 

Iam not sure if the water is good to swim, but the water is warm in February. Good to wet our feet and relax. 


There are some viewing platforms on the trails to see the creek alongside. The blue and green colors of water are amazing.

The trail is mostly shaded and easy for kids. The place is serene and good to hike in Spring / Fall. 

The park is open daily from 8 am to Sunset. It is free to enter.

Still House Hollow Lake

The Park is just below the Dam.

We drove through the Dam after leaving Chalk Ridge Falls park. The views of Still House Hollow Lake from Dam are wonderful. We couldn't stop, but there might be a viewing area / park. Still House park is closed, but there is some lake access as we could see many motor boats on the lake.

We would love to visit the Lake some other day when the Still House park is open. I think, the park has some elevation and nice views of the lake. 

Still House Hollow Lake

If you are in Austin and looking for a quick hike which is not crowded, do check out this Park. Let me know how do you like it in the comments.

Until next time,



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