E-/audiobook reviews: non-fiction
Korma, Kheer and Kismet
by Pamela Timms
This is writing to gorge on, filled as it is with descriptions that will sate the senses. Pamela Timms allows her taste buds to lead the way in Old Delhi, although at times, like many expatriates in India, she is felled by the heat and worried about hygiene. However, when she joins a gastronomic group, Eating Out in Delhi, it’s time to get stuck into the best the city has to offer, and that means food found in the bazaars and lanes. No professional chef can compete with street vendors who have been making the same dish hundreds of times a day, often for decades, she writes, and persuades a few to share their recipes, which are included in the book. Not all reveal their secrets, though: after posting a recipe on her blog for a decadent kulfi (ice cream) found in Sitaram Bazar, she realises she’s been duped: if the dessert really required five grams of saffron it would surely be sold for more than 25 rupees (HK$3) per serving. Timms receives helpful tips from a fellow foodie, Rahul Verma, and ventures to Amritsar, among other places, for one of many memorable binges.
Cinderland: A Memoir
by Amy Jo Burns
(read by Jorjeana Marie)
In the 1990s, in an industrial town on its last legs, a group of 10-year-old girls accused their piano teacher, Howard Lotte, of having sexually molested them. In this cinderland of Mercury, Pennsylvania, a town already on life support further punished the victims by ostracising them. But it wasn't just the seven brave children who suffered. One of the girls who kept quiet about what happened, Amy Jo Burns, shows how all paid a price, albeit in different ways. In the youthful voice of Jorjeana Marie, she tells how those who lied to the police developed guilty consciences and waited for the day when they would be exposed for the crime of not speaking out. Lotte's supporters, who preferred to believe the seven girls had conspired to ruin his reputation, dealt with his accusers severely: the backlash forced Burns' best friend and family to leave town. Friendships were also rent between those who kept silent. The author takes readers back and forth in time, revealing the consequences of early decisions: every stare from a man, for example, engendered worry.
Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole
by Dr Allan Ropper and Brian David Burrell
St Martin's Press
Developing amnesia brought on by sex; being unable to feel emotion; losing the faculty of speech after a colonoscopy - these are some of the many seemingly implausible ailments Allan Ropper has encountered as a neurologist. His job, which presents him with sick brains, is to try to get patients out of Alice in Wonderland-type rabbit holes in which nothing is as it seems. As he and writer Brian David Burrell show, it's only by engaging the person, taking into account their symptoms, listening to intuition and looking for objective signs that a neurologist can rescue patients falling down that hole. Readers who enjoy Oliver Sacks' case studies will be gripped by this book, despite its tendency to wander and, at times, challenge the average reader with medical terminology. The authors also present "fake" problems where people make false claims of illnesses for various reasons. The chapters on Lou Gehrig's and Parkinson's diseases bring reality home: fans of Michael J. Fox, Ropper's patient, will understand better what the actor is going through.