My India Experience… here in Howell.Part 1

Two posts in one day!  But I had to write about the wonderful experience I have had in the last several months.  Since I am the owner of a bookstore, I travel though my books.  Kinda like a Staycation that is so popular now in our hard economic times.  Actually, I have not been on a real vacation for two years now.  But, don’t feel sorry for me, it has been my choice to run my business and stay open.  I could have closed a year ago, worked another job, made some money, gone on a vacation, but then I would not be here right now blogging about my new experiences.

It started a year ago.  A new restaurant opened in Howell called India Gate.  I’ll be honest, I was little surprised that an Indian Restaurant would open in Howell.   My only experience with Indian food was when I was in New York City in 2004 on my bookstore trip to meet publishers.  The other bookstore owners and myself choose to go to “Wicked” on Broadway (second day it was open).  There was a special at an Indian restaurant to buy tickets to the show and eat at their restaurant.  I don’t remember too much of the meal.  I am an adventurous eater and I am sure I liked the meal.  In my memory now, the only thing that comes to mind is how awesome the show “Wicked” was.  Through time, the Indian meal faded.   So, in August of 2008, India Gate opens.  I was ecstatic that there was a new restaurant, with new cuisine, that was near by to my home and business.  I took my daughter, Bailey, out for dinner and to a new adventure.

As Bailey and I approached the restaurant for the first time, we could smell the wonderful aroma coming from the front door.  Bailey choose to go with me because she is a vegetarian and there are many well- known vegetarian dishes in Indian cuisine.  We were greeted at the door with not only the aroma of spices but of incense that was burning near the entrance.  This restaurant in its former days, was a pizza parlor.  When my children were little, we came to have pizza and grinders sometimes just as a family or with a group of friends.  The kids could run around while us adults could chat and eat.  So, upon entering this new restaurant of new cuisine, I was pleasantly surprised by the decor.  White table clothes, candles in burgundy beaded holders, a border wall covering in a stylish design, pictures on the walls that didn’t take over ones attention, and in general, a pleasant atmosphere.  Bailey glanced at me and I at her that we approved and there was no sign left of anything pizza.  We were seated at the corner table, which I believe was the last one before having to wait for the next table.

We were given our menu to peruse.   We were glad there were so many patrons that felt the same about having a new place to dine.  We checked over the six page menu many times quickly, when the server offered a hot white towel to clean our hands.  Oh my, what a great touch!  I think at that moment for me, many memories came back to when I was young and was offered a hot towel at my favorite seafood restaurant in Detroit.  I so gratefully took the towel, as did Bailey.  Next we were offered a small sipping glass of rose water to cleanse our pallet.  Here I was in Howell, of all places, being treated as a royal guest.   A small appetizer of crisp chips with two dipping sauces were next in the small parade of gifts that were offered to us.  Then the daunting task of  choosing our meal came next.   The menu was divided into drinks, appetizers, Tandoor and vegetarian, curries and breads, paneer and biryani and lastly of Indo-Chinese and desserts.  Being that it was my first experience to order from this menu, I selected what I was familiar with in my past experience, saffron.   I have made many Spanish dishes, especially paella with saffron.  I love the scent of this spice and so it was the lure of saffron that I picked chicken biryani, basmati rice with spices and marinated chicken with a hint of saffron.  Bailey’s selection was baingan bharta, oven roasted eggplant, mashed with onions, tomatoes and spices.  Our appetizer, of course, was vegetarian, samosa chaat.  You are probably wondering after all these months how I remembered the exact events of this meal.  I often bring this to my attention when I read a memoir, how is it that this person can write about what has happen to them with such fine detail.  Now I know.  It is because it has made quite an impression on my five senses and has become a passion.

As Bailey and I waited for our appetizer to arrive and we nibbled on the crisp chips , we tried to guess our sauces.  Each was unique to our taste buds, minty, fresh with a flash of spice and the other a tamarind sweet flavor.  We looked about us to see what others were eating.  The table to my right in the front corner I noticed happened to be customers from my bookstore.  The parents had brought their three children no older than 12 with them.  How wonderful it was to see that they had introduced their kids to this unique food in Howell.  We chatted lightly about what they had to eat and the children were enthusiastically telling me about what desserts they had chosen.   They finished their meal and they departed, but not before we had claimed a new found friendship outside of my bookstore.  We have a bond of a meal shared without having eaten with them, but beside them.  Soon the samosa chaat was brought to the table.  It was a colorful dish of a bright red sauce over chick peas, topped with a touch of yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro to set off the colors.  To our pleasure, underneath the chick peas and sauce was a cut up samosa, a fried pillow stuffed with potato, green peas and spices.  The combination was marvelous as Bailey and I decided our first dish was a winner.

The hustle an bustle of the new restaurant continued while we waited for our main courses to arrive.    I was touched that when the women left they were thanked with a beautiful long stemmed red rose.  Now, I thought to myself, wow, when was the last time I received one of those.  I would come her just to be able to be sent away with my new love, Indian food and a long stemmed red rose.  I sit here now trying to envision which of all these treats that were brought to me that evening  back last August was the lure that would draw me back time and time again.

Right on cue, our main meals arrived.   Bailey’s entree was a light mash of roasted eggplant, spices and a touch of tomato decorated with cilantro on top to put over basmati rice.  The dish of basmati rice alone gave off such a exuberent scent that my memory went to the time I entered my first Maylasian restaurant and the sensuous smells that drifted to my sences.  I poked the rice around to find  cardoman pods and small seeds and decided that was the fragrance that was making the rice so pleasant smelling.  My entree of chicken biryani was colorful and tasteful.  Both Bailey and myself needed take out boxed because we had over indulged but had to save room for dessert.  Of course, I had to have the exotic gulab jamun, a milk dumpling deep fried and soaked in a light sugar syrup and served warm.  Bailey tried kulfi ice cream mango flavored.  Our first meal was coming to an end and I just remember how pleased I was at the whole aura that had just occurred.  I couldn’t wait to phone my friends and family to tell them of the fabulous dining experience.  And yet, to brag that I had received a long stemmed red rose!

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Mid Summer Already

Eek, when was the last time I wrote anything?  In forever ago, shame on me.  I guess it goes without saying that the blog gets update seasonally.  Here we are in Mid Summer.  It has been a beautiful summer but not warm enough for the people on the lakes.  But for us who have to work all day, it has been a great summer to keep the door open at the store.

As far as books are concerned, it looks like the end of summer and fall is going to be a great season of book releases.  There are many coming out that people have been anticipating.  Dan Brown’s new book is getting a ton of attention.  Of course, the announcement of his book release date coincided with the movie release, “Angels and Demons”.  Great marketing, eh?  Mitch Albom is coming out with a non-fiction release, Stephen King, John Grisham, Diana Gabaldon and Nicholas Sparks all have release dates coming up.  There are a few new authors that have some noteworthy books coming out.  In August, “Between Me and the River” by Carrie Host is releasing.  What a wonderfully written autobiography of Carries thoughts and feeling of her rare form of cancer and what she goes through.   It is a great view into the world of a cancer patient.  Friends and families of cancer patients will be able to understand a little more the emotions and dealings that go on.  I really loved her writing.  I have passed on my copy of the ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) to my friend who has a friend with cancer right now.  She was so thankful.

I just finished our book club book for the month, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson.  Wow, great book!  It is an engrossing thriller/mystery/psychological suspense all rolled into one.  The exciting news is that his second book in the series releases on July 28th, ” The Girl Who Played with Fire”.    The sad news is the author died in 2004 after completeing 3 of his 10 book series.  Thank goodness he turned in the three transcripts and that the publisher was kind enough to print them.

My pick for a summer read is a light and breezy travel memoir from Marlena De Blasi, “That Summer is Sicily”.  This is her fourth book about Italy where she resides with her husband.  I read  “1,000 Days in Venice” about how she fell in love with her Italian husband and moved to Italy.  She is a wonderful writer that incorporates her love of food into travel memoirs.

So, now it’s time to be off on my walk with book in hand to let Wiseguy out of his cage on this beautiful, cool Sunday.

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It’s About Time.

So here’s the news I’ve been waiting for, kind of.

Dan Brown’s second book in his Robert Langdon series was the single bestselling adult hardcover novel of all time. Of course I’m talking about The Da Vinci Code. If you ask me, that’s an honor it didn’t deserve. While it was a little intense, and very shocking, without the church’s condemnation it would just be another mass market collecting dust on bookstore shelves. But because the church did use it’s power to ban this book, the entire world read it. And now we’ve all been waiting for the follow-up.

Angels & Demons doesn’t count, no matter how hard you try to make it work, it just doesn’t. The two are so unforgivably similar I always feel like I’m reading the same book.

But today the emails were sent out by every major book distributor, Dan Brown’s next book is almost ready to go. It even has a title.

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

This book is set to release on September 15, 2009. And the only thing I’ve been able to discern about this book is that it takes place in a 12-hour period. As more details become available, I’ll write about it, and if they can ever get a cover together, I’ll share that too.

– Lucca.

Rainy days and Mondays…….

Well, it started out that I forget to wake my daughter up for school this morning.  She over slept. It is very rare that she does that and I was awake but in my own world getting ready to go to the gym.  (I take her to the bus and go direct to the gym.)  Thank the universe for the bus still being there when we pulled  into the park and ride.  Yeah!  I get to the gym and forgot my key card.  I drive home quickly to get it.  My thought process at this time is….should I just stay home or get my butt back to the gym?  I chose to go back to the gym.  So I put my key card to the electronic eye and it lets me in.  As I walk through the door…Snafu!  My lanyard gets caught around the door handle and I am yanked back out of the door way.  All I could do was laugh.  I am laughing entering into the gym and I am sure the guys closest to the door are thinking, “okay this lady is a wacko”.  No one saw me get stuck at the door, so the laughing was just random for them.

I started four books in the last week.  I  couldn’t decide which one to read on the treadmill that would keep me walking and occupied so the time would pass as quickly as possible.  The first one I started was ‘The Bee’s Kiss’ by Barbara Cleverly.  It is a mystery/detective series set in England in the early 1900s.  I’ve read one of her other books in the series  and very much enjoyed her characters.  The second book I started was, ‘Tulipmania’ by Anne Goldgar.  It is an interesting history on the trade of tulips in the 1500-1600’s.  Though I will finish these books, they were not the book I was wanting for the purpose of the treadmill.  The third book, I started at home titled ‘The Blue Notebook’ by James Levine.  It is an ARC that will be out in July.  Work of fiction and set in India about how a young girl is sold into slavery.  It seems an easy, quick read, but not for the treadmill.

Today, though, I stumbled on the one. (after stumbling into the doorway)   The book is an ARC and due out in July.  It’s titled, ‘Between Me and The River’ by Carrie Host.  It is a memoir written in journal form.  She describes her challenges with cancer.  It hits close to home, as I have two people in my life with cancer.  I could not put it down this morning.  I did not want my time on the treadmill to end.  If I didn’t have to go work…..


In the book world we are always looking forward in an attempt to see what’s next, where is the next bestseller, etc… To facilitate this endeavor we’ve created the ‘Upcoming Releases’ page. Check back regularly to find your next great read!

If there’s a book you think we should add here, please feel free to leave a comment with the title and author, and we’ll do what we do.

– Lucca

(p.s. Check out my list, it’s most of my favorite books, with reviews, for you to find your next great read)


Shadow of the WindThe Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

“Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets – an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.”

Come join us Wednesday,

April 29th, 2009

April showers…..

On this  rainy April day, we are all hoping for the promised sun tomorrow.    Again, I feel the way I did on the cold and snowy day back when we started the Aria Blog.  I want to go home and curl up on the chair with the throw and read.  I am less than hundred pages from finishing, ‘Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  This is the first time that I have ever re-read a book.  I read this book as an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) in either 2003 or 2004.  I am reading it again because it is our book club pick for the month.  I have to say, it is keeping my attention as much as it did the first time.    I can remember bits and pieces,  but yet I can’t remember the ending.   I am hoping to be done by tomorrow.  This book is good for men and women.   If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.  Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s new book, ‘Angel’s Game,  will be out in June.  They say it  is a semiprequel to ‘Shadow of the Wind’.  There are similarities, but I wouldn’t say it is a prequel or even a semiprequel.

Now on to the struggle to pick the next book to read.  Do I pick an ARC or do I pick a paperback to preview for book club?  What about a hardcover?  Old or new?  The anticipation of picking a book is fun, but as a bookseller I feel pressure on picking the one I can hand sell.  I have read so many ARC’s this year so far, that I should read something that is on the top sellers list.

Sometimes I feel I don’t read fast enough.  Over the years of owning the bookstore I have become a faster reader.  My problem is that I am not always reading just one book.  For instance, last night I chose to read, ‘Crops in Pots’.  I am interested in having  a garden in pots this summer on my porch ie. tomatos, herbs, beans and peas.  I read this how-to book instead of my novel.  This happens much more than I realize.  I tell my customers what a slow reader I am, but now the light bulb has come on.  I have read many self-help books over the years.  I’ve read many health and fitness books in my quest to become slim, during my divorce I read several books on recovery and becoming my own person, and who can deny themselves at purusing through the cook books of all types?.   There is also not a day that goes by that I am not studying the lastest top sellers, reading blurbs on up and coming titles, or reading the gossip on the big book companies.  I always thought that being  a bookseller I would be able to sit here and read all day.  Honestly, I have done that maybe twice in the last 6-1/2 years, and those two days were snow storms.  Granted, I have been able to read a chapter here and there, but nothing like I dreamed before opening the store.

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