Posted in My Bibliothèque, Reviews

Makers of Mystery and Magic Box from the Bookling’s Crate!

Every avid reader’s dilemma is which book to read next and if you are anything like me, you probably always end up overwhelmed with all the choice. If left to me, I would probably read only fiction and fantasy, never getting out of my comfort zone and a select choice of authors. If you have suggested me a book and I haven’t gotten to reading it, trust me, it’s not your fault. I gravitate towards books in an unexplained way, choosing books on a whim, often without a method or logic. It is not bad but it sometimes leaves behind a feeling of dissatisfaction. But, every now and then, I wake up wishing that someone else could pick books for me, buy it for me, lay out a spread of candles, coffee and cake and make my weekend completely cosy and joyful. I got carried away there, didnt I? Okay, on a more serious note, it is refreshing to read a book that I haven’t stalked on Goodreads, read parts of it / review of it on some else’s social media feed, basically read things with a clear slate, or rather a clear mind. Read something without my preconceived notions and prejudices. And which is exactly why, The Bookling’s CrateMakers of Mystery and Magic Box was a happy, happy experience for me.

What and Why: If you are unfamiliar with the idea of Book Subscription Boxes, here is the concept explained in brief. It is a curated collection of books along with merchandise/book themed goodies, selected with diligent care, often around a pre-decided theme, and shipped to a subscriber at fixed intervals. You can even order such boxes on a one-time basis from such subscription providers. Carefully selected books are the highlight of the box, but can you resist the charm of nice little something like a Harry Potter themed T-shirt or a pouch, or such themed jewellery and accessories. I think a careful selection of books and goodies can do wonders to the tired soul of a bibliophile, after the wear and tear of our mundane lives. It is a gift I would love when I am in dire need of some TLC. And the merchandise keeps the fanboy/fangirl inside us alive! I suppose there is no need for further elaboration of my fascination with the Makers of Mystery and Magic Box – March Edition. Here is what it contained:

  • Book 1 – The Hazelwood by Melissa Albert
  • Book 2 – The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
  • Premium Designed –  Harry Potter T-Shirt
  • Dragon Necklace
  • Apple Vanilla Summer Candle
  • Art Poster from Six of Crows
  • Pin Badge – As Travers
  • Bookmark with Night Circus Quote

Packaging: The books and goodies came wrapped nicely in bubble wrap. What I loved was that care taken to make sure nothing gets damaged in transit. Especially books. Nothing annoys a booklover more than oddly bent covers and damaged binding. But, I have no complaints about how the box was packed.

The Books: Let us first talk about the books. As much as the goodies make me feel like an excited 10-year-old, it would be a disappointment if the books didn’t live up to my lofty expectations. I can gladly say that it is not the case here. Both books are new arrivals, published early this year. The first book was The Hazelwood by Melissa Albert. The Hazelwood falls into the category of classical Portal Fantasy, the same genres as the Magicians and the Chronicles of Narnia, and of course, the Harry Potter Series. It is a genre that some regard as to be written for children. However, I beg to differ. There is a certain thrill in stumbling upon a portal that leads you to another world. In The Hazelwood, a seventeen-year-old Alice reluctantly ventures into a Grimms’ Fairytale-ish world to rescue her mother who has been taken. After a childhood that she and her mother spend running from bad luck which seems to be uncannily at their heels, she discovers that she isn’t a complete outsider to this dark world. Even if you aren’t particularly into the YA genre, this book is a good adventure to embark upon, I think.

The second book in the box was The ToyMakers by Robert Dinsdale. In one sentence, The Toymakers pulled me into my childhood and stole my heart. Set in Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium, the book is nothing short of Magical Wonderland. If I were a curator, this book would have definitely most definitely made into my box too! A rich and imaginative story that will appeal to both young adults and more serious senior readers.  A short review would do more injustice to the beautiful book so I will say this until my full-fledged review – The book makes you feel all the feels. Feeling awed by the magic, enthralled by the charms of the wonderland, but with that, it also, hope and sadness. I don’t feel comfortable rating the book in stars, but this book is one of those that deserve 5 stars! It fits the theme of the box perfectly.

Bookish Merchandise: Now, let’s come to my favourite part of book boxes – Goodies!! I don’t have enough words to tell how much I loved it. That cute Dragon / Owl Necklace is super cute, it is accompanying me on many an outing for sure. The candle smells amazing!! Don’t tell me such beautiful things don’t bring you joy. As much as I find reading ebooks convenient and hassle, I cannot lie about how pampered and loved these goodies made me feel.

How to Subscribe: The Bookling’s Crate has a wonderful Website where you can look up the past and the upcoming boxes here. Their theme for the month of May is “Once upon a Dream”. If you are an intense reader / here only for the books, there are options for that too.  If you have bibliophiles for friends, they would be thrilled receive one of these as gifts. I know I would for sure. And before I forget, you can avail a 10% discount on the Bookling’s Crate’s premium and pocket-friendly plans by using the CODE Srujan10. You can also follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and stay updated!

Disclaimer: Much Thanks to The Bookling’s Crate for the much-loved Box filled with Books and Goodies. All opinions shared herewith are mine and completely honest and heartfelt.

Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque, Short Stories

{ Book Review } – The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen !

The RefugeesThe Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So trying to keep up my resolution of reading one short story collection a month, I picked up The Refugees. It is really similar in mod and tone to What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky with the difference that the Refugees is about immigrants from Vietnam while former was about immigrants from Nigeria. The stories all have varied themes but the pain of separation from family and loved ones and the culture shock remain consistent through most stories. I will take you through some of my favourites. The juxtaposition of the Vietnamese culture, the difficulties the immigrants face while they set up a life in America against the backdrop of relatively affluent American culture makes some of these stories very poignant reads.

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Posted in Fiction, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag!

Ghachar GhocharGhachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had heard rave reviews about the book for a whole year before I picked it up. I read the English translation of this Kannada novel by Shrinath Perur, and while I concede that a little something is always lost in translation, Perur has done a wonderful job of it, not merely giving the literal translation of the text but rather, of making sure that as much essence of it is retained as possible.

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Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead!

The Underground RailroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Underground Railroad is a fictional tale set in Pre-Civil War America and details of a brave young slave name Cora who lives on a cotton plantation in Georgia. It begins with a bit of background on Cora’s pitiful condition, an outcast even amongst the other slaves. Her scant memories of her past, though not very detailed give the reader sufficient insight to understand how the negative impacts of slavery trickle down from generation to generation and get worse. Then comes Caeser, another slave on the plantation, who doesn’t share Cora’s background of generations of slavery. He is here because of another set of circumstances and when he suggests that she accompanies him when he makes an attempt to run away from here and try a shot at freedom, she is taken aback. But after a bit of hesitation, she decides to join him and there starts a tale of adventure, interspersed with terror and hope in equal measure.

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Posted in Indian Curries, Recipes

Vegetable Kolhapuri – A Medley of Seasonal Vegetables tossed in a fiery spice mix!

Kolhapur in Southern Maharastra is famous for its hot, spicy delicacies such as Kolhapuri Missal and for its mutton based curries, namely Tambada Rassa and Pandhara Rassa. Being a vegetarian I have only tried Kolhapuri Missal so far and loved it! Not for the faint-hearted or someone with low tolerance to spice, I can assure you! Now I am not sure if Vegetable Kolhapuri was the curry that took shape in its present form as is, or it was made so that the vegetarians like me don’t have to stay hungry. Probably the later, but I am not complaining. It is entirely possible that it didn’t even originate from Kolhapur, but it shares the traits of being hot and spice heavy with the other recipes of Kolhapuri origin.

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Posted in Indian Curries, Recipes

Matar Paneer – Green Peas and Paneer in a simply spiced Tomato based gravy!

Matar Paneer ( literally translates to Green Peas and Paneer ) is longer a curry that we make on special occasions in our household. It is made instead on days when I am at my wit’s end and don’t want to cook something elaborate. You know, “take out is not a healthy option but I don’t want to get up from the couch either” kind of days. I usually have frozen peas and a pack of paneer in the freezer so this is a curry of convenience for us. As always, I don’t claim my version is authentic, it has evolved to this form over a couple of years, out of the necessity to keep it short and simple, rather than an attempt at perfection. But it is quick and you won’t need a lot of time of ingredients to rustle this one up. So, here you go, below is the recipe of my faux/no onion no garlic Matar Paneer curry.

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Posted in Fiction, ManBooker LongList 2017, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie!

Home FireHome Fire by Kamila Shamsie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Home Fire is a reimagining of the Greek Tragedy Antigone written by Sophocles in a contemporary setting. Like the original play which is divided into 5 acts, the novel is also divided into 5 parts, narrated by 5 characters of the novel, with each part set in five different locations. It explores the clashes that take place frequently between societal setup, familial attachment/ties of blood and faith/religious beliefs. Having not read the Greek play it would be completely unfair if I comment on whether the novel does justice to the original play or not and so will stick to how I feel about the novel. It focuses more on the emotional aspect of terrorism and its consequences, on the pull of familial ties in a new country, of culture shocks and the immigrant experience more than its political angles. The book’s ending is impactful, dramatic but still impactful. The reader sees it coming but it still grabs the reader’s complete attention and hooks you to the book with a strong sense of thrill and fear.

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