Posted in Fantasy, Magical Realism, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden!

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #2)The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book earlier this year, just after I finished it’s prequel “The Bear and the Nightingale” . Now I cannot keep it calm while I wait for the final part of the trilogy, “The Winter of the Witch”. Now I could rave on and on about how amazing “the Girl” here is. I have already written how smitten I am with the protagonist, Vasilisa ‘Vasya’ Petronova, of this fairytale-mixed-with-magical-realism work of fiction. Vasya is every bit the heroine every little girl ( or a grown woman obsessed with magical realism like me 😉) aspires to be. Escaping the only destiny for women of her times, her options being marriage or a life as a nun or being branded a witch, she chooses the last options and in the beginning of the book, she leaves the comforts of the rural Russian home and sets out on an adventure which is certainly more trouble than fun. Now, since it is a fairy tale, there is no point for me to keep describing the plot. It would suffice to say that it would satisfy a folklore loving soul, a complete sucker for fantasy and fiction like me. Not only it is book is great in principle ( a strong female protagonist, feudal Russia of the Mid-fourteenth Century and a plot line which is not straight like a rule ) , the book does well when one is craving for a short escape into fiction.

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Posted in Fiction, ManBooker LongList 2017, My Bibliothèque, WarTime Fiction

{ Book Review } – Exit West by Mohsin Hamid!

Exit WestExit West by Mohsin Hamid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In few words, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West is gently narrated tale of a young couple fleeing a war and everything their nomadic, immigrant life, full of surprises life throws at them. But its poignance is deeply expressed more in the way the war batters their souls than the physical scars or bombings of deaths. It is the tale of how two adults grow into a complete different version of themselves that what they had in mind as their future. The story starts in an unnamed country, in the the middle of a political turmoil with the war looming large on the not-so-distant horizon. Saeed and Nadia’s relationship begins subtly, and even as it develops, it gives you hints that their romance is only one piece of the bigger picture. The violence forces them to uproot their lives, pack them into a backpack full of personal artefacts and head to the land of unpredictable future. It takes a while, and many deaths in between, for the story to reach a point where it makes sense, and it is easy to cast the book aside as a just another romance while it matures, but once it does reach the premise it intends to put forth, it get good, really good at it.

As with all the stories set in the bleak backdrop of a war, Exit West talks about the displacement that wars and violence cause. The physical displacement and more important the emotional displacement, it causes leaves life time scars. The burning issue that immigration is today, it has been sensitively treated and portrayed in the book, without using real names and places a lot. Tied together in an intimacy that, people who have never seen a war might call premature, Saeed and Nadia try to buy an escape, an “Exit” to “the West” by paying a man who promises them to take through a door ( or a series of doors ) away from the chaos of a war. The metaphorical nature of this door and the other “doors” that they walk through is written in a dreamy way that lends it the feel of being in a fantasy or a magical realism universe. But what is more amazing is how each of them react to their new temporary new homes each time. What I like is that the author describes the world behind the each door with just enough detail for the reader to hazard a guess but stops short of actually naming it with a geographical name leaving a reasonable scope of imaginative extrapolation on the part of the reader. And the best part is that the society in the city behind every door is a commentary on a different aspect of human nature every time. Living in peace time does not guarantee that we humans display our best behaviour.

I must mention here that when I read the reviews for the book after finishing it, I was surprised to see the “doors” receiving a lot of flak. The primary complaint was that these “doors” disrupted the storytelling for some of the readers. This surprises me because I consider them equally important characters in the story, if not more, as Nadia and Saeed. The doors are what tell you about crisis and culture shocks and the difficulties of carrying your life in a backpack or a carry one. Exit West is good enough for me to make we wan to read Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist soon.

View all my reviews on Goodreads here

Posted in My Bibliothèque, Non Fiction

{ Book Review } – Like a Girl by Aparna Jain!

Like A GirlLike A Girl by Aparna Jain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up Like A Girl after coming across a post by Shikha of @chicabeingme who is one of the 26 wonderful illustrators who has worked on the lovely illustrations in the book about 56 amazing women from vastly diverse backgrounds from across India. Picked it up last night and sprinted through these amazing women, picking up again today after lunch because I couldn’t wait. Like A Girl has been penned for everyone, as a bedtime reading for the young as well as for adults like me who are looking to रफू ( darn ) some holes in my awareness about the amazing icons from India who happen to be female. I almost typed ‘female’ icons earlier but hit backspace because they are icons to all of us and not just other women. There are names on the list that you will recognise at a glance, historical figures, sportswomen, artists, activists and more. And their tales are told with a beautiful personal touch to each with a manner that kids would find inspiring and adults would find endearing. But just like not all triumphs have to be professional or academic, some can be deeply personal and private, some of these women have emerged as heroes in a manner we don’t always identify as a win. And therefore, the parts that left me more significantly awed and overwhelmed were the ones on Bhanwari Devi, Shah Bano Begum, Rashida Bi and Champa Devi Shukla, Gauri Sawant, Dayamani Barla, Birubala Rabha and Irom Sharmila Chanu. I am sure I am missing quite a few names here but that is what you have to read the book for. 🙂

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Posted in Fiction, ManBooker LongList 2017, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy!

The Ministry of Utmost HappinessThe Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Since I have officially given up trying to read the remaining 4 books of ManBooker Longlist 2017, let me at least attempt to pen down my thoughts about the ones I managed to read. I am almost afraid to type this because it is most definitely an unpopular opinion that I am going to voice. Hence, the disclaimer –  Maybe, it is just me. It was such a huge letdown that it slightly hurts to dissect. And therefore I will try my best to not pick at it much. My biggest grouse with The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is that it has too many characters, like an Indian Soap Opera. This is not always a bad thing, but in case of this book, it prevented me from warming up to its central characters. Almost all of the book, to me, is a dense, slow-moving, and hastily strung together jumble of the author’s political views and anecdotes with “names changed to protect privacy” kind of modifications. And funnily, they seemed to have been made to make recognition even easier. It would have been impactful if the book was peppered with them all over the story rather than the story being peppered in between by, an almost venomous at times, mockery of pretty much everything about the country. It is not the unfairness or fairness of it that is the problem, not at all, it is the frequency and sheer volume of it that strains the reader’s nerves. It might work in an editorial of a newspaper, but certainly not in a work of fiction, especially one that had the potential of blooming beautifully, to begin with. I see no point in stealing the spotlight from the narrative to make a political statement in a beautifully set up work of fiction. Sadly, it doesn’t live up to its promise of developing into a beautiful tale in the forthcoming pages.

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Posted in Kitchen 101, Recipes

Stuffed Parantha Masala!

Finally getting around to updating this recipe on the blog. I tried this recipe on a dear dear friend Anuja’s, recommendation and loved the fresh flavour it brought to my paranthas. A few pointers before you try this recipe. This is not meant to be radically different from YOUR way of seasoning the parantha filling. If you @ me in your comments cooing “Oh but I do it this exact way all the time! ” with an implied “There is nothing new here!”  then well, I am sincerely delighted for you ( no sarcasm here ) but FAIR warning, I am going to ignore your comment. You might as well stop reading further right now, right away. I don’t mean to claim that this is the best seasoning in the world, nor is it revolutionary. I liked something and I am sharing this for the interest of people who showed interest and who were up for trying out something new for fun, not for people who want to make it a competition about whose masala is better. It is only for folks who are curious. You might already be using 80% of the ingredients I mention here. With that out of way, I will get to the good things. I added this to a potato stir fry I made and it tasted excellent, a fresh flavour to my good, but always tasting the same Aloo ki Sabzi. I have a gut feeling, it will taste great on roasted veggies too. I have tried to recreate/reverse engineer this using the list of ingredients I read on the pack of a store-bought Parantha Masala from MDH. I haven’t used all the ingredients mentioned on the pack though, because I like to use things like ginger garlic in its fresh form. I will share more of my experiments with it on Instagram! Cheers!

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, My Bibliothèque, WarTime Fiction

{ Book Review } – The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale!

I have already talked about my newfound for love magical realism in my review of The Bear and the Nightingale. Stories with magicians and monsters are charming, but what I have realised recently is how much I love stories that talk about magical that is invisible to the naked eye. The kind of magic that exists only in the mind of someone who believes in it. For everyone else, it is just another feature of our mundane lives. And it is the magic of toys that Robert Dinsdale’s The Toymakers delves into. Of course, one could argue that the toys described in Papa Jack’s Emporium are indeed different from the ordinary toys we see around us. In my opinion, that you missing the point. To a certain extent, every toy is just a toy. A rubber duck or a stuffed rabbit is only a rubber duck or a stuffed for everyone else other than the child who has a special relationship with it. It is the power of belief that separates the believer and sceptic. And that is what makes The Toymakers magical in my opinion. Because it is intended for the child, that burrows deep into the psyche of every cynical adult.

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Magical Realism, My Bibliothèque

{ Book Review } – Pottermore Presents Short Stories from Hogwarts by J K Rowling!

So, I stumbled across these by chance on Amazon and like an old faithful, I had to get it. About these eBooks, they are collections of articles from Pottermore peppered more than generously with insights from J. K Rowling about her thoughts and rationale on why she named and shaped certain characters the way she did. But even for a seasoned Pottermore lurker like me, some of the information was a revelation. I have made my peace with the fact that there is never going to be something as amazing as the 7 books again in the Potter Universe ( Sorry fans of Fantastic Beasts, but that is how it is for me! ). But each of these books had something interesting that adds to my appreciation of how beautifully the Magical World mirrors the Muggle World. Let me talk about my favourite parts of each of this books now.

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