Sunday, 17 November 2019

Vignettes: Moon.


This was one of the prettiest pandals I saw this year during Pujo. 
The theme was Chandrayan. 
The Moon and and its many moods. 
It was blue and beautiful. 
It was like stepping inside a dream world. 

The moon. 
The sleepy moon. 


I can only imagine the work that must have gone into this pandal. 
Everything was handmade and gorgeous. 

Friday, 15 November 2019

Book Review: The Daughter from the Wishing Tree Unusual Tales About Women in Mythology by Sudha Murty.

Book: The Daughter from the Wishing Tree

Author: Sudha Murty

Illustrator: Priyankar Gupta

Publisher: Puffin India

Pages: 180

How Long it Took Me To Read: 3 days

Plot Summary: Did you know that the Trinity often turned to goddesses to defeat the asuras? 
Did you know that the first clone in the world was created by a woman?
The women in Indian mythology might be fewer in number, but their stories of strength and mystery in the pages of ancient texts and epics are many. They slayed demons and protected their devotees fiercely. From Parvati to Ashokasundari and from Bhamati to Mandodari, this collection features enchanting and fearless women who frequently led wars on behalf of the gods, were the backbone of their families and makers of their own destinies. 

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing as always was simple and straight forward and perfect for young readers to follow along and learn about Indian mythology.

2. I know a fair bit about Mythology, and know a lot of stories both big and small thanks to my beloved grandmother. Reading these stories takes me back to my childhood and those story telling sessions.

3. Inspite of knowing a lot of stories from mythology, I learnt so many new tales and about so many hidden figures I know nothing about. So this was a great learning experience.

4. The illustrations add a wonderful touch to the stories and I always love a book with illustrations. Here are some examples of the art...

5.  Apart from the well known Goddesses and figure from mythology this collection also includes some lesser known/ unknown (to me) women and it was so nice to learn new names and new stories.

6. I also loved that several mythological stories were connected to present day places and temples. It was nice to see a connection (even if supposedly) to a real life place and belief.

7. While written for younger readers this is a perfect book for those of us (grown-ups) who are interested in myths and mythology.

8. The common thread in most of these stories is the strong women portrayed in them. Incredible women who did and achieved amazing things, an inspiration for everyone of us.

9. I read this book during and after Diwali and honestly the festivity just added to my reading experience.

10. This is such a gorgeous book, both inside and out. I love the cover and the illustrations Plus I was lucky enough to be sent a signed copy which was such a nice surprise.

Rating: 4/5

Thank you Penguin India for my gifted copy. The review and thoughts are all my own. 

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Book Review: Haunted by Jay Alani and Neil D'Silva.

Book: Haunted

Author: Jay Alani and Neil D'Silva

Pages: 288

Publisher: Penguin India

Read On: Kindle

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: An entire town that was abandoned overnight
A fort that fell to ruins due to a curse
Mines where twenty thousand miners were trapped and perished
A village where black magic is a way of life
A fair where exorcisms are performed in public

Such are the locations dotting the colourful paranormal map of India. Intrepid adventurers and regular tourists alike have often dared to visit these places to experience for themselves their fascinating lure, and to see if ghosts truly haunt these regions. However, those who have ventured there have often returned with more questions than answers-if at all they have returned.
Haunted chronicles the real-life adventures of paranormal investigator Jay Alani in ten of the spookiest locations in India. 

Co-authored by Neil D'Silva, these exploits provide a ringside view of these hair-raising paranormal journeys for everyone who has an interest in exploring the dark side of the normal. 
Things I Liked: 

1. I am a big fan of all things scary and horror related. Films, stories and TV shows, everything and anything to do with the spooks has my interest. So this book was an easy purchase to make. I wanted to be scared and entertained and this book managed to do both.

2. If you are a horror fan these stories will keep you hooked, especially given that these are based on true instances and experiences. Even if you aren't a true blue horror fanatic give this a's always good to keep an open mind. And while these are spooky enough, none of the stories will leave you scared shitless. They are pretty mild-ish.

3. I loved the sheer range of these 10 stories, you have the usual haunted fort and abandoned village but you also have exorcisms and mines and a village full of black magic. It was varied and interesting and a deep dive into all things supernatural.

4. I read this in the dark, cozy under the quilt and it was just the perfect book to lose myself in. It is honestly the perfect kind of book to read this winter. Ah!

5. The writing was good too, the authors did a good job of taking us to these sinister places and you could feel the fear and anxiety of being in the presence of a ghost. It was atmospheric and still fast paced.

6. The thing I really appreciated in this book were the two stories focussed on dispelling certain myths and superstitions and talking honestly about black magic and certain religious practices. It is so important to not confuse supernatural instances with a ton of blind superstitions and have them hurt people and take over your life. For instance, labelling mental illness as possession is just wrong and hurts so many innocent people in need of medical help.

7. There were some places that I knew of, like Bhangarh and Kuldhara but so many others were new to me and I learnt so much and it spewed my interest in knowing more about these places.

Rating: 4/5

Spooky, fun and atmospheric. I had such a good time reading this book and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Book Review: The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

Book: The World That We Knew

Author: Alice Hoffman

Pages: 400

Publisher: Scribner

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Read On: Kindle

Plot Summary: In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.

Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she's destined to be.

What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.

Things I Liked:

1. This book is a mix of all things that I love reading about- the people who helped Jewish children escape to Switzerland, the people who risked their own lives and well-being to provide sanctuary to their Jewish friends and neighbours in countries overrun by the Nazis, about the resilience of families, women and children and, unrelated to the horrors of World War II, magical realism and folk lore. So, it sounds like a lot and it is a lot, but it is to the author's credit that everything comes together in a beautiful story about resilience, kindness and love.

2. I loved the three girls in this book- Ava, Lea and Ettie. Each of them has their own struggles and journey and I loved how they were written and the courage and humanity each displayed as they navigated hellish circumstances.
                    - Ava, who is not even human, a golem fashioned out of clay and tears, turns out to be the most human of them all- the way she always looks out for those around her, her unique love story with the heron (yes, you read that right) and her discovery of what it is to be human make her a beautiful character to read about.
                   - Lea's evolution from an innocent, scared twelve year old to a strong, confident sixteen year old through the course of the War is tragic yet inspiring.
                   - Ettie's anger and pain is heartbreaking. I felt like giving her a huge hug and telling her that she should stop punishing herself for something that was not her fault!

3. The key male protagonists were also so beautifully written. Their courage, fear, love, hopes for the future, their big and small acts of resistance were all so well brought to life. I really loved Victor, Julien, Dr. Girard and Marianne's dad- the beekeeper.

4. What I think, however, that I loved the most about this book is that even in humanity's darkest hour, there were people, ordinary people, who went above and beyond to help Jewish families and children. Even churches that took in refugees and hid them from the Nazis did so at great personal risk. There is such an amazing interplay of love and hate in this book. When there is so much hateful rhetoric and hateful actions perpetuated by the Nazis, there are some sublime and glowing examples of love and service and sacrifice and that is really what keeps all of us- this human race- going, doesn't it?

5. The writing is beautiful! This is, I believe, only the second book that I've read by Alice Hoffman and I can't wait to find more of her work and read them!

6. There is an element of magical realism and the use of Jewish folk lore in this book, which I simply loved! Jewish magical/ mystical practices are something I had never read about before and so, getting to know a little about their folklores and mystical practices was something I deeply enjoyed.

Things I Didn't Like: Nothing! This is a great book!

Rating: 5/5 

Monday, 4 November 2019

Hello November + eBook Haul!

Hello November! 

Hello Winter! 

Hello Cozy Fall Vibes and Cozy Reading! 

November is one of my favourite months of the year, simply because it's my sister's birthday month. 
So it has always had an air of celebration and joy. 

I am so happy November is here. 

My Goals for November are fairly simple...

1. Read more...than I did in the last 2 months! 

2. Read some non-fiction for Non-Fiction November. 

3. Do a little bit of travelling. 

4. Go to the hills. 

5. Make sure my sister has a happy birthday!!! 

In a bid to read more, I started the month with adding some new ebooks to my Kindle. 

First up we have some Indian books: 

1. The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda 
I've read her work previously and enjoyed it, so I wanted to read her newest release.

2. Haunted by Jay Alani and Neil D'Silva 
Spooky books are perfect for winter nights and I have read some Neil D'silva before and enjoyed his writing so this book was an easy decision to get.

3. Darkenss by Ratnakar Matkari 
Translated by Vikrant Pande 
Spooky stories translated from Marathi that sound amazing. Plus, I am always happy to read more translated work. 

Next we have a whole plethora of books, mostly thrillers because it's a genre I am always in the mood for and with winter slowly coming over it's pretty much the perfect time to dive into some scary books. 

4. The Dollmaker by Dina Allan 

5. When She Returned by Lucinda Berry 

6. Bone China by Laura Purcell 

7. Come a Little Closer by Karen Perry 

8. The Woman Next Door by Sue Watson 

9. The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup 

Not photographed but I also bought these books..

10. Girl, Women, Other by Benardine Evaristo (this year's Man Booker Winner) 

11. 4321 by Paul Auster 

12. Grand Union Stories by Zadie Smith 

I hope you and me both have a wonderful month ahead. 

Happy Reading Folks! 

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Book Review: Lipstick by Vish Dhamija

Book: Lipstick

Author: Vish Dhamija

Pages: 312

Read: Review copy kindly sent by HarperCollins; all opinions are honest and unbiased

Read in: 3 hours

Plot: DCP Rita Ferreira is called into the investigation after a third corpse is discovered in Mumbai, which confirms it is the work of the same killer who paints his victims' lips with dark red lipstick. 

The Lipstick Killer, like all serial killers, is fast decompensating - the time interval between the murders shortening, the victims shifting from street-side hookers to high-heeled wives. 

And he watches everything and everyone - the news of his exploits, Rita, the investigation - and talks. However, he only talks to you: 'When I'm gone, some people may tell you that I was evil, perhaps even call me a psychopath. Don't believe them. I am not. I am anything but irrational and impractical; perhaps only slightly more detached than your average guy on the street.'

Things I Liked:

1. This is my third DCP Rita Ferreira book and she is a strong female lead, who is unapologetic about who she is and is also a smart investigator. So, I was quite chuffed to read the next book in her series featuring a serial killer! 

2. The book's premise is very interesting. A serial killer starts off by killing low risk victims- sex workers, who look alike (sort of, not identical). He brutalises them and applies a shade of red lipstick, which earns him the moniker of 'The Lipstick Killer'. After two low risk victims, he murders a wealthy entrepreneur in her own home in a posh area. He is also killing the same girl over and over again- petite with brown-is hair. So, the cops are racing against time to stop him from killing another woman. 

3. The investigation has also been shown quite well. The cops make logical deductions and nothing is too out-there in terms of investigative leaps. 

4. The book is told to us via two perspectives- Rita's and the killer's. The killer tells us about his childhood, his first murder and why he thinks the way he does. So, we do get to see the inner workings of a debauched person's mind. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. The killer was super easy to guess. The author gives one oblique, not-very-direct hint and that's enough to guess the killer even though he doesn't make a single appearance in the book. I wish it were not that easy to guess the killer, it took the thrill out of the book. 

2. The killer had no deeper motive behind the murders. His motive is really very basic. I wish the killer's motive was more layered. 

3. There were no serious red herrings in this book. There was one, but it was obvious that that character was not the killer. I would've liked at least another red herring to make things interesting. 

4. The chapters from the killer's perspective were annoying after a point in time! He was just making weird sinister statements and airing out his h*rny desires. 

Rating: 3/5 

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Vignettes: Little Bits of Beauty.


Some beautiful things seen at local pandals. 
Colours and crafts. 

How have you guys been? 
Did you have a happy Diwali? 

I had a Diwali full of light and sadly noise due the loudspeakers blaring at a local Kali Pujo pandal.
But it was full of family and lights and rangoli and phooljharis. 

Reading was at a minimum but that is expected. 
Do you manage to read during festivals? 
I just can't seem to keep with my reading when life is full of lights and rangoli and festivity. 

But...bookish programming will be back soon. 
Starting with some thriller reviews perfect for Halloween. 

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Happy Diwali!

Hey everyone!
Just popping in to wish you and yours a very Happy Diwali!
May the days ahead be filled with love, peace and joy!

Here are some pictures of some corners of our home...

We love diyas! They take a lot of refilling, but they are worth the effort! 

The only kind of fireworks we have ever bought in our household- sparklers/ phuljhadis! We buy 2-3 packets of small sparklers and light some on Choti Diwali and some on Diwali! 

More rangoli! 

And one more of our many little rangolis! 

Happy Diwali once again! 

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Travel Diary: Kagyu Theg Chen Ling Monastery, Lava, Kalimpong.


On my recent visit to Kalimpong, we drove up to Lava, a little town 30 kms from the city up in the hills. The drive itself was gorgeous, winding roads and rains and clouds. Some stretches were in dire states, the road was quite bumpy and there were several patches where repair work was on going, so I am hoping that it will be fixed soon. 

Once we got to Lava, the rains really got going. It was pouring hard and by the time we got out of the car and to the monastery we were soaked. 
Hence most of these pictures are liberally covered in raindrops. 

Sadly, we didn't make it to inside the monastery, given the rains and the slightly steep walk, 
I got close enough but I was soaked and even my poor camera was getting wet. 

Here are some pictures. 

Prayer Flags dancing in the breeze. 

Raindrops adding their own bokeh effect. 

The entire place was full of all kinds of ferns. 

I don't know about you, but I love foggy and misty days. 

My parents making their way up to us. 
Sharing a single umbrella they looked straight out of a Bollywood romcom. 

I wish I could have made it in but the rain and being wet rats was setting off my sister's asthma. So we quickly rushed back to the car. 

Scenes from the drive over. 
It took us around an hour and a half from Delo to Lava. 

More prayer flags. 
I seriously will never tire of seeing prayer flags all over the hills here. 

Monday, 21 October 2019

Monday Moods: Mohini Bag from Subr.


Let's kick off this festive week of Diwali with a festive bag.
A thing of utter beauty, The Mohini Bag from Subr. 
This bag was love/lust/longing at first sight. We saw it on Subr's Instagram as a sneak peek to their Onam Collection. She was just too special to pass up. Plus, with Durga Puja around the corner we knew we had to have Mohini in our lives. 
And we did. 

Look at her! 
Beautiful all over. 
Each detail is spectacular. 
The attention to detail and each element of the bag is done to perfection. 


She is tiny but is big enough to hold essentials like your phone, compact, lipstick, kajal and keys and card holder. 

My sister and I are normally big bag ladies and something this tiny is not something we are usually drawn to. But this bag was too special to pass up. 
A quirky and fun and stunning bag. 
Perfect for special occasions and festival. 

Subr has some gorgeous bags. 
Mohini is our third bag from them and we can't recommend them enough. 

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Stationery Sunday: Traveler's Notebook Haul from The Black Canvas.


Today I want to share one of my most delightful traveler's notebooks. Our third or so TN from The Black Canvas, which is a fantastic place to get some well-made leather traveler's notebooks.

This one is especially special because it is an ode to my city- Bombay. 
We, my sister and I, fell in love with this TN when we first set eyes on it. 
This originally is a notebook but we requested for a custom TN. We wanted it to something we could use forever and not have a finite number of pages in it and it has turned out so beautiful.
The kind folks over there also sent us some delightful freebies which is such an act of kindness. And they are all gorgeous and thoroughly useful and things we've been using ever since.

These super colourful and well-made wire organisers are handy since we have a shit ton of charging cables and miscellaneous wires that all do well when wrapped up neatly using these leather wire/cable organisers. I love the purple pebbly one especially. 

And here is everything we got. 
The TN.
Two corner bookmarks. 
Two wire organisers. 

Just look at this thing of beauty. 

She comes with a dust bag which is a great way to keep your TN safe from the elements. 

This is a tri-fold style journal. With elastics inside to comfortably hold two inserts. You could add more inserts using the extra elastic that The Black Canvas provides.
The leather is super soft and luxe. 
It's an A6 size, which is great since I already have a ton of A6 sized inserts and they sent me two inserts as well. 

Aren't these bookmarks cute? 
Love the colours. 

Bombay's map has been pyrographically burned into the leather and I love the effect of the black lines on the tan leather. It's graphic and subtle at the same time. 

This mustard yellow TN is another favourite one from The Black Canvas and I can't wait to switch out my notebooks from inside it to my Bombay map TN!