Categories
Athena Scalzi

Sakuraco April Box Review

First off, I’d like to say thank you to everyone that commented on my last post about my reviews. You all said such nice and reassuring things! So I decided to go ahead and write up that review over the latest Japanese snack box I got. Without further ado, let’s jump into Sakuraco’s April box!

In case you missed the last post (which you can find here), Sakuraco is a subscription box company that strives to bring you authentic Japanese snacks and goods that are not really found anywhere outside of Japan. Each box comes with 20 Japanese tea time goods. So while most of the items in the box are snacks, (though some are duplicates, for example, March’s box actually had 16 different snacks but 20 total) there is also one home good, like a tea cup or chopsticks.

April’s box had 13 different snacks in total (six of them having duplicates) with one home good. March’s theme was Sakura, and April’s was Matcha. Both are super interesting because we don’t really have either of those flavors here in the US, so it was great to try out such different flavor palettes!

I actually tried this box out with my friend, whom I shall be calling J throughout the post, and letting you know their thoughts as well as mine on each snack.

First up, we tried the Plum Yokan:

This little yokan was filled with tart plum jelly, which both of us thought had a really great flavor. The jelly was a nice texture, too, however the outside part was not so pleasant. I assume it was supposed to be crispy and flaky, but it just felt like biting into Styrofoam. Maybe it was originally crispy and had become stale in transit from Japan? I’m not sure, but it totally ruined the snack for me. Despite liking the jelly flavor, I gave this a 3/10, while J gave it a 7/10.

Up next was the Matcha Mochi Monaka:

While almost all the snacks in this box are matcha flavored, some of them, including this one, also have red bean in them! Which happens to be one of my favorite flavors. So, the flavor of the matcha and azuki paste inside the monaka wafers was super yummy, but again the outside layer of the snack was not as good. Monaka is supposed to be crispy wafers, but these were a little Styrofoam-y as well. However, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous snack, so I gave it a 7.5/10 because I really enjoyed the slightly jelly-like paste on the inside. J even said it had a cranberry sauce-like consistency. J gave it a 6/10, so overall pretty good score!

For the third snack, we took a break from the matcha flavored snacks and tried the Sakura Sugar Candy:

Oh em GEE, these bite-sized treats were totally amazing! Not only do I totally love the sakura flavor, but the texture was awesome. That being said, the flavor was also pretty subtle, so this candy wasn’t overpowering in terms of sweetness or anything. They were chewy, and almost jelly-like (I know, the past three snacks have all been jelly-like, but stick with me here). Plus, I think they have such a cute, eye-catching color. I would totally buy a whole package of these, they were so good! Both of us gave it an 8.5/10.

Next was something totally different, Matcha Senbei:

These crackers were so perfectly thin and crispy! Their subtle sweetness was in perfect balance with the mild matcha flavor. This snack actually came in a package of eight crackers, and they were so addicting. I could honestly eat a whole bag of these, they were so delicious and perfectly textured. Both of us gave them a 9/10, and they were J’s favorite item in the box (probably mine, too, but it’s hard to pick a favorite).

Fifthly, we tried the Matcha Yokan Roll Cake:

These little cakes were a very nice bite size, but as you can probably tell from the picture, there wasn’t nearly enough cream. While the flavor was good, especially because of the red bean paste inside, it was definitely a little on the dry side, which I’m sure could be remedied with more cream. Overall, it was pretty tasty, though, and I gave it a 7/10, while J gave it a 7.5/10.

Going away again from the matcha flavored snacks, we tried this Soft Milk & Strawberry Baumkuchen:

The first thing I noticed about this round cake (besides its cute design) was how amazing it smelled! Straight out of the package, I was like, I must consume. It was super moist and tasted really great, earning it an 8/10 from both of us. I mentioned that I felt like you could really taste the milk flavor, but J looked at me like I was crazy because apparently milk isn’t a flavor. IF IT’S NOT A FLAVOR THEN WHY IS IT CALLED MILK & STRAWBERRY HUH?

Moving on, next we tried the Matcha Kintsuba:

This thing kind of has an odd appearance in my opinion, but it’s basically just red bean paste covered in matcha batter. It’s described as being “refreshingly bitter”, and while that’s not how I would describe it, I can see what they mean, I think. It tasted… quite odd. I think it was mostly the batter that had a hand in this, but it tasted kind of like grass (or rather, what I imagine grass would taste like? I haven’t eaten grass, but it gave off total grass vibes, y’know?). I ended up eating just the red bean part by itself after a couple bites, and that wasn’t so bad, but overall definitely not a tasty treat. We didn’t finish it, and I gave it a 2/10, while J gave it a 3.5/10.

Eighthly, we tried this Matcha Mochi:

My first thought was that this looked like Laffy Taffy. My second thought was that this thing was a total pain to unwrap. I felt incompetent as I tried to peel away that white layer shown in the picture, because it just was not separating. Eventually, I looked at the picture and decided that if it’s shown like that, maybe you’re actually supposed to eat it like that. So we did, and realized we had just been making things harder than they had to be. This mochi bar thingy was extremely chewy, and tasted very strongly of green tea. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it definitely wasn’t my favorite or anything. I gave it a 5/10, and J went with a 7/10.

Back at it again with the monaka snacks, we tried the Yamecha Monaka:

I honestly don’t have a lot to say about this one because it was largely unremarkable. It was very similar to the Matcha Monaka earlier on the list, but the wafer was not as stale, though it was still dry as all hell. The flavor of the Yamecha paste inside was pretty good, though, so I gave it a 6.5/10 and J gave it a 6/10. Pretty standard snack all around.

Our last non-matcha snack of the day is the Sakura Karinto:

Okay, full disclosure, these things are totally the bomb dot com. These are like extra crunchy crackers that are also coated in some sort of sweet flavor dust? They remind me a lot of cinnamon twists from Taco Bell, but crunchier. They came in a pretty sizeable bag, which I totally plowed through because they were so addicting. They earned an 8/10 from both of us! Very yummy.

Back to the matcha, we have the Matcha Azuki Waffle:

Another treat with red beans! Hooray! I was enthralled to eat something that looked like a waffle, but was sorely disappointed when they were dry and tasted weirdly bitter. The bitterness reminded me faintly of like, alcohol smell? They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great either. I only gave them a 5.5/10, while J gave them a 7.5/10. I love the waffle look, though. More treats should be waffle shaped.

For our last snack, we tried this Matcha Pudding:

Boy howdy, this thing was a wild ride. I couldn’t eat more than one bite. I felt like I was eating slime, not only because of the color but because of the slippery, gross texture. I totally despised it, mostly for consistency purposes. J ended up eating the rest of it and said it was good. According to J it “melts in your mouth” and tastes just like green tea. I’ve mentioned this before, but usually I’m not someone who is sensitive to textures, and I generally like a lot of weird textures, like shredded coconut or Jell-O or flan, but this was just awful. I settled on a 2/10 while J proclaimed it was deserving of an 8/10. To each their own, I suppose.

The other item that came in the April box was this cute cup that totally matches the plate from the previous box:

It would’ve been perfect to pair with the Golden Plum Tea that was also in the box, but I don’t like tea so I didn’t bother trying it because I don’t want to give an unfair review. You can’t eat something you know you hate and then blame it for being bad. But here’s a picture of it if you’re curious:

Honestly, I thought the packaging was nice. Maybe I should’ve tried it and just not given it a review. Hmm.. there’s always next month, I guess.

Anyways, that was everything in Sakuraco’s April box! I really enjoyed this box, but I think I liked March better, though I figure that’s purely because I prefer Sakura flavored things over Matcha. But if you’re someone who loves green tea, I’m sure you would’ve really liked this box!

I’m very excited for next month’s box, and while it was scheduled to be my last box since I only got a three month subscription, I’ll more than likely continue my subscription to Sakuraco! Though continuing the subscription means another hefty $150 (for three months including shipping), it’s a price I’m willing to pay for such fun and unique snacks.

Oh, I also wanted to mention that someone in the comments of my review post mentioned they enjoyed my Japanese snack box review specifically, so I hope that person (and the rest of you) enjoyed this post! Thanks for all your continued support, I hope y’all have a great day!

-AMS

 

Categories
Big Idea

The Big Idea: J.S. Dewes

Science fiction can take its inspiration from unlikely sources, but for The Last Watch, the debut novel from author J.S. Dewes, the inspiration came from what might seem an especially unlikely source. And yet, that inspiration took the author to the very edge of the universe.

J.S. DEWES:

“I’ll fly a starship across the universe divide.”

When I first heard the incomparable Johnny Cash sing this single, innocent song lyric back in 2016, I had no idea it would spawn a book series that would take over my life for years to come.

For months, I listened to it on a loop, unable to get the image out of my head: a haggard, burdened Man in Black in a sci-fi rockabilly trench coat (armored, of course) at the helm of a spaceship, a wild look of dread and determination in his eyes as he ventured beyond the edge of the universe.

But why? Did he know what was on the other side? Was he fleeing or searching? Could he ever come back? How is there even an “edge” to begin with?

There were so many questions, and I needed answers.

So when I hit a wall on revisions for my first novel, I sat down and let myself brainstorm some answers about my enigmatic Man in Black. Those answers turned into my debut novel, The Last Watch.

I’m a firm believer in inverse proportions with storytelling—the higher the concept, the more grounded the story and characters need to be. So I knew from the beginning that telling a story whose root concept is “what if the universe had physical boundaries?” would require a balance—an anchored lens with which to view this remarkable situation. So I knew my first big decision would be the most important: who was going to help tell this story?

Throughout his repertoire, Mr. Cash frequently espoused the plight of the working class, societal ostracism, redemption—all themes that resonate deeply with me. I immediately latched onto the idea of putting the kind of hard-working, everyday, blue collar people Cash sang about into this extraordinary situation.

From there, it was all too easy to imagine the motley crew that would become my Sentinels—soldiers discarded at a post millions of light-years from civilization: The Divide. As the purported origin of the aliens humanity fought for over a millennium, society isn’t willing to leave this mysterious edge unguarded. But after centuries of peace, the once revered posting has become a depository for the armed forces’ disgraced, delinquent, court-martialed soldiers, and now acts as a prison in everything but name.

Hence how this story that screams HIGH CONCEPT from its every orifice quickly became an intimate tale of cast-off soldiers just being their flawed, competent, tired selves, each with a unique past rife with failure to land them at this physical and societal fringe.

To corral this motley crew of criminal misfits, co-POV character and commander Adequin Rake stepped forth. Though a venerated war hero, Rake has somehow earned this dismal post of babysitting delinquents at the edge of the universe—all while harboring a secret that would put everyone else’s tragic backstories to shame. She quickly became my wild-eyed, burdened Man in Black forced to (metaphorically) helm a ship being thrust into uncharted territory, where the dangers are not only unknown but unprecedented.

But every level-headed, capable leader needs her foil, and that opportunity presented itself in the sarcasm bomb that is my second POV character, Cavalon Mercer. A disowned prince sent to join the Sentinels as punishment for a rather explosive crime, Cavalon is the definition of too smart for his own good. His unique blend of moronic genius was a blast to write, and I loved the interpersonal conflict added by throwing an inexperienced white (gold?) collar guy into the sea of blue collars.

In practically every way, Cavalon experiences the greatest shift toward “the edge” of any single character in the book—he’s a civilian, not a soldier; he’s sheltered and inexperienced; he’s highly capable when focused, but an emotional disaster. And yet, despite the royal upbringing that sets him so far apart from the rest of the crew, Cavalon’s history is as rife with missteps and failures as everyone else at the Divide.

But as Mr. Cash once famously said, “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone.” And that’s what every single character—blue, white, and gold collar alike—has to do in The Last Watch. Now that they’ve been pushed to the edge of the universe and life, it’s time to see what happens when they’re forced to go beyond.

As a discovery writer, I didn’t know the answers to any of the questions about my universe-fleeing Man in Black when I started writing The Last Watch. But I channeled the good I see in people, the strength of teamwork, the sheer power of the human will, and I honed my high-concept mess through a largely optimistic lens that showcases humanity (mostly) at its finest. Even when shunned, discarded, and pushed to the edge, not everyone falls off—people are strong, they rise up, they fight back, and they’ll do what needs done no matter the cost.

—-

The Last Watch: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s website. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Exit mobile version