Last blog post of the year! Usually, at the end of a year I recount the things I’m thankful for, so this time I want to emphasize one of the things that got me through this nightmare of a year- nostalgia. When I think of nostalgia, buzzwords like memories and dreams come to mind. I once read that being nostalgic means you’re stuck in the past. I’ve even read that nostalgia is a form of day-dreaming! However, this year, I’ve realized that it is anything but. I realized what being nostalgic truly feels like. As the world came crashing down, nostalgia was my getaway. Thinking of good times from 2019 or earlier became a coping mechanism.
To some, nostalgia is a picture, a memory, a book. To me, music is what unlocks nostalgia, is what unlocks that overflow of bitter-sweet memories that you can’t help but smile at. This year, I think we all needed an escape sometimes and that’s okay. Recounting memories isn’t living in the past, but is cherishing it. When I’m nostalgic, I find myself thinking how fast something went by and it makes me all the more intent on enjoying the present. Nostalgia also has more of a motivating factor for me. It gives me that rush of adrenaline I need to finish that last bit of work or read that last chapter as my eyes get heavy. Sometimes you need that boost from the past to enjoy the present.
This post doesn’t really have a lesson, rather I want to bring to light an underrated emotion. Think about it, in every book or movie, when nothing seems to work out for the main character or they lost the love of their life or their idea didn’t go as planned- what helps? They flashback to a better time in their lives and they are inspired to continue, to start anew. Then follows the happy ending.
Nostalgia also gave me hope. Hope that things will get better, hope that the next day won’t be as bad. Hope is always followed by something good. If anything, 2020 was a year filled with hope. Even if it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, we had our good moments. I certainly did, and nostalgia got me there. Even now, as the year ends and we say ‘I hope 2021 is better’ that’s hope. That’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever came our way, we never stopped hoping. For me, a part of that hope came from nostalgia. From the bitter aspect of it, which reminded me of all my blue days, and how they didn’t last.
So, thanks nostalgia. You can keep collecting my memories and letting them out when someone asks me ‘What’s a memory that you cherish?’ or ‘What’s a time you’d wish to relive?’ and then, follows the sudden rush of joy and a dash of longing I like to call nostalgia.
As 2020 ends, there are some moments I’d like to remember but overall, I think this year will be a reminder to me, that disaster struck but we went on, times changed but we slowly adapted, and that no matter what happens you have to keep going.
PS.- Of all things, I’ll remember this as the year I started this blog:)
Series Alert! I am so excited to start my first series on the blog. Since my birthday just went by on Christmas Eve, I received several books as gifts (which is honestly the best gift you can give me) and, reading them and reviewing them feels a lot more special than it normally would. So, let this review mark the beginning of the series- Birthday Bookshelf! Shoutout to my dad for this book:)
At first glance, my brain automatically thought of Jane on reading Austen. But, the book is in fact about Jane’s sister- Cassandra Austen: The dutiful, compassionate, often undermined eldest daughter of the Austen clan. I love reading about the sidekicks of history’s heroes- the shaping factors and often only supporters in the idols’ lives. Like Patroclus for Achilles and in the case of this book, Cassandra for Jane. The book is told from Cassandra’s point of view. Cassandra and Jane were very close, they had the kind of bond that even reading about makes you smile, they were each the other’s confidante and best friend. So, it was pretty much decided that Cassandra was to be the executor of Jane’s literary estate.
The basis of the book was one of Cassandra’s doings as executor, which was that she burned some of Jane Austen’s letters. This is something that has set historians and scholars against her for years because those letters would be priceless in this day and age. The book revolves around a few months in Cassandra’s life as an old woman, where she comes to her (and Jane’s) best friend’s home to find the letters. As she reads them, they take her back to her youth and bring back fond memories of her life and her sister as well as some painful memories she’d wished to forget. Towards the end of the book, it’s understandable why Cassy chose to burn those letters. You resonate with her as she simply performed her duties as executor and chose to maintain her sister’s perfect image at a time when her novels were just beginning to flourish and a lot of vengeful folks would do anything to bring her down using somewhat controversial aspects of her life.
That being said, this book is an ode to the Jane Austen style of writing and the setting and way of life described was exactly like the kind in her novels. Throughout the book, I drew many parallels between the happenings of the life of Jane Austen and that of her characters. For instance, Cassy and Jane Austen’s relationship and their personalities seemed immensely similar to Jane and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. It goes to show how she took inspiration from her world and expressed it so well.
The main focus of the book is Cassy though, and I adored her. Cassandra Austen was the more popular sister in society. She was ever-ready to help anyone who needed it and being dutiful and loyal towards her family was what she took pride in. She did have her share of difficulties though and there was this phase in the book where it felt like nothing seemed to work out in her favor and she became a pushover of sorts. It saddened me to see that even though she helped everyone, she never received any gratitude in return. However, things did pick up towards the end and I could not put the book down. The best part of the book was seeing the situation through the hopeful perspective of Cassandra. Making the reader feel what you’re writing about is hard, so kudos to the author for making me nostalgic when Cassy thought of her family and pensive when she described what women, especially unmarried women went through and how she wished people understood that she was happy even without a husband.
The book dwells upon themes of family, love, faith- which we often forget how simple yet fulfilling can be. Another theme that the book often mentioned but didn’t entirely focus on was that of women, especially in the Austen sisters’ time being ignored. Cassandra talks of how she read novels of men and their terrible lives but never of the difficulties in society or even in their homes that women went through. To an extent, I think the popularity of Jane Austen’s novels increased for that reason. Women longed to be represented, to see main characters they relate to. Jane Austen gave them that, she told their story for a change.
The letters included in the book are fictional and written by Gill Hornby. This was a fact I did not know until I read the Author’s Note at the end and I was surprised that Jane’s essence was captured so well, the words felt real. I adored the Austens as a family, they supported Jane and Cassandra in every way and were in general a vibrant family. I will admit though, that at some points this book was slow and there wasn’t anything interesting happening. Some parts just seemed unnecessary.
There have been many retellings about Jane Austen’s life but this was a fresh perspective because Cassandra saw Jane’s mistakes, saw everyone’s mistakes but remained admiring of them. They don’t become lesser in her eyes, or yours instead you resonate with them. That’s what I found unique about Cassy’s character.
Final thoughts- This book answered many questions about the misses Austen’s lives. It showed us why Cassy burned some of her sister’s letters, it showed us how Jane became what she became and who got her there. Cassy was defined (back then) by the fact that she never married, so were a lot of the other characters we read about. The book shows us that there was so much more to her, to them than that. Lastly, Miss Austen shows us why Jane called Cassandra the sunshine of her life. It also highlights how you can find perfection in imperfection, happiness in mundanity. Even if this book, doesn’t scream a strong message, it makes you smile and is the perfect light and winter read. If you’re looking for a book to snuggle up with, this one’s for you!
“Happy endings are there for us somewhere, woven into the mix of life’s fabric. We just have to search the detail, follow the pattern, to find the one that should be our own. ”
There seems to be this big, apparently defining question, to which I am always looking for an answer. Or rather everyone around me is. I don’t know if it comes with being a student, or if the question continues to follow you around until you have an answer! You’re probably wondering what the question is. It’s a question that I ask myself every day and each day I seem to have a different answer. This overwhelming question is: Who do you want to be? Have you thought about your career? Why is that the first question we ask a student at any stage of their education? From a young age we’re led to believe that our happiness lies in finding the perfect career path. Why is finding a job equivalent to everlasting happiness and stability?
The question may not seem that scary at first, but the minute the test(s) that will apparently determine your future come close, or you’re about to graduate, it can get pretty stressful. Academic stress is a major reason for suicide, anxiety, and mental health illnesses among a lot of students. It is common to see students stressed and under pressure in a society that believes in keeping students in check by pushing them beyond their limits. Students follow draconian rules and study schedules that leave them feeling depleted and depressed.
Now I may not be the first person telling you this, but it’s okay to not know. Everyone around you might be urging you to find that one perfect job. That if you fall short of this perfection, you are depriving yourself of happiness and not living up to your true potential. ‘’Make the right choice and achieve the ideal grades now and you’re set!’’ they say. I may be wrong but I don’t recall any interview in which a retiree says, ‘’I wish I had achieved a 98% grade point average instead of a 97.5% because that has made all the difference in my life.’’ No, they always seem to say something on the lines of, ‘’enjoy life because it goes by quickly.’’
So, today I am answering this ‘giant’ question, for myself and all my well-wishers. ‘Who do I want to be?’ Well, I choose to be happy! Take each day as it comes, make spontaneous decisions, be amazed by every little surprise that life throws at me and basically, just go with the flow!
Maybe next time you meet me, you can ask me another question. After all, there is more to me, to all of us than what we want to be in the future!
Moreover, as my mom once told me during a ‘what am I going to be!’ panic attack- Nobody has it all figured out, and you certainly can’t figure it out in a day, or a month. The future’s a long time away and of course, nothing ever goes according to plan. (she’s one of the few unique people who lives in the present and doesn’t care about the future) So, relax! Even though this question feels like an ultimatum, I’ve learned from those around me that it isn’t. There are more questions to ask, more to answer. Let’s start the conversation!
Hunted By The Sky is the first fantasy fiction set in India that I’ve read and it certainly had all the elements- a prophecy, said prophecy’s chosen one, and a magical land. The book is set in medieval- India, in the kingdom of Ambar. A well-developed setting is the foundation of any good book and this one might be the best I’ve seen thus far. Ambar features vibrant people, delicious food, lavish structures, and a lot of traditions. However, it also has a dark side which came with the rule of its evil and current King. The people of Ambar are either born with magical powers or none at all and those who weren’t are treated like dirt and forced to survive in horrible conditions. Another victim of this ill-treatment are girls born with a star-shaped birthmark- who according to a prophecy, would kill the King. Thus, these girls and their families were hunted down and killed.
Gul, the main character is one such girl, born with a birthmark. She and her parents move from one place to another, staying hidden from the Sky Warriors i.e killers of the chosen one. They live peacefully until one night, Gul’s parents are killed in front of her while she watches from her hiding place. Then begins the plot of the book- Gul’s journey as the chosen one with multiple motives to kill the King including revenge for her parents’ death. Along the way, she’s helped by Cavas, a boy without magical powers, and the ‘Sisters of the Golden Lotus’- a secret organization of women who train warriors and protect marked girls and women in general.
For most fantasy fiction books, it always takes me a while to get used to the new world which authors form, but this book was easy to read from the beginning because I was in a world I experience everyday. As I wrote before, Hunted By The Sky is set in medieval-India with its traditions and history, but the characters seem to be living in an atmosphere quite like present India. Having studied and heard stories of India in its medieval times, I’ve always thought that it would make for an amazing fantasy because it’s already halfway there! This book expressed the era well. Some aspects, especially the ending reminded me of the Six of Crows duology and so this book is kind of medieval India meets Six of Crows. (Those who’ve read SOC know how awesome that sounds)
This may be an unpopular opinion but Gul wasn’t my favorite character. She’s last on the list of my favorites because she was so ungrateful, rude, and presumptuous at times. I love the other unconventional characters the author created especially Gul’s guiding lights- Juhi, Kali, and Amira. Being the heads of the Sisterhood of the Golden Lotus they played a bigger part in the story than let on. Juhi being the strategic and judicious, mother-figure. Kali the kind-hearted but feisty sister to Gul and Amira who you hate at first, but she ends up becoming the hard-hearted savior you needed. All of the characters have their own stories and have gone through so much which fuels their plan against their common enemy. In a way, it shows how some of our actions and perspectives are a product of our experiences.
It was great to see that no matter how many new characters and problems came in, Gul never lost her motive which was to bring justice to the outcasts and mistreated, whoever they may be. That was something I saw throughout. Every time a new plan was hatched, one of the ultimate benefits was to free the imprisoned and correct injustice, which is surely a noteworthy aim for anyone to have!
Final thoughts- When picking a book, I always glance away from fantasy, but whenever I do read fantasy I’m reminded of how innovative of a genre it is and how much I like reading it! Hunted By The Sky is suggested if you want to learn about medieval-Indian and Persian mythology and culture. Even though a lot is happening the book doesn’t feel rushed at all and the ending does leave room to continue to the sequel. Can’t wait to read what happens next!
“Not all dreams are true, but not all are false either.” ~ Tanaz Bhathena, Hunted By The Sky.
This is part two of my awards post and it also features one of my favorite awards. I posted part one- on the Mystery Blogger Award, you can read that here . Anyway, I am always excited to be nominated for any award but the Liebster Award is, in my opinion, a great innovation in so many ways. It’s actually the first award I read about, the one which introduced me to the whole blogging award concept! For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Liebster Award is a badge of recognition of sort. Only given to bloggers with less than 3,000 followers, it’s main aim is to bring new and aspiring bloggers up and help them grow. As an aspiring and relatively new blogger myself, I think the Liebster Award is so important. For many of us, it’s the first award we’re nominated for. Personally, it’s not only motivated me to work all the more harder on A Writ Much, but it’s given me that feeling of reassurance that yes, someone out there is reading my words and they think they’re good. Now I know that I’m not just sending my thoughts into a desolate void!
“The Liebster Award” is an award for bloggers by bloggers. The award recognizes new blogs with great content. The purpose is bloggers supporting other bloggers. This award gives bloggers a voice and encourages more people to interact with us and follow our journeys!
Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog so others can find them.
Share 11 facts about yourself.
Answer the questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
Nominate other bloggers (with less than 3,000 followers) and ask them 11 new questions.
Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.
List the rules and display a Liebster Blogger Award on your post and/ or your blog site.
11 Facts About Me:
I have this process in which I don’t read a new book until at least 24 hours after I’ve finished my last one. I do the same with tv shows. It’s not for any other reason but so that I can bask in the essence of that show/book and just, think about it for the next 24 hours. Maybe you do it too, but everyone around me makes fun of it!
I am actually a published author. I haven’t published a novel but a short story I’d written was published.
I can listen to Adele for hours on end.
I am still trying to find my favorite author because I don’t have one at present. Although I think Khaled Hosseini or Rainbow Rowell are close contenders for the esteemed position.
I love listening to a good podcast.
I was and I guess I still am obsessed with the city of Paris.
Movies which leave me speechless are my favorite kind.
Pasta comes second to sushi on the list of foods which always make me drool.
Although I can sketch well, I’m the worst when it comes painting.
Even if thought-provoking movies are my first choice, I am ever ready to enjoy a good rom-com.
I have some quotes which I often read for inspiration. They help, I don’t know how and I really recommend doing it.
Tall Blonde Tales’ Questions:
What do you enjoy most about blogging?
The best part about blogging is when I see someone’s comment on one of my posts because I love hearing from readers whether it’s feedback or their views on the topic/book.
2. What is your biggest problem/challenge when it comes to blogging?
I think choosing the right topic every week stands as my biggest challenge. I brainstorm a lot of ideas to come up with the perfect one, which I think my readers would enjoy but I feel strongly about as well.
3. How long does it usually take you to finish a blog post?
I usually have a clear idea of what I want to write before actually sitting down to write it so, it doesn’t take me more than 2 days. Sometimes 3.
4. If you were to name three goals you’d want your blog to achieve in the next year, what would they be?
I want to explore other genres in writing and reading too.
I really hope to reach 100 followers.
I want to develop a rapport with more bloggers.
5. What is the greatest achievement your blog has received? IF you haven’t got any, what would be the achievement you’d want to receive?
So far, winning the awards has been my greatest achievement.
6. What is your best viewed post? Share it with us by providing a link and a short description about it.
My best viewed post is Is History Trying to Tell Us Something?. The post is about how we see certain acts and parts of history repeating themselves which is intriguing to see because it seems like a sign rather than coincidence. It’s something I’ve wondered about for a while and I’m thinking of maybe writing another post to elaborate on it!
7. If you were to give out three pieces of advice to yourself as a blogger, what would they be?
Your passion for writing is why you started a blog and it should always be fun. Don’t ever let it become something you dread doing.
Remain consistent with your blog, be regular with posts and networking.
Some posts won’t do as well as others and that’s okay.
8. Which blog or blogger inspires you the most?
So, this opinion of mine is constantly changing because I come across a lot of different blogs, but I always look forward to reading Myths of The Mirror and Introverted Thoughts! They write some captivating posts and have inspired me on occasion. Do check them out!
9. What is your favorite thing about being a blogger?
I think everybody says this but my favorite part is interacting with other bloggers and reading their work. The blogosphere is such a great place and I’ve read and talked to a number of talented and like-minded writers.
10. What are your top blogging tips?
First and most importantly, don’t underestimate networking and make an effort to interact with others on the blogosphere because it is one of the core things which will help along the way. Nothing works overnight so don’t be discouraged when things are a little slow for you towards the beginning because it will pick up and you’ll be growing in no time! Also, I would give the same advice I gave myself because that’s what keeps you going too.
11. What is the most amazing thing you have ever done? (besides starting your blog)
I’ve been scuba diving, that was really cool and also being published, it’s something I hold pride in.
My Questions for Nominees:
Has COVID-19 and this year in general taught you anything?
What are 3 things you can’t live without?
How did you come up with the name of your blog?
Who is your favorite fictional character?
Which of your posts is your favorite?
What’s a place you want to visit, but have never been?
If you could pick a decade or a year to live in, which would you pick?
Why did you start blogging?
Name a movie that you can watch a million times and never be tired of.