Review: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I’ve wanted to read Where The Crawdads Sing for a while now, but it most recently became a time-sensitive read when I learned that its film adaptation’s coming out soon. I rarely read the more popular books because I cave and end up watching the movies, which spoil them for me. But, for once I get to have an upper hand and full knowledge of the details that movies often miss out on. This book has many elements to it. It’s a saga of multiple timelines and perspectives- a murder mystery alongside a coming-of-age story. It’s set in the small sea town of Barkley Cove on the North Carolina coast from the 1950s onwards. However, our protagonist, Catherine “Kya” Clark lives in the adjacent swamplands, alone in a shack in a secluded area of the marsh where she has survived for years, with nature as her only companion. She rarely ventures into town and is in fact afraid to do so as the townspeople paint her as some sort of creature- savage and uncultured. This prejudice against the ‘Marsh Girl’ bubbles over when the beloved quarterback of Barkley Cove- Chase Andrews is murdered and all fingers point to Kya.

The book is of course about much more than that. The case progresses in 1969, clues are revealed and secrets are uncovered as we read about Kya, from the time she’s six and is abandoned by everyone she holds dear. She learns to fend for herself, getting better at making a life for herself day by day. This is really where the aspect of nature comes along. The marsh and all it has to offer; green lagoons, oak forests, squiggling sand crabs, palmettos, surprisingly friendly seagulls and a coast navigable by creeks and estuaries are the very essences of this book and Kya’s soul. The chapters are incredibly rich in imagery and the scenes Delia Owens paints with her words are one of the most compelling parts of the book. The marsh is both intriguing and terrifying. Kya’s loneliness is never at the forefront. She doesn’t fully express it either because the marsh is her home and always has something to offer her. It is her life and its explorations encompass her day. Nature is used to foreshadow, to set the scene. The author has very cleverly used her descriptions to portray the sight of the murder, or Kya’s favourite spots or turning points in the plot.

Although, I think where Owens excels in imagery she lacks in characterization. Kya as a protagonist felt bland. Her interactions with others and conversations were more fast-moving and exciting as compared to her individual chapters. Yes, her observations of the marsh and reliance on nature were great but that was all there was to her. Each to his own, but I like characters that express more and have a personality that dictates what happens next. Similarly, Kya had little to no character development. It seemed like times changed, her life changed yet she stayed the same but more mature and practical

Different themes stand out to different readers. To me, the theme of literature and reading is one. To reiterate, this book awakened this sort of thirst for writing in me. It made me want to express and describe everything around me in detail. The author couples nature-related poems with her fantastic imagery. Books and poetry become one of Kya’s connections to the outside world. Where words fail, often poetry is quoted to communicate what she’s going through. I don’t think Kya’s love for reading is talked about enough. She and books are such an unlikely pair but they’re kind of the perfect solace for someone that longs to learn but is restricted by her circumstances. They also give her the knowledge that sets her apart as the insightful and perceptive woman whom others are surprised to find. I’m reminded of a quote from the book that’s famous, “I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”

Coming to the ending, don’t worry no spoilers. I wasn’t satisfied with it. The book as a whole seemed to move along much better and built the plot up very well. However, towards the end, it fizzled out and didn’t amount to a “great reveal” as it is in murder mysteries. The ending was unexpected but not unbelievable. Some found certain aspects like the actual carrying out of the murder and Kya’s survival alone in the marsh unrealistic or impossible, but I would say that that’s the beauty of fiction. As readers, we often complain that real life is never as sudden or galvanising as life in fiction. It’s a similar situation where the author has let her imagination run wild and in doing so, highlighted little parts of wildlife and nature we fail to notice. So, don’t try to make sense of it just sit back and enjoy!

Final thoughts~ Where The Crawdads Sing doesn’t settle on any one as its genre. It’s a coming-of-age, a romance, a period piece and a mystery, however you choose to look at it. A description of what it truly means to be lonely and an indirect ode to nature, its many components we haven’t yet discovered. I guess this book is similar in that sense. You could spend hours picking out metaphors and bits of symbolism and discover some new underlying themes. Delia Owens is a retired wildlife scientist, and she interestingly delves into certain ways of life or functioning of the marsh and relates it to human behaviour. A review described how the ‘case studies’ in her book are both human and natural- and I think that perfectly describes the balance she maintains between her professional knowledge and the insights she wishes to leave us with.

“Faces change with life’s toll, but eyes remain a window to what was..”

~Delia Owens, Where The Crawdads Sing.

.

The Art Apocalypse: Is It Real?

I’m unsure if this counts as a fun fact or not but, I’ve never read Hunger Games. I feel like it’s considered a rite of passage of sorts? Like it’s assumed every bookworm/avid reader discovered their love for books with Harry Potter and continued this journey with young adult dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels and less dark but equally detailed fantasy franchises. Honestly, no judgement. Hunger Games sounds great, I just can’t commit to completing series that are longer than two books! I’m either obsessed with an author or will read one of their works and never touch another. I’m pretty sure I started the first Hunger Games and left it halfway. At the time, dystopia as a genre just didn’t seem appealing. I didn’t get the fuss surrounding these alternate worlds with seemingly warped rules and for the most part, normal characters.

Fiction for me meant escapism. Positive outcomes, power-driven characters and of course, the fight and struggle, just not too much of it. Although I still love the “riding into the sunset” endings, I’ve grown to appreciate dystopian art. I get the fuss, they’re a very clever way of artists using their work to showcase reality through fabrication. Dystopia as a genre has so much to offer us, but think about it; art as a whole gets the gears of your brain turning. One looks to literature and film because it’s a show of people like us having experiences and lives that are well, the stuff of movies. Yet, it pushes you to think that you can achieve that ideal too. An underlying motive of dystopian art is just that. It speaks to that “light at the end of the tunnel” craving part of you. The message dystopian narratives relay is that; even if the world as you know it changes, and its order turns upside down, you have a mind. An opinion, the power to think and endure which you must keep alive. You can push back and who knows? Find the Peeta to your Katniss. (I’M SORRY) I have nothing against the Hunger Games couple, it’s just hilarious the way there’s always a strong romance maintained despite the world ending.

On a more serious note, dystopian classics like 1984, Animal Farm, The Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451 etc. present a more stark reality. We see how this genre has its levels. While dystopian literature’s young adult counterparts follow semi-hopeful, feminist storylines with the protagonists leading and emerging victorious in combat against an oppressive government, Orwell and Atwood’s protagonists are already in too deep. They’ve succumbed to an extremist structure larger than them and far too powerful to fight against. In this sense, dystopian art is a cautionary tale. A guide and a warning. Strongest at times when humanity begins to suspect the error of its ways.

The popularity of the dystopian genre speaks volumes of our psychodrama because when activists declare the need for change and the impending disasters awaiting us, many look the other way. Mainly because we’re terrified of the truth, it’s too daunting. But, through dystopian art; by creating these extreme worlds of ink, these precarious other universes, artists simply pose the question, ‘What if?’ And it’s much easier to stomach through the lens of what if. The artist isn’t directly telling you of their fears for our future. Giving new names to the problems we face, dystopias indirectly make us realise that this “other” world isn’t far from ours. This surveillance, torture, war, hampering of progress and oppression, can you see it happening? The question arises, can we fight back as well?

A picture that reminded me of just how wild the range of dystopian art is

The term ‘art-pocalypse’ was coined in the 2000s to account for the rise in the publishing and subsequent popularity of dystopian fiction, tv shows, films and art. I feel like there was and is so much that contributes to the mindsets in which these works were created and consumed. The very fact that we have our world to compare another’s worst period to adds to the thrill of being an accomplice to a dystopia. Not to mention, the relief that comes with realising that we aren’t subject to these atrocities yet and the chill running down your spine when a part of you wonders, ‘or are we?’. It’s also foolish to think that the creators of dystopian art are conniving psychopaths. They live to tell the tale and dystopian art through the years can be seen as a timeline of the greatest terrors of humanity. We can see this from the way different depictions tackle concepts ranging from dictators to media control to climate change.

Something to remember is that dystopias are nothing to be afraid of. Avoiding them because they’re too dark or twisted means you’re missing out! They’re immersive and a way of championing real-life issues on the part of their creators. Pondering upon the way dystopian fiction brings out this rebellious, defiant, ready-to-fight aspect in people who watch or read it or how often the world seems to be eerily similar, always brings me to the life imitates art v/s art imitates life debate. The way dystopian art makes us want to be unruly, to protest, to surmount complex structures reveals so much about the way words and pictures put us in a sort of permanent mindset. Art has such power. The art we choose to consume builds our personality. I might be exaggerating, but art in its purest form and even in its messiest, leaves us changed in some way. For better or for worse? That’s not for this post to decide.

Review: The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

I’ll be honest this book wasn’t on my TBR and reading it was a rather spontaneous decision. It is a retelling of the Mahabharata which is a major Indian epic that is at its core, the tale of a devastating war between two clans- the Kauravas and Pandavas. It’s a very detailed, intricate tale so I’d suggest looking up the characters and understanding the basic storyline before reading this book. I never explored the genre of mythological texts much before and that’s why I only had a loose idea of what the Mahabharata was about. That was until I came across a more philosophical explanation of it and realized that this story has more than meets the eye.

For those unfamiliar with the epic: the Pandavas are five brothers and cousins to the Kauravas. A multitude of events and instances of betrayal causes a civil war between the two. The duration of this war is filled with revelations, acts of love and sacrifice and interludes of mythical stories. Moreover, it is a wonderful description of Indian culture and traditions. Keep in mind, the original book is huge and this novel talks of more of the main events and offers a new perspective on this compelling tale. It is narrated from the point of view of Panchaali, wife of the five Pandava brothers and a very important part of the epic. Although there have been various tv shows, movies and interpretations of the Mahabharata, they are for the most part male-centric. But, Panchaali plays a very crucial role in this war and she has such an interesting, unique history too. This is my mom’s favourite book and she has been urging me to read it, but I refused thinking it wasn’t my cup of tea(sorry mom).

However, when I found out the distinctive perspective this book offers and that Panchaali was no damsel in distress but an outspoken, fierce and opinionated queen,(literally) I wanted to read this book immediately. If you can’t tell already, I loved it and my mom had an ‘I told you so’ moment. Anyway, it’s surprising that Panchaali’s viewpoints haven’t been explored much before because she was the immediate cause of the war and in general, a female character not only known for her prophesized birth, but her inquisitive nature and drive to push boundaries and enter places reserved for men in ancient India. However, the thing that sets her apart and makes her known across lands is that she is queen of the Pandavas.

Throughout the book, Panchaali expresses her desire to make a name for herself and to go down in history as someone who was revolutionary or different. As her name Panchaali goes, she was one of a kind living in a time where only kings have several wives all at once. Becoming this legend of sorts is only the beginning of a lifetime of instances where she indirectly influences major events of the Mahabharata. Panchaali has some dialogue or history with almost all male characters in the book, she advises some and seeks advice from some. These moments, even if they don’t play a part in driving the story forward are still at the back of her head and we see how they affect her when those characters are on a battlefield fighting for their lives.

The author also highlights some other background female characters equally interesting as Panchaali. These women made a difference in their way and it’s great the way they all come together at the end. If there’s an emotion I noticed was very well put forth in this novel, it was regret. Panchaali often forgot the consequences of her actions in pursuit of her ambitions and these consequences would return to haunt her. Chitra Banerjee brought something new to the table in her portrayal of Panchaali’s deepest desire playing out unexpectedly. She wanted to make her mark on history and she did, but by starting a war. Towards the end, she has an almost apologetic tone as she never wanted for so many lives to be lost, women to be widowed and survivors left forlorn and regretful.

Final thoughts~ This book had a bittersweet, beautiful ending. Though mythological it is very versatile and has some great lessons to teach no matter where you’re from. The title particularly intrigued me because I couldn’t figure why the Palace of Illusions which is the name given to the extraordinary palace Panchaali inhabited, was particularly important. I think it’s meant to be symbolic because this palace was the first place she ever belonged, was ever happy and when the war and devastation began in her life; the palace, the crux of her joy was something she never saw again. I could go on about this book, but I’d rather you read it and understand where I’m coming from. I want to explore more of this genre because mythological stories are truly timeless!

“A situation in itself, is neither happy nor unhappy. It’s only your response to it that causes your sorrow.”

~Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions.

Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a novel about the universal plight of refugees, no matter where they come from. Although centered around two Syrian refugees the book also touches on the situations and journeys of people that have fled from war-torn areas around Syria. This book tells the story of Nuri and Afra, a couple leading a pleasant and content family life in the populous Syrian governorate of Aleppo before they are forced to leave when the Civil War turns their lives upside down. Christy Lefteri tells the tale of their sail, trek and expedition to safety and how it changes both of them for the better and worse. This also highlights their search for a home untouched by destruction and a night’s sleep uninterrupted by the sound of bomb blasts. But, is it possible to live in normalcy after one has suffered enough to last a lifetime?

The narrator of the book is Nuri. A beekeeper who lives in the dazzling city of Aleppo with his wife Afra, an artist. Christy Lefteri’s descriptions of Aleppo seem quite accurate considering she’s never set foot in Syria because of obvious reasons. I read she gets her inspiration from listening to actual Syrian refugees while volunteering at a refugee centre in Athens. Nuri and Afra are strong, simple yet entwined in a blissful past where pain was nowhere in sight. Nuri seems calm in the midst of chaos, stable. But you can see that he isn’t and that memories of a better time and the frustration of injustice faced by his family still tugs at him beneath that calm. Afra’s grief, on the other hand, is very evident. She is literally blinded by her sorrow. We see a huge change in her persona before and after the war where she was lively, creative and right where she needed to be as opposed to when the Syrian Civil War prevails.

So, Nuri wishes to go to Britain which most people he admits this to tell him it’s an impossible journey. Yet, he is determined to reach his destination despite all odds against him. As they progress through the journey, Lefteri brings out how unimaginable loss changes the way you perceive the world and how difficult it is to adapt to a new life what with the hurry and urgency with which you’re forced to leave what was once paradise behind. Nuri and Afra endure a long journey residing in overcrowded camps, taking shelter under the roofs of NGOs in Turkey and Greece, meeting all kinds of people as exhausted as them and doubting whether Britain will even be worth it.

I read something once, on the lines of how refugees are often treated as if they are taking up space, infringing on another land and stealing homes but probably all they wish to do is go back. To be in the comfort of their own homes. A foreign land where they are hardly treated like human beings is the last place they’d long to be. Christy Lefteri used a beekeeper as the protagonist of her book. She also brought bees as a community to symbolize various things along the story. The bees act as a sort of light at the end of the tunnel in Nuri’s life. Bees thrive in their hives and with others like them. They can also build a home in any given environment over time. A bee away from the hive is often wingless and helpless, all of this much like Nuri and Afra.

The war is a topic that although is the cause of all upheaval in the book, is not mentioned much. I don’t think this is a bad thing because it just shows us that in times of such suffering, do Nuri and Afra even care about the war? Are they more concerned about surviving or who wins? I realized that they aren’t too sure about its causes themselves either. No specific incidents or parties are mentioned and it’s better that way because there’s enough coverage about that in media. I’m glad Lefteri doesn’t give us details because not only is the story alright without them but it’s also a Google search away and it pushes people to do their research about the war.

Final thoughts~ The Beekeeper of Aleppo is an eye-opening and powerful book. It is sad but it wouldn’t have as much of an effect if it wasn’t and it gives you hope and reassurance when needed. The book takes you from Syria to Britain and ties it all so well at the end. Christy Lefteri made good use of her time spent volunteering and managed to cast a light on the unheard stories of Syrian refugees.

“I wanted to set forth the idea that among profound, unspeakable loss, humans can still find love and light and see one another.”

~Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

for podcast listeners- The Book Club Review

The Beekeeper of Aleppo~ Christy Lefteri

Book Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Christy Lefteri, The Beekeeper of Aleppo (2019)

Review: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

This was my first Murakami novel and…. let’s just say it was long overdue. I’d heard some great things about his work and quotes from his novels, these words which felt unique, personal and heartfelt made me all the more curious to see if this internationally acclaimed, idiosyncratic author was as brilliant as everyone says he is. Unsure of which book to read first, I picked Sputnik Sweetheart on a whim. At first, I was disappointed. Now, wait a minute, before you come at me, read the rest of this blog post. I don’t know which part of the book let me down. It wasn’t the writing, which was powerful and evocative. He excels at providing strong imagery and descriptions that you cannot get enough of. It wasn’t the characters or a complex storyline that made me discontent either. It was the plot and the fact that I was not used to novels that left me with more questions than answers and left so much to the readers’ interpretation.

I didn’t know this at the time, and I was not about to stop at that. I knew there had to be more to Murakami and I was determined to find out what it was. So, I went down a Google rabbit-hole and read anything about Sputnik Sweetheart I could find. What I found out from Murakami fans (is there a name for them? Like Potterheads? I’m new help me out) online is that the beauty of his books is the fact that he leaves it to you to decide and his storylines give you so many possibilities. I also learned that his books don’t usually have a centric storyline and are more dependent on the themes, philosophies and characters to lead them.

I also learned about a little something known as magical realism, which is the genre Murakami’s books come under. Magical realism is a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy. These authors deliberately leave the magic in their stories unexplained, in order to normalize it as much as possible and reinforce that is part of everyday life. This is a concise explanation but I think it gave me clarity on so much of what the book was trying to portray. Sputnik Sweetheart explored the mysteries and possible complexities of the world we live in. How there is much more to it than what we see.

The characters are pretty generic. We have the protagonist Sumire, (meaning: Violet) a witty, ‘better than most’, aspiring novelist, who dressed in an oversized herringbone coat and spent her days deep in thought and a Jack Kerouac novel. Sumire didn’t like everyone’s company but something about her drew people in. She probably thinks she’s unique to this world but little does she know, Sumire is every intellectual/brainy/bookish female protagonist. But although I’ve read about 100 Sumires, this kind of character is just one you can’t get tired of. We then have Sumire’s best friend and the narrator of this book, represented by the single letter, K. It’s true! K remains nameless throughout the book. This decision was probably for the best because K is the blandest character I have come across. I forgot that he was narrating multiple times because Sumire has way more personality than he does. She has her quirks and her writing while K is just… there. I think this was a good decision on Murakami’s part though because the attention would have swayed from Sumire if K had a vibrant personality. He was the perfect narrator. Our third and last character is Miu, Sumire’s love interest. I really like Miu and Sumire’s dynamic.

Miu is the opposite of Sumire, so to speak. She is an elegant businesswoman who speaks three languages, travels and has so many stories to tell. Miu is intriguing. Coming to the story, the plot really starts when Miu calls K from a remote Greek island to tell him Sumire has gone missing, and there are no leads. Following this is a series of revelations and the magical realism aspect comes in with the characters’ unusual experiences all leading up to the question, what happened to Sumire? That’s not for me to say because honestly, I still don’t have an answer. I’ve been trying to decipher the ending, and each time I come to a new conclusion. It’s a baffling, chilling story.

Final thoughts~ I am in awe of Murakami’s descriptions of loneliness, they were profound and different but somehow, you understand what he’s describing. I also loved the way he captured the ups and downs of writing and Sumire’s thirst for knowledge and curiosity and the way she asks questions we didn’t know we had at the back of our minds. The best was the parallel with Sputnik and the characters, I think he brought the title in very well. I’ll end by saying that if it is your first time reading Haruki Murakami, like me- don’t base your opinion on your first impression of this book. If you don’t get what he’s saying at first glance, think deeper, read it again. You will probably be very confused but also on the right track so, give it a try!

“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.”

~Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Reading with Robin: Sputnik Sweetheart

Sputnik Sweetheart; ENDING ANALYSIS AND SPOILERS

Haruki Murakami- Sputnik Sweetheart

My 5 Go-To Podcasts

Podcasts are something I’ve recently gotten into. I first came across them when one of my favourite YouTubers, Colleen Ballinger launched her podcast and I decided to check it out. In doing so, I discovered a new community full of creators I had never heard of before. This was in May 2020 and I had pretty much exhausted my resources of Pinterest, Instagram and WordPress, so I was looking for something new to pass the time. Podcasts are the same as blogs or YouTube, they are available in multiple genres and I had so many to pick from. It took me some trial and error to find some great podcasters but I think a year later, I’ve listened to enough podcasts to blog about my favourite ones.

Sometimes, I’ll explore the latest suggestions on the app but these 5 I listen to every week without fail:

  1. You Can Sit With Us

I enjoy watching The Try Guys on YouTube and You Can Sit With Us is one of the podcasts on their channel. This is such a fun weekly podcast and it has more of light-hearted content. The hosts Maggie, Becky and Ariel talk about female friendships, current events and just everyday things or what they’ve been thinking about and their lives. Some episodes have guests and those touch on some gripping topics and are very insightful. I love listening to them because the episodes are relatable and funny and I think it has something that can make everyone smile. You can really pick any episode to start with but two of my favourites are Addressing The TikTok Middle Part Controversy and Post-Pandemic Bucket Lists

2. Stuff You Should Know

This podcast is on the informative side. The episodes cover and reveals facts about stuff you didn’t possibly think could have another side. I saw this podcast’s episode about the Stonewall Uprising on my explore page and have been hooked since then. The hosts Josh and Chuck go into detail about each topic without making it a lecture and still manage to keep it entertaining. You can dive into almost any episode with no prior knowledge of the topic and will still have a clear idea of what they’re talking about because they explain its background well. I find myself listening with intense concentration anytime I put on this podcast. My top two episodes are How Auto-Tune Works and The Ivy League.

3. Guilty Pleasures

I follow Kelsey Darragh and I didn’t know she had a podcast before this! Her content is hilarious and that wit and hilarity is taken to the nth degree in this podcast. Kelsey along with hosts Zach and Garrick talk about their favourite ‘guilty pleasure’ movies and TV shows and about its cringe-factors as well as its underrated aspects and finally, why it’s a guilty pleasure. This podcast is incredibly entertaining and each episode has a movie/ TV show that is kind of a classic and its impossible that you haven’t watched them or at least know about them. The podcast has guests like Lana Condor and Elle Mills among others and its a relatively new podcast but I can’t wait to see what they have planned. My favourites include LaurDIY loves Pitch Perfect and Elle Mills loves The Lizzie McGuire Movie.

4. After Hour Happy Hour

I actually came across this podcast on my Instagram explore page where I saw a snippet of one of their episodes and it was the real talk that made me subscribe immediately. In this podcast, the hosts Jamila, Sharon and Vicky like to unwind and recount amusing stories, random everyday things and are all about manifestation. I love their Conversation Starters and Music Session episodes because its fun to hear their very realistic opinions on things. I suggest starting from the first episode for this podcast just because some are in parts and its better when you’re listening in order. The best episodes for me are Growing Up Asian and MBTI Personality Test.

5. The Book Club Review

For the last one, I listen to various podcasts about books but I like this one the best. I take inspiration for my book reviews from here too, how to analyze the books I read and what questions to ask of them. The hosts Katie and Laura talk about the books they’ve been reading in their book clubs and review them. They touch on what they thought of them, did the books spark interesting conversation and in general whether they loved or were let down by the book. However, the ultimate question is, was it a good book club book? I think this podcast is really great in terms of suggestions and even the fact that they talk about what’s on their bookshelf and personal opinions of the book. My top two episodes would be The Postal Book Club and The Booker Prize 2020.

So, that’s my top five podcasts! I’m always looking for more to listen to so tell me about some of your favourites and what you think about these five if you’ve heard any of them!

Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adichie

After reading Americanah, an unputdownable book full of wit and vigour- I was itching to read another one of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works and this anthology of twelve short stories did not disappoint. Coming up with twelve different stories, ensuring their plots don’t clash and their characters vary in their personalities all the while, sticking to the common theme of ‘the thing around your neck’ is hard to do but she has executed that effectively. In this book she’s given us some poignant and touching stories which stay with you long after you read their last lines. You can’t help but take a break after each one to ponder upon its lessons and meaning and really read between the lines.

The Thing Around Your Neck features the tales of various Nigerian women, all from different walks of life and varying in age. The stories are set in a range of time periods from the mid-1900s to the 2000s and the protagonists are from every strata of society and some are placed in the U.S.A as well. We see one thing common to all stories and that is the essence and culture of Nigeria which is alive in all of the protagonists. Despite being in different times and situations, the women are subjected to the same repression and orthodoxy, but remain empowered nonetheless. From exploring corruption in Nigerian authorities to the terrors of immigration to the oppression caused by gender roles, making us accomplice to ethnic-wars and riots and of course, her compelling feminist epiphanies, Adichie really takes us full circle.

Although this book included themes common to Adichie’s work, something I found unique to this book and what I believe she excels at writing is grief. Devoting certain stories to the aftermath of losing a loved one and the toll it takes on human beings, she’s given us an insight into a rather complex feeling well and told the tale with understanding and sensitivity. Such stories in the book resonate with you and are truly heartrending. One thing I recommend if you’re curious to know more about any story is to read its analysis and symbolism, I found a great site for this and I’ve linked it at the end.

I don’t want to disclose any plots or characters because I’d be revealing too much, but just know that this book has some intricate and gripping storylines. For those of you who’ve read the book, I wanted to reveal some of my favourite stories from the collection. Don’t get me wrong all of them moved me but some simply resonated with me more and were real page-turners. In particular, A Private Experience, Jumping Monkey Hill, Tomorrow Is Too Far and The Headstrong Historian.

The Thing Around Your Neck is one of the stories in the anthology, but it raises the question, why is it the title of the book? What is the ‘thing around your neck’? In my opinion, it’s the characters’ discontent, their past, culture or even grief and loneliness in some cases which is almost like a prison that doesn’t seem to leave them. The ‘thing around your neck’ is always lingering and casting its shadow.

Final thoughts~ Overall, this collection is a vivid and powerful one. It focuses on everyday aspects of life and relationship that are painful yet considered normal because everyone goes through them at some point. If anything, this book is a good reference for anyone looking to read short stories because the ones in The Thing Around Your Neck are great examples of what a sequence and build-up of a short story should be like.

“He said “see” as if it meant something more than what one did with one’s eyes”

~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck

REFERENCE:

The Thing Around Your Neck Guide

Review: Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Number The Stars is an eye-opening novel reminding us of the most tragic period in human history. It is a story of bravery and courage, showing us how every human being has the right to make a choice and live with it. This book highlights the fact that, however hard you try, you can’t run away from your fears and will have to face them. Thus, the author poses the question, ‘if you’re faced with your biggest fear, will you rise to the challenge?’. The author takes us through wartime Copenhagen, a bustling and vibrant city torn apart by war. She subtly highlights the destruction and suffering war causes and the catastrophic damage done to people of all ages. This book tells the story of children who were forced to grow up early when they were faced with life and death situations and the world suddenly became a scary place for them.

The protagonist of the book, Annemarie Johansen is a thoughtful ten-year-old. She’s bold and very much aware of how the war is taking everything from her, including her Jewish best friend- Ellen. Annemarie tells us about the food shortages, power cuts and the German soldiers at every corner who ruin her beloved Denmark. The book is set in the very beginning of the Holocaust and it isn’t a typical WW2 novel because instead of focusing on the rather dark aspects, it chooses themes like bravery and friendship which truly withstand destruction and war. Annemarie is such an inspiring protagonist. She’s rather fearless for her age, willing to risk her life to save her friends but of course, she didn’t become that way overnight! The author shows us her progress from being a shy girl reluctant to stand up to Nazi soldiers to one confidently sticking up to them. You could say that this is a coming of age story because the entire book leads up to her summoning enough courage to help Ellen and her family escape and she gains so many qualities and skills in the process.

Final thoughts~ You will probably finish Number The Stars in one sitting- it’s a short book, sadly so, but it’s a heartwarming book that stays with you long after you put it down. I knew little of Denmark’s history of resistance during WW2 before this book and overall it does a good job telling less celebrated and well-known stories of heroism. If anything it is a remembrance of the courage, kindness and sacrifices we’re all capable of.

“The whole world had changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same.”

~ Lois Lowry, Number The Stars.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Book Review: Number The Stars

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Review: Hunted By The Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

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.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

5 Reasons To Read Hunted By The Sky

Hunted By The Sky By Tanaz Bhathena

Hunted by the sky

The Mystery Blogger Award

Last week I was nominated for two awards by the amazing Tia from Tall Blonde Tales! Go check her blog out, she writes some great posts which are definitely worth the read! Tia’s been a wonderful blogging peer from the start and I was super excited to be nominated by her. She’s also initiating Blogmas on her blog so check that out too! So, thanks Tia for the nominations. Anyway, I was nominated for the Mystery Blogger and Liebster Award and since I want to focus on both, this will be a two-part awards post. Onto the Mystery Blogger Award!

“The Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.
– Okoto Enigma

Source- https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/

Rules:

  1. Put the award logo/ image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. Nominate other bloggers of your choice
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

3 things about myself:

  1. I can eat sushi for breakfast everyday if you ask me to.
  2. Sketching is my go-to during writers’ block.
  3. I’m one of those teens who’s crazy about her parents. (I mean, I’m not ashamed to say that I’m one of those rare ones :))

My best posts:

I’ve loved writing all my posts but if I had to pick favorites I think The Bechdel Test: A Call for Representation for it was a topic that I’d spent months thinking about and finally sharing my thoughts on it felt great. In terms of book reviews, I would pick Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee because it was not only an exceptional book which I enjoyed reviewing, but it also featured some of my best writing in my opinion!

Tall Blonde Tales’ Questions:

What have you done this week that made you feel good about yourself? 

Especially this year, anytime I complete the tasks lined up on my to-do list is when I feel the most accomplished. I’m proud to say that I successfully managed to check off everything on my list this week and it sure does feel good.

What were the last 5 emojis you used? 

💜🙈😟😍🤷‍♀

Describe the most embarrassing incident of your life.

Sports and I, don’t exactly get along, but that never stopped me from playing them whenever I got the chance to! So, once some friends asked if I’d like to join them in a game of football. Now, I didn’t and still don’t know how to play. Yet, I agreed and went on to play with utmost confidence- the stars weren’t in my favour. Throughout the game, I scored goals for the other team, kicked the ball off the field and I’m pretty sure ‘the weather’ wasn’t the reason the game ended early. Gosh, even writing about it makes me cringe in embarrassment.

What is your best achievement in blogging till now? 

Undoubtedly, my best achievement has to be being nominated for the awards. I’m so glad I started my blog because I love writing for it and interacting with everyone on the blogosphere. But, the nomination is my best achievement.

[Weird question] If you could switch places with one actor in any scene in any movie/tv show, which would it be?

I would love to be Saoirse Ronan as Jo in Little Women. It’s one of my favorite movies for a lot of reasons- the cast, the plot and it was also the last movie I saw in a theatre before they were closed. Honestly, you can name any of her scenes in the movie and I’d happily switch places.

My Questions for my Nominees:

  1. If you could interview any famous person (a celebrity, an author, a world leader even an activist) who would it be?
  2. What’s the first thing on your bucket list?
  3. What motivated you to start your blog?
  4. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
  5. [Weird Question] Would you rather be in a musical on Broadway or part of an acapella group?

Finally, my Nominees:

Banter Republic

My Healthy and Wealthy Life

Fun With Philosophy

Caffeinated Fae

Yuvi’s Buzz

My One Penny Wisdom

I enjoyed writing this awards post and can’t wait to read my nominees’ answers to my questions, and learn more about them as well!