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!

Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is a historical fiction that features the retelling of the story of one of the greatest heroes of Greek mythology: Achilles from the point of view of his most ardent admirer, Patroclus. If you’re familiar with Homer’s ‘Illiad’, you probably know of Achilles and Patroclus. Achilles- the prophesied warrior, best of the Greeks and a man who was idolized throughout his life. Patroclus- quite the opposite, an exile who was mostly deemed a coward because he abhorred the battlefield. There’s not much mythology tells us about Patroclus. I think the situation is so because he wasn’t a warrior, and lived in a society which then revolved around war, regarding any other qualities in a man insignificant. But Patroclus never wanted to be in the spotlight. We see how in the book too, he hardly draws any attention to himself.

I was skeptical about reading this book at first, having never been too fond of Achilles according to what I’d read about him. But Patroclus’ narration is such a refreshing perspective that it changed the way I saw Achilles, it even made me feel sorry for him. Mythology only saw Achilles as a fearless, skilled warrior and a ruthless savior. But Patroclus saw him as more than that. He knew Achilles before anyone cared about him. While most stories only talk about Achilles during the Trojan War, this book begins when he was still a child. When Patroclus was first exiled to Phthia, the kingdom of which Achilles was prince.

Patroclus loved him for many reasons. Achilles befriended him when nobody would, he always said what he meant. While others longed for that twisted game they called honour- he didn’t care about it. He pushed Patroclus to embrace himself for who he was. The book names countless other reasons as to why he stuck by him and they’ve been expressed almost poetically to the extent that I wanted to read them again and again. One of the biggest things I realized from reading this is that Patroclus shaped Achilles to be who he was during the Trojan War. It seemed like he was not only his confidante but conscience, shaping his actions and making him the hero everyone loved. Without Patroclus, Achilles would’ve been lost, and he was.

I was curious to see how the story would move along after Patroclus’ death. According to the Illiad, revenge for Patroclus’ death was the reason Achilles went on a killing spree and ultimately ended the Trojan War. The last few chapters of the book are heartbreaking, when Patroclus watches Achilles as a spirit, begging him to stop. The Illiad’s focus on the Trojan War was to show the loss, grief, and suffering war causes. The Song of Achilles also highlights the same because the Trojan War changed Achilles and Patroclus’ lives. The two were unwilling to go in the first place.

After I read this, I wondered why classics like the Illiad and stories of heroes like Achilles and the world he lived in, are still relevant today? But that could be asked of any classic or epic. Maybe it’s because they gave rise to ideas which we continue to value today, or love stories and figures we can still idolize. For instance, Patroclus’ longing to fit in, how the Greeks would do anything to maintain their honour and pride, their belief in togetherness and numbers, wars over differences. I can’t figure out if that’s the world refusing to learn from history or just the way it’s meant to be.

Final thoughts~ I love that the author sheds light on storylines and characters which are mostly ignored in the classics. They add a new perspective instead of the monotonous ones. Instead of descriptions of the battlefield and bloodshed we get to read about the atmosphere on the sidelines, where wives and workers anxiously waited for the war to end. I strongly suggest this book even if you’re unfamiliar with Greek mythology because the author provides sufficient background.

“Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another. We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory. Who knows?”

                                                                        -Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles- Book Review

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

This book is a great work of fiction, spanning over nearly 100 years and two countries. It begins in Korea, 1911 and by the end, we’ve reached Japan, 1989. But the author has blended the storylines very well and seamlessly taken the story along, so the change in characters and periods doesn’t seem abrupt at all. Since the book ranges across four generations of characters, it highlights how one’s history plays a huge role in a person’s life and how, as the phrase goes- has a tendency to repeat itself. It shows how a defining moment of one’s life continues to define and affect the actions of generations down the line.

The plot is centered around one Sunja, a woman born in a small town in Korea. It begins with her father, whose memory and wise words are remembered by her till the end of the book. Her grandparents ran a lodging house, which is passed down to her parents, whose story we are told too. That’s another thing I liked about the book- everyone’s story and point of view is told. In any situation, we read about what each person involved is thinking at that moment, even if it’s just a few lines. Anyway, Sunja spends the first sixteen years of her life at the lodging house until she marries a kind pastor, staying there, and goes with him to Japan.

The story then moves to the city of Osaka in Japan where Sunja stays with her brother and sister-in-law and her husband. We are then introduced to another dynamic and focus of the book which is the treatment of Korean immigrants in pre-WW2 Japan. I didn’t know this tension between the two regions existed and it was a saddening insight into what so many families must have faced.

We see how Sunja’s new family who were rich in Korea are made to live in a ghetto and work odd jobs in order to survive. Not only them, but she tells us about all the Koreans she knew in Japan who were reduced from riches to rags and who struggled to make ends meet. Every character faces some form of prosecution and discrimination at some point. But despite all they were facing, the family made the best of what they had and found a way to be happy.

At certain points in the book, it seemed like their situation was impossible and there was no way out, but somehow they survived, rising like a phoenix from the ashes. Of all things, the characters’ resilience and survival instinct was in my opinion, portrayed very well throughout the book. It was shown in various contexts and not only inspiring but well-thought-out as well.

The book ends on a sad note for most characters, but there is a ray of hope and an assurance given to us, letting us subtly know that the characters will be alright. As always, I loved reading about a new culture, a new history. Pachinko also passes the Bechdel test

Final thoughts- I didn’t realize the relation between the name of the book and the story until the last few chapters. Pachinko is a Japanese pinball game and a gambling business of sorts. Both of Sunja’s sons were involved in the pachinko business and it eventually becomes the family business. Many relations are made between the game of pachinko and the game of life in the book. So, I felt the name was a smart pick because, in a way, pachinko represents the life of Koreans in Japan and life in general as well!

Which other books with similar themes to Pachinko have you read?

Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage.

~ Min Jin Lee, Pachinko.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: A Great Epic

PACHINKO- A REVIEW

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee