‘A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor’ (2017) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I had originally bought the hardcover version of this book on a whim since it was on discount, and I can safely say that it was a good decision. The cover art is…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“For the first time, I was afraid we’d die on this shore.”

I had originally bought the hardcover version of this book on a whim since it was on discount, and I can safely say that it was a good decision.  The cover art is absolutely gorgeous and the serene blue coloration was a delightful surprise. Overall, I liked the book. I can’t say that I absolutely loved it, but it wasn’t awful. I’m happy to have read it. I have my complaints about certain traits of the characters, but the plot was way better than in some other novels that I’ve previously read, and I loved the writing style and character arcs.

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

The plot was definitely a gripping one; one which kept you on your toes, guessing what the next twist was going to be. It was so unpredictable that I couldn’t just put it down (it was yet another all-nighter read). The characters weren’t unnaturally perfect, and they had their flaws, a lot of them, in fact– I liked that a lot.

Let’s talk about the writing. I specifically loved the writing itself more than anything else. The alternate chapters– one from the past, one in the present? That really doesn’t work for some plots, but this book undoubtedly nailed it. The suspense kept you going as you rushed to learn what happens next. Other than that, I loved the bits when the main characters were on the island, which is pretty much more than half of the book. The imagery was lovely, and the details were so profound that they felt as if they were taking you to the island itself. Well, all books transport you to their world (provided that you are capable of imagining it) but this one didn’t just do that; it made you see all the tiniest minutiae that made up its world, the scenes, the natural beauty of an untouched land, the threat of nature. And there was never a point where it felt as if surviving in the way that the novel portrays was impractical or illogical; it was perfectly believable.

The cover of ‘A Map For Wrecked Girls’ arranged artistically by Soyeenka.

Half of the book took me longer than usual to read because of the sheer hatred I had towards Henri. She wasn’t entirely a bad person, but except in a mere few instances, her actions borne out of spite, in my opinion, weren’t justified. The author did an awesome job of casting her in that light. I do understand why she did some things, owing to the family problems and her own issues, but the extent to which she went to do her own bidding was unwarranted.  She had many toxic tendencies in the past but I’m more than happy that she changed for the better in the end. 

What she did at the end was a good deed– a great deed, in fact – but unfortunately, she didn’t redeem herself in my eyes; I’m just not a very forgiving person. I mean, the ending would have taken a turn for the worse (for some time at least) had she not intervened, but she still has a long way to go before I grow fond of her, or even just have neutral feelings for her. Her logic was seriously screwed up, and she needs to continue getting help.

Emma. Emmalyn Jones. Or simply Jones, as Alex called her. For most of the plot, her character was very frustrating to me. She stood in the shadow of her sister for so long that she didn’t know what else to do. Her following Henri around like a lost puppy, getting manipulated by her, defending her even when she kept acting irrationally: all of it was annoying and increasingly disappointing. She did step up eventually and became her own person but she needed to do it earlier. However, that being said, I did enjoy the character development, watching her shed her inhibitions one by one as the story progressed.

What Em did out of impulsiveness and misplaced jealousy was the most horrible thing. Yes, Henri’s actions needed to be shed light on, I admit, but Emma’s way of doing it was just so, so wrong. Poor Gavin Flynn was collaterally damaged; his entire life and career left ruined forever due to one little lie which Emma thought wouldn’t bring on any serious consequences. All the pretense she had done earlier, tiny little lies here and there to Henri– all of those came back to bite her, which was a good lesson that she had to learn the hard way.

Now it’s Alex’s turn to be discussed. Alex Roth, cousin of Casey Roth. He was a brave fella who didn’t deal with grief in a wholly unhealthy manner and he stuck to his morals (with a few exceptions). The mysterious and, simultaneously, suspicious aura of his character caused me to feel somewhat distanced and wary of him initially but, at the same time, I admired the way that he saw things for what they were.

When he revealed his secrets, it wasn’t totally surprising since I was expecting something along the lines of what came out. Alex made a lot of bad decisions in his life that ultimately lead to Casey’s death, but he paid for his mistakes. When the authorities took him away and the Joneses couldn’t do anything, it was a very hopeless moment since I couldn’t think for the life of me how he would get out safely without any charges. Things worked out pretty well in the end which I am terrifically impressed by and grateful for as well. He went through a lot of pain and grief throughout the story, and it made me feel really bad for him… he didn’t deserve so much agony, especially considering his past.

I would recommend this book to you if you’re tired of your daily lives and want to escape onto an unknown island for amazing, dangerous, and thrilling adventures with a bunch of teenagers who try their best to stay alive with nothing in their arsenal but a couple of things. Be prepared to be filled with questions for the better part of the book as well as some self-discovery and a little bit of romance (some fluff, some not) on this snazzy escapade.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Images: Soyeenka Mishra and Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

‘Perfect Storm’ – Poetry

By Soyeenka Mishra – The palpable, howling wind— one I hadn’t heard since years / Racked up in intensity this time; so strong, so cool, so vibrant…

By Soyeenka Mishra

The palpable, howling wind— one I hadn’t heard since years

Racked up in intensity this time; so strong, so cool, so vibrant

A barely concealed power rests within, 

Waiting to be unleashed, that can destroy everything in its wake

Still I love this storm… I wish it’d go on forever

Nothing has ever matched the mood of my heart so well, 

And made me feel lively thus!

The excessively heavy rain—

The noise a deafening melody, 

A serene symphony, veiling the preponderant potency—

Makes my glasses blurry with the spray, and my hair and clothes saturated,

My appearance that of a drowned rat

But never have I ever felt so refreshed, so alive

Out of reach of the dreary world— portentous, draining, and exhausting

The distant places impossible to see, the perspiration forms an opaque sheet

The wind roars with such vigour, making the water charge at me

My heart thuds in my ribcage,

But standing there immobile, I’ve never felt so alive 

The water flows down the streets like a river, 

The surface disturbed with a million raindrops

Broken trees lie on the roads, vehicles long abandoned

A minute precedent of what’s to come—

Unforeseen, unexpected, and intimidating

Not a single soul is to be found out here

But yours truly, who stares around with awe

The wind swirls and dances, 

Sending sheets of mist in all directions with a dull groan, an anguished lament

A catastrophe to some, a nuisance, a tragic calamity 

But to me, a fortuity, serendipity

Sure, I understand the physics behind it

But it’s not a time to be scientific, but poetic

Goosebumps cover my arms and legs

Due to the frigid temperature of the storm; I could be safe inside my home 

With a warm cup of coffee before the fireplace

But the tempest calls out to me, summons my very essence

I don’t want to get away from the cold, the wind, the rain, 

And the beauteous tranquility of the moment

Despite the chaos, the disquiet, it somehow calms my spirit 

I take my sweet time observing, 

And absorbing for content with my sweer, indolent gaze

This sight, this view, the scenery

Disastrously beautiful, or beautifully disastrous—

Majestically magnificent all the same

Nothing will ever be the same again

At last I take my glasses off

And embrace the wind, the rain, the storm

Everything’s a messy blur now; I can only feel the tiny pinpricks

Of the rain, and the wind slamming onto my skin

I close my eyes and feel ice spread through my veins

But nothing has ever encompassed

Such harmony, such inspiration before;

A terrifical, puissant beauty, meant to be

Image: Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash

‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky (1999) – Book Review

By Ciéra Cree – Due to university work and other personal endeavours, I have been placing far less time aside for leisurely reading and engrossing myself within the minds and hearts of…

By Ciéra Cree

‘So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.’

Due to university work and other personal endeavours, I have been placing far less time aside for leisurely reading and engrossing myself within the minds and hearts of fictional characters. Honestly it’s something that I have missed, more so than I initially thought as highlighted by the completion of this book.

‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ spent the last few months sitting among many other unread novels at home while I was off and away to study. A lovely friend of mine gave me a copy as a belated Christmas present after recommending it to me some time prior and I can safely say that the recommendation did not disappoint.

Warning: this review will contain slight spoilers.

A few noteworthy aspects of the book that took my fancy off-the-bat before delving into the narrative itself. I really appreciated the way that the book was split into four tangible sections of roughly equal length as opposed to being split into chapters. The first three segments are around fifty pages with the final chunk summing to somewhere close to seventy, plus a short epilogue. To me, as a reader, I found that these divisions functioned well as natural resting points within the story. I read the book in four sittings and, to anyone with that kind of time and dedication, I would totally encourage it. However, if that pace is too intense, rest assured that Chbosky has provided a more digestible method for you to consume his literature.

An artistic arrangement of ‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ (1999).

The story itself is written as a series of letters addressed to a ‘dear friend’ so, if one prefers, the book can be read letter by letter instead of in four sections. There’s something that I find undeniably intriguing about books written in the format of letters, especially in the instance of this particular one. Who is the “friend”? And why is Charlie, the main character, even writing these letters in the first place?

Charlie is a highschool student with an evident introverted nature and a trail of internal struggles. On the surface I feel that a person could quickly judge Charlie as a bit of an outcast but the way that the book presents his mind to us through not only using it to illustrate his own perceptions, but also as a lens into the worlds of others, is truly remarkable. As a wallflower, he sees the intricacies and emotional details that others would often miss, and he will always question the ‘why’. Why are things a certain way and, on the contrary, why can’t they be another way?

To be honest the book itself isn’t the most meaty as it’s predominantly an exploration of addiction struggles, relationships and the mundane, but the enticing part for me was the way that we saw everything through an enhanced vision. I have never felt the way that I felt after reading this book. Something about it seemed to take me off guard, and the more that I read it the more that it made me think. It made me want to pick it up and start all over again. The pacing of the letters comprising the lives of Charlie and his friends was steady and the book as a whole wasn’t overly difficult to read but the way that it held a delayed impact is exceptionally clever and unexpected.

Our doors are opened to the opportunity to learn about Charlie’s heart and the people that he valued and held the closest in his life such as his passed Aunt Helen, his friend Patrick and his unrequited crush, Sam. We see their flaws, their smiles and their love of blasting handmade mixtapes that leave them ‘feeling infinite’ together in the back of Sam’s speeding pickup truck as it flies under their favourite bridge into the city. 

And we also see their pain, as well as the ways that they band together.

This book makes you think, and then think again. Who is Charlie? Why is this story being told? And, of course, who are these letters being addressed to? I have my theories about who I think it could be but I’ll leave that up to your speculation. 

Images: Ciéra Cree and Annie Spratt on Unsplash

‘Down The Memory Lane’ – Poetry

By Soyeenka Mishra – Life has been so beautiful ever since / I met you that fateful day: five years ago / On a random afternoon of leisure…

By Soyeenka Mishra

29.01.20, 19:09

Trigger warning: this piece contains some detailed description of heartbreak & painful emotion.

A poem inspired by the series ‘Storm & Silence’ by Robert Thier. Read our review of this series by Anushka Dey here.

Life has been so beautiful ever since

I met you that fateful day: five years ago

On a random afternoon of leisure.

Sure, our path has always been

Riddled with obstacles endless,

But getting past them every time

Is task I’d never get tired of

I smile with bittersweet nostalgia

When I reminisce about those days

Aching for every Wednesday to arrive quickly

So that we could meet and pour our hearts out

And experience the happiness of a lifetime

Within those few hours; and when time ran out

It was always a cruel separation which would

Restart the agonising wait of a week all over again

These thoughts make me realise just how much

You changed the very being of who I was,

Turning a directionless, broken doll

Into someone full of animation and emotions.

You gave my life a purpose, something

To look forward to with resolution

Your hopes, your aspirations, your expectations

Made me want to live up to them, and

Fulfil every single one of your wishes.

I strived to see you smile that toothy grin of yours

Crooked on one end, that made my heart flutter and

Skip a beat every time I caught sight of it.

Under your love and affection,

I blossomed into a stronger, happier individual

Who no longer floated adrift without an aim

And who was now likeable to others

Who understood all perspectives of life

Calmly and acceptingly and tolerantly

You taught me how to live, how to laugh

How to love, how to breathe, how to treasure

You were my only comfort at all the times

I broke down, always getting me back on my feet

Wiping away my tears and stealing away my grief

In a trice, just like that

I always marvel at how close you grew to me in such

A small span of time, and then you stole my heart away

You became my muse, the only source

Of eternal joy in my sorrowful existence

I cherish those passed moments such dearly,

It makes my eyes well up to think that

I won’t have such moments anymore

Where you talk, I listen and I talk, you listen

When our souls resonate in perfect harmony

And life seems pleasant again

It’s undeniable and inevitable that

Our time together has run its course

And now it’s time to say goodbye

I knew it was coming for some time

Yet I refused to acknowledge the reality

As I wasn’t prepared (not that I am now)

I might never be ready for this disintegration

From a kindred spirit, the love of my life, my lifeline

But it was never meant to be forever, was it?

It was as if you were made just to make me

Live again, not just exist, and leave my life

Once it was as splendorous and extraordinary

As you believed I deserved to have

Now that you’re gone, I’m trying with all my might

To stay collected and not break into a million smithereens in woe

I promise you I’ll stay strong for you

I won’t return to that shell of a person that I used to be

Before you blessed my life with your existence

Sure, I let some tears flow at night when

I lay on the bed with a gaping void in my chest

Anguish in my heart and ice in my fingers

Painstakingly aware of your absence from my life

As my brain refuses to sleep and torments me endlessly

That’s when I miss you the most

When all kinds of thoughts pay a visit to my mind

And you’re not here to kick the intrusive ones out

But every morning I wake up with determination

And make an effort to adore the tiniest of felicity

Of the day, never losing hope

Walking with my head held high

I swear that I’ll never let you down

And I’ll make you proud that

I learnt to live life peacefully again without you

In it, but with your memories always in my heart

To guide me back to light in case I start fading away

Image: Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

‘The Rescue’ by Nicholas Sparks (2008) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – This is going to be short and sweet, like the book itself. The story is set in a small town, Edenton, in North Carolina where everyone lives like a small family…

By Soyeenka Mishra

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

This is going to be short and sweet, like the book itself. The story is set in a small town, Edenton, in North Carolina where everyone lives like a small family (I’ve read a pretty decent amount of stories set in such an environment and they always have this warm feeling to them). Denise isn’t overly worried when she finds herself stuck in a storm; but it all hits the fan when she meets with an accident and comes around only to find that her four year old son is missing. Hours later when everyone is simply on the verge of giving up, Taylor McAden swoops in and tracks him down at last. As mother and son recover from the incident, they bond with the McAdens which blooms into something beautiful. But Taylor’s past won’t let them live in peace for long.

Let’s talk about the plot itself. It took me a little while to relate to the protagonists. I mean it wasn’t exactly hard, but my usual reading consists of fantastical teenagers with magical powers, not single mothers and firemen in their thirties. But their problems were realistic and, in turn, the plot was realistic as well. It almost didn’t feel like fiction. I loved how Sparks portrayed the development of Kyle, who has problems with understanding words and participating in speech. It brought tears to my eyes when he finally walked up to Denise and said, “I wuff you.” I fell in love with his way of talking, all of the sounds that he made when he tried to speak, and they were adorable together. Most of the time I find small children in books annoying (for good reason, or not), but Kyle was a good lad, I liked him.

An artistic arrangement of ‘The Rescue’ (2008)

To discuss Taylor and Denise’s relationship, well, it was a valid one? I mean, not that there have been many ‘invalid’ fictional relationships, but the way that Denise put so many thoughts before opening up to Taylor, the way she would always put Kyle before herself, the way she almost didn’t forgive Taylor for breaking Kyle’s heart, how she knew when to speak out– all of those things were what normal people would do in normal situations. Normal is pretty underrated, in my opinion. I’ve seen so many unusual choices made by characters in the past, so at this point anything realistic and normal feels relatively weird. I’m likely not explaining this properly, but that’s just how I felt. 

And my heart goes out to Taylor: living with immense guilt since childhood, so much grief and trauma hidden away in his heart. It was very saddening to see how he never let himself be truly happy because of his past issues. I didn’t like that Mitch had to die to make Taylor realise how much he was holding himself back, but it had to be done (it reminds me of Rose in relation to Jack’s death in Titanic). It was hard witnessing just how drastically Melissa’s life had to change, especially due to the fact that Mitch was going to retire in a couple of months. Deaths like those always take me by surprise in novels, although I appreciate how they can serve as a point of foreshadowing for the events of other characters that haven’t yet unfolded.

Like most books by Nicholas Sparks, this book managed to somehow still carry peaceful vibes that encourage you to relax and enjoy the story.  Once I got into it, it was like a breeze. Sure, there were ups and downs, the conflicts, the good parts, and all that jazz; but never did the pace seem hurried. That was the best part: there was no intrinsic need to devour the book in one sitting. No ‘I need to finish this book tonight or I’ll actually die’ feelings. And that’s not exactly a bad thing. I mean sure, some people wouldn’t want that from a book, but after reading large amounts of fantasy series’ that made me feel breathless by the speed I was going through them, this book was a very welcome respite from that. 

This is the type of book that one would read while reclining on a chair in the patio facing the beach on a cool afternoon, sipping jus de fruit as a deliciously cool breeze kisses the back of their neck. You’ll feel this sense of calm after finishing it, and then you can have a quiet dinner while soft music plays in the background… or just get started on another book as soon you’ve had enough time to process this one– whatever floats your boat. Lastly but not the least, I’ll say I do recommend this book for the times when you want some light reading; something lazy and relaxing without feeling a sense of urgency, but definitely not if you’re craving some adrenaline.

The raw version of this review can be found here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra and Ergita Sela on Unsplash

‘Mood Ring’ – Prose

By Anonymous – I bought a ring second hand; spur of the moment, I suppose, though more a spare moment for the glimpse that caught my eye…

By Anonymous

I bought a ring second hand; spur of the moment, I suppose, though more a spare moment for the glimpse that caught my eye.

It’d won my gaze, with dull shine and a haze and all the ways in which I’d never seen before; almost never before.

I asked for a price, a fair price I did pay. My curiosities enveloping, my satisfaction untamed, then just as that, I took it away.

I put the ring upon my finger, of course the ring did turn blue. My eyes didn’t brighten, my heart remain unlightened; because, I felt like it knew.

And then a thought did come to mind, had it worn that shade before? 

Second hand to me, and to them before that – does it know another feeling? Does it know love? Or its meaning?

Had it worn rage like vermilion or sapphire? Had it worn pain like an unfilled desire? 

And happiness, like a star far away; like saudade, a mind made, for the past that never stayed.

Sadness, anger, so many moods, but tell me mood ring;

How are you?

Image: The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

‘The Memory Book’ by Lara Avery (2016) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I finished this book and my thoughts are still muddled, but I’ll try my best to write something about it…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“Ignore the conditions, acknowledge the desire.”

I finished this book and my thoughts are still muddled, but I’ll try my best to write something about it that’s straight from the heart. 

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

I’ll start by first describing the book itself. When I initially picked it up, I carefully removed the jacket and placed it back on my shelf because if there had been a single crease or fold across it I would have immediately died. The entirely white hardback was so utterly beautiful that I was afraid it would get dirty by the time I’d be done with it (thankfully it’s still clean). The lustrous title on the spine, the feel of it, the inclusion of select pages which were almost entirely blank except for a few words: all of it had me in love before I had even begun to suture myself into the story. It just looked so pristine, so pure, so untouched; all the things that one associates with the colour white.

“Small talk, among many other things, makes me want to punch a hole in the wall.”

I liked Sammie from the very beginning. Samantha Agatha McCoy was a curious soul trapped in a mortal body, with a desire to be extraordinary. In the first half of the plot we got to witness how she was when her Niemann-Pick Type C, or NPC, symptoms hadn’t worsened, and I related to her a lot. The ways that her thoughts would rampantly go when she was excited or nervous, her wording, her reactions, the slightest feeling of superiority which she held: I could see a little of myself in all of them. She was this dorky girl who loved to read fantasy books and drink gallons of chocolate milk in one sitting. Every new page had something different, something fresh, which was why there was never a point in the story when it felt like it was dragging. All the wishful thinking, building castles in the air and imagining endless conversations with her hopeless crush, believing she’d go into a ‘psychedelic reverie’ if she ever had to talk to him… it was all very endearing (also, relatable, anyone?). 

She was awkward in social situations too and it was at this point that, with the other described aspects of her persona, I decided my kindred spirit had been found. And boy, as a side note, she does not mince her words, or beat around the bush. It was a delight every time when she blurted out words that people would normally pore over a million times before daring to so much as whisper out loud.

An artistic arrangement of ‘The Memory Book’ (2016).

In regards to her NPC struggles, I must say, I had never heard about that specific disease before. I am glad that, through this book, I vicariously had the opportunity to learn about its details and impact on a person’s life. There were many esoteric terms that left me confused to begin with but after researching them and taking the time to process their meanings alongside the descriptions provided by Avery in the novel, I truly feel that I have walked away with the knowledge of something thoughtful and new.

I can’t keep pushing off the inevitable any longer. I’ll lay it down bare: it was not a very good experience reading about the latter part of Sammie’s life. It was sad to see how she was in pain and how her condition was gradually deteriorating over time. As a reader I somewhat saw it coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to digest. It was especially hard to read through it, knowing that she was so optimistic at heart and that her dreams and ambitions of attending university would never have the chance to unfold. But towards the end, I liked how she came to the realisation that she was content with how her life was lived. This book had a proper character arc, and I loved it.

“I’ve got the social skills of… of a Neanderthal.”

Let’s talk about Cooper Francis Lind. Coop was Sammie’s childhood friend from whom she’d drifted apart in the last four years, but swiftly reconnected with due to an odd series of events. I shipped Coop and Sam from the moment he was introduced in the book. I mean Stuart Shah was okay and all, but hey, I just sniffed the chemistry of the former couple from another world away. There were times when I didn’t like Coop very much, but that doesn’t matter, because eventually he grew on me undeniably. I loved how he was always there for her, unlike Stu. I’m in no way comparing both the guys, but Coop had always been better for her. Also, it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for second-chance romances and the loved-you-since-we-were-kids trope. I was so excited when Coop finally admitted his feelings that I almost squealed out loud; it was just amazing.

This story didn’t feel like a whole story, if you know what I mean. It’s called The Memory Book, after all, and it was just that. Not a diary, not a journal, not a memoir. Just a memory book, filled with events both good and bad. In the last couple of pages, the sweet words written by Sam’s family and friends really touched my heart. It was a lovely gesture on their part to give her those in her last moments. The last entry in the memory book was Coop’s message, where he says, “You’ve just gone.” It was… I don’t know, bittersweet, of a sort? When I read that line, I had to put the book down and breathe steadily for a couple of minutes; all of their memories… their adventures flashed in front of my eyes. She had found real happiness by that time even though she knew with her health declining that her fate was to come.

I’ll end this by telling you why I recommend the book. It’s amazing and it gives you yet another unique perspective on life. There are so many things that we take for granted, that we think we’ll deal with later but then let slip away from our hands. It reminds you to grab opportunities and make the best of what you’ve got. No matter how great or plain you think your life is; what you make with it is the thing that matters the most. One more thing: the thoughts and words of the teenage protagonist actually felt like a teenager’s, a fact that I loved. There isn’t as much content as the feelings encased in that small amount of words. This book uses comparatively fewer words to describe difficult situations that depict more-than-realistic visuals– another plus point, and an admirable skill of the author. I adored so many things about the book, but listing each and every little thing would take me eons to go through, so I will end here. Happy reading!

The raw version of this review can be found here.

Images: Soyeenka Mishra and Hannah Grace on Unsplash

‘Last Lullaby – For Life’ – Poetry

By Anushka Dey – What kind of a miracle you are, oh ! Architect of my fate / It’s the greatest unsolved mystery to me till this date…

By Anushka Dey

What kind of a miracle you are, oh! Architect of my fate 

It’s the greatest unsolved mystery to me till this date 

Gallant you are my unsung warrior 

A shield from all ordeals, you are my saviour 

How do you mould your affection with your fortitude 

Would I be breathing, without your solicitude? 

Inspire me your words, “Pay no heed, society will frown 

you are unique my darling, l believe you will never let me down.”

Your amusement, your delight 

Better than a thousand suns shining bright 

Through the maze of life, you were my guide 

Darkness or light, you were by my side

You sank and drowned, but pushed me ashore 

Left me broken and alone to explore 

It is hard to part when you are so dear 

To my heart you are so near 

Arms to rest on so strong, yet so tender and kind 

Where else on earth would I ever be able to find? 

Your touch, your embrace so tight 

Better than a thousand suns shining bright 

You ask me to take it easy 

How can one do that, when it is driving them crazy? 

Force me not to see you depart

For it will tear my heart apart 

Bid me not farewell, sing me a lullaby 

Before you leave me or say me goodbye 

Your absence won’t be acknowledged in sleep 

The harsh reality through my veins will not seep

Your visage, when you kiss me goodnight 

Better than a thousand suns shining bright 

You cannot leave me behind, take me along 

Because you are the composer, I am the song 

Our bonding will stay forever this way 

It will just tighten today, tomorrow and everyday 

With your warmth and presence divine 

My world will again shimmer and shine 

Even beyond the grave, on your lap my head will lie 

Because love is eternal, it will never die 

Your smile, the seraphic sight 

Better than a thousand suns shining bright

Image: Jackson David on Unsplash

‘Our Most Significant’ – Poetry

By Anonymous – Always when we walk, / you would wander too far / into the dark; and always / I would follow you, / through gardens of grey…

By Anonymous

Always when we walk,
you would wander too far
into the dark; and always
I would follow you,
through gardens of grey,
with pages of stone
and black chalk.

I met you in a coffee shop up north.
We both drank tea,
you took sugar, of course.
I got confused because my coat
looked exactly like yours,
and we’d both gotten up at the same time
so when I returned I could have sworn
I’d drank more, and the seat
was unusually warm;
that was when I noticed
the ruby lipstick around the rim,
then you were standing over me
hazel hair with a fringe,
“look at you”
the first words you said to me –
the rest, poetry.

Dandelion dreams
blown away with the
husk of a seed.
You didn’t seem happy,
and for the longest time
I didn’t mind, you were mine
in your perfect misery.
At night we’d go to a lake
that looked across the sea.
There was where we’d bleed
out our bitter resentment for
all the things that weren’t to be.
To me, our most significant
moment was when you
pressed a fifty pence piece
to your lips and threw it so far
I swear the only star
in the sky called its chance.
Into the unknowing distance it fell
and just under the oceans screams,
you’d whisper quietly –

“do you hear how the waves
land softly upon the shore?
how the moon pulls them in,
to send them out again in force;
and the man made of sand
with his sword, ‘not one night more!’
disappearing as would dust,
into an ocean, the sweetest storm;
and as breaks the light of day
within the calm, he finds anew.
to look for hope, to look for love
vowed for victory, but never soon.”

If there was where we’d fall to sleep,
I’d wake with tales of kings and queens.
You’d touch my hand, but never speak,
for only the lonely know nothing of dreams.

Then came the day when we’d part ways.
I’d hardly processed that your hair
was no longer hazel before you spoke,
nothing notable. A subtle joke.
It didn’t seem right to smile but I did.
And as I did I became aware,
that this was likely the last time
you would make me laugh.
Your voice withered, and
thus replayed a montage
of our fondest moments.
I regret to say I don’t remember a goodbye.
We were there 4 minutes, maybe 5.
The sum of a lifetime swept away,
where I’d seen promise, you saw decay.

So recite did I, the kinder times.
Until nothing would remind
me of the memories you left me.
Until soon your face
fades from familiarity;
as have all the faces
of lovers whose names
have long since slipped my tongue.

Months, years would pass before I
find myself in the same place we’d met.
As I ordered my tea I noticed,
my jacket sat opposite another man.
No sachets of sugar next to the
lipstick stained cup emitting steam.

Struck with grief,
I ran to the lonely lake
and dived deep. As I arose
thousands of coins clinked
and slipped between my fingers
and blew through the wind
like sand into the sea.
Who was I to think of
only one star in the sky?
For tonight, they’re all in plain view;
and the words whispered,
they weren’t meant for me,
they were meant for you.

Always when we walk
you would wander too far
into the dark; and now
I stand idle by, as
it envelops you,
more fool me
and my lonely heart.

Image: Kenny Luo on Unsplash

‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ by Sarah J. Maas (2015) – Book Series Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I first read this series sometime around September 2018 and immediately fell in love with it. I’d bought it for the hype and picked it up…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“To the stars that listen – and dreams that are answered.”

I first read this series sometime around September 2018 and immediately fell in love with it. I’d bought it for the hype and picked it up to read because the covers were pretty (I like to judge books by their covers sometimes), and the titles were intriguing. That being said, I have absolutely no regrets about it. What instantly roped me in was the rich vocabulary used by Maas, evident from the very first paragraph of the first book. It got progressively better as the plot proceeded forward. The world-building was done very efficiently with no major loopholes and the character descriptions were amazing.

It started off as a Beauty and the Beast retelling and bloomed into a vast world of exhilarating adventures. It has the perfect blend of fantasy, action, adventure, comedy, and romance.  As someone who devours fantasy novels and loves to be introduced to new worlds, this series felt like I’d hit the jackpot. It used some existing fairy-tale creatures, but it gave new attributes to them; for example, Faeries can lie, and iron doesn’t have any effect on them whatsoever, but it also introduces a whole lot of new creatures as well. Add that to the various mysteries that need to be unravelled, the need to break ancient curses, and save the world; lo and behold, you’ve got my complete, unadulterated attention, and more!

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I recently reread the entire series to get over a reading slump, and boy did it work! Always trust an S.J.M. series to solve all your problems, I say. Though as much as I enjoyed the series the first-time round, I must say, the joy of reading it all a second time was enormous. Now, if it was due to the fact that I already knew what was going to happen next or that my level of comprehension had increased over the last two years, I don’t know. But it was an awesome feeling to finally note all the subtle foreshadowing hundreds of pages before certain events took place, and just the sheer pleasure of sinking into a familiar world that I already loved, but one that I could now appreciate on a different level.

I will include just a single spoiler. As a masochistic reader who loves to torture herself by actively seeking out spoilers, let me say something to all the readers who ship Feylin: I’ve got a Feylin, and y’all are going to be sorely disappointed in the second book. Because, hello, do you even know the author? It’s your mistake in the first place to assume the first love interest is going to be the same by the endgame. Choosing your OTP from the very first (sometimes even second or third) book of an SJM series is a bad, bad idea for your heart; always remember that.

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As a whole, the series has got diverse representation as well as brave and courageous characters that don’t let the demons of their past dictate their present and future. It also has plenty of strange creatures that end up playing important roles in the plot, and characters that will make you gush over them for all of eternity. Not to forget about the breath-taking visuals and nail-biting experiences either.

It had me roaring with laughter, cackling like a witch, shrieking like a banshee, crying like my world had ended, among others in random moments; to a point, my parents were genuinely concerned about my sanity. Now, I am known to break into a fit of giggles at certain funny moments, but this series roped me into its world so thoroughly, I became no more than a slave at the hands of the book. I’d have added a few more details and thoughts to this section but doing so would mean dropping a lot of spoilers. Rest assured, it’s good.

So basically, what I’ve been trying to convey from the very beginning is that you should stop whatever it is you’re doing and get started on this incredible series which I’m more than positive will completely change your life. By the end, you will be a new person with a good bounty of trauma due to the deaths and the wars, and pining over the characters who will spend the rest of their lives longing for a Rhysand of their own, but I promise it is all worth it.

Extended review, with spoilers, available on Soyeenka’s website.

Images: Soyeenka Mishra

‘Geekerella’ by Ashley Poston (2017) – Book Review

By Soyeenka Mishra – I picked up this Ashley Poston book with no expectations at all and ended up being pleasantly surprised. First of all, I liked the dog, Franco, and I am…

By Soyeenka Mishra

“We’re all geeks here.”

I picked up this Ashley Poston book with no expectations at all and ended up being pleasantly surprised.

First of all, I liked the dog, Franco, and I am not a dog person. I didn’t like the dog, but we can keep him, yanno? He is tolerable enough to roll around and get treats periodically. Initially, I felt bad for the conditions he was living in, but that concern soon turned into, ‘Buddy’s living the life after all, huh?’ when he gets refuge in the food truck.

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

Before I dive into it completely, I need to gush about the actual book itself; not just the plot. The paperback has got some serious weight to it, unlike most of the other paperbacks, and it feels so good to touch. Not to forget, the pages.. oh, the pages! I am absolutely in love with the paper used– so opaque, so smooth, so white, so thick. Even if the plot were boring (which I assure you, it isn’t) I would have loved the book all the same.

I quickly read a couple of chapters after first receiving it, getting to know how a normal day goes in the lives of Elle and Darien respectively. Though I got caught up in the stuff of another fandom so I had to put it down to resume later. But once I woke up the next day (it was almost evening), the neon green bookmark inside of the sleek paperback called out to me and I got started in earnest.

The pages started to turn quickly once I got into the book, though I became so absorbed in the story at one point, I didn’t realise it was time for supper (partly because the table clock wasn’t working). Though I put that down to the classic ‘just one more chapter’ excuse which had me finishing the rest of the book in one sitting thanks to it’s perfect bite-sized chapters. They’re short enough to feel the need to read just one more, but not long enough that you’ll want to take a break at any point in between.

The cover of Geekerella, arranged artistically

Now, let’s talk about the plot. The title not-so-subtly alludes to the fact that this is a Cinderella retelling, and that the main character is a geek. It started off with a fellow fangirl, Elle (short for Danielle) being completely upset over the person who’s been cast as her favourite character, Prince Carmindor from Starfield (haven’t we all felt the same at some point of our lives? Though I’m not in the fandom yet, I’ve heard the Percy Jackson and the Olympians movies were more than disappointing for the fans). There was this line that made me snicker delightedly, when Elle says she slammed on the ‘end’ button so hard she thought she fractured her finger (for context, she’d never talked to Car, aka Darien, over the phone and he’d just said “Hello” after Sage called him from her phone).

I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but knowing me, that’ll be futile. Here goes nothing.

I hate Catherine and Chloe. I didn’t completely despise Cal from the beginning, but I wasn’t all ‘you go, gurl’ about her either.  I started full-on detesting Chloe when she destroyed the Prince Carmindor costume, crown, and ExcelsiCon tickets. From there, I was like, “Oh goodness, you’re dead meat from now on. Why are you still alive?” before I remembered that this wasn’t a fantasy novel where the death of a character is perfectly normal. But let’s not sour our mood by talking about her; let’s talk about Sage. Can we talk about how badass she is? Breaking the rules to fulfil the dream of your friend, helping her alter her costume, making her a crown from scratch? I know I’ve got the order wrong here, but heck if I care! I don’t care how horrendously fast she drives that pumpkin of a van and how green it makes Darien’s face riding it, but that girl’s it, man! Sage is one of the best best-friend characters I’ve ever read, and I’m positive she’ll make an awesome fashion designer someday. Also, I do ship Sage and Cal (who thought Cal would have a decent character arc, hmm?) 

What do I say about Darien? He wasn’t this perfect, flawless Prince Charming but an awkward, dorky, and realistic teenager who I completely adored. It was such a refreshing change. All the while I sort of liked him and thought he was cute and really nerdy (which is a very good thing in my book), but when he defended Elle in front of Chloe at the Cosplay Ball? I loved him from that moment on. He started being brave and taking matters into his own hands – that was amazing, especially when he fired Mark and promoted Gail; both of them deserved their respective fates. And when he decided to drop everything and go after his girl? Hell yeah, Elle had to take him back – I was rooting for him, in the end!

The whole novel went by a breeze – almost like a dream. But it was so much more than that, so much better than that. It showed me a hidden side of an actor’s life, one we rarely get to see. It described just how much a celebrity can differ from their “on-screen” persona and how much more there is to them; not just the characters they portray. It shows you how much stress you can relieve if only you have someone to talk to. It showed me that you don’t always have to be alone; you can let people in, trust them, and show them pieces of yourself which you’ve been hiding away for so long. It reminds me of how much friends matter in life, no matter what narrow-minded and fake people like Catherine think – it’s not the colour of your hair-dye, or your haircut, or your piercings, or the orientation of a person that matters, but the heart of the person; to be a good friend, like Sage. It told me how it’s never too late to stand up for yourself and stop following around ‘popular’ people, like Calliope. Also, it told me that it’s not blood that decides who’s family, but the bond. Clearly, Gail and Lonny were more of a family to Dare than Mark ever was. 

In the blurb, the book is described as “Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, GEEKERELLA is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom,” and I couldn’t agree more. It has captured the perfect feeling of being absorbed in a fantasy world, a fandom so much that it begins to become a huge part of you, who you are, how you are. It has captured the soul of a true fangirl flawlessly, and that’s no small feat. It was most definitely a modern-day fairy tale, not entirely following the same pattern as countless other Cinderella retellings, but with it’s own little twist which I totally appreciated. Additionally, this is one of the few times when my favourite characters aren’t necessarily the main characters (i.e. Sage). I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Elle and wholly dote on Dare, but that girl’s something.

This book is for everyone out there who feels out of place anywhere else except in the presence of like-minded people from your fandom. It is for those people who think nothing ever goes right in their lives, those who are misunderstood and underestimated because of their age, those who feel powerless to rebel against the status quo out of respect and fear, those who feel alone in this wide, wide world with no one who cares for them, and for those whose parents who tell you that you can’t learn anything about the “real world” from a work of fantasy. It’ll have you gushing for its cuteness whilst simultaneously reflecting upon its depth.

“This book is for everyone who loves fictional characters, and for everyone who still carries hope for a better world in the darkest of times.”

So if you’re ever feeling suffocated in life, need a light-hearted read, identify as one of the someones I’ve listed above, or just want a good book recommendation, then, please, go and put a smile on your face and devour this book.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Images: Soyeenka Mishra

‘Storm and Silence’ by Robert Thier (2016) – Book Series Review

By Anushka Dey – I know many of you must be scrunching your nose at the mention of the Victorian era; some of you may already be imagining women in hoop skirts…

By Anushka Dey

Have you ever related to a nineteen-year-old girl from the nineteenth century?

I know many of you must be scrunching your nose at the mention of the Victorian era; some of you may already be imagining women in hoop skirts and men in funny trousers waltzing around a grand ballroom. How can anyone from the twenty-first century relate to those upper-class stereotypes of a by-gone age? But l bet you, when you read the ‘Storm and Silence’ series by Robert Thier – or as some readers call him, Sir Rob – you will definitely want to relate to some of them.

Warning: this review will contain spoilers.

Lillian Linton is a nineteen-year-old free-spirited, fiery, feminist. When, for most members of the ‘fair sex’, the expectation is to look fashionable, get married to a wealthy man, and be a ‘good little wife’, Lilly’s longing for freedom makes her quite a unique exception. While the courage and wit she shows throughout the series is commendable, it’s her rich and colourful vocabulary mixed with ear-burning insults, sass, and sarcasm that makes readers absolutely fall in love with her character.

Amid her quest for equality, Lilly goes to the polling station in the guise of a man, and a chance encounter with a mysterious figure changes her whole life. This ‘mysterious man’ is Mr Rikkard Ambrose, the richest man in the British Empire (emphasis on “the”). After a hasty interaction with Lilly, he finds the very attributes he was looking for in a personal assistant and considers her as a suitable ‘man’ for the job. Soon after parting, when her true identity is revealed, she is arrested; the business mogul is left astounded.

After discovering her true gender, Mr Ambrose initially denies granting her the job, but sharp-witted Lilly plays up to his honour as a gentleman. Mr Ambrose then, being a man of his word, has to employ her, under the conditions that she pretends to be a man when working in his office, to save his reputation. Very tactful of him, isn’t it?

Besides being a devious businessman, Mr Ambrose has a ruthless, intimidating demeanour. A man shrouded in mystery, his very name demands respect and is capable of inflicting fear into others. Clad in his ‘ten-year-old mint condition tailcoat, he stands as an utterly stingy, penny-pinching miser in almost every way possible.

When it comes to women and romance, he, like most other men of that time and class, believes that women are incapable of work and that their place is indoors (in Lilly’s words, he is a ‘chauvinistic son of a bachelor’). His beliefs and continuous threats to his livelihood even makes him attempt to fire ‘Mr Linton’, Lilly’s false persona, several times throughout the series.

Later on in the series, we have the rare pleasure of finding out that the mighty Mr Ambrose’s plans go to waste, but the dangers which he perceives aren’t as imaginary as they once seemed. With the threat of his greatest business rival, Lord Dalgliesh, or more aptly ‘Dog Leash’, Lilly and Ambrose must venture forth into foreign lands. Their only constant companion is Karim, Mr Ambrose’s devoted right-hand man and bodyguard. Each life-threatening expedition helps to grow the relationship between Lilly and Ambrose, gradually evolving it into something deeper. Lillian becomes determined not to leave the side of her employer through these deadly missions for reasons that the author leaves unexamined for the most part.

Through the books, we notice how bit-by-bit, from bickering and bantering, Lilly and Ambrose gradually develop a grudging respect for each other. It’s fun to behold Lilly battling with her unacknowledged attraction towards her granite statue for an employer. Her inner monologue is the most amusing part of this particular sub-plot. Her wanting to ‘drown in his dark ocean eyes’ and then immediately cursing herself for having such thoughts: how she describes Rikkard Ambrose is as ‘a manly man with a lot of mannishness in his manliness’; how she finds moments spent with her ‘Dicky Dum Dums’ somehow more precious and wonderful than the chocolate that she most adores.

However, Lilly isn’t the only one wrestling with her feelings. The mighty Ambrose is observed to be constantly reminding himself that it is a ‘he’, not ‘she’, for avoiding ‘distractions’. It is a journey where you realise that these two people are not polar opposites, but complementary to each other.

Whereas Lilly is a shameless self-expresser, Rikkard is mostly the master of silence. When an impish grin plays on Lilly’s lips, there is a cold emotionless mask on Ambrose’ face. Lilly with her volcanic anger and Ambrose with his icy disdain. We slowly observe how Mr Rikkard Ambrose, a source of curt, cold commands, becomes a source of warmth, comfort, and eventually, love. We see how, from Mr Ambrose’ personal assistant, Lily becomes ‘his little ifrit’.

I wouldn’t be doing the story justice if l were to skip the sweet and sour relationship of ‘Prince Fragrant Yellow Flower in Happy Moonlight’ and ‘Woman Worse Than Ifrit’. Ohh! I was only talking about Karim and Lillian in their respective nicknames that they gave each other. Cute, isn’t it? They hate each other’s guts until dangers around the corner, and the childish and teasing nature of their relationship truly shines in some scenes.

Now, when you have a suffrage group to lead, work full-time for a cold block of stone of a man, and have suitors to dissuade, you definitely need some entertainment in your life, don’t you? Luckily, our heroine has her little sister Ella and Edmund’s gooey twilight trysts to witness. Ella and Edmund’s relationship is quite a stark contrast to the romantic relationship between Rikkard and Lillian. It is saccharine and superfluous, but one thing remains in common: in both of them, love is always blooming, whether it’s put to words or not.

So, how will Lilly survive in a world regulated by the unwritten rule of knowledge is power, is time, is money’? How does Lilly deal with those arctic glares from Ambrose’ ocean-coloured eyes? What excuses will she make to her aunt, her beloved sister Ella, and her dear suffragist friends for her regular absence due to work? How will she avoid a bunch of crazy suitors when her aunt’s prying eyes are always in search of eligible bachelors to marry both Lilly and her five other sisters off to? Is there really a ‘guardian angel’ that is protecting Lilly from these unwanted suitors? Or, better question, is it the work of a divine entity, or a certain someone? Is it merely rivalry for the business that makes Dalgliesh the greatest nemesis of Rikkard Ambrose, or is there a different story? Was Mr Ambrose always a stone-cold man? If not, then what was his past?

For the curious and the inquisitive, l recommend that you read this series. It’s a journey full of humour, thrilling adventures, slow-burning romance, with the rich knowledge of etiquette, vocabulary and mannerisms of the Victorian-era being a bonus.

Find the raw copy of this review here.

Image: Soyeenka Mishra

‘Letters to a Young Poet’ by Rainer Maria Rilke (1929) – Book Review

By Ciéra Cree – It was during a radio production class one day that I found myself having a conversation about poetry with my lecturer somewhat out of nowhere…

By Ciéra Cree

It was during a radio production class one day that I found myself having a conversation about poetry with my lecturer somewhat out of nowhere. He recommended a book to me, titled Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, and when I got home, I had a quick browse online and found a copy.

Letters to a Young Poet isn’t like your typical novel. It’s a short read, consisting of 52 pages split into 10 letters written by the author – a poet born in Prague, 1875 – between the periods of 1903 and 1908. These letters were sent to Franz Kappus, a young aspiring poet, as a means to not only connect with him on a poet-to-poet basis, but also on one of friendship and a variety of other, deeper levels.

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Through the eyes and hearts of two people with a shared passion, these letters delve into many aspects of their lives and their philosophical thoughts. From love and self-doubt, to fear and sadness, and what it means to be solitary. Every letter in the book reveals something interesting and insightful.

I appreciate the structure of this book and how the letters are something that you can go back to again and again to reinterpret. The size of the book is something I like too, both in pagination and overall width and height. It’s an ideal little book to bring along with you on a commute or to enjoy elsewhere. It’s also easy to read it all in one go, as well.

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Regardless of whether you are a writer or not, Letters to a Young Poet is a collection I would recommend to anyone, especially to those of you who love to think, and to those who love to explore the mind of an artist. One of my favourite quotes from the letters is:

‘And your doubts can become a good quality if you school them. They must grow to be knowledgeable; they must learn to be critical’

I interpret this as a lesson about mental health. It’s often easy to let those feelings with negative connotations, such as doubt, spiral out of control and, in doing so, a person can temporarily lose sight of their rationality. As with any other emotion, when we feel them, it is a sign that our body is trying to tell us something; something important. If utilised, or schooled, correctly, doubt could have the ability to become a tool of empowerment and encouragement. We can confront our doubts, addressing them to ensure that they don’t become self-deprecating, and from there, we can act to transform them into constructive criticisms about ourselves.

How about you? What are your thoughts on this quote? Have you read this book?

A Poetic Conversation: Abirami P. Kurukkal

By Ciéra Cree– Over the summer of 2019, I had the chance to speak with talented poet Abirami P. Kurukkal…

By Ciéra Cree

Over the summer of 2019, I had the chance to speak with the talented poet, Abirami P. Kurukkal, and today we decided to share a part of our conversation with you. We hope it’s inspiring, that it makes you think, and that it encourages you to be kinder.

Abirami is a writer, author and visual artist based in South Africa. She’s currently standing as the proud author of two books: ‘Remember Me As A Time Of Day’ (2016) which is a collection of poetry and essays exploring emotions, loss and strength, and ‘Rudra’ (2018) which explores resilience, freedom, and the breaking down of stigma.

I chose to research Abirami P. Kurukkal not just because I was a fan of her work, but also because she was one of the first Instagram platform poets that I had discovered. We had exchanged greetings and comments about our writing now and then before we spoke, and she seemed like an interesting person who was clearly in love with the work she does. I wanted to learn more about her and what inspired her to write in the first place.

The Conversation: Arts Career

What got you into writing?

‘I started writing when I was very young, around 7 or 8. I just loved books and that inspired me, but I never publicly put out my work because I didn’t have the courage.’

‘My father passed away suddenly in 2013 due to a stroke and the experience completely changed my life. Tragedy and pain can deeply affect a person and the path they take in life. I turned to poetry for comfort and I haven’t looked back since. Grief is still a struggle on the hard days, but writing helps a lot.’

How does writing make you feel?

‘Writing makes me feel free. It is one of the things that I can control, even though at times it feels like it takes over. I feel like chains have been broken, like the gates have been opened. I feel empowered and released.’

‘It can be compared to how one feels when on a motorcycle, holding on to the one you love, taking in the moment and nothing more. That’s the kind of feeling I aim for when it comes to life. Hopefully, someday.’

The Conversation: Life

Do you have any siblings? Are they into writing?

‘I have one sister, and she is a lot younger than me, but supports me in my work a lot. She is first to congratulate me, comfort me and encourage me. I am grateful for that more than anything.

What do you do aside from writing?

‘I am studying Psychology and working as a consultant, plus I also do freelance writing in my spare time. I work hard and I find joy in simple things. Finances always get tough, but I have somehow pulled through and I keep at it with the hope that one-day things will be worth it.’

‘My hobbies are music, crime series, stand up comedy, road trips and being a foodie. I also love all forms of art, and cannot survive without my gel ink pens.’

The Conversation: Work

When do you tend to write – day or night?

‘I mostly write during the night as well, but always from impulse, and always when I feel inspired to. Sometimes, I go for days with nothing. Then, all of a sudden, at 6 AM while getting ready for work, something clicks and seven poems come out. It’s a process and I let it play itself without forcing it.’

Why did you choose each title for your books? Were you afraid to release them?

‘I was dead scared and considered cancelling at the last minute for both. It’s natural to feel that way, I realised later… but yes, it was scary. The first book is about grief, in memory of my dad. The second book is about revival, in tribute to living life despite the struggle.’

‘The first book’s name was inspired by an episode from the series One Tree Hill, which I still love because it was the name of an episode and it inspired a poem which inspired me to go ahead with the book. The second book’s name was inspired by my culture, as I am a Hindu Brahmin and in Sanskrit, the word Rudra has a very special meaning on survival, something that I explain in the book at the beginning.’

Do you plan to release more books in the future?

‘Yes, I do… but with time. I have a lot of new work but no structure. With time the books will come and their birth will happen but for now, I am content as is.’

Where do you see yourself in five years?

‘I really don’t know, but I hope to see myself mentally at peace, graduating, finding a bigger purpose and hopefully helping others to find theirs too.’

The Conversation: Everything Else

If you could describe yourself in five words, what would they be?

‘Intense, complex, intuitive, heartfelt, strong.’

Is there such a thing as being “too open” in writing?

‘I do not think expressing emotions has a limit. Expressing details of personal lives and experiences definitely has a limit, but expressing the emotion felt? That has no limit. There is no ”too much” or “too open” there because once you write something and put it out into the world, it becomes open to interpretation and that’s the beauty of it. What may seem “too much” to you could be “that is exactly what I need right now, I can relate to that so well” to another. I try and follow that principle in my work.’

What would your message be to those who also wish to be writers but are perhaps too afraid to share their work?

‘Being real is the key. Your pain and past experiences might make you feel ashamed, angry, vulnerable and terrified. That might keep you back from sharing your work. Fear of being judged, fear to be open, fear, in general, might keep you back and that’s okay. It took me three years after my dad passed away to actually find the strength to start sharing. I knew when I needed to. Things will happen at their own pace, but keep your work YOURS and never an attempt at imitating another’s work.’

‘Authenticity always wins. The rawer and honestly personal it is, the more you are able to own it. The truth is, poetry is not a competition or a way to become famous, even though Instagram tends to give off that vibe. Poetry to me is an expression, and the hope is that my expression of my emotions will help another soul somewhere, regardless of whether my follower count is 500 or 500k.’

‘Just work on original, honest content. Share your heart and the world will show you the good things in life, like fulfillment and inner peace, on most days if not always.’

My Reflection

From this conversation, I feel like I have learned a lot about Abirami. She’s very grounded and human. Learning about her father passing away, and how she turned to poetry as a sort of comfort, is an insight into her life that I’m honoured to have heard. When I read her pieces now knowing more about her story, I perceive a whole new layer of depth and understanding to them. I could sense it in her work before – there was pain there – but after talking about it with her, gaining further insight, I feel both closer to the words as well as the person behind them.

It was nice to have a bit of a general chitchat as well. It wasn’t related to writing; we went through what shows she enjoys and discovering our old mutual love of gel pens, as well as talking about our courses which also shared some similarity. To be honest, I wasn’t too surprised to see that we had things in common as I felt that we might before we even spoke. We’re both relatively young, enjoy writing, and as I learned from her Instagram captions, we share the same sort of views on the world as each other.

I loved the way she answered my question of how writing made her feel: ‘It can be compared to how one feels when on a motorcycle, holding on to the one you love, taking in the moment and nothing more. That’s the kind of feeling I aim for when it comes to life’.

From this conversation, I could clearly tell that she’s found what makes her happy, and the way she is so unapologetically passionate about the world and what she does is inspiring to me. And I hope that this has gone on to inspire something in you too.

Abirami’s books can be found on Amazon, and you can also follow her on Instagram for further updates.

Images: Abirami P Kurukkal & Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

‘My Mum, Tracy Beaker’ by Jacqueline Wilson – Book Review

By Lily Brown – I have loved Jacqueline Wilson’s books since I was a young child, first readings books like Cliffhanger and The Bed and Breakfast Star before moving on to Lola Rose and Clean Break. I would always be eagerly awaiting the publication of a new title…

By Lily Brown

I have loved Jacqueline Wilson’s books since I was a young child, first reading books like Cliffhanger and The Bed and Breakfast Star before moving on to Lola Rose and Clean Break. I would always be eagerly awaiting the publication of a new title and would look forward to the day my mum would present me with a new book. Jacqueline Wilson brought to my attention some issues which I had never come across before in an accessible way and helped me to understand some important issues other children might be facing.

I have kept coming back to Wilson’s titles throughout the years when working on children’s literature essays or just for fun so when I saw that she had revived one of my favourite characters I felt that I had to catch up with Tracy. I grew up reading the Tracy Beaker books and watching the adaptation on television so I thought that Wilson’s idea to write a book about Tracy as an adult was inspired. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Tracy and her daughter, Jess, and finding out about Tracy’s life after being fostered by Cam. A lot of the key characters from the original books make an appearance, including Justine Littlewood!

Although the book includes many funny and heart-warming moments there are moments which explore the struggle of having to adjust to a parent’s new partner, bullying and the pain of a relationship breakdown. Wilson also explores the nuances of family relationships as Tracy tries to maintain a relationship with her mother and with Cam.

I am sure both new and longstanding fans of Jacqueline Wilson will enjoy this book, whether it’s the first time you are meeting Tracy or whether you have been with her from the beginning. I think Wilson manages the balance between referencing the older books and introducing new characters and events perfectly. Tracy is a warm and feisty character and Wilson has ensured that these traits have followed her into motherhood as she is deeply protective of her daughter, prompting outbursts at school when Jess is being bullied. I think that Jess is a good counterpoint to Tracy as although they look very similar they are very different in personality. Jess’ calm, quiet demeanor is the perfect contrast to Tracy’s enthusiasm and there are some instances where we see Jess emulating her mother which has great impact in the novel.

The majority of the book focuses on Tracy’s relationship with Sean Gregory, an ex-footballer, and their new life living in his mansion, complete with swimming pool. However, when their relationship ends Tracy is forced to be resourceful in order to provide for her and Jess. The ending of the book is marvelous and includes another well-known character for old fans to enjoy. I thought the ending of the book was perhaps a little rushed but overall My Mum, Tracy Beaker was a lovely trip down memory lane with some great new characters including Jess’ beloved dog, Alfie!

Image: Sincerely Media on Unsplash