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Book Review: Written in the ashes

Book Review: Written in the ashesSet in 410 C.E (Common Era), Written in the Ashes follows the journey of Hannah, a young Jewish girl who is kidnapped and sold as a slave in Alexandria. She is bought by Tarek who is mesmerised by her beauty. Once there, she is adopted as a slave by Tarek’s master, Alizar. Alizar has plans for Hannah which involve educating her. An honour for a slave who is woman. In addition to having a good grasp over education and being beautiful, Hannah also has a divine voice that can capture a person’s heart. As a result, she starts to perform in front of an audience due to listen to a lecture by Hypatia, one of the greatest female philosophers of the time and keeper of the Great Library of Alexandria. However, these are tumultuous times. The Christians led by Bishop Cyril are in the process of killing those they consider pagans. And that includes anyone who is not Christian. Hannah soon becomes the bishop’s target and is sent away in to hide in the Temple of Isis. She is torn between two men she loves and at the same time embarks on a journey to find The Emerald Tablet to help protect the pagans. The journey eventually leads to the Great Library being burnt. And although everything seems lost after that, it may not necessarily be the case.

Book Review: Written in the ashes

Written in Ashes is a historical fiction novel inspired by true events. The Great Library did get burnt. But no one really knows how. The history also has its share of mythology which makes it even more interesting. The book is a whopping 400 pages but is captivating to keep you going at a stretch. For a person who is not really into historical fiction, I enjoyed this journey. Reading about Ancient Greek and Egypt and the rise of religious extremism through this book was extremely enlightening. It took me back to my days of studying about Ancient Greek, Rome and Egypt in school. The only history I actually liked. The author has developed all the characters beautifully. Both the good and bad. You can’t help but feel what they are feeling and you will find yourself holding your breath and feeling their fear. Hannah is a wonderful character. Endearing and strong. Confused yet clear. Intelligent yet rash. She is a mix of so many positives and flaws that make her what she is.  The author’s writing style is also very captivating. She took 10 years to write this book and one can see why. It involves a lot of research! In the end, she manages to keep you hooked.

This is a work of true literature.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

GIVEAWAY: Written in the ashes

If you read my review of Written on the ashes earlier today and liked it, well then, this giveaway is for you. If you are a lover of historical fiction, then you really should enter this giveaway.

Thanks to the author Kaia Hollan Van Zandt, one lucky winner will randomly be selected to receive a copy of the book. Please be aware it is only available in e-book format (PDF or Kindle).

GIVEAWAY: Written in the ashes

The giveaway starts today and ends on 8th October 2012. It is open to everyone. Winners will be picked randomly through Rafflecopter and will be notified within 48 hours of the giveaway closing. The author will then send you a copy of your choice of e-book to your designated email address.

So what are you waiting for?

Enter this and spread the word!

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Travellin’ around…

I haven’t travelled extensively but in my 5 years in Australia, I have had the opportunity to visit a few places in New South Wales. As a result, I do have some lovely memories in the form of photographs. This post is my entry for the Blogadda Travel Photos Competition where we post 5 of our favourite travel photos.

Katoomba Cascades in the Blue Mountains. This was back in July 2005. My first trip in Australia ever with 2 friends. It was bitterly cold but wonderfully amazing to see cascades up close…

The view from a bushwalk through the Royal National Park at Bundeena. It is by far one of my favourite bushwalking trails because at the end of it, this is the brilliant view. I have walked 8 kilometres and yet, at the end, you feel satisfied and almost like you have been transported to an unimaginable fantastical place. Bundeena is my definition of bliss.

Travellin' around...

Sunset at Bundeena. Yes, same place, different side. Again, hopefully, this picture explains why it is bliss. The other thing is not many people apart from locals know of this trail so it’s not teeming with people. You will pass the occasional bushwalkers but that’s about it. Peace and quiet.

Ah the Koala! I did see this one up close. This was taken at Blackbutt Reserve in Newcastle where we could feed the koalas for about $3.00. Best thing ever. It was so cute feeding it milk from a syringe-like equipment. Absolutely love the koalas.

Forster NSW in 2008. Forster is absolutely beautiful. It had the most amazing beaches and lovely white sand and a laid back atmosphere. The picture doesn’t do it justice as there were sections where the waters were bluish-green. I would love to go back there…

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

 

13/52: Reading

I am currently reading two books — one fiction, one non-fiction. One for pleasure, the other for knowledge {and to discuss at my book club}. I wish I had more time to fit my love for reading in addition to all the other stuff I do!

What are you reading?

***Linking with Toni for 52 weeks of memories***

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Lessons for a younger me

I am really proud and excited to be hosting the Writer’s Post Blog Hop No. 6 this fortnight. For this fortnight, I’ve chosen the following topic:

If you could teach your younger self one thing, what would it be?

30 years on planet earth have taught me a few things. Like 7 hours of sleep is required to function well. Or mixing different alcoholic drinks is likely to cause a hangover the next day. Or that every family is dysfunctional in its own whacky way. 30 years on this planet has taught me things — good and bad. What to do and what not to do.

Some lessons I learnt as a child. Like never eavesdrop standing right behind the door or your fingers will get jammed. Some others I have had to wait for years to learn. Years before that light bulb went off in my brain. And made me wish that my younger self had known it. If I could teach my younger self just one thing though, it would be this: Avoidance does not solve problems.

My younger self loved to avoid.

Scared of public speaking? Just avoid it! Stressed about an upcoming assignment? Just sleep. And therefore avoid it. Annoyed with your parents? Don’t talk to them about it — stew over it and it will sort itself eventually. Stressed about exams? Sleep. Worried about meeting new people at that party you got invited to? Make an excuse and avoid it. Too many worries about the future in your head? Watch TV, go online or read a book and avoid thinking of the worries. Feeling sad? Keep yourself busy to avoid the uncomfortable feelings. Feeling anxious? Seek reassurance at once to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

Lessons for a younger me

As human beings, we all avoid. We love to avoid anything that involves pain and suffering. While in the short term, it is definitely beneficial, avoidance in the long run leads to all sorts of problems. I would like to tell my younger self that avoiding public speaking does reduce anxiety. But only in the short-term. That same anxiety becomes ten times worse when you have to do it again. Sure, you could avoid again. But how much longer would that work? Unless you choose to have a job behind a desk or choose to study a course online forever, at some point, the fear will need to be faced. What will happen then?

Avoiding pain and suffering makes sense. But how far will you go to avoid? Will you avoid getting into relationships for fear of getting hurt? Will you avoid new experiences for fear of failing? Will you avoid therapy for fear of getting better and actually living your life? Will you avoid moving out of home for fear of the unknown? Will you avoid changing jobs for fear of feeling uncomfortable while learning something new?

In small doses, avoidance makes sense. But beware as it can become your only coping strategy in life. The only way you know to exist.

You’d be better off avoiding avoidance sooner rather than later.

The one way of doing it is to realise that suffering is part of life.

What about you? What one lesson would you teach your younger self?

Do share your post in the linky below!

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Being Bossy

I was a bossy little child.

My family still reflects fondly about how I loved to play ‘teacher’ with them at the age of 2 or 3 — I was the teacher, of course. My grandparents, my doting uncle and my parents were all the students. I would give them homework and would carry a wooden ruler. And order them around. All in jest for them. Seriousness for me.

I continued to be confident in primary school. Speaking my mind. Telling people exactly what I thought. Embellishing the truth at times. Loving being the class monitor. Loving being the centre of attention. Somewhere along the line though, that changed.

I was told by a few people that I needed to tone it down. That I was being too ‘proud’ for my own good. That I needed to be humble. More lady-like. I was told by peers at the age of 9 that I needed to dress more like a girl. I was only given attention when I as quiet and well-behaved. When I was passive. On the other hand, I was shushed pretty quickly, especially around adults for being a bit assertive. A bit bossy.,

Being Bossy

They called me stubborn in my teenage years. While I was quiet and passive, I still rebelled in my own way. While I shied away from the limelight I loved as a child, I still spoke out passionately if something went against my beliefs and values. I remember being told to keep my views to myself. That not everyone was interested in hearing my opinions. And fair enough. They probably weren’t. But at the same time, I believe I was entitled to one.

Fast forward to present day me. I have gone from being passive to assertive to sometimes reactive. In a way, I have come full circle but a bit wiser. I will say it as it is but with some tact. I am still stubborn. I can still be bossy. I still like to have control. Do I want to be a leader? I don’t know. Definitely not in the field I work in!

Why am I writing all this? It’s because I have been hearing a lot about wanting to ban the word bossy that seems to have come about as an aftermath to International Women’s Day. But I find myself thinking — I don’t know if banning the word is the answer to empowering young girls. By banning the word, we are telling young girls being bossy is a bad thing. Reclaiming the word would probably be a better option. Just like we did with the word slut. Anyone up for Bossyboots walks??

On a serious note though, bossy or not, the message I’d like to give young girls {and boys for that matter} is to be yourself. Be genuine. Be true. Stand up for what you believe in and who you are.

And never, ever let anyone crush your spirit.

No matter how hard they try.

***Linking up with Grace this Friday for FYBF***

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

55 Fiction: The Message

Where are you?”

20 mins away. Traffic’s awful!

Told you to leave early. Happens every time. When will you learn?

Sorry! Make it up? :-* ”

You better. We’re going to miss the start:( ”

K

She wondered why he wouldn’t answer 30 mins later not realising the sirens were headed towards his car crushed under a truck.

***This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.***

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

We need to talk about Kevin. And Lionel Shriver

If you were to ask me to list my top 5 books of all time, Lionel Shriver’s ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ would definitely be present on that list. I have sort of reviewed this book previously on the blog but given that I attended a Conversation with Lionel Shriver last week, I thought I’d try and discuss that in conjunction to a book I love and have read 3 times {way too many according to the author herself!}

‘We need to talk about Kevin’ is a book written in the form of letters by Eva to her absent husband after their 15 year old son Kevin is sent to gaol for killing 7 of his classmates, a teacher and a canteen worker. It may sound like your typical high-school massacre story but the truth is Kevin has never been bullied. So why then did he set out to kill others in this manner? His mother Eva tries to come to terms with his actions and to figure out what went wrong. She wonders whether it has to do with her not wanting to have Kevin in the first place. Whether it was because she wasn’t ready to be pregnant and have a child and resented having one. Or whether it is possible that someone could be born evil. After all, when she had a second child, her daughter turned out to be the most loving and affectionate girl. The book has an ending you don’t really see coming and it hit me to my very core. Re-reading takes away the suspense but not the emotion of shock and horror attached to it.

We need to talk about Kevin. And Lionel Shriver

The nature versus nurture debate is one that keeps you thinking throughout the book. Coming from a psychological background, there are also questions about early attachment and while I am not a big proponent of blaming the primary caregiver {aka mother}, you can’t help but wonder whether an attachment problem resulted in Kevin being the way he is. Yet at the same time, every time I’ve read the book, I have empathised with Eva. Sure, the book is from her point of view. But I can feel how frustrating it must be to have your life and your career interrupted without planning. I can understand being torn in this day and world to juggle motherhood and a career. I can understand how the fear of being judged as a bad mother would exist if you don’t want children or prefer to work full time when you do have kids.

Like I told Lionel Shriver when I met her, we see a few relationships between kids and their mothers that are similar to Eva’s and Kevin’s relationship. And that’s what makes me love the book. The way it mirrors reality. A not-so-nice reality perhaps. But still, reality.

Shriver is an interesting woman herself. A diminutive  5’2 woman, looks fit as a fiddle {apparently she runs} who also seems to be a feminist and is not afraid to say things as they are. She is a straight shooter and can perhaps be a tad intimidating as a result. But she is funny too. A bit dry. And I think it comes across in her writing. I still wonder though how she thought about this book and managed to write it. It’s something that I am in awe of.

Following listening to her in conversation, I came home and purchased the rest of her books {I have only read 3 so far} and I’m looking forward to devouring them when they arrive.

So what are you waiting for?

If you haven’t read it, go get it now. And be prepared to be shocked, horrified and get tangled with a lot of thoughts of nature versus nurture and whether or not someone can be born evil.

***Linking up with Write Tribe Festival of Words Day 4: Book review***

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Revenge

It was 12 year old Nina’s first day of high school and she knew things were going to be different. A new place with new people who didn’t know her or anything about her history.
She entered with an air of confidence and went to her class for roll call.

Just as the teacher came to the letter M, she heard the dreaded words: “Allison McCall” and the response “Here”.

Revenge

It couldn’t be…she couldn’t be here.

She looked in the direction of the familiar voice and saw her — Allison — with a smirk on her beautiful face.

The pain, the humiliation, the fear, the guilt — all these uncomfortable emotions came rushing back to Nina — Allison would never ever let her forget and get on with her life.

No, thought Allison, correctly reading Nina’s mind; she’d never let Nina get away with the murder of her twin. Because no matter what the police thought, Allison knew that an 8 year old Nina had stood gleefully watching Allison’s twin drown in front of her eyes.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

My Earliest Memory

I was but a three year old attending my first year of kindergarten at an all-girls school. We were in Bombay for the school term and living with mum’s parents. Well, not all of us. Dad was still in Oman. I liked school. Hell, I was ready for school before it even started. School was a breeze. Academically at least. Friendships were a different issue.

I remember wanting to become friends with these three girls in my class. Their names evade me. But their faces were etched clearly in my mind {thanks to having class photos!} years later. I tried the usual ways a person does to become friends. But they weren’t interested. Eventually though, they were charmed by me. Or so I thought. They said they would be my friends. On one condition. I had to rip up a particular girl’s alphabet book.

So I did.

I ripped up a three year old’s alphabet book. With the hope of being accepted.

Well, I was accepted into the group. But I also got told on by the girl whose book I ripped. And I didn’t get away lightly. I got whacked with a ruler on my tiny palms in front of the entire class more than once.  It was a lesson for everyone and I was the example. Let’s just say I learnt my lesson very well.

My Earliest Memory

Did I tell mum about this? I don’t remember.

Did I tell anyone else about this? Not for a long time!

I don’t remember much of my friendship with these girls. I think I hung around them for that year and the next. Before dad got a job in Salalah which had proper schools {unlike Ibra} and I was able to enrol there. I can’t remember if they were mean to me or if they changed their behaviour. Needless to say, I never saw them again.

When I look back now, I think I struggled a lot with friends probably till I was a teenager. There was a huge need to be accepted — to the point where I lost myself and became whatever people wanted me to be. If anything, one of my earliest memories reminds me why I do the work I do. Because kids go through a lot of shit! And sometimes, it helps having someone in their corner.

I reflected back on my earliest memory thanks to being tagged by Suzy. In turn, I’d like to tag Vidyaand hear about her earliest memory. Do take a moment to check out their earliest memories as well as other Write tribers here

What about you? What is your earliest memory?

Do share!

Until next time,

Cheers!!!