Three Dark Crowns-Kendare Blake

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Three dark queens

are born in a glen,

sweet little triplets

will never be friends

Three dark sisters

all fair to be seen ,

two to devour

and one to be Queen

So begins Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. It is a dark read, set in a mythical island of Fennbirn where the only way to become a queen, is by killing the other two sisters of a set of triplets. Each of the triplets is born with a gift- either power over the five elements, or over the nature or a poisoner who can stomach all kinds of poison; and only the strongest of the three will become the queen.

The Three Dark Crowns has a very intriguing concept of royalty and crown, where instead of the first born being a natural heir to the throne, the triplets are all an equal heir to the crown, you just have to be willing to kill the other two sisters in a fair game. I have been on a look out for a good series for a long while now and I think I have found it in this series by Kendare Blake.

Her writing flows easily, but grips you in the story almost immediately from the first chapter. I don’t care much for lot of flowery descriptions of the surroundings, but almost nothing about the people in the book, it is the character development is very important and Kendare achieves that superbly. All the characters from the suitors Billy and Pietyr, the foster families of Arrons, Milones and Westwood to the queens, Mirabella, Arsinoe and Katharine, is written about beautifully. A small scene involving Sara Westwood was so well written that you could gauge her character in couple of paragraphs.

I will recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy genre and wants to read something unconventional. I cannot wait to read the next one in the series: One Dark Throne.

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Raksha Bandhan for sisters!

Today is Raksha Bandhan in India, meaning it is a festival dedicated to brothers and sisters. It is the day when a sister ties a thread on her brother’s wrist and in turn the brother promises to protect her and care for her. As far as I can remember I have never tied a rakhi (the thread is called rakhi) on anyone’s wrist. My only cousin of the male variety lived in a different state and I never got into the habit of sending him any rakhi by post. I think my mother probably sent rakhi to him when I was younger but stopped it at some point. Today he lives in a different country and I consider it a good day if I can manage to have a 15 minute conversation with him without being at each other’s throat.

For me my elder sister has been everything…my brother, my mother, my friend and my protector! Who needs a brother when you have a sister standing strong by your side. Cheers to all those who have a strong sister standing by their side!

Simplicity

Listening to old Hindi songs one evening I felt I was missing something terribly. After a while I realized that my heart was craving simplicity. The song was “Jaane kya baat hai….” featuring Amrita Singh who is singing about missing her lover. The song is sweet and simple. I am not 16 years old anymore to project the feelings that are portrayed in a song but some songs are sung beautifully with perfect lyrics and you cannot help but be touched by it. Such songs make me wish for a simpler life, simpler aspirations. I wish the heart and mind were not so full of aspirations and unfulfilled dreams and I could go back to those days when it was so easy to fall in love. Back to those days when it was so easy to imagine spending your life with someone special, when you felt the world was at your command.

I am amazed sometimes at the rose colored glasses I wore as a young 17 year old girl. I was a practical and pragmatic person even then, but life seemed so easy and simple when you didn’t have to worry about a thing. It was so easy to judge others for their transgressions when you were so smug about your own life. While growing up I was a big fan of the concept that “right things should happen at the right time!” I was of the opinion that one should marry early in order to get the good pickings!! Hah little did the sensible “old” 17-year old me know that love was going to kick me in the hind and provide me with common sense on its way out!

But sometimes the sensible, pragmatic 30 year old me, craves the teenage years and the foolishness that comes with it. I won’t call it youth because by my standards I am still young, but alas not foolish anymore. Sometimes I get weary with all the thoughts and decisions that I am expected to take just because I have am an ‘adult!’ I am usually a very independent person but just for once I wish someone else would take all the decisions for me. Someone else would tell me if I am supposed to worry about my visas, my immigration status, would decide which guy was good enough for me to marry! And I wish, that that someone was my younger foolish self, who used to brave enough to tell a friend that she was being dumb and who used to be dumb enough to tell a boy that she liked him a lot!! Ahh the courage that comes from being young and dumb.

But wishing and hoping doesn’t tell me the future anymore than it changes my past. All we can ever do is play the cards we were dealt with, and pray and hope that we can survive them. Though my favorite prayer from a cartoon strip is: ‘God grant me the courage to change things I cannot accept, serenity to accept the things I have changed, and the wisdom to know I am different!’

Dreams Unlimited

While you are going through your daily life just working or whatever, and you suddenly realize that you were probably meant to do something else in life. While growing up all of us have different dreams and aspirations. There are those lucky few who manage to convert their childhood dreams into their adult careers and be happy about it. Most of us follow the herd and find something which will translate into a career to make a decent living while all the time pining for something else.

The other day I was talking to a friend who always wanted to get into tennis, but then eventually settled into a safer choice of getting into a career in science, which if nothing would definitely pay her bills. While growing up some of us want to be astronauts, actors, cricketers, maybe scientists. Some of us are good at music, at drawing, love animals and think of becoming vets, good at designing etc. But hardly anyone thinks to convert these loves and dreams into a career. Usually the adults tells us that drawing, writing, music are good as hobbies but are not going to provide food to you. And we usually just go with the flow, hardly bothering to protest unless we are very passionate about something, and frankly at that age you are not bothered to be passionate about anything. We grow up to be engineers, scientists, doctors and along the way our hobbies and other aspirations just fall behind, unable to compete with our “mainstream” careers. But then as you grow older you realize, “Oh boy, I was so good at this….what would have happened if I would have stuck to my guns and made this into my profession?” By then it is usually too late to make these things into your careers. Then maybe on some lazy Sunday morning you can think about what ifs and shake your head.

Though in my opinion the best part about having mainstream careers is, it gives you funds to hone your childhood dreams. Funds to maybe finally try and realize them, and you might just realize that you are better or worse than you originally thought you were. If you are better, then great…you have something to escape your daily world from, and if not, then it’s good that you didn’t quit your day job! None of us can see into the future, just contemplate on our pasts. Life’s all about making the best choices you can at that moment in time. And then sometimes, it is good to just think ‘what if’ and have a rosy picture in your mind than to have your childhood aspirations shatter around you.

Changing roles…not yet!

I read this funky post somewhere while idling my time on internet. I would like to keep the details to myself about the post. The main gist of it was about this Indian guy who was working for a relatively unknown IT company and was therefore unable to get a “good Indian girl” to marry him. His assumption was that, since the Indians in his region are clever enough to know best of the Silicon Valley companies, they aren’t keen on marrying their daughters to some guy working in an unknown US company. Of course there could be other n number of reasons, but this was the reason that was included in the post. Then it was described how he has finally found someone, but that girl refuses to cook traditional Indian meal, though she loves to eat, and she demands that he cook her food daily. So turns out our protagonist in the post was learning traditional dishes to please the girl and her family. It didn’t seem like the guy had any qualms cooking for his future wife, and if he did, the post didn’t mention it. But the interesting material was obviously in the comments section! The initial comments I saw were by women. And guess what, every single of them is telling this guy to not marry that woman! They say, “Run away! You will get a better life partner.” Then people start commenting about how marriage should be partnership and all that jazz.

Most people were asking if the wife will at least clean if she doesn’t cook. I obviously have lot of issues with people following societal norms mindlessly; so my first thought is, “Why do they care whether the wife cleans or not?? Why do these people care to judge that woman whom they have never met and never will??” But the crux here is nobody in an Indian society bats an eyelash when demands are made on the bride. It is considered a matter of fact that the wife will cook, clean and work. Also most of the couples living and working in US don’t have household help because it’s expensive, so the wife does cleaning and other stuff too. It is obviously expected that she will do all those things, and the husband will “help” when he isn’t tired. But since it’s the husband making these demands nobody usually raises a voice.

Coming back to the post, very few sensible women and quite a few men actually said the other side of the story. They actually were surprised that this has happened in India, and said kudos to the girl for making such demands and actually getting away with them. While any kind of demand isn’t an auspicious start to a relationship, men get away with getting women doing things for them even without making the demands.

Worse thing about this situation is the women themselves. We need to do everything for our husbands has been so deeply ingrained in our psyche by Indian society and “culture” that anyone daring to think and be different is immediately judged harshly. We talk about changing the way Indian men think about women, but maybe we should first try to change how we women think about other women.

The thinking woman’s guide to real magic

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker, was a huge 500+ page book. Like the other readers have mentioned, it would have been good to have a sequel alert on this book.
It starts with Nora-a literature graduate whose life is in a bit of a mess- getting lost in the woods and stumbling into the Fairyland. The fairyland reads like an episode of “Once upon a time”. It has all the requisite characters; an evil fairy queen, beautiful but cruel prince, maybe somewhat nicer Fae and all the crazy magic. Nora is magicked into marrying the cruel prince so that the Fae can have heir. Somehow she realizes that not everything is hunky dory in her fairyland and gets rescued by a powerful magician Aruendiel. This magician brings her to his castle where she sweeps, cooks and does general housekeeping while Aruendiel continues to be rude and dismissive towards her. Eventually she starts to learn magic from him and follows him around on his missions. So obviously in between all that she falls for this rude, obnoxious, sexist, egotistic magician. She even makes him read “Pride and Prejudice”- she somehow finds her copy of the book in the magical world. In her defense, I guess she couldn’t help falling for her savior.
To make a 500+ pages long story short, Nora learns enough magic that she saves Aruendiel when he’s in trouble and figures out that he likes her as well.
My thoughts: this was a strictly ok read. It is a cliche of a naive girl falling for an experienced, rude 100 yr old man! Though how she falls for a guy who murders his pregnant wife for adultery is beyond me. Yes, it is written well, but needed some major edits. Especially the part where Aruendiel is talking about his past…wayyyy to long! I skipped over those parts, it was completely irrelevant to the story. But then the author has just skimmed over the parts when Nora starts learning magic. It’s like all of sudden she can do levitation spells and water spells and crazy algebra (she’s an English Lit grad!) If you want to read about magic, I am sure there are better books out there. I am not going to bother with the sequel

Sisters!

I grew up in a female dominated household with a whole bunch of sisters. With one older sister and older female cousins, it wasn’t surprising that when I was in high school; I used to pine for an older brother. My fascination with an older brother was so that someone would give me fast rides on bikes and introduce me to his friends. Though in retrospect, it seems as if I was fascinated with the idea of a brother because I was surrounded by estrogen all the time and wanted a change-I went to a girl’s school, hence only had girl friends, and was surrounded by sisters and aunts all the time!

But as I grew older I realized having an older sister was so amazing. As I grew up my sister changed from my older sister to my idol, and from my idol to my best friend and confidante. As I grew older our difference of 6 years started shrinking and today she is my partner in crime and my shield against my parent’s wrath (which I used to and still do incur on regular basis as I am the rebellious one in the family!) She taught me to be sincere about my studies, responsible in conduct and she taught me how to be a good daughter (though I am not sure how successful she has been in trying to make me a good daughter!) J When I threw tantrums around because I couldn’t understand Math she patiently sat down and taught me everything. She is the one who came running with my biology supplies because I was clever enough to forget my supplies at home on the day of biology lab exam!

Having an elder sister makes life beautiful and easy. She is the one who faces your parents, she’s the one who gets yelled at because she’s supposed to be elder and more understanding. Being the younger one, you get to learn from her mistakes, so that you don’t make the same in life. She is your surrogate mother, your friend, your idol all rolled into one! It doesn’t matter how many best friends you have, but no one gets you like your sister. She’s the one who knows you and your dark secrets and still loves you. And when she has a family of her own, you realize that she won’t be able to give you as much time and there will be times when you won’t be able to meet her for months, times when you won’t be able to talk to her for days…but just knowing that she’s there for you makes life easier.

Celebratory days fads

Today is Mother’s day and everyone is posting about it! Such celebratory days always amuse me-Father’s day, friendship day, valentine’s day, sister’s day, uncle’s day, aunt’s day, boss’s day and what not!

Check out Facebook today, and everyone will have changed their profile pictures to those with their mothers, with elaborate messages about the importance of their mother is in their life and their love for her! Of course, it is not enough to tell this to your mother, you have to proclaim it to the whole world, because after all unless you declare your love on Facebook it isn’t said to be real. Probably for most of these people their mothers are not interested in being on facebook so they will never see all that virtual love their kids shower on them. The same thing will happen on father’s day and then on national sister’s days and friendship days! I even had an absolute random stranger wishing me ‘Happy Mother’s day’ in the elevator-as if it is a national holiday -and then become extremely rude to me when I said ‘Thank you, I guess?’-as if I had told him to have an Unhappy New Year!!

The point of matter is Mother’s day or Father’s day is not a national holiday. Yes, it is the day you tell your parent, how awesome they are, and what a wonderful job they have done raising you. You can do these things in private daily, you don’t need a single day in a year to tell them that. At the risk of dating myself we never celebrated such days while growing up! For me, the important thing is you don’t need special days to remind you the special people in your life. Your parents have given you life and made you to be the person you are today. They live inside you not just emotionally but also physically, in every gene of every cell! The love of your life/husband are one of the most important people in your lives, so you celebrate and are happy to be with them for 1 special day of the year…what about the other 364?? These are the people who make you, mould you and to dedicate and celebrate just one day is kind of unfair.

Telling your parent/significant other ‘Love you’ in private everyday will be more appreciated than proclaiming it on Facebook to your or 1000+ friends one day of the year. It is especially funny when your parents don’t even have a Facebook account and have no idea that you are proclaiming your love so publicly!