2020 – A Year of Mostly Failed Goals

I know it is quite pessimistic to start your first blog with a post titled – 2020: A Year of Mostly Failed Goals.

But, this blog is sacred to me and I’ve got to be honest here. I had lofty goals for 2020, and then the world went into a lockdown and I failed most of my lofty goals. That’s normal right? I’m proud to say however, that I used the word ‘mostly’. That means, I didn’t completely fail. Thats a big win for me πŸ™‚

Here was my post about my 2020 Goals : Click Here, if you want to read the entire post πŸ™‚

And here is a snapshot of what I did and didn’t achieve in 2020, if you don’t want to read my original post:

  • Buy an automatic car and learn to drive it : EPIC FAIL
  • Blog More : Hmm, If you see the detailed post, I didn’t do half of what I had planned to do with regards to blogging. But in December, I did create and add a header image for my blog and I’m really happy with it. I just wish it was better formatted. But for that, I might have to move to a self hosted site?
  • Write Daily : I didn’t. I wrote on some days, but I should’ve kept a track of how many days I actually wrote. That is going to be one of my goals in 2021
  • Get fitter and exercise more : I had a long list of activities for this goal, but again, this was a half – half kind of win. I did manage to keep up with an almost regular exercising schedule throughout the year, but I didn’t run or swim or dance as much as I had planned to
  • Read 6 books per month, aka read 72 books as part of the GoodRead’s challenge : I TOTALLY NAILED THIS ONE!!!! Woo Hooo!!
  • Other reading goals : I’ll do a separate wrap up post for this one, because reading is my soul and it needs a special blog dedicated to the wrap up πŸ™‚
  • Run a half marathon : Nope, didn’t happen
  • Visit my mom and visit my sister in the US : The lockdown actually gave me the option to live almost an entire year with mom, which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. For this, I am utterly grateful. However, the flip side was that I wasn’t able to meet my sister last year 😦 I hope that will be remedied this year
  • Go for another long trek : FAIL
  • Do more charity for kids : I wasn’t able to help children with respect to their learning journey as I had planned earlier in 2020, but I was able to make a few donations and I’m happy with that for now. I want to continue this into 2021 as well. I hope I’m able to bring some smiles in whatever way I can
  • Travel : I couldn’t travel like I had planned to, in 2020. But I did travel to my mom’s place in Odisha, I went to the Konark beach twice, and I wrapped up the year with a visit to Fratelli Vineyard in Maharashtra. I’ll write a blog about this soon too. So, it wasn’t so bad after all πŸ™‚

That’s it folks! Some wins and a lot of misses. In hindsight, a lot of things that mattered, were done. And that’s what counts right?

Some Calvin Wisdom πŸ˜€

So even if you feel like you failed all your goals in 2020, or missed out on all the things you had planned, write a post like me, go back down the year and see for yourself, if there were some surprise joys and wins in 2020 after all πŸ™‚

Happy New Year!! Now its time for 2021 life and reading goals. But, that’ll be another post. So stay tuned πŸ˜‰

How was your 2020? Do drop me a link to your year of reflections post, if you write one. I’ll love to read it.

Stay At Home Series – Episode 10 : How I achieved my Goodreads Challenge and read 72 books in 2020 :)

I was actually going to write about something else on my blog today, but if I’ve learned one thing this year, it is this: Nothing goes as planned. So always be ready to improvise..LOL

I can’t believe I actually managed to read 72 books this year!! I am so proud of myself for achieving at least ONE goal this year! LOL

When the year started and then lock down started, I honestly started to worry about my Goodreads challenge, because as a working mother, there were suddenly too many additional chores that were added to my day, which used to be outsourced earlier. I used to read a lot while a work, or when I travelled to work, but now it was all work from home and no travel time. However, my partner and I worked out our me time and with some sacrifices (aka reducing screen time drastically), I was able to manage πŸ™‚

I looked at my Goodreads books read count over the years and here’s a snapshot of how my reading has grown with each year.

I thought I wouldn’t have been able to read more than 62 books I read in 2019, but its always good to challenge yourself and see if you can make it.

A lot of my friends asked me, how I did it. The one common question every reader gets is, “How do you manage to read so much?” You won’t believe me if I told you, that I’ve asked the same question to other reader friends who have read 100 or even 300 books in a year! And no, reading isn’t their profession either! They have a day job or are students like most of us. Reading is for fun and for companionship πŸ™‚

I thought I’d write a blog titled ‘How to read more’, but I felt that was too pretentious for me, since I am learning too. So I decided I’d write about how I managed to achieve my GR’s challenge of reading 72 books this year πŸ™‚

  • One thing I’ve learned over the years of reading, is that reading can also be a skill. So like every other skill, the more you practise it, the better you get at it. I realised, that the more I read, the faster my reading speed became! So now, I can finish a 300 page fiction book in about 3-4 days – of reading an hour and half per day
  • I literally don’t do anything else. I’m active only on my Instagram account on social media, and I just scroll there when I post, which is once a day, for maybe 15 mins. I don’t watch any series or movies on screen or even if I do, they are very rare. So in a day, after I finish all my usual home, parenting, personal and work chores, I get about two hours of free time, or you can say me time, which I use to read
  • I have a book at all times with me. If I’m walking, I have my audiobook. If I’m at the playground with my daughter in the morning, I carry my physical copy of a book, if I’m in the playground in the evening, I have a kindle app on my phone or I carry my kindle. It can be the same book or different books, but I read every time I get some free time in between πŸ™‚
  • I find it easier and faster to read physical copies of books. So I have ended up buying a lot of books this year, which has turned into another hobby of book collection now. But it keeps my excitement alive and I’m thankful that I’m privileged enough to be able to afford to buy physical books
  • If I’ve read a heavy or sad book, I try to mix it up with some fantasy or light fiction
  • I don’t read a lot of non-fiction since those take longer to finish. However, this year I read more non fiction that any of the years before that and I’ll write a post on my non fiction reads in 2020 soon πŸ™‚
  • I also found that buddy reads, virtual book clubs, book discussion groups on discord and having your own little book community definitely helped in reading more and wanting to read more and keeping the fun of reading alive

I think those are some of the things I thought about at the top of my head on how I achieved my GR reading challenge goal this year. I hope I’m able to continue the streak or read even more next year πŸ™‚

If only I was a genius like Matilda πŸ™‚

So let me ask you now, how do you read so much? πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰

2020 Holiday Cheer(s)!!

Merry Christmas Everyone!! This message goes to posterity πŸ˜‰

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

(A shoutout to Tenet and Dark because I’m obsessed with time travel and philosophy apparently LOL)

I wanted to write a ‘What I did on Christmas in strange 2020‘, but I would’ve had to wait until tomorrow for that, and I wanted to wish everyone on my blog today. So change of plans…hehe

Christmas here started on a super note! It’s even better because its Friday! πŸ™‚ My daughter woke up and ran straight to check if Santa had left her a present, and well he had πŸ˜‰

Mom and I added our own cheer to Christmas morning, by making some hot chocolate and laughing for 20 minutes because I wanted to take Instagram pictures and Boomerang videos of us with our mugs and she kept saying, “why is my head nodding like this in the picture?” or “My hot chocolate will get cold!“. This was the final outcome which went on IG πŸ˜€

Moms are such munchkins!! πŸ™‚

We have a small Christmas get together planned in the evening, and I’m looking forward to some good food and cocktails. At first I was worried that it would be a bigger gathering, but the hosts culled the head count, so now its just three close families, which I’m more comfortable with πŸ™‚ I’m not sure how I feel about the alcohol these days. I have fond memories of partying and getting drunk, but age is catching up and well, alcohol doesn’t want to be my friend anymore it seems..sigh..

The best part of Christmas this year was that I got Secret Santa presents after ages!!! And I got books as presents! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ A huge THANK YOU to my secret Santas for sending me these beautiful books. I truly feel blessed πŸ™‚

I’m currently reading Stephen King’s memoir ‘On Writing‘ and learning some very useful tips on writing. I hope as the year rolls to an end, I can implement his advice and write more next year.

I’ve got many books on my Wishlist, but since I buy and collect books almost every month, I don’t think posting a list of my Christmas Wishlist for books will make any sense here..hehe πŸ˜€

So, on that note, have fun, eat, drink, hug your family and laugh with your friends this season! πŸ™‚ See you in the next post then! πŸ™‚

Blood of Stars Duology by Elizabeth Lim – Book Thoughts

Bookish Discussions:

What are some series that you felt started with a bang and had a lot of promise, but didn’t manage to live up to expectations?

Thoughts on Blood of Stars Duology:

When I read Spin the Dawn last year, I was bowled over. Many reviewers called it ‘Mulan meets Runway’, and rightly so. I loved the chemistry between the lead pair Maia and Edan, I loved the fact that it was Maia’s story and journey, I loved the journey she has to go through to make the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars, amidst the backdrop of political intrigue and magic. I loved the simple and dreamy narration style from the author and I loved the family dynamics between Maia, her father and her three brothers.

So, as expected from every reader, who is mesmerised by the first book of a series, the author had set the bar really high for herself with Spin the Dawn.

I had to wait a year and more to get a copy of the finale – Unravel the Dusk and finally read it and learned about the ending of Maia’s story. So many questions were unanswered from the first book and I definitely wanted to see Edan and Maia again. It didn’t help that the book distribution was delayed due to the Covid restrictions. But I finally finished reading the second book last week. And well, I was a little disappointed with the second book.

I feel terrible saying this, because in the author’s own words in the acknowledgements, I think she struggled in writing the second book too. I think when the hype becomes so high, it creates an unnecessary pressure on writers and as an aspiring writer, I can very well empathise with the pressure of following up to a hugely successful first novel. But as a reader, I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed.

In hindsight, I think this duology could’ve very well be a single book, maybe slightly longer – 700 pages maybe?

The story is continued and we see more war and action scenes between the two warring emperors and also Maia’s constant battle raging within her good self vs the demon who is trying to consume her soul. I liked that Ammi gets a lot of presence in the second story and I really appreciated the focus on the platonic relationship between Ammi and Maia. But I felt like Maia wasn’t as invested in their friendship as Ammi was.

I was looking for more scenes with Lady Sarnai and Edan. Somehow I thought Lady Sarnai will have a pivotal role and while she does have an important role, it came too late in the story and didn’t feel enough πŸ™‚ I also missed Edan and Maia’s chemistry somehow, in the second book. Edan felt almost like an afterthought in most of the scenes.

I think overall the duology is good, and everyone should definitely read the first book – Spin the Dawn. I just wish, there was more to Unravel the Dusk, or maybe I’m being too harsh? I’d like to know your thoughts too, whether you felt the same, or if Im being overly critical of the follow up book? πŸ™‚

Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction by Arundhati Roy – Book Thoughts

Bookish Discussion:

Have you read a non fiction book that was about a subject that was extremely divisive? Where you feared the repercussions of your review?

My short summary on the book:

The first book I’d read by Arundhati Roy, was many many years ago – the book that won her the Booker Prize and the book that made her popular – God of Small Things. I was so young and pretentious then, so I picked up the book and understood nothing. I hadn’t followed Ms Roy’s writing after that. And probably missed a lot in the run.

Now, before I write anything about this book, two things that need to be mentioned upfront – 1) This is a non fiction work and collection of lectures turned into essays and 2) It’s political.

What lies ahead?

Reimagining the world. Only That.

From Azadi by Arundhati Roy

A friend I was chatting with, rightly said, politics is a slippery slope. Everyone’s politics is different. So I also need to add a disclaimer here saying, please dont troll me. Read this review and the author’s book at your own discretion. And if you’re not happy with it, then ignore the post πŸ™‚

I for one, have been having my own political viewpoint journey – starting from being ignorant, to being a liberal, and now leaning towards the progressive left.Β 

So Ms Roy’s essays are all about the current political structure of India. She touches upon many of the burning issues plaguing the country supporting each argument she makes with facts. I guess for a leftist like me, they will be facts and the grim reality we need to acknowledge. For a liberal, something to read and for a rightist – fiction or propaganda. The writing is simple, easy to understand and the essays are not too long, for a non fiction political subject.

Ms Roy touches upon a lot of subjects such as casteism, nationalism, right wing fascism, the rise of capitalism, the effect of Covid, Indian and global politics, and the importance of writing in these times.

Few things that I didnt enjoy in this collection were that some of the points and references are repeated over the essays, which could have been avoided. Also, there is a lot of reference and actual passages added in from the author’s latest fiction novel – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which act as spoilers for someone like me who hasn’t read the book and wanted to read it πŸ™‚

Have you read this book or any other books by Arundhati Roy?

Stay At Home Series – Episode 9 : Nirvana has been attained

Nirvana (Noun) : Defined as a state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self and the subject is released from the effects of karma..etc etc.

Oxford Languages

We will, for the sake of this post, ignore the complete definition of Nirvana as stated by Oxford on Google (that sounds quite strange in itself), and just focus on the parts where it means freedom from suffering and desire and having no sense of self.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The lockdown in India started on 16th March 2020. So, it has been nearly 9 months of staying mostly indoors, practising social distancing, eating home cooked food, reading like an addict and failing at Yoga and DIY.

To add to this, I’ve been bombarded with news of illnesses and deaths of loved ones all year round. Shit year. Absolute Shit Year. But there’s also no guarantee that IF we make it out sane from 2020, that 2021 will be any different. (Yes, spoken like a true cynic). So, the daily, weekly and monthly dose of sad and bad news has had the effect of turning my emotional bandwidth into that of a machine. Even machines have more emotions maybe. I just feel numb. End of suffering then? I mean, if you don’t feel sad or heartbroken anymore, does that mean it is the end of suffering for you? Maybe. So, Nirvana definition part 1 – CHECK.

Before we went into lockdown, I had the life of a sinner. Well, that’s the religious definition, but for me, it just meant, I had a life. A life full of desires that I tried to fulfil in every chance I got. Eating at the best restaurants, drinking, dancing beyond midnight, laughing like a madwoman with my friends, trying to flirt with men and failing and not minding it a bit, traveling and seeing new places, experiencing different cultures. I desired so many things that I used to curse the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. I needed more and desired more and wanted to do more and I was hecka happy. Now, 9 months into the lockdown, of not being able to meet friends and family physically, not being able to eat a meal outside, not being able to travel, has made me forget my desires. It was just easier this way. To pretend I had no desire. The alternative was going into depression. And I already was in depression. Can’t go deeper into that hole now can I? So, Nirvana definition part 2 – CHECK.

Hmm, and what was that last part of the definition? Losing or having no sense of self? Well, I for one have forgotten what it feels like to feel. I have forgotten what I liked and disliked, because I’ve been caged indoors and living in fear of a bloody virus for the best of this year. I have forgotten how to talk to my best friends and my soulmates. I feel like I have forgotten myself. So, losing all sense of self – CHECK.

Now that I’ve written all this, and found that I’ve almost attained Nirvana on Earth, I realise that I don’t like it one bit. How about you? Are you enjoying your Nirvana? πŸ™‚

In hindsight though, I think I’m still in a better place than the millions of people who have lost lives, health and livelihoods to this pandemic and all the other shit that came along with this. For that, I am grateful and thankful. I am also thankful for my family and friends. For my sister, mother and daughter. For the fact that I have internet and money to feed myself and have the privilege to crib and complain about my feelings or lack thereof.

So maybe, I haven’t attained Nirvana after all? Oh well, thank goodness for that then. I don’t need to be disappointed πŸ˜‰ I just pray to the Universe and whatever positive energies are out there, please, please make the virus go away and let us travel and hug our friends and loved ones again πŸ™‚

I’d like to end this post with a Katy Perry song that my daughter and I love – here’s to the few rainbows in a year of storms…

Reviewing Romances – Take a Hint Dani Brown and Call Me By Your Name

Bookish Discussion:

Do you read romance novels? If yes, what kind of romances do you prefer reading? Contemporary, regency, funny, quirky, new age, rom com?

Thoughts on Take a Hint Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Oh I so love Talia Hibbert’s romances! I mean I’m a newbie to her books and before this I have only read, Get a Life Chloe Brown, but I loved both the books so much!

In the second book about the love life of the Brown sisters, we see the nerdy, aromantic, bisexual, plus sized heroine Danika Brown struggle with her feelings for rugby player Zaphir Ansari, who in many ways is her opposite because he loves romance and romance novels but also has his own battles with anxiety and depression.

The banter between the lead pair, between both the protagonist’s families and best friends is as funny and entertaining as the first book and the romance itself. I really loved the second book and highly recommend it if you’re looking for an easy and feel good romance novel that isn’t sappy at all and breaks a lot of stereotypes πŸ™‚

Thoughts on Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

What? Two romances back to back? heheh

In hindsight, maybe I shouldve read this before I read the fast paced dialogue heavy Dani Brown romance because it took me a while to get a hang of the narrative style in this book. There’s very little dialogue and sometimes the scenes and the narrator’s thoughts, although beautiful and romantic and melancholic, felt repetitive.

All that said, once you overcome these hiccups, its really a lovely and heartbreaking love story of Elio and Oliver. The description of the summer days in Italy and Rome, where the story is set is simply breath taking! I wish I can be part of such gatherings, lazy summer days of biking and swimming, summer evenings of discussing books, long dinners, conversations, music and love, one day too πŸ™‚

The famous peach scene was not of my taste, but if you like explicit descriptions in your romance, this is definitely one to read.

I picked up this book to read after I saw the trailer of the movie with Sam Smith’s Fire on Fire playing in the background and I love Armie and Timothee so much that I had to read the book πŸ™‚ Now I cant wait to watch the movie..

So have you read any of these books? Which one would you pick if you had to choose one? πŸ™‚

Four Years of Blogging on WordPress!!

I just wanted to write this post to acknowledge my four year blogging anniversary with WordPress. I have been blogging since long before, almost ten years now. I was on blogspot earlier, before moving to WordPress. But I feel like the journey of blogging has been a really big and important part of my life all of these years. Yes, the platform has changed, yes my content has diversified, yes the technology has become fancier, but the way I feel when I write about something and the way I feel when some stranger reads my thoughts and tells me that they hear me, hasn’t changed a bit πŸ™‚

So a big thank you for all the friends I’ve made so far via the blogging platform on WordPress. You can’t imagine how much some of your comments mean to me. A big thanks to all the people who take time to read about my random ramblings about travel, life and books πŸ™‚ And a big thanks to WordPress for giving me a platform to write and share my thoughts πŸ™‚ I hope to keep writing for many more years to come and I hope to make many new friendships via this writing journey.

My Posts four years back

My first post : Trip to Diveagarh

My first book review post: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Book Reviews – Mexican Gothic and Anxious People

Bookish Discussion:

Have you read a book that scared you more psychologically than paranormally?

Have you read a book that was actually felt like going to therapy?

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia : Thoughts/Review

This book was a part of the Spooky read October month, but I managed to finish it only in the first week of Nov.

The story definitely has all the spooks – the gothic setting of the manor at High Place, eerie characters with the creepy Howard Doyle, the handsome and unsettling Virgil Doyle, the timid Francis Doyle and the stern and uptight Frances Doyle. It definitely isnt an easy task for our protagonist Noemi to figure out what is haunting her sister and how to solve it.

There are a lot of themes that I’m afraid of as a person that the author uses to scare her readers with – both psychological such as claustrophobia and insanity as well as paranormal such as ghosts.

I listened to the audio book for this and I think my only problem was the pacing of the plot. I found it a little slow for my liking. But maybe that’s how gothic horror novels are supposed to be?

It felt very similar to the Turn of the screw on which the Netflix Haunting of Bly Manor is based. I read the audiobook version of the book so maybe that’s what made it slower?

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

We cant change the world, and a lot of the time we cant even change the people. No more than one bit at a time. So we do what we can to help whenever we get the chance. We save those we can. We do our best. Then we try to find a way to convince ourselves that that will just have to…be enough. So we can live with our failures without drowning.

Jack’s Mum (aka Fredrik Backman) from Anxious People

This was my first read by Fredrik Backman, and honestly speaking? I think I’m in love with the author’s brain, and the way he thinks. I felt like I got a much needed therapy for free. Well, the book did cost me, but lets call it extremely budget friendly therapy πŸ™‚

I couldn’t exactly figure out what the story was about. Maybe it was about a bank robbery? Or a hostage drama? Or about love and life and death? About friendship and loneliness? Or maybe like the author says, the story is just about a bunch of idiots? Whatever it was, when I finished reading the last page of the book, I realised, I didn’t want this story to end. I wanted to keep reading about Anna Lena and Roger, about Jack and Jim, about Julie and Ro, about Nadia, Zara and Lennart, about the bank robber and the monkey and the frog. I wanted to live in that apartment with them. Because it felt like they were friends. Like they would understand my anxiety about nothing and say just the right things πŸ™‚

The book helped me understand my mother a bit better. It helped me deal with my husband a bit better. It helped me feel slightly less guilty about not being the perfect parent. It helped me ‘feel’ something for strangers after ages. It helped me smile a bit more. It told me that in a world full of bleakness, even a small act of kindness can go a long way. You can never know how something inconsequential you’ve done one day, can change someone’s life.

I loved the translation and the simple, light hearted and heart warming narration in the book. If this is the way Fredrik Backman writes all his books, I can’t wait to dive into all of them πŸ™‚

Life Diaries and Reading Wrap Up – October 2020

October has been such an amazing month. I read a lot and I even went out and I met with some family and friends and we celebrated Durga Puja and Halloween with a closed group, lockdown style. In a nutshell it was as good as it could getπŸ™‚

Books I read β˜ΊοΈπŸ“š

I read the below books as part of the Scaredycatreadathon reading challenge:

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Ridell. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Dragon Republic by R F Kuang ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Besides these, I read the below books as part of book club picks or recommendations from friends ☺️

  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • A curse so dark and lonely by Brigid Kimmerer ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • These, Our bodies possessed by light by Dharini Bhaskar ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Life and fitness updates

  • I didn’t run at all in the month of October because it was too hot and I was starting to get headaches after my runs. So I decided to give that a break. Instead I went on a lot of walks in the park with my family and did a lot of Zumba at homeπŸ™‚
  • We couldn’t celebrate Durga Puja at all this time and it was quite depressing because that’s a big festival for us. However we did meet with a few close family members and we did eat a lot of delicious food πŸ˜‰πŸ˜
  • We celebrated Halloween as well. Well basically my daughter celebrated Halloween by dressing up as her favourite witch character and celebrating it as part of her online class celebrations πŸ§™β€β™€οΈ
  • These adorable chicks gave us a short visit on one of the days and it was the best Saturday morning ever!πŸ’–
  • And finally we also went on this really amazing trip to Deras Dam and went on a short forest ride through the Chandaka forest reserve in Bhubaneswar. It was so beautiful, peaceful and green and was such a balm for the soul and the eyes during these difficult times πŸ™‚

So that was a shortish wrap up of my October ☺️

How was your October? Did you read some really spooky books? πŸ§Ÿβ€β™€οΈ

Did you go out or stay indoors?

Did you work out or reach any of your goals?

I’m still trying to figure out my plans for November and I did want to participate in the Nanowrimo this year but I have an injury and I am not sure how I’m going to be writing so let’s see how that works out πŸ€·β€β™€οΈπŸ™ƒ