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Podcast Episode 13 – In-Betweens

Natasha Sondakh

We are back with the newest podcast episode! It’s a real pleasure to chat with the author of She Smells of Turmeric: Natasha Sondakh. We first met through Mad Tea Book Club meeting discussing Indonesian Literature back in mid 2021. Her book interested me because I had a certain relatable experience with the protagonist, Cece. I bought my copy and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it.

Keeping in touch with Tash, I threw out the idea of doing this podcast session with her. So here in this episode Tash shares her reading and writing journey, including what books/authors/poets have impacted her. She also shares an empowering note as someone who grew up between Eastern and Western cultures, and having to navigate through one’s identity in that in-between state.

As always, if you have a topic or idea you’d like me to cover in the podcast, let me know! Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to get exclusive content, participate in giveaways, and get special discounts from the shop.

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Book Review: Strings Attached

Through the Mad Tea Book Club, I’ve been so pleased to meet more Indonesian readers and writers (especially women writers). One author I have really enjoyed reading is Firnita. She has two books published by Pop and Ice Cube: Strings Attached (2020), and Shorter Stories (2021).

Twitter Lift

I first met her through the #writerslift which is something fun that happens on Twitter where writers boost each other. I think this is a wonderfully supportive gesture, so we tried it on our book club’s twitter account. That’s where Firnita dropped her most recent book and how Sherry, Krisan, and I got to meet her. Then, funny as things can be sometimes, in the book club meeting that month (it was August), Krisan and I both (coincidentally) brought up Shorter Stories! That’s a sign. A good sign.

So, we decided to start a new segment on our bookclub’s Instagram which is discussion with authors, and Krisan started it off by doing an interview with Firnita. You can check out the whole interview here.

Strings Attached

Strings Attached is written in a genre of which I had never heard before called flash fiction. It’s a collection of many short fiction stories surrounding the theme of romance. The book also has some really modern illustrations which I LOVED. They totally added to the atmosphere of reading the stories.

The first and second section is the fluttering and bliss of being in love, so it will suit you if you are a helpless romantic. To be honest, I’m not a romantic person anymore, so I liked the third section better which was about the despair of break-ups and rejections. Yes, me likes this. Much more realistic.

Despite my personal tastes though, the stories (written in English) were well written and had a lilt to it, something like a slow dance. Firnita did say in the interview with Krisan that she loves music, so this is where it shows.

Q and A with Firnita

To make this article more fun, I decided to ask Firnita several questions about Strings Attached. Here they are.

Airin: How did you get the ideas for the flash fiction stories in strings attached? were some from real-life observation, or from experience, or?

Firnita: The stories in strings attached are mostly my train of thoughts in class for 6 years (haha). The idea is whatever I can finish in that one sitting, that’s it. It’s a collection of pieces from my notebooks: science, English, Bahasa Indonesia, everything. Some of them are real-life observations, movie-watching observations, and experience. It’s a mix of all~

Airin: Why do you find writing in English easier than Bahasa Indonesia?

Firnita: I always feel bad for writing in English because I know I do love Bahasa Indonesia too, but I guess it’s the matter of upbringing. I attended a semi-international school where most of the materials were taught in English, so I got to familiarize myself with English since kindergarden. I do write in bahasa too btw!! Haha.

Airin: I have noticed in my own writing, where I write something from my imagination, and then couple months after then it happens. It’s CRAZY! I am wondering if this has ever happened to you, like suddenly one or two of the stories you wrote happened in real life.

Firnita: OH I’ve heard this too! I can say that some pieces in Strings Attached are my manifestations, but I don’t know whether it will happen in the near/far future. But it happened to me too, just not the pieces in Strings Attached! Nothing specific, but when it happened I felt like I think I wrote this a while ago in my journal. And BAM when I trace back to my old journals, I see that piece manifest in the event that just happened, lol.

Way cool!

To support Firnita, purchase a copy of her books by contacting her.

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Book Review: Cerita Carissa

Character deaths don’t make me cry. It’s character growths that do. And this sweet Indonesian chick-lit definitely made me cry with how much the protagonist has grown from the first page to the last. Written by Krysan Wijaya, a fellow co-founder of the Mad Tea Book Club, Cerita Carissa (Carissa’s Story) centers around Carissa, an aspiring surgeon who is seeking out her dreams and happiness.

Carissa has to deal with a lot of disappointments however, when things don’t go the way she wanted. AHA, you say. Isn’t that life? Life deals you a hand and doesn’t behave the way you want it to behave. Life throws your expectations back at you, shocks you, breaks your heart and your spirit, sometimes even your body. And you have to deal with what’s left, just like Carissa. She was a great gal-she didn’t do anything wrong. Carissa worked hard and tried to reach to the stars for her dreams, but life mocks her and shoves her with rejections and betrayals.

And page after page, heartbreak after heartbreak, Carissa gets back up and tries again. She sees the loopholes in the society around her, finds her way around it, accepts herself, and moves forward. This kind of plot is quite straightforward and simple, but written with so much heart that I assure readers will be able to feel and relate to Carissa’s journey.

Meet the Author!

Q: How old are you, and what do you do now?

I thought it would be fun to get to know the author a bit…so here are some questions I asked Krisan!

Krisan Wijaya, author of Cerita Carissa

A:  I just turned 30, and am currently working as a general practitioner in Solo, Indonesia.

Q: When did you start writing?

A: I wrote my first short story in 6th grade to join a writing competition held by PLN (Indonesia’s national electricity company) back in 2003. I also wrote a YA romance novel in 2005-2006, but it went unpublished.

Q: What was your inspiration for Cerita Carissa?

A: Of course, all fiction are inspired by the truth 🤭 Cerita Carissa was inspired by a toxic relationship I had years ago, though of course the details were different. I was also observing people who stuck with abusive partners, and who treated the idea of meeting the one and getting married as if it was the only reason to live.

Q: What is your next writing project?

A: I am currently revising 2 novel drafts, but it’s hard to make time for writing in the midst of a full-time job and a toddler 😂 I’m also writing a short stories & poems collection (Lang Leav kind of book) about love and heartbreaks.


Support Krisan’s writing and purchase a copy of the book (in Bahasa Indonesia) by contacting the author. Krisan is also a booktuber, and you can check out her awesome book review videos at her youtube channel.

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Famous Widows Creating Legacies

Since Oky’s death in June 2019, I have made it into one of my goals to preserve his architectural legacy. I truly believed he had unique ways of solving problems that could benefit further generations of Indonesian architects. Not only that, continuing his legacy keeps him in my life. Ancient Egyptians believed that people die twice: the first time when their bodies take their last breath and the second time when their name is spoken for the last time.

At least while I’m alive, I wish to set up structures that enable young designers and architects to look at his works, be inspired, and in turn create some awesome works. One of the ways I did this was by writing the book Sketches and Regrets.

In a podcast episode I did for The Widow Jokes (Janda Becanda) with Intania Fajar – herself a widow – she suggested this idea for other widows. Write about your husbands. Keep their memories alive – there is no reason NOT to keep remembering them. Unless, of course, if they were abusive husbands while they were alive.

What do Hamilton, Raffles, and Curie have in common?

You might be surprised because a lot of legendary men in history were famous because their widows wrote about them. Had their wives not written about them, they would not have enjoyed their place in history now. Some of these people are Alexander Hamilton, Sir Thomas Raffles, and Pierre Curie. They all died tragic deaths at a very young age, and guess who preserved and spread their works to the world? Their widows: Eliza Hamilton, Lady Sophia Raffles, and Marie Curie.

After the death of their spouses, they soldiered on, creating legends of their deceased husbands. In light of feminism, I often wonder why these famous widows did not just make legends of themselves? I bet they have as much brilliance (in Marie’s case RADIANCE) and with as their men, perhaps even more.

Going back to my situation, I find myself wanting to do both- keeping Oky’s legacy while also continuing to build my own life and story.

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Series Review: The Book of Isle

After I finished all of the Enola Holmes series (check out that review), I decided author Nancy Springer must be on my favorite writers’ list. Imagine my delight when I saw that she also wrote my favorite genre: fantasy! In fact, she is more known as a fantasy writer than for mystery series. One of her favorite sets was the Book of Isle (in 5 novels).

I bought the Kindle boxset for 21.99USD – making it just over 4USD per book. GREAT DEAL readers! Alert!

The 5 books were my 4th to 8th reads of this year for the read 60 in 2021 Goodreads challenge. I finished the whole thing in 2 weeks. That should tell you how irresistible her stories were. The Goodreads description of the series called it a “classic epic fantasy in the grand tradition of J. R. R. Tolkien.”

Synopsis

On the island of Isle, gods, goddesses, and magical beasts lived together with humans. Some were good, some corrupt, some downright evil. Ellid, a lady as fair as the sun fell in love with Bevan, son of the High King and the goddess of the moon. Their relationship triggers events that resulted in the rebuilding of a peaceful kingdom. Generations and legends go by until the changeling Dair befriends the cursed wanderer Frain, and through their bond peace in the mainland is able to be restored. Ok, so it’s the usual fantasy plot. But isn’t that why fantasy readers read fantasy?

Ok, so it’s the usual fantasy plot. But isn’t that why fantasy readers read fantasy?

The magic is ancient good against evil, not unlike CS Lewis’ Narnia. It’s not children’s fantasy though. It’s for adults, although thank goodness she writes so much better than GRRM (Game of Thrones slowly became only about sex, war, and food). Nancy Springer delves deep into human nature, exposing love, lust, greed, ego, and a longing for death that is a constant theme from Book 1 to Book 5. Her battles were fast and action-oriented, but never more violent than is necessary.

A feminine epic fantasy.

One of my favorite things about the Book of Isle was how un-patriarchal it was. Goddesses were as powerful as gods, sometimes even more so. The One (the creator of the world) was genderless, never mentioned as “he”, nor “she”. In Book 5, a goddess gets the revenge that she sought because a human king had shamed her. This act was not seen as an act of revenge that spiraled out of control. Rather it was portrayed as a fair act because the king completely deserved it.

Like Lord of the Rings, the Book of Isle often used poetry form to communicate older myths that existed within the island. It worked very well, adding an air of grace to the tales. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading the Book of Isle.

Do you like fantasy? Have you read this series? What did you think?