Thursday, 24 April 2014

'Paper Towns' by John Green: A Book Review

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.

I'm sorry, but I can't wait until the end of the review to say this: I hated this book. No, hate is too small a word - I despised this book.
I wouldn't reread this book if you paid me. I would waste two hours watching Divergent again rather than spend ten minutes going through this book.

Look, I'm not the biggest fan of John Green, the writer. I thought The Fault in Our Stars was alright and An Abundance of Katherines was mediocre. But with Paper Towns (which, I've heard, is a slightly different version of Looking For Alaska), Green achieves new levels of pretentious, teenage-y, metaphorical dullness.

Paper Towns revolves around the quiet, nerdy Quentin, who is obsessed with a girl he was friends with about ten years ago. He hasn't spoken to her since, even though they're next-door neighbours and go to the same school. But he's desperately in love with her, because..... damn, I've finished the book and I still don't know what he sees in her!

Margo Roth Spiegelman. A troublesome daughter, a bully and a self-obsessed loner. She enjoys running away from home every now and then, leaving 'clues' so her parents can find her. Tired of living in a 'paper town' with 'paper people', Margo thinks she's superior to everyone else, simply because she doesn't care about education or college or the future.
She doesn't care about people, either. Shaving off other people's eyebrows when they're asleep, leaving dead fish in her classmate's wardrobe, taking nude pictures of an ex-boyfriend... that's her idea of a fun evening. Unfortunately, doing all these things by herself isn't very easy. So she decides to enlist the help of her neighbour Quentin, who immediately agrees to her plans because he 'loves' her.

But being the selfish, annoying daughter that she is, Margo runs away from home again. Now Quentin forces his friends (Ben and Radar) to help him find her. Oh, wait, his friends already have plans with their girlfriends? His friends are hosting a party? His friends have to graduate, so they can't drive a hundred miles away to find Margo? How selfish of them!
I don't understand why Ben and Radar are even friends with Quentin. Throughout the novel, all he does is think about Margo, and he expects his friends to do the same. When they don't - because they're normal - he calls them selfish and fights with them. Very mature, Q.

The characters in this novel are annoying. The jokes in this book are crass and perverted. There is no romance in the story. Why does Quentin have feelings for Margo, when he barely knows her? How do Ben and his girlfriend suddenly fall in love despite having nothing in common?

There are so many faults in this book that I couldn't enjoy one bit of it. Not the writing, not the characters, not the story. If this is what teenagers are like, then I'm ashamed to be one of them. Sorry, but I don't think running away from home right before your exams, or running away with your friends to find the so-called love of your life (right before your graduation) is 'cool'.

I'm going to go with 1 star out of 5 for Paper Towns. 
John Green's story is as paper as it can get. So are his one-dimensional characters. And those metaphors - my goodness! Not everything in life has a bigger meaning, and not everything in the world is about Margo Roth Spiegelman. Let it go, John Green.

I can't understand why this book has a 4.10 rating on Goodreads or why it ever won all those awards. To me, this is the worst book I've read in a long time. I wouldn't recommend this novel to anyone.
If you've read Paper Towns, let me know if you agree with me. If you don't, then tell me what you liked about the book in the comments.

Happy reading, Geeks! :)

PS: My next blog post won't be for another week, as I'll be on vacation. But fear not! It's going to be very special... I'll be reviewing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which releases in India on 1st May.
Can't wait. See you then! :)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

What's in My Fab Bag! (April 2014)

It's still mid-April, but it's already time for this month's Fab Bag review!
Well, since the last couple months have been such a disappointment, I opened the package with zero expectations. 

And I was pleasantly surprised!
This month's bag is red with a black pattern. I didn't like it too much, but my Dad decided to use it as a shaving kit bag, so all's well that ends well! 
This month's bag and products!
This time I received 3+1 items. Let's take a look!

1) Sally Hansen Pedicure in a Minute (113 g, Full Size):
Cute bottle, too!
Everybody loves Sally Hansen, and so do I. My favourite nail polish and lip gloss are from this very brand, so I'm excited to try this pedicure scrub. Enriched with vitamins and oils, it's sure to work wonders on my feet.

This product, I love! 

2) Beauty UK Blush and Brush (Isla Rose; 5 g, Full Size):
Still would have preferred the 'Rustic Peach' shade...
When I saw the pink colour of the blush, I was a little disappointed. If I'm ever wearing blush, it's usually a pale peach or nude colour. I figured I would never use this product. But I tried it, and because there's hardly any pigmentation, it looks quite nice on my skin tone. 

This product, I like! 

3) Just Herbs Glow Boosting Ritual (Lively Clean Honey Cleansing Gel, 30 ml; Instaglow Almond Complexion Pack, 20 g; Aloe Vera Facial Massage Gel, 20 g):
Tiny products, but at least I got three of 'em!
Herbal products... well, I've never really tried any. But the Honey Cleansing Gel smells great (like rose water), and the other two products, though tiny, seem promising. Next time there's a special occasion, I'll try this kit and see how it goes!

This product, I like!

4) The Nature's Co. Lavender Body Lotion (35 ml):
You again?!?!?!
Ah. My old enemy. We meet again. 
Some of you may recall that I had received this very product in a previous bag, under a different subscription... and I'd hated it. The musky smell, the liquid consistency... I'll stick to my body butter, thank you very much. Sorry, The Nature's Co., but you're not getting a second chance. 

This product, I dislike. 

Well, look at that! Fab Bag scored a three out of four this time. Good job, guys. 
And thus ends my six-month subscription. My renewal offer gives me just a 5% discount, so I won't be ordering any more bags unless next month's products are phenomenal. Hopefully they will be, because it seems like good ol' Vellvette is back on its upward spiral.

The total worth of this month's haul is about Rs. 1,756. Definitely value for money this time! :) 

Let me know which products you received this month. What do you think about the April bag? Liked it? Loved it? Hated it? Be sure to leave a comment below. 

Until next time, Beauty Geeks! :) 

Friday, 11 April 2014

'Divergent' Movie Review

In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she's Divergent and won't fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it's too late.

I know I included Divergent in my list of highly anticipated movies last year, but after early reviews from both readers and non-readers turned out to be negative, my anticipation somewhat fizzled out.
Well, Divergent finally released in India today, so I went to watch the movie with incredibly low expectations.
Read on to find out whether the movie pulled off a Percy Jackson or a Catching Fire!

I quite liked the first three minutes of the movie. It started with a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline, mostly in ruins, with Tris, the protagonist, telling us the history of her city and giving us a brief description of all the factions - including her own, Abnegation (the selfless).

And it was all downhill from there.
From the countless coats of mascara on Tris and her mother's eyelashes (FABnegation, huh?) to some terrible acting by Ansel Elgort (who plays Tris' brother, Caleb); from the incomplete aptitude test to the drawn-out, boring Choosing ceremony...
Really, the movie was only about two and a half hours long, but to me it felt like an entire day had passed! Even when it came to some of my favourite scenes from the book, I found my mind wandering to far-off places and it took me a while to get back to the movie at hand.

However, I did enjoy some of the scenes involving the Dauntless (the brave): their introduction, the jumping in and out of trains, the welcoming of the initiates... but that was mostly because of the adrenaline-packed background music.
Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL's score was good, although adding those Ellie Goulding pop songs in the middle of an intense scene was a very bad idea. It took away from what little the scene was trying to offer.

Perhaps the director and his crew knew that the actors in this movie can't act to save their lives. Maybe that's why about eighty percent of the movie focused only on close-ups of their faces. Acting isn't just about expressions (which these actors lack), it's also about body language. Unfortunately there was no chance to judge their body language, because all that could be seen was their face and neck (and their makeup!).
I'd heard great things about Shailene Woodley (Tris) from critics and audiences alike. But I couldn't see what they were talking about. When thrown into a strange world within a simulation, Woodley didn't bat an eyelid. When her best friend's life was threatened, she was indifferent. Why?

As for Theo James (a.k.a Four)... well, he didn't look the part of the shy but strong Four, and he couldn't act the part, either. His character went straight from glaring at Tris to kissing her, without showing how he even fell for her in the first place.
Kate Winslet was wasted in the role of the main antagonist, Jeanine Mathews, head of Erudite (the intelligent). Ansel Elgort seemed to be channeling his inner Augustus Waters instead of playing Caleb Prior. You're in the wrong movie, pal!

Zoƫ Kravitz as Tris' best friend, Christina, was probably the only actor I liked. She was fun, fiesty and full of life. I guess she takes after her father, who played the role of Cinna in The Hunger Games.
Miles Teller as Peter was alright. He was supposed to be arrogant and funny, but I didn't laugh once.

Since this is an action movie, there was a lot of fighting and many scenes involved guns. But shaky cam was employed more than once during these scenes (probably so the movie could get a PG-13 rating) and the end result was not pretty.

There were several changes from the books, a major one being the ending. No spoilers, but I disliked it. It was illogical and ridden with plot holes. The book may not be a literary masterpiece, but at least its ending made sense!

In short, the movie was nothing more than bits and pieces of the book sewn together with a thread of illogical explanations and miserable acting skills.
I'm going to go with 1.5 stars out of 5 for Divergent.

Whether you're a book fan or a simple movie-goer, give this one a miss. Instead, use those two and a half hours to watch Queen or Catching Fire or any movie that won't bore you to death.
But if you're desperate to watch Divergent, take two and a half minutes and just watch the trailer instead. I can guarantee that it's much better than the actual film.

See you next time, Geeks!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

'Just One of the Guys' by Kristan Higgins: A Book Review

"Being one of the guys isn't all it's cracked up to be... So when journalist Chastity O'Neill returns to her hometown, she decides it's time to start working on some of those feminine wiles. Two tiny problems: #1 - she's five feet eleven inches of rock-solid girl power, and #2 - she's cursed with four alpha male older brothers.

While doing a story on local heroes, she meets a hunky doctor and things start to look up. Now there's only one problem: Trevor Meade, her first love and the one man she's never quite gotten over - although he seems to have gotten over her just fine.

Yet the more time she spends with Dr. Perfect, the better Trevor looks. But even with the in-your-face competition, the irresistible Trevor just can't seem to see Chastity as anything more than just one of the guys...."

Ah, Kristan Higgins! She's one of my favourite authors for sure, especially when it comes to romance and chick-lit novels.
This isn't one of her latest novels - she actually published this way back in 2008. But I only just got my hands on it because I never really wanted to read a book about a tall, strong woman who's just one of the guys. I assumed it'd be boring because I'm the complete opposite of the main character.

How wrong was I!

In some ways, I'm glad I didn't read this book earlier, because it made this experience so much better! The first time you read a book, it's... special. The anticipation, the knowledge that anything could happen in the next few pages - anything! Nothing beats reading a book for the first time.
And so I spent a lovely afternoon lounging on the living room couch, reading Just One of the Guys, a smile plastered on my face throughout. I laughed, sobbed a little and enjoyed myself as I dove headfirst into Chastity and Trevor's love story.

Oh, Chas and Trev! One part I always adore in Kristan's books - the back story. A few chapters into the book, we find out what happened the first time they got together, and why it ended. Somehow the back story always leaves me wanting more (in a good way), because it's that well-written!
The same goes for Chastity and Trevor. Their first love story is amazing. I was hooked on their romance the moment I finished reading that chapter.

Then again, most of the novel is focused on Chastity's relationship with the hunky doctor (see the plot summary above) and her friendship with Trevor. It's only towards the end that their friendship takes a new level.
I just wish we'd been given a more detailed explanation of how - and why - Trevor fell for her. 

Apart from the main plot, there are other stories told in the novel - about Chastity's firefighter brothers, the crumbling marriage of her parents, an evil coworker and a hacker planning to ruin Chastity's reputation.
I was satisfied with all except the hacker storyline. I was sort of expecting the unexpected, but the revelation at the end left me a little disappointed.

I thought I wouldn't relate to Chastity at all. I was right, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the story and liking her character. She's fierce, independent and extremely fit. Hey, I love being petite, but I wouldn't mind being a little more like Chas! :)

Kristan's writing is crisp, romantic and utterly hilarious. However, I don't have any quotes that I can claim as my favourites because I don't have my copy anymore, and I couldn't find any quotes online.
Instead, you can check out an excerpt from the novel on her website here.

I'm going to go with 4 stars out of 5 for this one.

To conclude, I loved Just One of the Guys! It's not on my list of top five Higgins novels, but I think it would come a close sixth. If you're a lover of love stories, be sure to check this one out.

I'm currently reading Kristan's newest book, Waiting on You. I will let you know how it turns out. Until then, keep reading, grinning and enjoying, Geeks.