Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Goodbye, 2014. Hello, 2015!

It feels like yesterday when I was sitting on my bed, writing a very similar post, talking about how the year had gone by so quickly.
Well, history repeats itself. Here I am now, one year later, sitting on my bed, about to talk about the New Year and how 2014 just raced by, stopping for no one.

Last year, I talked about the best and worst moments of 2013. This time, I'm going to incorporate a slight twist: when I mention the worst moments, I will do my best to find the silver lining.
Let's go!

My Best Memories

1) Graduated from High School
The year started off on a high note with my graduation ceremony, where I sat with my best gal pals, took some fantastic photos, and finally introduced my sister to my best friend. Also, I had to go on stage wearing a saree (and heels), but I didn't stumble or trip at all. Ain't that an achievement, Geeks?

2) Aced My Boards
I got really good marks in my board exams, and even though I definitely didn't study well enough for it, I got an 85 in Maths. I was so sure I was going to fail (here, I mean it in the literal sense, not my usual 'anything less than an A' sense), but somehow, I managed to pull through.

3) College of My Choice
After taking one of the hardest entrance tests of my life, I got into the college of my choice in the city of my choice. A fresh start was knocking on my door!

4) Finished My Novel
I finally finished the first draft of my young adult novel, 'I Hate You... Like I Love You!' which is currently being edited. Although I've written other novels previously, this is the only one that I'm actually proud of. I also started working on my second young adult novel ('Not That Kind of Girl'), which is almost halfway through now.

5) The Year of Fandoms
From Divergent in March to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in May to Mockingjay Part 1 in November, this has been a very exciting year, fandom-wise. I also rewatched TASM 1 and 2 about a hundred times (they're my go-to airplane movies), and I bought three Spidey shirts in red, blue and purple! I also bought a Spidey action figure. He now lives in my closet and gives me fashion advice.
Me: Should I wear this?

6) Fitness Goals
Within a few months of moving to Mumbai, I gained four kilos, a feat I never thought I could achieve! I finally crossed the respectable 40 kg threshold and I am proud to say that I work out five times a week and I do my best to eat healthy wherever possible. (This does not include bagels, because bagels are life.)
I'm going to do a fitness post soon, Geeks. Stay tuned.

My Worst Memories

1) Had to Leave Home
I had to leave my dear parents and move to a new city where I knew nobody and where I would have to live with strangers - I mean, roommates.
But on the bright side, I am now fairly independent. I can do my own laundry, use public transportation without cringing (more or less), and go out whenever I want to without asking anyone's permission.

2) College: Expectations vs. Reality
I guess I always thought college would be this magical place where everyone would be pretentious and philosophical and a fanperson like me; I would meet my future best friends on Day One and I would have the greatest time of my live.
Unfortunately, none of that happened. 
But on the bright side, I have made a few good friends, I've met one or two fanpeople, and the education at my college is top-notch, which, let's face it, is what college is actually all about.

3) Negativity
Maybe it was because of being so homesick and friendless and lonely all the time, but I started becoming incredibly negative this past year. I saw the worst in everyone - including myself. I judged people left, right and centre. And on some days, I didn't even want to do anything except sleep and cry.
But on the bright side, I finally realised what I was doing wrong and decided to be hopeful and positive instead. I've already started practising positivity and I can't tell you how much more relaxed I feel!


In short, while 2014 wasn't the best year of my life, it was still a year of changes. And change leads to growth. I am a very different person today compared to the person I was on 31st December 2013. I can't say for sure that I'm a better person, but I'm definitely more mature now.

I'm going to finish my soy milk and get ready for dinner with my family. How are you spending New Year's Eve? What were your best and worst memories? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Have a great time, Geeks! I'll see you next year. Bye!
And hey, 2015. Bring it on.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Things I'm Grateful For #2

Hello, Geeks!

With only a few days left for the new year, I decided to implement my resolution (to look at the bright side and be positive) as early as possible.
So, here's another list of things I'm grateful for. But unlike the first one, the things on this list are going to be as random as possible.

So, off the top of my head, here are some things I am very thankful for:

1) Cheese popcorn:
One of the best reasons to watch a movie in theatres instead of getting it on DVD... utterly, butterly, cheesy, delicious, orange-y popcorn that's finger lickin' good!

2) Strangers:
I don't enjoy meeting new people in general, but strangers are really interesting. I love talking to people I meet in the airport or on a plane because I know that I'll never see them again. Getting to know someone simply because you want to, and not for any hidden agenda... it's amazing. I've met so many incredible people on aeroplanes and I can't wait to meet more such people.

3) Winters:
I've never lived in a city where the temperatures fall below 15 degrees (Celcius) in the daytime, so I've always loved the months of November, December and January for the amazing weather that allows me to bundle up in cozy sweaters and blankets and have lots and lots of staying-at-home time!

4) Literary Webseries:
I am so thankful for creative minds like Bernie Su and Hank Green who have come up with modern-day adaptations of some of my favourite novels like Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Rewatching these 'webisodes' is like reliving those stories all over again!
5) Sport shoes:
Are there any shoes in the world better than sport shoes? They're multifunctional: you can wear them with dresses, skirts, jeans, shorts, and workout gear. You can wear them to college or the supermarket or the gym. And they always give your feet the cushioning and support they need.
With these darling shoes, I never have to worry about slipping or tripping or stumbling.

6) Emma Stone, Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence:
These women are intelligent, talented and absolutely hilarious. Isn't that a deadly combination? These are women I look up to, and I hope I can become more like them in the coming year.

7) Chick Flicks and Chick Lit:
Sure, I enjoy deep, meaningful movies and books that make you think, but my favourite genre will always be chick flick or romantic comedy. These stories make me smile and laugh and cry, and on days when I feel hopeless, I can always go back to these movies or books to remind myself that laughter and romance are two things that will never die.

8) Song for Zula by Phosphorescent:
This is one of my current favourite songs, the others being It's On Again by Alicia Keys and Heroes by David Bowie.
Give these songs a listen if you've got time to spare. All the songs on my playlist make me feel a different emotion, and I can't help but be grateful that these tunes and lyrics can change my mood in an instant.

9) Blue:
My earphones are blue. Most of my wardrobe is blue. My bedsheet, incidentally, is also blue. It wouldn't take a genius to figure out that it's my favourite colour.
I know some people think it's depressing, but I find that the colour blue calms me down. And when I'm calm, I'm at peace. I'm happy.
I think this is the main reason I wanted to be a Ravenclaw when I was a kid was. Even today, I feel like the Claws have got the best colour scheme. Just look at this beautiful GIF!

10) Peeta Mellark, Peter Parker and Chandler Bing:
Fictional men are so amazing I could write an entire blog post about them! Hey, real-life men are great, too, but there's nothing better than dreaming about a guy with Peeta's kindness, Peter Parker's intelligence and Chandler's humour.
Also, their actors are really good-looking, too - a sight for sore eyes!

I know these things aren't that meaningful or essential. Heck, I doubt they'd figure anywhere on Maslow's Hierarchy. But while I could live without them, I definitely don't want to. These are the small things that make my life wonderful. :)

There's a lot more to be thankful for, but these ten random things are enough for now. I'll save the rest for the next 'grateful' post.
Tell me: what are some random things that you're incredibly grateful for? It could be anything from your comfy blanket to your favourite subject in school. The comment box awaits your response!

I'll see you on New Year's Eve, Geeks. Bye!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

A Fresh Start.

So, the new year is almost upon us. And I don't know about you, but I'm actually caught off-guard because this year went by a little too quickly. Part of me is relieved that this year is ending, but another part - a bigger part - wishes I had more time to accomplish all of the goals I wanted to accomplish in 2014.

But that's the problem, isn't it? We always spend so much time regretting everything that's happened, thinking about all the time we've wasted and all the mistakes we've made. Why don't we ever look past these things and remember everything that's made us smile?

I know everyone says New Year's resolutions are a waste of time and effort. And to be honest, it's true to some extent. I don't know too many people who manage to stick to their resolutions for a whole week, forget an entire year. And I have a hard time with it, too.

I don't know about you, but my resolutions are either too complex ("I will write fifty inspirational blog posts this year!") or too vague ("I will work on my blog this year!"). They're either too far-fetched or so easy that I lose interest.

So this year, I'm going to do something different. This is 2015. This is a fresh start. I have a feeling I said this last year too, but this time, I really, really need a fresh start. Things haven't exactly gone my way this year, and I'm partly at fault for that. I spent too much time worrying about everything I was doing wrong instead of being happy about the things I was doing right. I spent so many mornings thinking about how horrible my day was going to be, instead of being excited about all the miracles that could happen if I just got out of bed.

I've spent the whole of 2014 being so negative that all I can see right now, when I look back, is darkness. And that is something I am not willing to take with me in the new year. 

Here's to a fresh start. Here's to a resolution that is both difficult and easy, that is both deep and simple: I will look at the bright side of things. I will give people a chance instead of pushing everyone and everything away. I will love myself instead of trying to find people who can love me. I will work on improving myself instead of cursing everything that's wrong with my life. I will remain positive, even when things go wrong.

Dear reader, if you've had a bad year, a bad week or even a bad day, then don't lose hope. A new year is coming. A fresh start is on the way. Heck, your fresh start can begin right now. All you need is the strength to believe in yourself and your strengths.

So promise me something. You're going to start living a life that you like. You're going to become yourself. You're going to be around people who love you for who you are. You're going to find your passion and follow the path that calls out to you.
And most importantly, you are going to do everything in your power to stay positive and happy and hopeful.

Here's a scene from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, one of my favourite movies, that might make you feel more hopeful about your life and yourself.

I hope you had a great Christmas and I know you're going to have a fantastic New Year.
Let me know in the comments: how excited are you for a fresh start? How are you going to make this year the best year of your life?

Until next time, Geeks. Thanks for reading. :) 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

'White Bird in a Blizzard' by Laura Kasischke: A Book/Movie Review

When Katrina Connors' mother walks out on her family, Kat is surprised but not shocked; the whole year she has been "becoming sixteen" - falling in love with the boy next door, shedding her babyfat, discovering sex - her mother has been slowly withdrawing. As Kat and her impassive father pick up the pieces of their daily lives, she finds herself curiously unaffected by her mother's absence. But in dreams that become too real to ignore, she's haunted by her mother's cries for help. Finally, she must act on her instinct that something violent and evil has occurred - a realization that brings Kat to a chilling discovery.

Sorry for the hiatus, Geeks. I've been dealing with some personal stuff lately, so I had to neglect the blog to recover in peace.
Anyway, I'm back for good!

Let's talk about White Bird in a Blizzard, a novel I had started reading a few weeks ago, as well as the movie which I watched recently after finishing the book.

The book blurb seemed interesting. It gave me a Gone Girl vibe, and since I'd enjoyed that book/movie so much, I had high hopes for this story, too. And this book had quite a few rave reviews hailing it as a 'literary masterpiece' and what not. I thought maybe this would be another dark and depressing teenage tale that would leave me wanting more (like Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, which I'm currently re-reading).


The writing! What do I say? Almost everyone who loved this novel claims that the writing is superior to anything they've ever read. But it's so exhausting to read this book! There are metaphors and similes crammed into every single sentence on every single page with so much description and so few dialogues that it drove me nuts. I like deeper meanings, I do. But this book tries to be so deep that nothing remains on the surface.

Let me show you. I'm going to skip to random pages of the ebook now and cite a few examples.

"And the darkness below her seemed to rise like dough - flour and yeast and water mixed up with night. 
We were down there in that darkness, that darkness that might rise and rise, and push everything out of its way as it rose, as it pushed its way out of the living room, swelling up the stairs. It might smother her in her sleep with its sprawling, domestic flesh."
(Page 105-106)

"Once, between Cleveland and the lake, an oil glaze on that river caught fire like some stripper's slippery negligee tossed onto the water, and it went smoking through the city - through the suburbs, where the stench and the fames and the flames were politely ignored - and it passed, then, into the country, spitting cinders into the wind, burning itself past the gawking sheep and cows, polluted, viscous, all-forgiving mouth of Lake Erie."
(Page 27)

"I could still remember dancing with him in the gym: How young we'd been! A sudsy bloodbath of energy. Fat, in my pink dress, I was a sad valentine made by a child, made of cotton balls, dime-store doilies and paste - sentimental, pathetic, a little desperate, but sincere.
And all those sweaty nights on the couch, his kisses like blurred stars all up and down my neck. I was still fat. Together we were wading into a tepid lake. Carefully. The mud was soft and as loose as flesh."
(Page 143-144)

I hope that proves my point. Yes, some parts of those quotes have actually been written very beautifully, but so much stuffed into so few pages (less than 200 pages as an ebook), it gets to your head.
Looks like John Green studied at the Kasischke school of writing.

Similar to Gone Girl, almost every character here has crossed into the moral grey area. Especially the protagonist, Katrina.

What do I say about you, Kat?
Maybe all 80s teenagers were like this, but...

No spoilers, because these things have all been revealed in the movie trailer, but she seduces a detective who's twice her age while dating her high school boyfriend without blinking an eyelid at the fact that her mother has disappeared. And yes, the mother in question is definitely not a good mother in any way, but a little concern would be nice, Kat.

The book was quite vague, because there wasn't much of a plot. A couple of scenes here and there that serve as flashbacks, Kat's sexual encounters, tons of metaphors... I didn't know how they would translate this onto the silver screen.

The movie does a good job of portraying the story, however. The director, Gregg Araki, must have a lot of talent.
Shailene Woodley stars as the promiscuous teenager unaffected by her mother's death (except in her dreams). She looks utterly ravishing in her retro clothing and dark brown hair, and plays Kat in a remarkable fashion.

Desperate, lonely and jealous of her own daughter, Eva Green convincingly plays the mother in such a way that you dislike her even more than you did in the novel.
I also loved the actors who play Kat's friends, Beth and Mickey.

One thing that bothered me, though, was that in the novel, Mickey is a female cheerleader. In the movie, Mickey turns into a stereotypic feminine gay boy with rainbow coloured hair and a wardrobe to boot.

The ending of the movie, too, has a slightly different twist. We are also given more information, whereas in the novel, the ending is a semi-cliffhanger.
I'm not sure why they made these changes.

 Anyway, the story moves at a very slow pace up until the last fifty or so pages. Then things thankfully get interesting and we start to discover what really happened to Kat's mother (no thanks to the detective).
But, unfortunately, the 'twist' is as clich├ęd as they come and it fails to leave you thinking, "Aha! So that's what happened. I should have known..."
Instead, all you think is, "I saw that coming since page one."

I'm going to go with 2.5 stars out of 5 for the book and the movie.
The writing is a little insufferable, the characters are difficult to bear, and the only redeeming quality is the suspense and the great music (for the movie, anyway).
I can't tell you to pick one over the other, and I wouldn't really recommend it to you unless you're a Shailene Woodley fan or you enjoy deeper-than-John-Green metaphors. Oh, and this movie is rated R for explicit content. Keep that in mind if you're planning to watch it with your family.

Check out the trailer below:

If you've read this book or any other works by Laura Kasischke, let me know your opinions in the comments below.
Do you have any requests for book or movie reviews? Tell me, and I'll do my best to write a post for you.

Christmas is only a few days away, and so is home! Happy holidays, Geeks. Bye-bye! :)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

People Who Annoy Me #6: Skinny-Shamers!

How many times have you heard (or maybe even used) the following line? "Real women have curves", or the more popular variation: "Real men like curves". Or maybe this one? "Only dogs like bones".
How many times have you associated the condition 'anorexia' with a skinny person for no reason other than their weight?

Today I want to talk about something that I feel very, very, very strongly about.
Everyone knows about body shaming. It's a horrible phenomenon that is being perpetuated by the media and the beauty industry, right? That's why we have 'inspirational quotes' like the ones I discussed above.

Well, let me tell you something. I am a size zero. I am not anorexic. My body is natural. And I truly hope that real men look for compatibility and a nice personality, not curves or straight lines or any geometric figures.

I can't tell you how many times people have made comments about my weight and not even realised that they were hurting my feelings. Society dictates that we cannot say things like "You're so fat. Put that sandwich down!" or "So you're obese, right?"
And I agree, we shouldn't. But that does not mean we should ask people to "eat that sandwich" because they're "so anorexic".

One time, I had had a meal only an hour prior to my lunch break, so I wasn't hungry at all. I decided to just grab a snack instead of a full meal. What did my 'friend' say, with a chuckle? "Okay, you anorexic little girl."

Or how about that other time, when I was ordering dinner with some acquaintances, and one of them repeatedly said that we had to buy dinner for 'four and a half people'? That person kept asking me again and again, with a mocking expression, whether I really wanted to eat an entire portion or not.

And I really wanted to shout back at them. I wanted to ask them why they were being so mean. But here's the problem: they didn't know they were being mean! They didn't realise that they had said anything out of the ordinary, they didn't realise that they were being bullies, and I didn't know how I could explain it to them without coming across as an overreacting bitch.

There are a few skinny people who have the appetite of an elephant. I don't. But that doesn't mean I starve myself. I provide more than enough nourishment for my body, and I eat when I'm hungry and I stop eating when I'm full, like any other person. So please, people, you can keep those 'sandwich' comments to yourself.

I am tired of people acting like I'm fragile or malnourished. I am tired of people dictating what real men should and shouldn't like, what real women should or shouldn't look like.
I am tired of not being able to find my size in stores because apparently, holding size zero clothing promotes body shaming.

Appearances do not matter, as I mentioned in a previous post. Yes, health matters. Maybe we should focus on our mind and body instead of looking at the portions on other people's plates. Maybe we should find out the meaning of 'anorexic' before using it to describe someone. Maybe we should stop skinny-shaming and fat-shaming and start giving importance to intellect, and humour, and kindness, and fitness, and other things that actually matter!

And then maybe the world would be a much happier place. Maybe.
Rant over. I'm out.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

'The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike #1)' by Robert Galbraith: A Book Review

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.
Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.

Hello, people!

Today I'm reviewing a murder mystery novel by our very own Queen, JK Rowling. She actually wrote The Cuckoo's Calling under a pseudonym (Robert Galbraith), and the novel actually did become a success before people found out the truth. After that, of course, everybody and their mother decided to read this book. Including...

Let me be upfront and tell you that I had tried to read Rowling's other book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, and I hadn't even been able to get through it. I don't know what it was about the writing or the story (or lack thereof) or the innumerable characters, but after that, I'd assumed that Rowling just couldn't write books that weren't about Harry Potter.

Well, this one proved my hypothesis wrong.

The Cuckoo's Calling is a little different from all the other murder mysteries I've read. First of all, the novel is written in third person with two perspectives: those of Cormoran Strike (the detective) and his assistant, Robin.
Instead of focusing on the crime itself, this novel takes a step back and chooses to examine the more human aspects of life. There are quite a few chapters that don't do much for the murder mystery, but are important to understand Strike's past and present. I suppose this way of writing was chosen because this book is part of a series, but at some point, it did bother me that the story was moving at such a slow pace.

But though the first fifty or so pages might be slow, the rest of the pages are very engaging. I found myself staying up nights to read this book, and finally, when I'd finished the book at 3:30 am a few days ago, I felt like I'd been part of that investigation all along.

Cormoran Strike is described as a tall and large, beefy man, and in my mind's eye, I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman as this protagonist (rest in peace, sir). I know he doesn't fit the character very well, but... the mind sees what the mind sees.
Strike isn't as fascinating a detective as, say, Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. This murder isn't as scandalous as you'd assume it to be. Strike's method of investigating isn't that incredible, either. Most of his interactions with the characters are in the form of interrogations. And those interrogations seemed to lead nowhere. When I'd only had around a hundred pages left to read, I had started to wonder how on earth Cormoran Strike was going to solve the mystery of Lula Landry's death without any clues or leads.

And then, suddenly, the ending sprang upon me, and it turned out that Strike was quite an intelligent man, after all. I'd had a hunch that I knew who the killer was (well, I kept jumping from one suspect to another, to be honest, but it still counts!), but I hadn't any idea about the motive or the means, and Strike explained it all very nicely.

One character I really appreciated was his assistant, Robin. A beauty with brains, I imagined Emma Watson with her quick wit and British accent as Robin throughout the novel. There isn't any romantic angle between them in this novel, but I'm wondering if that might change in the sequel.

So with the somewhat slow-paced storyline, a plethora of supporting characters you might just mix up, and the old-fashioned style of interrogation, what saves this novel at the end of the day is the writing.
Harry Potter might have been a children's book, but the way it was written would never have let you in on that little fact. JK Rowling can write, incredibly well at that, and that's exactly how she makes Cormoran Strike's investigations linger in your thoughts.

With that in mind, here are some quotes that stood out:

How easy it was to capitalize on a person’s own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.

It was nearly eight before he returned to the office. This was the hour when he found London most lovable; the working day over, her pub windows were warm and jewel-like, her streets thrummed with life, and the indefatigable permanence of her aged buildings, softened by the street lights, became strangely reassuring. We have seen plenty like you, they seemed to murmur soothingly, as he limped along Oxford Street carrying a boxed-up camp bed. Seven and a half million hearts were beating in close proximity in this heaving old city, and many, after all, would be aching far worse than his.

People liked to talk; there were very few exceptions, the question was how you made them do it. Some were amenable to alcohol; others liked a spotlight; and then there were those who merely needed proximity to another conscious human being. A subsection of humanity would become loquacious only on one favorite subject; it might be their own innocence, or somebody else's guilt.

Rowling has already demonstrated her talent for writing mysteries through the Harry Potter series (especially The Chamber of Secrets, The Goblet of Fire and The Deathly Hallows), and she weaves a believable murder mystery with her words in this book, too.
Sure, it may take some time for the novel to appeal to you, but give it a few chapters' worth of time, and it may surprise you.

I'm going to go with 3.5 stars out of 5 for The Cuckoo's Calling.
Once I'm done with the books I'm currently reading, I definitely will check out the sequel (The Silkworm), which sounds even more interesting than this one.

Have you read The Cuckoo's Calling? What did you think of this mystery? Had you guessed the murderer before the ending? Let me know all about your thoughts in the comments below.

Bye for now, Geeks!