Friday, 3 July 2015

What I Really Did This Summer // Just a Random Update #6

Howdy there, Geeks.


So about a week into the summer holidays, I wrote about my summer to-do list. You've probably heard that I'm a super-productive, focused, goal-oriented individual who enjoys making lists and getting things done.
And you are absolutely right.

However, I have discovered that the lazy, calming aura associated with summer vacation may just be the kryptonite to my geekie Superman.

Here are the nine things I wanted to be done with by the fourth of July. Let's see how I've fared.

1) Finish My Novel:

Well, if it makes anyone feel better, I've written over 20,000 words since May, but Not That Kind of Girl is barely close to being finished.
I also procrastinated a lot by writing chapters of other books without finishing this one. I guess my planning didn't go so well here, but in my defence, setting too many writing goals isn't very smart. It blocks out creativity. (And, um, laziness. Except in this case.)

2) Get Fitter:
Well, I can now get through a twenty minute, high-intensity cardio dance workout without collapsing, so that's a good sign. And I'm still not very comfortable lifting 3 kgs, but it's getting easier and easier as the days go by. So... check!

3) Become Fluent in French:
Malheureusement, il ne sera pas possible.
But I tried! I started using Duolingo again. I watched French trailers. I watched The Amazing Spider-Man and Catching Fire en français!
It's just difficult to get enthusiastic when you're at home. The stress-induced environment that I need to function just doesn't exist here.
(It's a bad excuse, I know. Sorry.)


4) Learn How to Drive:

I didn't even sit behind the steering wheel. Look, I may be nineteen, but I don't have a car in Mumbai. There's ample public transportation available there. I'm not planning a road trip anytime soon. So I didn't even sign up for driving lessons.
Also, I might be a little afraid for my own life. And the lives of others.


5) Be Able to Cook for Self:
I can now make toast, steamed vegetables, anything that only requires a microwave, and eggs. I won't be auditioning for Master Chef in the foreseeable future, but I'll at least be able to make myself breakfast and lunch. Fair enough. Check!

6) Self-Development:

I was supposed to work on five or six online courses. I didn't. I started a few, got bored because there were no deadlines, and quit them. I played Pokemon instead and became the Indigo League Champion, so at least I wasn't entirely useless. 

7) Read, Read, and Read Some More:
I wanted to bring my reading goal up to thirty-five books before college started. According to Goodreads, I have read thirty-six. Yay for books! Check. 

8) Be Happy:

Although I'm only writing five things in my Gratitude Journal every day, I'm also writing down the reasons why I'm grateful for them, which is actually a better technique in the long run. I've also been listening to binaural meditation music for some added peace, practising visualisation, and reading up on Zen Buddhism. Check.

9) Lucid Dreaming:
I'm proud to say that I've had not one, not two, but three lucid dreams in the past two months. But... (of course there's always a 'but'), they only lasted a few seconds and I was unable to control them. Probably because of lack of experience and confidence in my dreammaking abilities. Hmm. Check!
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Five out of nine. Not bad, huh?

Anyway, I'm leaving for Mumbai tomorrow, and I'm going to be living in an apartment with some classmates. Hopefully I won't burn the house down if I ever try to cook. I'm not sure about my WiFi situation yet, so I might have to take a small hiatus from blogging.

So make sure you're following me on Facebook and Instagram for fun updates. I am a very entertaining person, you know.

I shall see you in a few days, Geeks. Have a great day!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

'Everything, Everything' by Nicola Yoon: A Book Review

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.


NOTE: I received an ARC (advance reader copy) from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This book.
Oh my God.
I just - I - I have no words. Okay, that isn't possible. I'm a writer. I have too many words. And yet I can't seem to string together a coherent sentence.


Everything, Everything tells the story of Madeline, an eighteen-year-old girl with a very rare disease known as SCID, a disease where anything and everything can trigger a fatal infection. And this is why Maddy has spent almost the entirety of her life hiding inside her air-purified, disinfected house with just her mother and a caretaker.

And she's happy with the way she lives. She has a flourishing Internet life. She's being homeschooled. She reads. She plays made-up versions of games with her mother.

She doesn't realise what's missing until she locks eyes with her new neighbour, Olly. And after that? Nothing will ever be the same.

I've never heard of this illness, and I can't imagine how horrible it could be to live a life like this. An anti-life, if you will, never being able to explore the outdoors or meet new people or try exotic cuisines without feeling the grip of death. I could never do it.

Maddy and Olly's relationship starts out slow and steady, just as it should. First, they're strangers. Then they're barely-there neighbours. Then they're just late-night IM buddies. Then they're friends who talk to each other from opposite sides of the room. Then they hold hands. Then they kiss.
And then... they fall in love, in spite of Maddy's illness, in spite of Olly's guilt, in spite of everything.


Olly, Olly, Olly. What an adorable book boyfriend he'd make. His relationship with Maddy is perfection. The way he protects her from her illness, the way her heart shatters when he's in pain... that's what real love should be like.

 This book has some the most deep and meaningful quotes I've read in a long time. Unlike a certain other diseased love story whose name I won't mention, this book makes use of metaphors and figures of speech beautifully, but without coming across as pretentious.
As I was reading on my Kindle, I couldn't help myself and ended up highlighting at least one quote every few pages. Here are some of them:

He remembered sitting at the breakfast bar and stirring the milk and chocolate together. How the chocolate turned white, and the milk turned brown, and how sometimes you can't unmix things no matter how much you might want to.

I was trying so hard to find the single pivotal moment that set my life on its path. The moment that answered the question, How did I get here? But it's never just one moment. It's a series of them. And your life can branch out from each one in a thousand different ways. Maybe there's a version of your life for all the choices you make and all the choices you don't.

He rubs his thumb across mine, tracing a path from knuckle to wrist. My skin, each individual cell, lights up. Normal, nonsick people get to do this all the time? How do they survive the sensation? How do they keep from touching all the time?

"In my head I know I've been in love before, but it doesn't feel like it. Being in love with you is better than the first time. It feels like the first time and the last time and the only time all at once."

No spoilers, but there's one plot twist near the end of the book that's just so jaw-droppingly unbelievable that I had to re-read the scene a few times to convince myself that it was really happening, and that one scene changes the way you see the entire book. It shifts the focus towards those little thoughts you had at the back of your head as you read but always neglected.

Just incredible.

And the way the book ends - the wording, I mean - is utterly perfect. The parallels between the beginning and the ending are spectacular. The contrast between Maddy's over-protected bubbled life and Olly's abusive, neglected life comes across brilliantly.

I just finished reading this book, and I already can't wait to start all over again.

I'm going to go with 4.5 stars out of 5 for this one.
Everything, Everything is a heartbreaking, heartwrenching, heartwarming tale of love, friendship, family, and everything in between.

This book comes out in stores on September 1st, 2015, and I promise that you'll want to read this book. Please do read it and fall in love with it. Please.


Now, I'm going to get started with reading my next ARC, as well as continue with Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.
Bye for now, book Geeks!

Pretty Little Liars 6x05 (She's No Angel): A Recap

Mona returns to Rosewood in a very fragile state as she must answer to the police for faking her death. Matters only get worse when she is confronted by Lesli about her inadvertent involvement in Mona’s plot. Hanna is determined to help Mona out, not only to reassure her she is safe from Alison but also to try and repair Mona’s friendship with Lesli. Emily tries to help Sara with her troubled home life by encouraging her to explore the possibility of emancipation. Spencer, on the other hand, finds help from someone from her past.
Meanwhile, Alison grows closer to Lorenzo as she looks for support outside of her family.

I'll be upfront and admit that this was the first season 6 episode that I didn't like. The teasing and the speculation and the red herrings were fun until now, but... it's been five weeks. We need some actual answers!

Recap

The episode starts with Spencer walking through the catacombs of Charles' Lair, as she follows a zombie ballerina dancing her way to death. Despite Spencer's probing, the girl does not speak, and it's revealed (obviously) that this was a nightmare.

But Spencer still thinks this dream has some significance. There was someone's blood all over her in the Dollhouse. Maybe she really did hurt this child. But who is she? And what room was she in?

Mona's back in Rosewood, and it looks like she got some style inspiration from Jenna. What's with the black shades? She's terrified that the cops will come for her after her stint as a dead human, and things get even worse when she comes face-to-face with her old friend Lesli, who blames Mona for faking her death and getting her into trouble. She also calls Hanna a 'bag of hair', which isn't very relevant to the plot, but definitely needs mentioning.


In the mean time, Aria and Clark are getting along like a house on fire. He tells her about some photography competition that could lead to an internship in sunny LA, and that definitely piques Aria's interest.
But she isn't interested enough to date Clark, and when he asks her out to dinner, she turns him down.
When they go out of town to shoot at an old junkyard of sorts, Aria realises that she's still being followed... and her new friend may have inadvertently caught 'A' in the act with his camera.

Spencer's getting by with the help of those pot cookies, but maybe that's not what she really needs. She drops in on an Addicts Anonymous meeting and runs into Dean, her former sobriety coach who tells her she can always count on him to help her out.

Alison's reputation is still in the grey area when it comes to Rosewood residents and cops, and she isn't sure if she'd be accepted at church camp, but Lorenzo promises her that nobody had any major issues with the idea. He also asks to send over a different cop guard to her place after one of them disses her, and the two of them share a sweet kiss on Ali's front porch.

Unfortunately, Mr. DiLaurentis spots them, and judging by his expression, he's batshit furious. 

Sara, still a guest at the Fields household, finds out that her alcoholic mother wants her to come back, probably so she can make a few bucks out of this sensational situation. Emily urges Sara to seek legal emancipation, which Caleb (who apparently runs his own web design company) is glad to help them with. He also offers Sara a job even though he has no idea if she's capable.
With the emancipation in process, Sara and Emily decide to celebrate her freedom by getting deep, metaphoric tattoos.

And that's when Aria sends them a text, telling them what she's discovered. She grabbed Clark's negatives, and the Liars finally have proof: judging by A's silhouette, Charles is a she.

Spencer and Hanna have made their own discoveries at Radley: Charles really is dead, the room that Spencer dreamt of is in the mental hospital, and Lesli was a patient there and knew not just Mona and Charles, but also Bethany Young.


Everything seems to fit into place: a young woman stalking them, a woman who has an agenda, who hates them with all her heart and isn't willing to let them go: it has to be Lesli.

As the episode comes to a close, we see Mona on the phone with the newest 'A' suspect, apologising profusely. Looks like they're both working together... and Lesli isn't happy about Mona slipping up and letting the girls find her Radley records.

The episode's 'A' sneak peek shows the crazy stalker making his very own Aria doll and combing its hair. Creepy, indeed.

Thoughts

So are they all getting new love interests now? Well, except Caleb and Hanna. Then again, they're the only decent couple on the show.
I actually like Clark. He's around Aria's age, he's funny, they share similar interests, and he never tried to spy on her to further his writing career. Dump Ezra and go after this one, Aria.
And any guy on this show is a better match for Spencer than Toby. I'm sorry, but I cannot support their relationship after his stupid cop career took off. I just can't.

Lorenzo and Alison are a good match. They have my blessings. Sara and Emily? Neeeext.


We were given plenty of clues today that point towards Aria having a split personality. Looking into mirrors, taking pictures of dolls that resemble her, Clark saying she has a shadow across her face... come on, it all has to mean something!

The Maddy Ziegler opening dance sequence was... unnerving and unnecessary. I love her in the Sia music videos, but what was her dance supposed to convey? What significance could it have with respect to Spencer, who doesn't even dance?

Sara didn't need to seek legal emancipation. If she's around their age, she'd turn eighteen in a few months. I'm sure the process would take longer than that, anyway.

So Lesli is the new Noel Kahn/Ian Thomas/Melissa Hasting/Ezra Fitz/Andrew Campbell of red herrings. Wonderful.
Rosewood is a mental town. There are probably x+2 number of people walking around in black hoodies all day, with or without boobs.


Most Likely to be 'A' This Week

I should just call this segment 'Most Feral This Week', because the only person likely to be 'A' at this point is Charles. And Wren is most likely Charles.
Anyway, Aria was vibing me the wrong way this episode. I'll give Sara a free pass because her name is mentioned every week. The poor girl needs a break.

Here's the promo for next week's episode - no, wait, there's no episode next week, for some reason. We'll have to wait until July 14th to find out more about the Lesli-Is-A situation.


To be honest, I'm relieved. I'll be back in Mumbai in a couple of days, and I'm very unsure about my WiFi situation. At least this way, I might be able to get a stable internet connection in time for the episode.

What did you think of this week's episode? Are you also tired of all the questions and the lies? Can we just find out who Charles is already?

PLL Geeks, I shall see you in two weeks' time. Goodbye!

Monday, 29 June 2015

'Correlation' by Mia Grace: A Book Review


When the past and the present collide…
Hailey Kent knows how she wants to spend the summer before her junior year in high school: hanging out at the pool with Jenna, her BFF; riding her new trail bike on Vermont’s country roads; and flirting with Jenna’s hot older brother, Cody.
Hailey’s plans are shattered when a post-graduation accident puts her brother into a coma. Feeling guilty for not stopping him from going out that night, she seeks solace in exploring an old house and its overgrown gardens.
A mysterious correlation of events propels her back in time to the Vietnam War era, where she realizes she can use her knowledge of one boy’s fate to save his life.
But first, Hailey needs to convince him of her sanity.


NOTE: I received an ARC (advance reader copy) from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


I was actually very surprised to find this book on Netgalley, available for request even though it was published close to eighteen months ago.
Anyway, the plot blurb seemed very intriguing. Trying to move on from a traumatic incident, exploring mysterious mansions and landscapes, time-travelling to a war era, saving someone's life... all by a teenage girl?


But once I started reading, I was somewhat thrown off-track. Correlation is supposed to revolve around going back in time, but that only happens after forty percent of the book ends.
The first half is, thus, almost painfully slow, with nothing eventful happening apart from her brother's coma, although we aren't given a blow-by-blow account of the accident. So... nothing very exciting to begin with.


Finally, about fifty pages in (and this is a very short novel, with less than two hundred pages), a chain of events leads to Hailey borrowing her friend's grandmother's bike and going back up to that mysterious abandoned house, which used to belong to the grandmother's first boyfriend, who was a Vietnam war martyr. 

Somehow, the bike - the one link to the grandma's life with the war hero - sends Hailey back in time, where she might have a shot at saving this Peter's life, and maybe giving the grandmother the life she always wanted with him.  

And that's when shit hits the fan.


No spoilers, but oh, my gosh! Part Two of the book begins, where everything and everyone has changed because of Hailey's dealings with time travel, and nobody has any recollection of the events preceding this change: except perhaps one person, who might just give us all the answers we want. 


The writing is crisp, descriptive and somewhat old-fashioned, vastly different from other young adult novels I've read before. It was a very refreshing change, and I think more authors should embrace this sort of approach. 
Here are some quotes that I liked:

"This may be the first time they've experienced a tragedy like this in someone their own age. They're facing their own mortality."

The person who had died was no longer aware; those left behind were the ones who suffered. 

Like David, the house was a previously vibrant entity reduced to a silent shell. 

"That's the interesting thing about life. Everything you do becomes history, even though you think you're just living day to day."

But in spite of the beautiful imagery used, in spite of the plot twist-ridden second half, in spite of the sweet love story that plays out around the end, the slow first half and the lack of scientific explanation for time travel keeps this book from exceeding expectations.


I'm going to go with 3.5 stars out of 5 for this one.
Correlation makes for an interesting weekend read, although it leaves far too many details to the reader's imagination. I'd recommend it for YA romance readers who aren't big on science fiction. 
 

Since this book released in November 2013, you might have already read it. What did you think of the plot twist around the middle? Were you expecting a different ending? Also, do you think time travel could ever become reality?

Don't forget to leave a comment below with your thoughts. See you on Wednesday!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

What's On My Playlist (June 2015)


How are you doing on this lovely June morning, Geeks? I hope your day is full of song and dance and happiness, like mine is at the moment. I woke up at 6:15 am today, feeling energetic and ready for anything in my path. College starts in a week, so I have to reset my biological clocks for those early morning lectures.

Anyway, last month's playlist seemed to be a big hit, so I decided to make it a monthly feature. I don't know about you, but this is my relationship with a new song: I like it, I listen to it 50x times on repeat, I love it, I listen to it 100x more times, I get bored of it.
So here are the ten incredible songs I'm obsessed with this month!

1)  Shake It Off | Taylor Swift


I've never really considered myself a 'Swiftie', as they're called, but I have to admit that Taylor is only getting better and better with time. As much as I love her latest single, Shake It Off is still my favourite T-Swift song. Not only is it a 'sick beat', there's also a wonderful message behind it: be who you are, no matter what they say.

Favourite lyric:
// But I keep cruising
Can't stop, won't stop grooving
It's like I got this music
In my mind
Saying, "It's gonna be alright." //

2) Not About Angels | Birdy


I may not be a John Green fan, but yes, I am obsessed with the TFIOS soundtrack. This heartbreaking song about death and separation reminds me of the time I wrote my first death scene. Well, to be honest, most TFIOS songs remind me of that novel, but that's only because both stories are really melancholy.

Favourite lyric:
// How unfair, it's just our love
Found something real that's out of touch
But if you'd searched the whole wide world
Would you dare to let it go? //

3) Crazy in Love | Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z


I know I said last month that this version is too much for me, but I've since changed my mind. I find dancing in the shower to be one of the greatest pleasures in the world, and when I'm in my superstar mode, this song is my jam. Gotta love Beyoncé.

Favourite lyric:
// Yes!
It's so crazy right now!
Most incredibly, it's ya girl, Bee,
It's ya boy, young //

4) What You Wanted | One Republic


Before you start calling me a hypocrite, let me remind you that this song was in the trailer, not the movie. I am not a John Green fan, I assure you.
Anyway, the trailer is one of my favourites, so it's no surprise that I love this song.

Favourite lyric:
// I'll put your poison in my veins
They say the best love is insane, yeah
I'll light your fire till my last day
I'll let your fields burn around me, around me //

5) Heroes | David Bowie


70s and 80s music is so powerful! Perks fans would know that this is the famous 'tunnel song' from the movie, which I adore, and this song is also my personal 'window song'.
During college, I would stand by a corridor window, blast this song on my phone, put on my headphones, and enjoy the cool breeze. Try it, and I promise you will fall in love with life.

Favourite lyric:
// Though nothing, will keep us together
We could steal time,
just for one day
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d'you say? //

6) All I Want | Kodaline


You know, I should just call this blog post 'TFIOS Songs I Love in June'. But that doesn't have a nice ring to it, so I digress.
Another tearjerker that makes me think of my loved ones (fictional and otherwise) dying. Not a pretty sight, but it makes for great writing fodder.

Favourite lyric:
// So you brought out the best of me,
A part of me I've never seen
You took my soul and wiped it clean
Our love was made for movie screens //

7) Feel Again | One Republic


I'm a big Miles Teller fan, and I rewatched The Spectacular Now trailer a few days ago and discovered this amazing song that so perfectly fits the theme of the movie. Incredible song selection, trailer-makers.

Favourite lyric:
// Heart still beating but it's not working
It's like a hundred thousand voices that just can't sing
I reached out trying to love but I feel nothing
Oh, my heart is numb
But with you
I feel again //

8) Just That Girl


I love movies that have big, showy, musical endings. I've done something similar for one of my novels, because there's just something magical about singing and dancing with the person you love.
This song, from Another Cinderella Story, is just perfect for a dancing-in-the-shower jam session.

Favourite lyric:
// To me you're a star
When you move you're off the charts
You've already won my heart
That girl //

9) Smile | Mikky Ekko


Paper Towns: worst book ever, in my opinion. Trailer: mediocre. Movie: will probably go the same way. But this song is just so positive and optimistic and hopeful, and those are all the qualities I want to see in myself and my life!
I dare you to listen to this song without smiling. If you can do it, you are emotionless and empty.
(Just kidding... maybe)

Favourite lyric:
// Smile, the worst is yet to come
We'll be lucky if we ever see the sun
Got nowhere to turn, and we've got nothing but time
But the future is forever, the future is forever, so smile //

10) Gone, Gone, Gone | Philllip Phillips


This guy really likes repeating his words, doesn't he?
From The Amazing Spider-Man 2 soundtrack, this song is about friendship and always being loyal to the ones you love. I feel like this could be the Hufflepuff theme song.
#HeadcanonAccepted

Favourite lyric:
// You're my back bone
You're my cornerstone
You're my crutch when my legs stop moving
You're my head start
You're my rugged heart
You're the pulse that I've always needed //

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As you can probably tell, I love fun dance numbers that aren't electronic and songs that resonate with the heart. Have any recommendations for me? Leave them in the comments below.

I'll see you next time, musical Geeks. Bye!