Friday, 22 May 2015

'None of the Above' by I.W. Gregorio: A Book Review


A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex... and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

I have to be honest and admit that I didn't know what 'intersex' meant before reading this book. I figured it was the same as being transsexual, even though both are vastly different. So despite being a YA contemporary novel, None of the Above also felt like an educational book - in a good way. 
I don't like hugs, but if I did, I'd hug this book. 

Anyway, the story revolves around Kristin, a popular teen with a seemingly perfect life: she's Homecoming Queen, with popular friends, a loving boyfriend, and a scholarship to college. In short, she has the life every teenage girl wants.  

Or maybe she doesn't. 

After Kristin's special night with her boyfriend doesn't go as planned, a trip to the gynaecologist reveals that she's intersex, which means that she has male chromosomes as well as a mix of boy and girl parts, despite looking like a girl from the outside. 
And when the entire high school finds out, Kristin has to struggle with this new revelation, and decide whether it changes who she is or not. 

I was so invested in this book the entire time. From the first few chapters when Kristin finds out, to the middle of the book, when a trusted friend spills her secret to the school, to the end, when she realises that she can't let bullying stop her from being herself... this book felt like a friend to me. 

Maybe I couldn't relate to Kristin's discovery, but I could relate to being bullied. I could relate to feeling like I'm different from everyone else. I could relate to people showing their true colours and breaking your trust. I could relate to finding new friends in the most unexpected places. 

None of the Above isn't a literary work of art, so the language is what you'd expect from a young adult novel. But there are a few quotes that resonated with me, and I'd like to share them with you:

“If there’s one thing I learned from my dad leaving my mom, it’s that love isn’t a choice. You fall for the person, not their chromosomes.” 

I'd been running for so long, trying to escape from who I was. Here in the steady circle of [his] arms, I was finally ready to stand still.

It's difficult to really get people to hate fictional characters, but oh, I hated some of the people in this novel with all my heart. At the same time, there were characters I adored to pieces.
I loved Kristin's character development throughout the story, how she goes from barricading herself inside her room to stepping out of the house with her head held high. I loved the support she had from her father and her aunt, as well as some of her friends. I also really loved the character of Darren, who is quite possibly one of my new book boyfriends.

Towards the end of the novel, I actually burst out crying after a particularly intense scene. I don't even think The Fault in our Stars had that effect on me (the book, not the movie - the movie still makes me cry like a blubbering baby).


I'm going to go with 4 stars out of 5 for None of the Above
This book is so powerful and raw that you can't help but love it. Not only does it teach you about acceptance, it also tells you that some people may have been in the spotlight all your life - but that doesn't mean they care about you. On the other hand, the people you thought were just background noise can turn out to be the most wonderful friends you'll ever make.

Please, please read this book. Tell your friends about it. Tell everyone you know about it! And if you've already read this book, let me know if you loved it as much as I did. And if it didn't strike a chord with you, are there any similar books you'd recommend?

I'll see you later, Geeks. Bye!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Philosophical Ramblings #1: Is Suicide Selfish?

Geeks, you know that I love talking about deep, philosophical, pretentious things (as long as it's not a John Green novel). So I've decided to start a new series on my blog, now that the People Who Annoy Me series has run its course (although that may change once I return to college).


Today, I'm going to talk about something that isn't really much of a question: is suicide selfish?

Suicide and mental illness are two of the sub-themes of the novel I'm currently working on, and a few weeks ago, when I was rewriting a crucial scene, I remembered something a very important person in my life had said to me, many years ago: "Suicide is one of the most selfish things you can do."

And I'm here to tell you that it absolutely isn't.

Suicide is a touchy subject, especially here in India. It's like premarital sex or homosexuality, in the sense that we like to pretend it doesn't happen. Or that even if it does happen, it's a shame to society.


Suicide is a shame to society, but not the way people think it is. Suicide is not a cowardly act or a way to get attention. Suicide is simply the result of a mental illness, and most people who've attempted suicide or even seriously considered it aren't doing it because they're selfish. They're doing it because they can't help it. They see no light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe they've asked for help before, only to be laughed at for being so 'weak'. Maybe they see no other way out.

And that happens because we as a society don't believe in mental illnesses. We don't understand that being depressed and being sad are two different things. We don't understand that telling someone to 'get over it' or to 'compare themselves to starving kids in Africa' can do more harm than good.
I'm all for being grateful, but you can't put an end to your suicidal thoughts by praying to God or thinking about the good things in life - at least, not most of the time.

By perpetuating this belief that suicidal people are selfish, cowardly or immoral, we are only making things worse. We are being selfish by denying medical treatment to those who need it.


So let's start accepting mental illnesses for what they are: illnesses. Not exaggerations or hallucinations, but real illnesses that need immediate attention.

The next time someone confides in you about their bad thoughts, think about the power your words have. You could help save a life. You could keep a million hearts from breaking. You could make a real difference in the world, just by being open-minded and considerate.

If you're having suicidal thoughts, or if you know someone who does, please ask for help immediately. You don't have to go to a hospital or look for a psychiatrist. Even emailing a suicide helpline anonymously can help.

Have you ever come across someone who antagonizes mentally ill people? Or are you one of them? Let me know in the comments if you disagree with what I said - I do love a healthy discussion... some  of the time.


Next time, I'll talk about the morality of death sentences. Are they really doing us any good?
Until then, have a great week!

Monday, 11 May 2015

My To-Do List for Summer 2015!

Well, it's been twelve days since summer vacation started, so I felt this list was overdue.
If you know anything about me, then you'll know that I do not like lazing around or having random, unplanned days. I like structure. I like planning. I like getting things done!

So here are some things I'm going to work on this summer, while keeping in mind that goals are for losers and systems are for winners.

1) Finish My Novel:
Now that I've got my first novel on the internet for everyone to read, it's time to continue working on the rest of my works, and finish my ongoing novel before college starts in July. I've already written around 70,000 words, but the problem is that my story is only a little more than halfway through. It's safe to say that editing this one is going to be a pain in the ass.

2) Get Fitter:

I couldn't focus on my health during the last few weeks of college (exams - need I say more?), so summer vacation is when I can return to my fitness regime and give my body the treatment it deserves.
The problem is that my affinity for healthy food is not shared by some members of my family, which makes it difficult for me to go more than a week without pizza or fried food or anything junk that only makes my face break out and my body bloated.
But I shall win this battle, Geeks. When I set foot in college, I will be a new woman - from within and without.

3) Become Fluent in French:
How many months has it been since I started learning French? No, wait - how many years has it been?
Every time I try to focus on sharpening my language skills, something comes in the way of it and I end up 'studying' by watching French trailers and movies instead of actively speaking the language.
That changes now. Mark my words.

4) Learn How to Drive:

I turned eighteen last year, but what with entrance exams and preparing for college, I never had the time to get my licence. Since I know as much about driving as I do about physics, I might need more than two months to learn this important life skill. But I might as well get started, am I right?
I just hope I don't end up running over someone on the street. 

5) Be Able to Cook for Self:

I'm sure I could cook very well if I tried. Some things are fairly easy to make, after all.
But the thing is, I've never really tried. The only two things I ever use in the kitchen are the fridge and the microwave.
In the last twelve days of summer vacation, I've learned how to make eggs, green tea and steamed vegetables (the last two by observation only - I have yet to steam vegetables or make tea without my mother's expert assistance). So it's a start. Hopefully I'll be able to do more than toast bread by the time July rolls around.

6) Self-Development:
What better way to work on those little grey cells than by taking up an online course or two? And by that, I mean six or seven. All my new courses are self-paced, so I don't need to worry about deadlines... which, come to think of it, is probably not a good thing, considering the fact that I haven't actually started any of my courses yet.

7) Read, Read, and Read Some More:

On Goodreads, they have an option that allows you to set a Reading Goal for the year. In January, I decided I would read fifty. So far, I've read twenty-one. I don't know how busy I might get during my second year of college, so I hope to bring that number up to at least thirty-five before the end of my holidays.

8) Be Happy:
Most importantly, I will continue to practise gratitude, self-affirmation and positive thinking to make 2015 (and the new academic year) the best year of my life!

9) Lucid Dreaming:

Here's a bonus point that just popped into my head: I will have my first lucid dream.
Lucid dreaming is a technique where you're aware of the fact that you're dreaming when you're dreaming, which enables you to control and manipulate the dream in any way that you want. Sounds like being Divergent, doesn't it?
You can work on your skills (some surgeons practise before a big operation the next day), give yourself the dream that you want, take control of your nightmares, or ask your subconscious questions in order to become more self-aware.
I've only realised I'm dreaming twice in my life, and both times, I was so excited that I woke myself up. But if I manage to lucid dream, I could ask myself what I want to do with my life, because my conscious self has no clue whatsoever.

Anyway, these were the nine things I'd like to accomplish this summer. What plans do you have for the next few months of your life, if any? Let the comment box know.
Have you ever been lucid? If you have, give me some tips. I need all the help I can get.

See you soon, Geeks!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

'Remember Me (Find Me, #2)' by Romily Bernard: A Book Review

 
"Remember Me."
These are the words carved on the dead body of a local judge's assistant... the same local judge who sarcastic teen hacker, Wick Tate, is investigating as part of her undercover hacking for her not-exactly-favourite cop, Detective Carson.
In this edge-of-your-seat thrilling sequel to Find Me, Wick had thought her troubles were over. But she should've known better. Now she is once again dealing with criminals and corrupt cops... and a brooding new love interest. The pressure might be too much, as secrets -
including Wick's own - climb to the surface. Will Wick persevere like she has before?


Last year, I reviewed a YA murder mystery that didn't quite live up to my expectations.
I just finished reading the sequel, about forty-five minutes past midnight, and... I just had to start writing this review!

After the incidents of Find Me, Wick Tate, her sister and her new mom are now very well-known around town... for all the bad reasons. Between juggling her boyfriend Griff, memories of her almost-death and trying to convince her foster mom that she's okay, Wick is a mess.

And things only get worse when, on a mission for Detective Carson, she comes face-to-face with a dead body. At a public event.
Curiosity - and some blackmailing by Carson - gets the better of her, and she sets out to investigate this mystery. The only problem is... the killer is on to her. And her family. And he's getting closer.


Romily Bernard isn't the best at writing romances. Wick's blossoming relationship with Griff didn't convince me in the first novel, and although I like Griff a fair amount now, I just don't see any chemistry between them.
And that's probably why Romily wrote Milo, the flirty new hacker, into the picture.

Look, love triangles are too common in YA novels these days. You might even say they're overdone. But with Remember Me, I didn't mind one bit. In fact, I actually prefer Milo to Griff when it comes to chemistry and sexual tension.

As for the mystery... can I come right out and say it? I was almost completely clueless. I had some doubts about a suspect, then I decided that some other person was the killer, then I figured out the motive... and then I had the rug pulled out from under me. Because it turned out that the person I'd thought was the killer was innocent (not to mention dead), and the first one I'd suspected was the killer.

This is why it's important to go with your first instinct, Geeks. This is why.

But the motive for murder didn't convince me. I'm sorry, but I think I preferred Find Me's mystery to this one. Although its killer had been fairly obvious, I had still loved the reveal. And the ending had been absolutely brilliant!
With Remember Me, however, it was the middle and the penultimate few chapters that grabbed my attention. I wasn't scared out of my wits during the climax, but I was terrified during Wick's breaking-and-entering missions, so scared that I actually heard noises inside my own house while I was reading.


The writing has definitely improved since Find Me. Here's a snippet that I particularly liked:

We're surrounded by darkness. Sometimes it's everyday evil. Maybe it's the guy who beats his wife or cheats on his taxes or belittles his kids, but he still considers himself a good person. It's still a talent most of us have, telling ourselves we're good when we're not. 
Then you have evil like (spoiler) or (spoiler), evil that shows us just how breakable we all are, and how much our safety depends on everyone playing along. 
Until someone doesn't.

And might I add that this sequel ends on a cliffhanger? The sequel to this sequel, Trust Me, comes out in 2016. You can bet I'll be eagerly waiting.

I'm going to go with 4 stars out of 5 for this one.
To conclude, Remember Me weaves a delightful and conflict-driven tale when it comes to characters and relationships, with some terrifying, edge-of-your-seat action, but doesn't completely satisfy you with the reveal of the mystery.

Still, I'd recommend this to all fans of YA mysteries, especially if you read and liked Find Me. The sequel is a much, much better improvement.


Have any of you already devoured this book? Let me know what your thoughts were. Are you as excited for the third book as I am? The comment box awaits your response.

See you around, Geeks!

PS: If you haven't already, read my first young adult romance, I Hate You... Like I Love You! for free right here.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Read My Novel Here!


They say, ’tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Love doesn’t make the world go round, it’s what makes the ride worthwhile. We were given two hands to hold, two legs to walk, two eyes to see, two ears to listen – but why only one heart? It’s because the other was given to someone else, for us to find. 
Well, that’s what they say.
Mahi Chatterjee, on the other hand, thinks otherwise.
Mahi, tired of playing second fiddle to her identical twin Radhika, is the sort of girl who immediately assumes the worst of everyone.
And Ranveer Kumar, her sister’s lab partner, is no exception. A case of hate at first sight, she’s convinced that he’s nothing more than Mr. Arrogant Rich Boy, and that his ‘sweet disposition’ is just an act.
But if she takes just another look, maybe she’ll realise that the idea of love isn’t such a bad thing after all...

I have some big news, Geeks!

As some of you may know already, I've spent the past two years writing, editing and re-editing my young adult/romantic comedy novel, 'I Hate You... Like I Love You!'.
Well, you can now read it for free here on Wattpad, a social networking site for readers and writers. I'll be uploading four chapters per week, and the first two chapters are currently live on the website!

While I do know that the plot of this novel is clich├ęd, and that this genre doesn't necessarily appeal to everyone, IHYLILY is still something that I'm very proud of, and I'd really appreciate it if my dear Geeks could give it a read and tell me what they 'love' or 'hate' about the novel. 

This has been a very short blog post, but I assure you that a few more posts are being drafted at this very moment. I'm thinking of starting a Philosophical Ramblings series on the blog, and thanks to the summer vacation, I have a lot of books to be read and reviewed. 
So stay tuned, Geeks. 

And I hope very much that you enjoy reading 'I Hate You... Like I Love You!'.