Friday, August 15, 2014

A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma

There really is no better way of dealing with the jolts life sends you than to disappear in a book. Just when I think that nothing perhaps could make things better, books prove me wrong. Over and over again. This happens often.

I won this book via a giveaway on the author's Facebook page, a long time ago. A reaaally long time ago. I loved Tabitha Suzuma's Forbidden. Even now I'd consider it one of the most powerful books I've read (just so you know, I read Forbidden four years ago). Somehow, though - whether it was life or university or other books - I never got around to reading A Note of Madness

On Wednesday, I was rummaging my shelves for something to read. There's always too much to read. My shelves are spilling and I always have to look for newer places around the house to make room for my books. A lot of those books are unread, not because I didn't want to read them, but because other books came along and then even more books. My copy of A Note of Madness was signed 'August 2010' with a message from the author. Once I picked it up, I couldn't let it go.


From Goodreads:
Life as a student is good for Flynn. As one of the top pianists at the Royal College of Music, he has been put forward for an important concert, the opportunity of a lifetime. But beneath the surface, things are changing. On a good day he feels full of energy and life, but on a bad day being alive is worse than being dead. Sometimes he wants to compose and practice all night, at other times he can't get out of bed. With the pressure of the forthcoming concert and the growing concern of his family and friends, emotions come to a head. Sometimes things can only get worse before they get better.

In the last few months, I've lost count of the number of times I thought I was going mad. It happened with increasing frequency and I kept thinking it would get better but it didn't, not then. It's hard to define madness. It's an easy step-over from sanity. I think it happens to everyone, at least once in our lives. Flynn's madness pushes him over, way over the edge. And the whole spiralling-downwards experience is what the book chronicles. There are no minced words, no twists and turns, it's probably the most straight-cut book I've read. Flynn loses his mind and how.

After I read Forbidden, I had an overwhelming urge to connect with the author. The book had such a huge impact on me, I had to tell her. We befriended over Facebook, and yes, if you know her, you would know how she has battled (and still battles) mental illness. She is very vocal about it and I think that's important because nobody really talks about it. A Note of Madness was her debut novel and you get it, you know. You get the fact that the author knows what she is talking about because you get into Flynn's head, ride the highs and lows with him and feel the crippling fear that makes it impossible to go on and do anything, even though the book is written in third person and you're just supposed to feel objective about it. 

It's an atmosphere of paranoia. Flynn's, his family's, his friends'. Sometimes you'd want to shut the book, just so you could breathe. It's not an easy read, of course. But it's good, it's really good. 

After Robin Williams' suicide, when everybody was talking about depression, Ms Suzuma shared this post on Facebook. It talks about her family's fight with the disease. I think you should take a look.

I think the book has a most apt cover. The blackness, the boy at the edge, the title placement - I think it's one of my favourites now.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Revenge Wears Prada

Revenge Wears Prada
by Lauren Weisberger
Release date: June 4, '13
From Goodreads:

The sequel you’ve been waiting for: the follow-up to the sensational #1 bestseller The Devil Wears Prada.
Almost a decade has passed since Andy Sachs quit the job “a million girls would die for” working for Miranda Priestly at Runway magazine—a dream that turned out to be a nightmare. Andy and Emily, her former nemesis and co-assistant, have since joined forces to start a highend bridal magazine. The Plunge has quickly become required reading for the young and stylish. Now they get to call all the shots: Andy writes and travels to her heart’s content; Emily plans parties and secures advertising like a seasoned pro. Even better, Andy has met the love of her life. Max Harrison, scion of a storied media family, is confident, successful, and drop-dead gorgeous. Their wedding will be splashed across all the society pages as their friends and family gather to toast the glowing couple. Andy Sachs is on top of the world. But karma’s a bitch. The morning of her wedding, Andy can’t shake the past. And when she discovers a secret letter with crushing implications, her wedding-day jitters turn to cold dread. Andy realizes that nothing—not her husband, nor her beloved career—is as it seems. She never suspected that her efforts to build a bright new life would lead her back to the darkness she barely escaped ten years ago—and directly into the path of the devil herself.

A word about the cover: Unlike the hardcover, the paperback keeps with the shoe theme of all of Weisberger's books. If not for the trident heel or the fact that this a Devil Wears Prada sequel, I'd probably glance over.

My thoughts:

Okay, so let me be clear: I haven't read the Devil Wears Prada. I've read Weisberger's other books, but not Devil. I've watched the film uncountable times but yes, I realise that there were things in the film that were different from the book, so I'm not going to draw comparisons between Revenge and Devil.

Let's treat Revenge as a standalone. where I know the back stories of the characters. Happens, right?

By itself, I thought Revenge was entertaining. I'm not exactly a fan of Weisberger's but Revenge had my attention throughout. Oh, of course, it starts off with Andy being crazy, making a mountain out of a molehill, that really makes no sense at all, but maybe, just maybe, that could have been a foreshadowing of things to come.

So it's been 10 years since Andy left the 'Runway' and instead of writing for The New Yorker or something, she runs a super-successful luxury wedding magazine, along with - surprise!surprise! - Emily, Miranda Priestly's former first assistant and you know, just the girl who couldn't stand Andy earlier. Yes, 10 years do change a lot of things. Which also means that there's a new guy (husband, actually), Max, who is as close to perfect as men can be. Except, of course, for the things Andy find right before her wedding that send her taking a ride across loonville through the first half of the book. I'm thinking Andy may just be a little too paranoid than necessary and hence the pointless jumping-to-conclusions take up the early part of the book. I mean, she had a pretty good domestic and professional life otherwise.

Until, of course, Miranda comes into the picture. Well, she isn't physically present much of the time that she was in Devil, but she's here alright. In Andy's nightmares and hey, the magazine world. There are actually more moments of perfect domesticity than Miranda-tornadoes. It was pacey. At least till the last 30% of the book when almost everything takes a whole hey-i-didn't-think-that-would-happen turn.

So all of Goodreads has been exploding with how Weisberger completely dashes the 'American Dream' in this book. I'm not sure that's a valid criticism. So, yes, the end picture isn't pretty, but hey, life isn't always rosy, is it? There's hope and that's important. Revenge, too, has hope. If you plan on going into this book with a critical eye, you won't be doing yourself any favours. Read it like you would treat a summer fling. It's fun. Revenges always are.

Have you read either Devil or Revenge?


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Lola and the Boy Next Door

(Yes, the whole world's probably read it by now, but GAHH I'm going to talk about it anyway, because, hey, Stephanie Perkins. Enough said.)

Lola and the Boy Next Door
by Stephanie Perkins
Release date: September 28th, '11
From Goodreads:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion...she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit--more sparkly, more fun, more wild--the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.
When Cricket--a gifted inventor--steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

A word about the cover: I love the wig. And the cover in general coveys the same cheeriness that Anna's cover does, although the latter had a mysteriousness about it since you couldn't see the guy's face on it and hey, we had a good time imagining Etienne, didn't we? But Lola has a new cover, too (like all the books in this series) - more city-centric - and I think it's gorgeous. Also, mature.

My thoughts:

This book is a big glob of happiness. I mean, there are a lot of sad and not-so-kind and heartbreaking stuff, too, but overall, it's such a happy book it makes you feel hopeful about things, irrespective of how you're feeling.

It's been a few hours since I finished reading this book and I still can't stop grinning about it. Stephanie Perkins knows, you know. She REALLY knows how to write a good, believable romance. She knows how to build up a believable friendship-that-is-more-than-just-friendship and turn it on its head so that even though you kind of know that in spite of everything this will end up with a happy ending, you can't discard the book with a smirk because the characters are sitting there with your heart and you're squealing and gahh-ing over whatever's happening and you know you need this.

Yes, that's what a Stephanie Perkins book feels like. And that's what Lola and the Boy Next Door feels like, too.

I've heard a lot of people didn't really like Lola's dangling-two-boys act but c'mon, she's only human and nobody's perfect. Oh, well, Cricket is. Like reallyreallyreally perfect. Dude, where do guys like him live? (Okay, okay, I know San Francisco and all that, but really) Remember Etienne from Anna ? Yeah, that guy is puurrrfect, but Cricket is sometimes (most times, actually) waaaay too good to be true.

Other things I liked about Lola:
- Lola's dads! I haven't read a better, matter-of-fact, un-caricatured representation of a gay couple with a daughter. And Andy and Nathan stand out so well against each other.
- Norah. (I'm not saying who she is if you haven't read the book - although chances are that you have, still - but I thought she was the most interesting character in the book)
- An obsessive-compulsive costume designer. An Olympic-bound figure skater. An inventor. Aahh, unique hobbies make for such unique characters.
- Also, the thing about Alexander Graham Bell. I liked that bit of inclusion.
- I loved the little unconventional bits the book had. Like Lola's 5-years-older boyfriend. The biological/adopted family thingy. Heck, the costumes! Less high school, more home scenes (hey, the boy's just next door - who would even *want* school?) - infact, more COLLEGE (here's looking at you Berkeley) than high school.
- But my favourite part? ANNA AND ST. CLAIR MAKE APPEARANCES THROUGHOUT THE BOOK.

Okay, so Anna is still one of my favouritebooksEVER. It's one of the most glorious books written in YA fiction and bringing Lola up for a comparison would just not be fair because Anna is, you know, Anna. Boarding school. Paris. St Clair. Perfection.

But Lola IS a good read. More than good, it's a happy read and we can all do with a heavy dose of happiness, can't we? This book had been on my to-read list for a very long time but I'm overjoyed I finally could get around to reading it because the reading experience has been worth more than I had expected. I'm convinced now. Stephanie Perkins has the gift of writing happy. You know that when you're feeling the blues, all you need is to pick up a Perkins book. Works like magic.

Do you like Anna or Lola better?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In which I talk about the Quarter Life Crisis. Again.

It's been quite around here for the longest time -- dude, studying for a Masters degree is exhausting and not just because of the many ways in which it leaves you more prone to sleep in the daytime and hunger pangs post-midnight and hey, it's not cool -- but, hello.

So I thought this little blog from this part of the universe was dead and rotting because, really, WHO WOULD EVEN WANT TO READ THIS ANYMORE? (Yeah, I still think that. Sometimes. When I think of the blog, ie). I mean, my last post happened in June, 2013 and here we are in Feb, 2014 (holy shit) and we're all almost a year older already and everyone's obviously moved on in their lives from wherever they were last year. Then I realised that I still have some 315 followers, so maybe, maybe someone out there would still want to read this.

So much has changed.
For instance my writing voice has undergone a change. All my narrative voices now belong to twenty-somethings, which is a little overwhelming considering that I've spent almost all my life so far writing young adult stuff. Young adults still feature heavily in anything I write but the twenty-somethings take centre-stage. Because, lets face it, at 23, I feel like the twenties have taught me waaaay more than all that I've learnt in the rest of the years of my life combined. I used to think being a teenager was hard but heck, nobody warned me about what the twenties would be like - it's youagainsttheworld hard. And I think this is when you grow into the person you will probably be for the majority of the rest of your life to come (I'm guessing) so everything you do becomes doubly important. And, WHY DOES NOBODY WRITE ABOUT ANY OF THIS? The majority of books I've read featuring twenty somethings only talk about a relationship a twenty something has with a particular someone. (Okay, maybe I'm not reading the right books - somebody throw recommendations my way, please?) But, hey, how did it get so easy for them? I thought the quarter life crisis featured the crisis that relationships have been causing our generation, not a relationship. If it was so easy to figure out which relationship will end up defining us, none of us would be hyperventilating so much. Or, okay, maybe that's just me.

And wait..what about the jobs? Why does nobody write about the scary prospect of landing or not landing a job? Post-university life is like taking a plunge into the Black Hole, hurtling yourself through a corridor which you know only ends in oblivion but which you hope will take you to a roses-and-daisies garden. In reality you just end up somewhere inbetween, although you seem to hit both extremes alternately most times.

The only representation that comes even remotely close to portraying what this quarter-life crisis is like is the HBO tv series Girls. I think. At least the first two seasons were good. The third one's kinda blah but the reason it has me nodding along to it is because it straight-up shows it as it is. No, relationships aren't as romantic as the movies make them up to be, even if you have the one that you want. Sex can be awesome and crude at the same time and no, that doesn't make you part of a porno. Your dream job will in all  probability not be as cracked up to be but that's okay, you have a job and you would rather do this than anything else, so keep at it. Or quit. Or whatever. Yes, we are selfish and impulsive and scared - sofuckingscared - and most of the time we have no clue about what we are really looking for and to add the cherry on the cake, we are getting old. Oh my god.

Dude. Life is hard.

And it doesn't get any easier when the world around you is falling apart and you want so hard to make it all right again but you can't because fucking laws. So I'm talking about India, where two months back the Supreme Court overturned the High Court's ruling that had de-criminalized homosexuality back in 2009. Basically, after granting every individual the right to love and fuck with consent whoever they want to, my country just reverted back to the stone age and declared that 2.5 million (and that's just the official estimate) of its population are criminals simply on the basis of who they choose to love. Reaaaally. I thought Russia was crazy but this is loon haven extraordinaire.

Which brings me to this. Watch, if you haven't already. Norway is the coolest.


If governing bodies start making laws against love, I don't know what it's saying about the human race in general. I mean, I get that in spite of our much-spoken-about powers of reasoning, we're actually pretty stupid, but are we really that cruel? It's like watching a dystopian world unfold right before you. And we shouldn't have to deal with something like that. Nobody has to.

So, yes, it's pretty bleak out there. And here in Delhi there hasn't even been much of the sun. Which isn't all that bad (hey, I like it cloudy - but only, weather-wise) but it takes more than three days for my clothes to dry. THREE DAYS. In the meanwhile I'm running out of both clothes and money and very soon *hopefully* I'll be done with my M.A. as well and then I have noideawhattodo. Oh shit.

The good thing, though, is the fact that I've finally found my drive to write again and I quite like the new writing voice and my family and I've never gotten along better and even though the world's a very shitty place sometimes, it also has it's moments of loveliness like what these people did when they saw this little boy shivering in the cold and that just restores your faith in almost everything. And although some terrible people are running (or hoping to run) the country and messing with the basic fundamental rights of so many people I love there's still a flickering hope that we could dust off the drivel and change the world to be a better place because even though I've blown off all my savings for this month on new books, I'm kinda happy and some 1452kms away in my hometown there's a beautiful boy who makes me mad but makes me smile more often and it's cold but I have socks on my feet and college isn't bad (although I have no idea where I go from here) but hey, I have hopes. I hope you do too. And I hope you never give up on that.

And I hope you listen to her. This is SoKo and I only just found her on Youtube Narnia. She's French and beautiful and makes me want to curl up and cry happy tears.



And if that's not your kind, get yourself some Nirvana. It's Kurt's birthday :) And I think he still smells like teen spirit.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fangirl

Fangirl
by Rainbow Rowell

Release date: September 10th, '13
From Goodreads:

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .
But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?

A word about the cover:  I think it's perfectly adorable. I love illustrated covers and this one is so pretty and sparse and clean it totally gets you into the mood. And I LOVE the blue! Also, the font. And the thought bubbles. And the lanky guy and the nerd girl. It IS perfect.

My Thoughts:

Guys, this book made me feel so good, I can't even tell you how much. Even thinking about it makes me smile, such heartwarming goodness it was.

When I saw this one up on netgalley I just knew I had to read this. I mean, fandoms (Harry Potter/Supernatural/Game of Thrones, ftw!) and fangirls - such nerdsomeness - what could get better than that?

The first thing for which Fangirl won brownie points from me was the setting. Guys, guys, guys, this book is set in college and I LOVE that. Why aren't there more books set in college that don't become just this huge flesh-feasts? Not that there's anything wrong with that but you know, there's more to college than just sex. Like, um, classes and roomies and friends-who-aren't-potential-love-interests and maybe, sometimes, fandoms. (Okay, so maybe I'm being biased about the last thing, but you get what I mean, right? You need things like Harry-Potter-talk because HOW DO YOU SURVIVE OTHERWISE. Okay. I'm going to shut up right now)

My favourite thing about this book was the characters and their relationship with each other, which altered and wavered and stabilised and developed in so many ways throughout the course of the novel. That's the other thing I really liked about this. The pace. No quick-mode, no insta-anything, nothing overtly dramatic. Fangirl was a leisure ride with things taking place at a realistic pace and in such a believably real-life way.

The characters were so well-rounded. Cath and Wren. Levi. Nick. Rowan (damn, I loved Rowan!). Cath and Wren's dad! It's really nice to read books where the parents matter, for a change, and where they aren't the devil incarnate. And it's even nicer when the dad is an adorable creative genius.

So this is the first YA book written in third person past that I've read in quite a while and it was so well done! The writing was so good that I was inspired to write the next whatever-I-write in third person (and no, I'm never inspired to try third person) - it's just THAT good.

Read this book, okay? It doesn't come out till September but pre-order it if you have to, just read it. It doesn't matter what your reading tastes are, Fangirl, I'm sure, will appeal to everybody.

You know, the kind of coming-of-age that happens in college is different from the coming-of-age that happens before that. It's just this whole other thing - this living away from home, actually having to take things into your own hand (whether you like it or not) and Rainbow Rowell captures all that in her book with subtle brilliance. Read it for the feels. And the fandom.


Did/do you write fanfiction?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Verse: He left.

                                                        (Image source)

He left without goodbye,
picked up his bags, left a note,
while she was still serving diners
at the Seven-Eleven,
two blocks down the road.

She arrived exhausted,
with flowers for his birthday,
couldn’t find the vase
which he had packed with him
when he’d cleared his life
out of their home of two years.

She tried his phone.
It rang and rang and went to voicemail,
playing his – ‘leave a message’
in his old voice –
the one she knew,
the one he’d forgotten.

He heard the silent phone rings
as he waited for the tube to the next city,
fingers hovering over the ‘Receive’ button,
he debated.

She made dinner,
arranged for his favourite movie
and the big surprise waiting in the bedroom.
All the while she tried his phone,
not knowing that it was
ringing in the dustbin,
of a subway,

ten kms from her kitchen.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I'm not dead. I just haven't been there.

And yes, you're looking at the blog formerly known as Dreamcatcher's Lair.

So now that we are on slightly familiar ground, HELLO.

I know I've come up with several apology posts in the past year, but believe me when I say that I hope this will be the last. I reallyreallyreally hope to up my reading list, set my work-in-progress rolling and blogbomb your feed with more posts that won't necessarily be more fruitless promises to get back to, well, blogbombing.

Ever heard of the quarter-life crisis? I won't be surprised if you haven't. Everyone's so busy angsty-ing up the midlife crisis that nobody gives a damn about that thing that hits you when you're a twenty-something with a bucket list of things to do before you turn old and then you realise that, wait, you ARE old. You're so old that in another 3, 4, at most, 5, years your family and relatives - who ironically end up showing some concern  only in this aspect of your life - will be expecting you to settle down, which basically means legally binding yourself to another person and, I don't know, making babies with said person (!) And no, there's nothing wrong with that (I think) but it's a most frightening thought when you're going through an existential crisis and need a lot of figuring out to do.

And that's a LOT of figuring out to do, really. Like what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life, who's-gonna-give-me-a-job, should-I-be-a-student-forever-and-accumulate-degrees, oh-god-university-is-killing-me-I-should-quit, I-don't-care-about-the-world-I-should-just-go-backpacking, damn-I-have-no-money kind of figuring out. See, it's enough to give someone a life spasm. And then, imagine you have all of this figured out and somebody, SOMEBODY, possibly the last person you expected to do so, comes along and breaks your heart. Why didn't anyone ever mention that heartbreaks are ten times harder in your 20s than they were when you were in high school? And suddenly that entire part of your life with that person becomes a lie, which you have to remove along with all the plans made and goals set and the dreams dreamt around this time, which basically involves just removing a chunk of your life. A chunk. Which also means that you will have to replace that chunk with something else so that it doesn't end up being this massive gaping hole because that would suck. Like, really.

See. Existential crisis + chunk-removal-from-your-life event = Catastrophic Quarter Life Crisis.

Which is what I had been going through the entire time I was M.I.A. It wasn't fun in any way. Ever tried falling off a cliff? No, don't try that. Think it. Think falling off a cliff when you don't want to fall off a cliff. Think trying to climb back up and falling off again and again. And again. And then when you've finally managed to get yourself up there, all bruises and scars of you, imagine a car running you over. Not a pretty picture, is it? The last few months of my life have been pretty much that - one cliff-fall after another, one car crash after another.

While most of the last few months I've spent swinging between self-pity and misanthropy, rage and hate and sadness and utter despair, now I actually feel, I don't know, wiser. Experience does teach you a lot. And when a trunk full of experience flies out of nowhere and lands on your back, at first you wobble with the weight, but then it gets to be okay. You get to be okay. And you realise that you get to be okay because of that trunk, so you can't really be mad about it, because with the trunk, you grow up.

I feel like I've grown up. I've grown up at 22. What I had to go through to collect the stuff that makes up the trunk was eventful and despairing and melancholic and ridiculously frustrating and so utterly devastating, but the trunk's a part of me and that's fine because it's stopped being all those sad and not-sad things. It's like a manual book I can go back to when I'm thinking about what I want and what I don't want out of my life. It's like a chance at a fresh start.

That's what I've decided to do. Give myself a fresh start at just everything. Starting with this blog, which now has a new title and tag line. Also, I've decided to use my full name, Bidisha, because, what the hell, I like my name.

I know this is a long and rambly post and you've had to bear with me the whole long and rambly way, but, hey, thanks for doing that. It's nice to know that somebody out there, anybody, is listening to you vent. And if life sucks for you right now, believe me it'll get better. It will. Even if it doesn't seem so at the moment. You will come out stronger. And grown up.

Hang in there.

 
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