Book Review — Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Thank You very much Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this opportunity to review the book. 

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld is a fantasy novel that takes the readers on a roller coaster ride between the lives of Darcy Patel and Lizzie Scofield. Simply putting it, it is a story within a story. Darcy Patel, a budding novelist is overwhelmed at the magnanimity of the book publishing process. Surrounded by famous writers and other intimidating personnel, she is uncertain about how well received her book will be, once she is able to get across the drastic measures of rewriting Afterworlds, her brain child. Putting a hold on her education, she travels to New York, keen to establish a life for herself. There she meets Imogen Gray, a fellow writer caught in the midst of her second and third book. Darcy and Imogen develop a close relationship and soon begin to live together. But in the world of print, where every day a new novel is being published and the editors seem like preying hawks – will Darcy be able to return home with success draping her every step?

Lizzie Scofield is the protagonist of Darcy’s novel, whose life changes tenfold on her way back home. At the airport there’s a terrorist attack and Lizzie’s soul takes the brunt of the stress and trauma pervading the atmosphere. Soon she is witness to the spiritual realm which complicates her life and distances her from her family and friends. But she meets the God of Death, Yama, and is able to lean on him for support when everything else seems like a façade. This kind of knowledge brings about an awareness of the “afterworld” and its unsolved mysteries. With power comes responsibility and so Lizzie must decide whether to right all wrongs thereby putting herself at risk or let the balance of good & bad play itself out.

I don’t normally take a month to finish a book, particularly one that has a plot as brilliant as this one. The idea of a book within a book – genius move by Scott Westerfeld! But what it lacked the most is a drive, an agent that pushes the reader onto the next page. Frankly speaking, I haven’t been able to read more than 40 pages a day till the first half of the book. After that I flew through it, loving Darcy’s experiences and yearning for the same as a budding writer. Her lesbian relationship with Imogen wasn’t expected but it did come across stronger than what you’d think. Even though it isn’t new, the whole “ghost whisperer” aspect worked out with the help of Yama, the God of Death as per Hindu mythology. Being a Hindu myself, I didn’t quite understand why the author picked a God of Death, that too someone as fierce as Yamaraj and portray him as being soft, kind hearted and a very non-aggressive character. I was puzzled by that and at times I thought it would get mind boggling to follow two different yet interwoven stories,  but it was actually fun. Scott Westerfeld’s writing is really easy to follow and it gives you a vivid image of exactly what he is seeing in his mind which was a plus point. I could see Lizzie walking around the flipside with Mindy, the friendly ghost. I only wish it was a little more compelling and fast paced. Apart from that it is a decent read. I don’t know if I would recommend it to everyone but fans of the supernatural, grab a copy, see if it works out better for you than it did for me.

Ratings – 3 stars on 5.

Mia

The Cheesy Korean Drama Experience

You know how sometimes you like a certain aspect of a movie or tv show or book and you go looking for it in other such movies and books? Sort of like how I fell in love with Twilight and went on binge reading the entire series of The Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead and The Vampire Diaries by L J Smith. Well there are some things that get a tad bit too boring after the second try. Today I’m going to write about some lame (don’t hit me!) Korean Dramas that hopefully I would be saving you the trouble of watching.

Firstly Playful Kiss. I mean as far as translations go its absurd but to have a word literally translated into the above mentioned phrase just makes me want to shudder. I was apprehensive – a level 100 on the “things I shouldn’t broach” – and yet because of Kim Hyun Joong I braved myself and began to watch. Now high school drama and puppy love is not lost on me. I get it, its a phase. But to have 20 something year olds acting childish and immature?  Nope, not working for me.  It just makes the whole drama all the more spoof-like. The concept of having a bad boy who is popular and doesn’t even blink an eye at his so called “fan following” in school has been used so much – it must be discarded ASAP!

I do wish I could have picked some better drama for the 16 hours that I spent on this one. I didn’t like the female protagonist’s acting one bit. The ending was a little rushed. For today’s youth, the character of Oh Ha Ni is extremely weak and soppy. She is portrayed as being so desperate for the guy’s attention and even after being insulted she persists. Which shows something about her strong resolve and sense of loyalty but I felt her strengths were misplaced and focused too much on the guy.

Then there is Heartstrings. Oh sweet Lord! Why? Unfortunately apart from the music, there wasn’t much I liked about Heartstrings. Maybe if I were a 14 year old I would have bought the plot but in real life, arrogant jerks don’t wake up the next day in love with the docile classmate. Lee Shin’s heartache upon losing his father was one of the other minor things that I could empathize with. Gyu Won was a better female character compared to many others, in the sense that she stood up for what she wanted but sadly, Park Shin Hye didn’t suit well for the role. I really liked her performance in The Heirs and so was looking forward to her in this drama. The sacrificial nature of Gyu Won and Lee Shin’s relationship could have been avoided.  In terms of adding conflict it lacked conviction. Plus in many of these dramas that involve a cold hearted lead, his sidekicks are rarely given much lines. They just tag along and contribute a word or two. I guess that’s something I’d like the script writers to work on.  Why add so many characters if they don’t serve a fruitful purpose? Its once again a very sappy kind of high school romance based drama that you could watch if you are into the genre. But I’d say download these OSTs and pick something else worthwhile.

Ratings – 2.5 stars on 5 [for both]

Mia

Up You Go, Into the Halls of Heaven

From the Earth we come, and to it, we must return. Today, tomorrow or some other day.

No words can comprise
How truly sorry I am.
No excuse can lull
The pain of neglect.
That smiling face, yours,
Ever ready to help.
Exist, you will,
In our memories.
Alive like never before.
Nineteen odd years
This world knew you.
A hundred can be
Lived with that
Knowledge. Dear Friend,
There’s another land
Awaiting your glory.
So off you go and bid
Us goodbye not.
For some day, we
Shall all join you
In the Halls of Heaven.

Cheers to the life you’ve lived!

Mia

 

Book Review — Gods & Monsters Trilogy by Kelly Keaton

Today I am going to review the entire trilogy of Gods & Monsters by Kelly Keaton. Worry not, there wont be any spoilers for those who haven’t read the whole series. I will be just briefly talking about the plot, characters, and stuff.

The Darkness Becomes Her trilogy by Kelly Keaton follows Aristanae, a girl who has for a long time been uncertain about her origins. Having been adopted at a young age, she has no clue about her birth parents or why there is a sense of discomfort deep within her. One day she ventures into the forbidden area of New 2 – where everyone isn’t quite normal –  with the purpose to find more about herself. What she discovers is far from anything she could’ve ever imagined. Regardless of how much she wants to deny the truth, it all makes sense and she must learn to accept the choices made for her. But here too, amidst the whispered glances, she sees a kind of wariness in others. As the book progresses, faces of demons from history loom before her. One wrong decision and New 2 is once again reduced to dust. And this time it will be all her fault.

A Beautiful Evil and The Wicked Within pick up after heart wrenching cliff hangers. A War. Many Losses and A New Threat. People who once stood by her are being flung off the game board and soon she must be strong enough to escape a prison that no one has before. Filled with lots of shocks and surprises, the trilogy is a piece of wonder and addiction. Ari is not only being pitted against a God far more experienced than herself but must also face the rigid heads of New 2  when the Hands of Zeus, a relic integral to establishing peace in New 2,  goes missing.

I read these books months back and didn’t get a chance to review them. But they are so terrific and not many people know about it, so I just want to hold a banner and scream how awesome this trilogy is. Firstly the plot – brilliant concept! Who would’ve thought that Kelly Keaton could take a villain of mythology and bring out her side of the story. Not many people give that kind of importance to the anti heroes and so Kudos to the author for even thinking of such a perspective. All three books were very well thought out and there weren’t any draggy sequences. When New Orleans was destroyed years ago, three founding families came together and rebuilt it as New 2. But the secrets of the three founding families has made it a “weird personnel only” area and even the Government has washed their hands off New 2 & its inhabitants. Ari is really brave for even stepping foot into such a place but soon she grows close to a family of youngsters there – Sebastian, Violet, Crank, Henri and Dub. I think building a house of kids and teens who work for each other was another plus point of the novel. They really help her figure things out.

The romance in the novel revolves around Ari and Sebastian. Which made the third book all the more disheartening. Ari makes a huge mistake and we as readers are left clutching what is left of a shattered heart and mind. Yeah, that’s how much drawn I was to the trilogy. Sebastian’s grandmother who is the head of one of the families is a rather annoying and meddlesome character. I really adored Violet and her fascination with gowns, masks. She made me think of a cute little crocodile, for some reason. The book focuses on Pandora’s story too as well as that of some Greek Gods. I have loved New Orleans ever since The Originals and this book had tons of that, so thumbs up! With a new take on mythology and fantasy, Kelly Keaton deserves a standing ovation for a job so brilliantly done. Overall, one of the best trilogy I’ve read in a long long time.

Ratings – 5 stars on 5.

Mia

Game Review — Scuba Dupa [iOS]

Been playing Flappy Birds for far too long? Want a new addictive challenging game? Scuba Dupa is new and has made it onto my list of “Most Frustrating Games”.

Controls – Functions with both tilt and tap. No other keys required to play the game. Which I think is quite amazing! Particularly for a touch phone, I don’t like games that have a lot of keys to maneuver the character.

How To – Basically the game consists of this teeny tiny, presumably, human character in a scuba diving suit. We the gamers have to direct the scuba diver through a maze like structure, collect pearls and avoid being hit by the rocks, water plants, sunken ships, boards and such obstacles. We do that either by tilting our way to success or tapping precariously, just the right bit, to not cause a collision.

I don’t see this becoming a frenzy like Flabby Birds did. Maybe it should, maybe not! Its really cute but very frustrating. Every try makes me want to throw my phone across the room but somehow I gather the strength to try again. Its one of those games where you have to get habituated to using the right timing and movement in order to establish a flow of good points. Another aspect that is sort of different is that every time the diver conks his head on something, he goes “Oww!” in a very funny way and its soul floats away. The whole game has a very user friendly vibe. The graphics too are good. I have had this game for about a week and so far, no glitches. Which is great in my perspective, because a lot of other games I’ve downloaded get really slow in response and heat up the phone really fast. This one keeps you occupied and yet has simple functions. Give it a try! There’s always some spare time to pass and Scuba Dupa is actually fun.

Ratings – 3.5 stars on 5.

Mia

Nail Art — Dotted Spirals and Waves

image   So I got this idea of dotted spirals off Google. But it looked a lot more cooler on that person firstly because of the matte violet color and gold dots that she had done. And secondly it was perfect in a very professional way. 

But anyhow this looks okay, I guess :P

Amidst all that’s going on, I had half a mind to just paint some random color and not do any designs but then its the one weekly hobby thing that I regularly follow and *touch wood* haven’t given up yet. So thought I’d do something simple! Plus turquoise is my new favourite color!

- Mia

Early NaNoWriMo 2014 Prep

Its almost 2 months until NaNoWriMo begins and I am already itching to start typing. This time for a change, I will be ready beforehand with everything I need so by October end, I would be saving up all my creativity just for the novel. Last year, even though it was my first try, I did win, but I wasn’t so happy with how the story progressed.

Now I shall use all my bubbling enthusiasm into creating the book cover,
synopsis and a basic skeleton structure. Fair, right? That way, I won’t go off track while typing the few thousand words every day. I will have a beginning and an end in mind, the rest should sort of play out with the flow. 6 things you can do if you want to start early and yet not cheat:

1. Think of a theme for your story. Once that has been decided, try to make it more specific by eliminating sub themes. You could always have more than one, which I think if you balance it out, will be really interesting to read. 

2. Establish what happens initially and what you want to happen at the end. Sometimes if you have a pre decided ending, it becomes difficult to arrive there so throughout Nov, keep that ending in mind. You will be able to “make ends meet”. 

3. Work on possible titles. It’s always good to keep a couple of titles ready in case one doesn’t work out later, you always have back ups (atleast ones that you like). The title apart from the cover is another thing that grabs attention so try to make it such that it tickles your readers’ curious bone. 

4. Write down a short para of about 12-20 lines that perfectly sums up your entire novel. Since we aren’t deciding every detail in the novel before, the synopsis is likely to change towards the end, to accommodate more important events. Nevertheless, keep it ready so your last minute work is cut down for you. Also you want to touch upon the problem that your character is facing or the event that leads to the climax. 

5. Cover page. Now the cover of the book isn’t that serious of an issue, mostly because if you are writing the novel as a hobby and don’t intend to publish it anywhere (print or online) then there’s no need to focus a lot on the cover in the prep phase. But if you’d like to have it ready, either start sketching the important elements in your story or have someone else do it. Cause whatever is displayed on the cover should have some symbolic meaning to what is inside. 

6. Lastly, have an idea about the character personalities and a basic outline for the sections of your novel. And by sections I mean, how your plot and characters will be introduced in the first 5 chapters; how the problems or twists affect the protagonist and others; what events/development of the action will lead to the climax; and finally the results of the climax which gives you your ending. You could write it down, if you have a solid plan or just keep a vague idea in mind. 

So there is tons to do before November. I have sort of started working on some of the above steps. And I plan to finish most, if not all. Can’t wait!

Happy Planning, you all!

Mia