Book Review | Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson *NON-SPOILER*

untitledA friend and I have started a book club, wherein we each get to pick a book per month and read together, afterwhich we skype and discuss the plot, writing style, ending etc amongst other things (very original idea, I know!). So the book chosen by my friend for the month of November 2013 was – ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by S.J. Watson. I ate the book in two days (burp!). The blurb written at the back suggested that it belonged to the thriller genere and I love me a good, fast-paced, action-packed, WTF ending thriller weekend. My thoughts on the book? Read on…

1. Plot – The novel is a psychological thriller about a woman suffering from anterograde amnesia. She wakes every day with no knowledge of who she is and the novel follows her as she tries to reconstruct her memories from a journal she has been keeping. She learns that she has been seeing a doctor who is helping her to recover her memory, that her name is Christine Lucas, that she is 47 years old. As her journal grows it casts doubts on the truth behind this knowledge and sets her on a terrifying journey of discovery. The plot sounds intriguing, I’m sure but I want to let you know upfront that it was a little slow-paced for me. I don’t know if you would concur, but nonetheless I wanted to throw this piece of info out there for your benefit.

2. Character development – I don’t have too many praises to give as far as character development goes. I didn’t feel for the characters as much as I wanted to and considering the situation in which Christine was put in, I’d say I should be biting my nails and praying to God that nobody takes advantage of her vulnerable position and at the same time root for her to discover her past, her identity, her life story. I didn’t feel sympathetic for Christine and some of you might call me heartless for that but her character wasn’t fleshed out in a way that would make me feel sorry for her. Descriptions regarding other characters that play a major role in shaping the story was also lacking.

3. Writing Style – I had mixed feelings about the writing style. Overall I found it pretty decent but I had an issue with the way Christine wrote her journal. I understand that she wanted to capture all the moments and emotions she went through the day before but did it require to be written like a novel? I try to reason with myself by saying that maybe because she was a published writer, she wrote like that (once a novel writer, always a novel writer), but whatever the reason, I didn’t care for the novel writing style of her journal. Also the repetitive nature of the story was annoying at times. She kept asking the same questions and answering it in the same way and I was wondering why she was writing the same thing over and over again when she had read the exact same thing in her journal only a couple of hours ago.  But I should mention here that although the same could have killed the story, Watson didn’t go too far with it.

4. Ending – It was a good ending and probably the only one that could end the story and give the readers their closure. For me a good book is one which has a legendary twist as the ending. Something that nobody could see coming until it is written blatantly. Although I figured out the ending around 40 pages or so prior to the end of the book, I’d still stand by what I said earlier – it was a good and nicely thought out ending.

5. Overall – I liked the book overall and really enjoyed my time reading it – thanks to my friend for picking this one for the book club. There is a movie coming out in 2014 and I am most definitely looking forward to that. I will not tell you the cast for obvious reasons. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good old-fashioned thriller novel to give this a read. So, are you one of them? Let me know!

Rating –

5_star_ratings

Book Review | Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth *SPOILER ALERT*

downloadI finally got around to reading the most talked about trilogy since the year 2011, which to nobody’s surprise belongs to the YA genre – Divergent by Veronica Roth. Lately I have been observing that this genre has been getting a bit more of the spotlight than it truly deserves. First the hunger games and now this. Well congratulations to Veronica Roth for getting the book highly publicized, but I wanted to see what the fuss was really about. Usually when I start a book with such high expectations, it more often than not turns out to be a huge disappointment by the end of it, but I have to say that Divergent didn’t make me want to shoot myself at first. Having said that and after having read Allegiant, which was released on 22nd October, 2013, I am thinking about buying a gun (any suggestions?). The best way to read a trilogy is reading all the books cover to cover and back to back. I finished all three books in less than 5 days and call me a bragger, but I am pretty impressed with myself (yay!). I am going to be talking about all three books in the series below so rest assure, this review is going to be lengthy and will have MASSIVE SPOILERS. So if you haven’t read Allegiant or the series yet, I suggest you click the cross icon that appears on the top right corner of your screen and fly away (buhbye!).

Now moving to my rating criteria:-

1. Plot : The simple reason why I liked the book Divergent was the premise. I liked the idea of how a society can be divided into factions, each having their own belief system and way of living. Of course this sort of system can prevail only in the book world because such kind of extremist thinking can never survive in real life. Well, it didn’t survive in the book itself. But the idea was intriguing and fascinating and since I love to escape reality, why not! Just because Divergent was the book it was, I went ahead with the series. Having said that I will mention here that there was a lack of world building in the first two books. The first two books takes place inside the fence and Varonica didn’t bother to explain many things about the world she had created. We get that when you turn 16 you have to make a choice as to which faction you want to be a part of, which in a way isn’t really a choice, but apart from that I didn’t get that many inputs on this fascinating world.  Sure, she explained everything in book 3 – Allegiant but that much information needed time for processing. Also, the plot of book 1 and 2 didn’t really grow. They both were revolving around taking down Jeanine Matthews, who was the leader of Erudite and behind the damn serum that controlled the dauntless members. Like I said before Allegiant had way too much of information that was being dumped on us. But, there were also parts, which were irrelevant like the time Nita took Tobias to the fringe? What the hell was that for? to guard the effing door? After reading Divergent, we believe that the only problem in this society are the Divergents as they cannot be controlled. They fight it out and finally defeat Jeanine by the end of Insurgent only to find out that the actual problem is happening outside the fence, when this top-secret video footage of a miss prior gets played. Then, in the third book they declare that everything said by Prior in the video was a LIE. So basically, everything Tris did in Divergent and Insurgent was a waste of effort. Allegiant has a totally different plot from Book 1 and 2. Now it’s no more about the factions fighting amongst themselves ‘cos they have disbanded that system in Book 3, but now it’s about GDs’ and GPs’. Suddenly we are talking about genes and how something that is out of our hands and can’t be controlled is made the highlight of the last book in the trilogy. I found that a little bit ridiculous to be totally honest. These people call themselves really smart, like Erudite smart and they fail to understand that genes is just one factor of how a person is. You cannot blame every bad or good thing they do on their genes. Upbringing and culture makes a lot of difference and fighting over this was a major let down for me. I didn’t see this coming. There is absolutely no connectivity in the plot. She is coming up with new side-stories just to increase the number of books. I wanted the third book to be still about the struggle between the factions and wanted to see how she sees it through but that was not what was delivered (sigh). I knew that after the end of Insurgent, it’s going to be about the factions vs the factionless and deep down I hoped the ending of Allegiant to be the victory of the factions and how their society best worked in that system all along. But it was not that at all. All in all, the plot had issues and internal conflicts, which came to surface in Allegiant.

 2. Character Development – Gosh, I have so many things to say in this category. Let me start with –

a. Tris – Everybody loves Tris. I like her (don’t hate me). I find her to be someone who is strong and brave and absolutely perfect. The absolutely “perfect” part came into being only in Allegiant. In Divergent and Insurgent, she made wrong choices. She didn’t foresee Caleb’s betrayal, she didn’t think twice before going to Erudite’s headquarters to sacrifice herself, she shot Will, when she could have disarmed him and ran off etc etc. She wasn’t perfect in Book 1 and 2 but in Book 3….BAM….she is freaking perfect. She makes all the right choices. It’s like she has this superpower to know what to do and when to do it and get it right all the time. The part when she reveals Nita and Tobias’s plan to Matthew, someone who she thought belonged in Team Bureau at the time was so shocking to me. I mean, how could she have trusted someone on the inside and told on Tobias and risk his life just ‘cos she didn’t buy into Nita’s plan, which was right btw but who would have known, given the circumstances. She had hard-core proof with the photographs and everything. I actually felt bad for Tobias in Allegiant since they had many conflicts to the point of breaking up and if Tris was right in doing what she did all the time, then that could only mean that Tobias was wrong all the time and he had also just learnt that he was not Divergent so that lead to more poor choices on his part. I know this will sound awful, but I don’t really see Tris as a real character. Meaning I don’t see someone like her in real life and I am not the type who is going to fall for the “I will sacrifice everything for your happiness” bit. I adore characters that seem believable. Given that she is brave to the point of marching to Erudite to sacrifice herself and then backing down at the last minute by saying that I want to live, that’s the Tris I liked. She is human afterall and she wants to live. No harm in that. But of course she didn’t really mean it ‘cos she sacrificed her life anyways in Allegiant. In Insurgent, Tobias went on and on about how stupid she was for doing things without thinking and being brave about it instead of being smart and I agreed with him 1000000%. You want to fight a war, you have to be brave but more importantly you have to be smart. The stunts she pulled through out the series was unforgivable by me and then she has the nerve to bombard him and even think of breaking up with him because he made one wrong decision of believing Nita, even though what Nita said was true but what she intended to do with Tobias was false. Nobody can be this sacrificing all the time. I am having a hard time comprehending her. I was sad that she died in the end but I will come to that later. After reading Vernocia’s blogpost where she explains why Tris was the way she was portrayed (pretty much everything I said earlier) is because she belonged to Abnegation and when her parents died, especially watching her mother sacrifice herself to save the day was a turning point in her life and she wanted to follow her footsteps and bla bla bla. I don’t agree with this justification because after having first hand experience of watching someone put their fight first and life second, she should have done the opposite. She should have known better than to keep playing with fire. Anyways there were some parts in the series regarding Tris that annoyed the hell outta me.

b.    Tobias (a.k.a Four) – I was a fan of Tobias since Book 1. I thought his character was very strong, interesting and mysterious. He always knew what to do in order to watch his back and when the whole love thing happened with Tris, I kinda thought to myself, great! he will take care of her. She has nothing to worry. But then Allegiant happened and his POV was such a turn off. He starting sounding whiny, weak and kind of like a sissy. Everything that I loved about him in Book 1 and 2 went away. Now it was Tris who was calling the shots and telling him whats right and wrong and that totally made me upset. I’ll come to the POV part later in the presentation criteria. In Allegiant, when Tobias found out that he was not technically “Divergent”, he got so upset and insecure that he started behaving in ways that annoyed me to the extent of throwing my tablet twice on the floor. When Nita came into the picture and when Tris described her as pretty, I already started imagining love triangles forming and I thought Veronica would capitalize on that but thankfully she didn’t, although insecurity did play a role in the story. Another thing that made me upset was when Tobias went back to his Abnegation house after Tris’s death and wanted to consume the memory serum to forget that he ever loved someone or even met someone named Tris. That was it for me and Tobias. He had to be convinced by Christina, who I thought was one of the most strongest characters in the series.

c. Other Supporting Charatcers – My favorite character was Uriah and it burns me to know that he is not going to be there in the movie. From the minute he entered in Divergent, I loved him. He was funny, sarcastic, fun to hang around with, all in all a good buddy to have. I was really upset when he died in Allegiant and his death was all the more tragic given that his mother and brother had to pull the plugs. I was hoping till the last moment that he would make it but no! Vernonica likes to play her mind games with us. Christina was another character that I admired partly because she had many opportunities throughout the book where she could have thrown tantrums and cause problems but thankfully she came out of it soon. Cara felt like a cute, annoying sister that I never wanted. I have mixed feelings about Caleb. Marcus was your typical abusive father character. He didn’t bring anything else to the table apart from that. Evelyn is just mad. I mean she started a war against the factions in Insurgent and when his son comes and asks her to choose between him and factionless, she chose him. Why couldn’t she have just done that at first. I just don’t get how someone can just flip a switch and change their mind without any valid reason. Was the whole of insurgent a waste of time then? I admire Marcus for that because even till the end he maintained his evilness. Peter Peter Peter…what can I say about him. Well there had a be a bad guy turn good in this series next to all the cliche twists ever possible. I know I am being harsh about this but the twists and turns seemed forced and not justified properly. The sole reason why they were brought about was to extend the number of books and make it a trilogy. I didn’t like that.

3. Writing & Presentation – Well, the writing was very plain and simple. No rocket science, no beautiful, quotable lines or poems in there. Heck, it was so easy to read that I was convinced that you don’t really need to know that many fancy words to write a novel. The presentation was simple and easy. The Allegiant POV format was the only place where she went wrong. First, when I started the book itself and noticed the POV format, I knew that someone is going to die. Then watching people’s reaction on YouTube, I was convinced that someone is going to die. There were literally times when I was almost done with the chapter and had to switch back to see who’s POV I was reading. They both sounded the same. Hence the sissy, girlish Tobias comment before. I loved the last few chapters when Tobias describes about how he pulled her down from the net after she jumped first during initiation and that he had seen her before but not in the way that she truly deserves. Those two chapters were the highlight of Allegiant. Also the zip-line ash ritual was pretty cool and touching.

4. Ending – Aaaahh..The ending of Allegiant is what stuck with people the most. Those people don’t include me. I was sad no doubt about that. I mean when you spend days rooting for a character to accomplish a mission, you are bound to say, “Veronica I will kill you with my bare hands for taking Tris away from our lives” but I thought the ending was bad because of the way she died. She was taking Caleb’s place and Caleb was stupid to have allowed her to do this in the first place. When he told Tobias that he had to let her go because she was pointing a gun at him, I just lost it. How the hell is he an Erudite (anyone?). Who would be so stupid as to think that the person who is willing to drop everything and sacrifice her life in order to protect someone is going to shoot that same someone if he didn’t allow her to do it. If she had died under some other, maybe fighting circumstances, then I guess it would have been easier to buy but I can’t seem to get over the fact that Caleb could have stopped it but he didnt ‘cos he thought she was going to shoot him.

5. Overall – I think the series was hyped up and was an okay(ish) read. It was not a waste of time and I recommend everyone who is below 20 years of age to give it a go. I will be watching the movie when it comes out on 20th March 2014. Judging by the trailor, I am expecting a massive disappointment even on that front. Looking at the cast, I just don’t feel the book talking to me. Anyways, we shall cross that bridge when we get there.

Rating –

5_star_ratings

TV Show Review | A post about nothing – The Seinfeld hypothesis! *SPOILER ALERT*

seinfeld 3For a sitcom that went on for 9 years and came out with 9 seasons and one of the best series finale, I have ever seen till date, I don’t really have to sell the show to you now, do I? It sells itself baby!

I’ve seen the entire series at least 5 times and every time I see it, it keeps getting better and better. I wouldn’t say that Seinfeld is just like any other “comedy” series out there. It has gone out of its way to create an entirely new and unique image for itself and that is – A show about nothing. But how can a show about nothing run for so many years and have fan followers like me, you ask? Let me give you a few reasons, why I would choose Seinfeld over Friends, if someone were to say, stick a gun to my head and I mean literally  :-

1) Episodes:- Seinfeld is what one would call, “An escapist fiction”. You can’t really live the way they live or do the things they do, which increases its appeal (at least for me). Majorly all the episodes are about general situations blown out of proportion. I dare you to find me another show where an entire episode revolves around locating one’s car in the Parking Garage and make it funny at the same time. How about an episode, where everyone is just waiting to be seated at a Chinese Restaurant? It’s a brilliant mix of simplicity and humor that makes Seinfeld best from the rest. Apart from being haha-funny, Seinfeld also preaches some really important “life lessons” through its episodes, like staring at cleavage is like staring at the sun – its too risky or considering if your date is “sponge-worthy”in case they decide to take the birth control of your choice off the market and you only have 60 left. Seinfeld gives you the ray of hope that no one in Western history thought was possible –Switch your girlfriend for her roommate. It also poses an occasional challenge to the mind, body and soul – A contest to see who can go the longest without masturbating. I could really go on and on about many such episodes. 9 seasons and 20 episodes (average) per season; do the math.

2) Characters:- My love story with a show (any show) starts when I fall in love with the characters. And when I say fall in love, I don’t mean the mushy love that you have for one Harvey Specter. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer are people who don’t give a shit about society’s high standards. Their uncaring narcissism is uncompromised throughout the series. I learnt a lot from each character.

Jerry Seinfeld – He taught me that if my boyfriend likes the Docker’s commercial on TV, then he is not “the one” for me and I should break up with him immediately.

George Costanza – He taught me how to measure one’s attractiveness. According to him, an attractive person never gets a traffic ticket. Your boyfriend, friends or mother might be telling you otherwise but if you’re getting traffic tickets, then you’re really not that good looking (good thing, I don’t know how to drive).

Elaine Benes – Seeing her do the “kicks and the thumbs” made me realize that there is always someone out there who makes you look better on the dance floor.

Cosmo Kramer – He taught me to always look for an apartment with a friendly neighbor who has a loaded fridge.

3) Script:- Considering this show was aired in the 1990’s, the script faced a lot of controversies. The best part about Seinfeld was the fact that they could talk about almost anything on the show, without making it blatantly evident. They did not restrict the script to only what polite society would accept but extended it to topics that were normally frowned upon, at least for prime time television. No other show back then spoke about masturbation, homosexuality, handicapped people in society, penises, large breasts and threesomes but Seinfeld covered it all. Lately I’ve been watching Suits and the minute Harvey said, “These pretzels are making me thirsty” , I knew he was quoting Kramer. That is the level of impact that Seinfeld has had over me and I’m sure over all the other followers. The show’s brand of humor also tickled a very specific portion of my funny bone. I loved the throwaway details the show would add. Little jokes that weren’t played for big laughs, but subtly fleshed out these character’s quirks. Like telling Elaine to move over on the sofa ’cause she was squishing him’, or telling Kramer to chew softly, or determining whether superman had a good sense of humor or just a completely silent scene of three guys sitting around uncomfortably – it was just brilliant (can’t say that enough).

4) Behind the Scenes:- Seinfeld is the brain-child of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry is a subtle and insightful comedian and when offered his own show, he contacted Larry David, because he knew that Larry is a comic genius with an incredible fertile mind. The four neurotic characters are inspired by the creators themselves. Some of the events like when George quits his job and goes back to work the next day as though nothing happened are real life events, with this particular event being related to Larry David. He, himself claimed that George’s character was greatly inspired by his quirks and the show was a medium for him to showcase that.

5) Series Finale:- *Spoiler Alert* All’s well that ends well, right? Typically, a bad guy turns good by the end of the series. That didn’t happen in Seinfeld. These people knew who they were and chose to remain the same despite being removed from society for 1 whole year. Even while sitting in jail, they discuss about mundane things, like how George’s shirt button was at the worst possible place. That signifies that they live in a bubble, indifferent to their surroundings and nothing around them is going to change that. I loved the concept of bringing everyone together for one last time and re-visiting all their shameful acts down the years. I couldn’t think of another way to end the show (obviously!).

Do you still think the show is about nothing? I most definitely DON’T. It was a show about everything. No show has covered as many real-life situations and subject matter as Seinfeld. Even if a reference to something was only one sentence! But because much of the subject matter was so nontraditional and unpopular for other shows to touch on or even think of, it seemed almost “nothingish”. They broke every rule of “proper” writing approach, theme structure, plot organization, etc. I don’t think many people realize how innovative and risky it was. It was far more than just funny, it was masterful.

So, this is my hypothesis on Seinfeld’s success and my obsession with it over the years. If you haven’t watched the show yet, then don’t go by what I say – The Seinfeld junkie. Watch this 3 minute video clip from the show and I won’t be surprised if you’re asking for more.

The Best of Seinfeld

“I don’t know how, or under what circumstances, the four of you found each other, but your callous indifference and utter disregard for everything that is good and decent has rocked the very foundation upon which our society is built” – Judge Art Vandelay, in “The Finale”

PS – iHeartSeinfeld, in case you didn’t get that from the post.

PPS – Excessive usage of the word ‘brilliant’ was intentional.

Rating –

5_star_ratings

Book Review | Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn *NON-SPOILER*

Image

I read Gone Girl back in 2012 and I have to say, I still can’t stop talking about it. I like recommending books to my friends but this book transformed me into something that is equivalent to a nagging housewife. Considering the plot of the book, it’s really difficult for me to write a review on it without disclosing the spoilers, which is pretty much the best part of the book but I’m going to try very hard to keep this review as informative as possible minus the juicy details.

So let’s get to it. Since this is my first review, I’m going to give you a little intro on how I like to present my book reviews. I have 5 criteria based on which I give my ratings. They are not rated individually but just overall. In other words, my rating will visualize my whole reading experience.

1. Plot –  Gone girl is basically about a married couple – Nick Dunne and Amy Dunne, who are “married” for 5 years and on their 5th anniversary, Amy goes missing. The novel’s entire plot is built up on one major uncertainty about the main character, Nick, and whether he killed his wife, Amy. I used quotes for the word married because the essence of the book is their shaky marriage and Gillian Flynn went on to unveil some unconventional truths about love and marriage that she believes is true. Of course that is open to contradiction. But I seem to be agreeing to many of them. She does so through Amy’s journal, which I’ll get to in the latter part of this review.

2. Character Development – Not a lot can be said about the characters because once again, it will give away the story. Having said that, I will mention here that Gillian Flynn knows a thing or two about character development because Amy is one hell of a character, who refused to leave me alone even after a week of finishing the book. Major characters that play a role in the story are Nick, Amy and Go (Nick’s sister). It was fascinating to read about the relationship that Go and Nick shared as siblings. They were very close and loving but Flynn added a detail or two here and there to keep their relationship mysterious and the readers hooked. I remember rooting for one character at some parts, while for the other at other parts. So you too will share this love-hate relationship with the characters as you move along the plot.

3. Writing & Presentation – The book is divided into 2 parts and I can tell you right here and right now that I enjoyed the second part more than the first. Like the cover of the book says – There are two sides to every story, the first half or so of the book is told in first person, alternately, by both Nick and Amy; Nick’s perspective is from the present, and Amy’s is in the past by way of journal entries. I always enjoy reading a book written in first person because I feel more connected and attached to the story. Another point that I observed was that in the first half of the book Gillian had to switch her writing styles from that of an author of a novel (her actual role in all of this), who is narrating Nick’s perspective to Amy, an author of her own personal journal and trust me both the styles are very different and I think she did a pretty decent job with Amy’s diary. I wouldn’t call Gillian Flynn a literary writer per say, but I would give her the credit of delivering the plot in the manner she did because that definitely enhanced the impact of Part 2 of the book. The reason for me to enjoy Amy’s diary at first was simply because it’s very casual and surreal and writing in a diary doesn’t require adherence to any strict writing principles as compared to writing a novel. Secondly, being a young reader, I guess I related a lot more to that type of writing, which reminded me of the way I like to write (if I can say so modestly), which is casual, sarcastic, funny and basically “off the top of your head” writing.

4. Ending – Sigh. This was the only part of the book, where I was a tad bit disappointed. The ending was not up to my expectation, which was pretty huge by the end of it. I won’t say the ending was bad because it is open to different interpretation, but it was definitely unexpected for me personally. I think Gillian could have done a better job with the ending. I can’t add anything else to this.

5. Overall –  Overall, I’d say that it was definitely worthwhile and I enjoyed the journey up to the end. It’s a psychological thriller so it has its moments that leave an imprint in your head that haunts you days after finishing the book, which it did, so brace yourself. The only flaw that I can point out in the book is the ending. But don’t let that stop you from giving this book an open minded read. Another motivation for reading the book is the upcoming film adaptation. I won’t tell you the cast because I love my characters faceless as well. The movie is expected to be released in 2015 so you have time till then to read the book. Reading the book after watching the movie is worthless because the spoiler is the main cake, while the rest is just the icing.

Rating –

 5_star_ratings

Inception

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Just like the quote says, I am re-born with every new book I read. And every single time, I have a different purpose. I travel the world and sometimes even travel in time. I bear witness to world wars, epic romances of the century and also solve crimes with Mr. Holmes himself.

Hi! My name is Veenaa and this is my book(ish) blog. I love reading because it is in reality an escape from reality. Join me in discovering this glorious world where wizardry is the all time fad and dragons are the sweetest ride. Who says you have to live the adventure? Dive into the sea of words and be astounded by your discovery.

Let the reading begin!