Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Perils Of Being A Fangirl

Here. This post is the raison d’ĂȘtre of my blog. This post is the one in which many of you will share a sense of camaraderie with me. This post will show you that YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE.
And that it’s okay to be obsessed. You know, as long as it’s not drugs, or sex, or underground cults. 

(Note: Does anyone know the gender neutral term for FANGIRL? And please don’t tell me it’s FAN – as far as I am concerned, that word is an umbrella term, not a synonym. And I beg your pardon while I treat this post from the view point of fangirls specifically – it’s a shame I don’t know more fanboys personally.)

1. Risk of Degradation of 20/20 Vision
Due to –
(a) All that late-night reading under your blanket with a torch, because you don’t want your parents to catch you up past your bedtime and risk unleashing their wrath in the corporeal form of THAT’S IT NO MORE BOOKS
(b) TV show marathons as a reward for academic excellence (which is code for surviving through exams avoiding all your guilty pleasures)
(c) Excessive social networking – especially when the other fangirl you’re with over the miracle called the Internet, is in another time-zone, depriving you of sleep

2. Catching Up On Deprived Sleep During The Daytime Especially During Class HoursAnd Zombie-Walking Through The Rest
Due to the above mentioned.

3. Lack of Non-Fictional Romantic Life
Reading too many books starring heroes of the fantastically perfect variety, or watching too many TV shows with the same category of protagonists can affect the average reader to such a degree of romantic sterilization of the mundane sort by raising par of male excellence. (Or if you swing the other way, then female excellence.)

4. Managing All Your Social Network Accounts
I swear. This is a talent that is gifted to a fangirl, upon her baptism into this community. How else do you explain the superhuman memory and multitasking capabilities involved in remembering all your ten thousand usernames and passwords, who you last chatted or tweeted with, and maintaining an unbroken comment thread to avoid any non-civil interactions?

5. Empty Wallets
For those of you out there, whose financial aspects are still governed by a superior authority of the parental sort, then you have limitations (like me) on how much merchandise you can own. You resort to pinning wishlists and loaded virtual carts on your Pinterest boards and bookmarks bar, and just staring at what could have been on your laptop screen. When that happens, you turn to –

6. Your DIY Skills and Photoshop Expertise
However deplorable they may be, we have that shoddy wad of bookmarks made by hands smelling of Fevicol, t-shirts we spent that last batch of fabric paint on, and folders (both digitally and otherwise) filled with our own edits and sketches.

7. The Need to Celebrate Holidays Unknown to Mere Mortals/Mundanes/Muggles
We have reminders on our mobile phones and of course, in case they fail, we also have the ever-reliable power of the online fangirl-hood to remind us when to eat only blue food or randomly scream DEATH TO DEATHEATERS or whatever.

8. Research and Intellectual Debates
We are never happy knowing what we already know. We thirst to read up on all the different versions of backstories of the various characters, the author’s perspective on how (s)he chose all the proper nouns in the book, and then unwittingly become party to raging wars on whether or not a particular character is a hero or a villain or other civil debates. If you’re talking about a TV show, then it goes without saying that unless and until we’ve dug up bloopers and the actors’ Wikipedia pages, we’re never going to attain closure.

9. Shipping Through Choppy Seas
This is mostly self-explanatory. The FEELS fuelling our primal fangirl instincts to keep calm and continue shipping canon and headcanon ships in the face of tempests exacts a heavy toll on our head in the form of acute headaches that only tear-stained pillows can cure. Speaking of which – 

10. Tears Both Shed And Unshed
I have always maintained that a significant percentage of the average global tear-level has been contributed by the tear ducts of fangirls. To cry, clutching the damned book in your arms or after watching that tragic final episode of a Korean drama series, is an occupational hazard.

11. HANGOVERS, MAN. Hangovers.
It’s not enough that we’ve been cursed to harbouring eternal feels for a series (book or TV), but we’ve also been damned with being left to our own devices to deal with that inexplicable limbo stage of our life that follows after the final episode or chapter. We then face the big question – WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
We feel as if we’re trapped in a tunnel, the vision of closure mocking at us in the far-off distance. Comfort Food, Comfort Reading selected passages, and Comfort Replaying selected scenes becomes the norm for some days.

And I will thank Ron Weasley to define what being a fangirl truly means (courtesy of Tumblr) – 

Monday, April 13, 2015

20 Things You May Not Know About Me

Once upon a time, in a pretty large town called Buttlazyville, a babe was born. Before long she was elected Mayor of Buttlazyville. The Mayor happens to be yours truly. The End.

There happens to be a reason for the above anecdote. Skylar @ Life Of A Random tagged me sometime in December LAST YEAR, and it took five months and an Easter weekend to finally inspire me to make a move and bring forth this post unto you, Bloggerverse.

1. How tall are you?
I am a 157cm (approx. 5’2”) high pile of awesomeness. Yes, I know that translates to “short” and if you read this post, you’ll know exactly how I’m dealing with that irrefutable fact.

2. Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what?
There’s something you should know about me. Any and all talents I possess are guaranteed to be known to all mankind (or I make sure of that). And when I say ALL MANKIND I mean people in my Freemasons circle (like I care about the opinion of anyone else). Ooh there’s Talent #1: Dramatic Exaggeration In The Name Of Poetic License. You should read my Twitter (or not).
What else? I can waggle my ears and wiggle my brows. I can say the Periodic Table up to 20 elements in my sleep. I can also tell untrue stories pretty convincingly – the few times I’ve tried to con people, BOY did they fall. (But I also happen to be pretty gullible, so I think it’s safe to say the last one comes at a price.)

3. What is your biggest blog-related pet peeve?
The right to answer this question would demand the prerequisite that you visit other blogs besides your own. I don’t. And that’s not because I have a bigger head than my butt, but because my college ensures I don’t moonlight my way out of the academic shit-pile they’ve dumped on us.
(But if you still want to hear it, I’ll repeat Skylar’s answer – it truly annoys me when people don’t reply to comments. Then again, I have as many followers as there are roses in the Sahara, so I may not understand the logistics of commenting on blogs with legions of followers.)

4. What's your biggest non-blog-related pet peeve?
People judging others. People judging me. Me judging everyone else.

5. What is your favorite song?
I do have a favourite song, but it’s kind of personal so I’ll just go with a small list instead (since I can’t pick one) that’s on loop in my head these days –
Antarctica – Hands Like Houses
Love Me Like You Do – Ellie Goulding (No, I haven’t seen the movie, I just like this lady a lot)
Elastic Heart – Sia
Runaway – Aurora
Beg For It – Iggy Azalea
No Good In Goodbye – The Script
Dark Side – Kelly Clarkson
Good Life – One Republic
…. And the entire OST album from the Korean series The Heirs

6. What is your favorite Etsy shop that isn't yours?

7. What is your favorite way to spend free time when you're not alone?
Movie nights, TV marathons, and Youtube. There, that’s time well spent.

8. What is your favorite junk food?
Oily, MSG-containing potato chips, spicy tapioca chips, jackfruit chips, ghatia – they all work. Fortunately for my heath, the above gif holds good for this question as well and I’m a bigger miser than an eater, which is why I’m still alive and healthy and not at risk of entering the Guinness Book of Records for heaviest person ever.

9. Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind, and what are their names?

Oh. You meant non-fictional pets? I have a fish tank in which the population is declining rapidly despite mine and my dad's best efforts. And some potted plants. The End.

10. What are your number one favorite nonfiction and fiction books?

11. What is your favorite beauty product?
My Kajal-stick. That’s because the only cosmetically salvageable physical feature is my eyes and also because I look like I have jaundice (or something) without kohl underlining my eyes.

12. When were you last embarrassed? What happened?
You know, if I actually did keep a list of all the embarrassing things I’ve done – that are known and unknown to me – it could wrap around the earth’s middle THRICE. I’m sadly not even exaggerating.
Fortunately for me, I’m pretty good at supressing bad memories. And fortunately for all ye that seek companionship in misery, if you’re willing to ignore the whole  Most Recent Embarrassment clause, I’ll regale you with an incident that I’ve made my peace with. (Meaning, I no longer feel the irrational need to bury myself alive ten feet underground).
I am undeniably, unequivocally clumsy. It’s like my feet have a mind of their own. So, for most of the time my feet are in contact with the ground, I have subconsciously reserved a portion of my busy brain to JUST CONCENTRATE ON MY LEGWORK. But, obviously Mr. Murphy wasn’t too happy that his law was being ineffective in my life. And, there I was in class one day, bending over to pick up my bag from the bench. I successfully picked it up, and threw it over my shoulders. I may have misjudged its weight and my shoulders weren’t ready to deal with it and somehow my feet tripped on the legs of the bench and suddenly I was falling backwards.
Now this is the craziest part. A sane person would grab on anything and try to pull herself upright before she actually landed on her ass. Not me. There was a bench right behind me so I thought I’ll just fall onto it and try not to look like I’d tripped but that I I’d purposefully sat on it. What I did not realize was that there was a guy already sitting on it.
And then there was this deafening silence while I leaped up from the poor boy’s lap and apologized profusely. He still hadn’t regained his power of speech when I ran from the classroom that had erupted in laughter and catcalls.

13. If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) what would it be?
Coffee, please. I have zero shame in admitting I’m a caffeine-addict.

14. What's your favorite movie?

15. What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?
Not applicable to me – I didn’t study in the sort of high school Hollywood propagates. For the sake of, I’ll say nerd. But not a member of the nerd group that wears thick rimmed glasses and lugs around tomes of extra reading material, but the kind that sits around fangirling, pulling pranks on each other and then inexplicably acing through exams. Teachers love us, cheergirls hi-five us, and everyone acknowledges that we’re crazy and smart and aliens undercover.

16. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

17. PC or Mac?
Pfft. Utility over fashion statements. PCs over Macs.

18. Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?
I’m sorry, could you please hold while I refer my secret diary? Hang on – oops, sorry – But Dear Diary informs me I’ve got NON-EXISTENT ROMANTIC HISTORY so that’s that and let’s move on already, alright?

19. Favorite celebrity?
I have a thing for actresses who kick wizard asses, tribute asses and Erudite asses in reel life and regular asses in real life. Read Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley. And David Archuleta (that’s another story for another time, folks).

20. What blogger friends do you secretly want to be best friends with?
Hey, this is unfair, alright? First off, there aren’t all that many blogs that I keep track of and the ones I do, we’re already virtual BFFs. And there are others with wonderfully weird, crazily stupid, and bookishly obsessed bloggers that I do want to be besties with, but alas. My academic life ensures I don’t have time for socializing over the internet.

Phew. It's done. OMG THIS POST IS FINALLY DONE. Skylar, you awesome thing, thank you for tagging me and sorry for the delay. And all you amazing people out there - THERE IS NO SHAME IN TAGGING YOURSELF. Go on, do it, and open yourself up a little more.

 I dare you.

Friday, April 3, 2015

ARC REVIEW: The Merit Birds - Kelley Powell


 Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott is angry. He's angry about his absent dad, he's angry about being angry, and he's angry that he has had to give up his Ottawa basketball team to follow his mom to her new job in Vientiane, Laos. However, Cam's anger begins to melt under the Southeast Asian sun as he finds friendship with his neighbour, Somchai, and gradually falls in love with Nok, who teaches him about building merit, or karma, by doing good deeds, such as purchasing caged "merit birds." Tragedy strikes and Cam finds himself falsely accused of a crime. His freedom depends on a person he's never met. A person who knows that the only way to restore his merit is to confess. "The Merit Birds" blends action and suspense and humour in a far-off land where things seem so different, yet deep down are so much the same.

This is my fourth attempt at an introductory paragraph for this post. I am literally clueless about where to start. Should I begin with how impressed I was with the writing? How Powell was able to capture that which makes us all human and encase it with words, plop them down in circumstances we possibly couldn’t understand, slap them with some names and introduce them to us as her characters? How, towards the end, this book became something larger, something much beyond what I expected?

(I can hear the fridge humming as I sit and stare at the blinking cursor that seems to mock at the sudden deficiency of my virtual loquacity. No, seriously, what has happened to me? There is every possibility that it’s because it’s been inexcusably long since I last wrote anything resembling a book review. That said, I’ll still shamelessly throw in my regular excuse: college life is screwing with me.)

I have read books set in places, casting people geographically, ethnically, and culturally contrasting to the author’s. While most of them treaded upon that road which was less travelled by, they did so with a sense of caution. They knew how they were susceptible to errata, and how they could multiply in terms of consequence, however meticulous their data collection might have been. And so the tragedy remained that the audience could never fully get under the layers of the characters. Books starring POC characters became the sort of thing that you had on GR shelves labelled POC and as a bullet point in Diversity In Books campaigns. This book is that rare book that goes the whole way FLAWLESSLY. I won’t pretend I know the mechanics of how Laos and its people run (I don’t) – but I could immediately relate to the characters, being Asian myself.  How Seng was fascinated by America – land of the rich, home of Hollywood. Or the picture of it in his mind. How the locals immediately resorted to head-shaking and frowning when they see a boy and a girl together. How Lao guys don’t think too much before throwing an arm around another guy’s neck. How two members of a family don’t see shame in sharing a bed together. How an individual puts his family before himself. How they can’t understand why the white-skinned people would dry-wipe their asses after having a crap. All little things, especially in the way these facts are thrown in the readers’ faces like a careless inconsequential detail. But they went a long way in defining those tricky edges of the characters.
This book teems with life. There is that boy who’s dealing with culture shock – starting with the fact that he has to shit into a hole in the ground. Like he already doesn’t have enough to deal with – anger management issues, mom issues, dad issues and homesickness. There is that girl that survives alone through all the shit life throws at her and becomes guarded to the point that she shies away from the possibility of love. There is her older brother who feels the weight of the title as the head of the family after being abandoned repeatedly – first by his parents, then his older sister. A weight further amplified by the sense of his failure in the same. Khamdeng with his loyalty. Somchai with his capacity to love. Sai with his wisdom and patience. Julia with all her sins. All merit birds. The victory of this book is that it tries to get under all the layers of most of the characters – including the ones skulking on the periphery of the main plot.

At first, I didn’t get why only Cam got a first-person. I mean, this story is as much as Seng’s and Nok’s as his, right? But then Somchai rebukes Cam for thinking only about himself, contrary to the Lao and I realized that might be it. That’s when I got my hint this story was on its way to evolving into something more.

Yes, by that I’m implying that I judged this book. It had every promise of turning into a love story spanning across borders of all sorts – and then suddenly it was not just that. In fact, somewhere around the middle I desperately wished it had stopped at a love story. At first, the plot steadily climbed the plot hill at a measured pace and then things crashed and burned. Spontaneously combusted. And I was the sole survivor – left to collect the pieces and make sense of it. That was the thing I disliked the most about this book – the incredulous rapidity with which a series of unfortunate events unfolded. The middle was the lowest point of the book – the peak of the plot hill felt staged.

Despite that and other minor failings, this book is a must read for all those who scream blood for diversity in books. This is a book that you should read at least twice – first to read the lines, second to read between them. 

Add your graffiti here before you leave; this wall needs all the colour it can get. And check back, I always reply as promptly as the wifi allows me to. ;)