Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What to Expect During a Quarantined Birthday

Hello everyone, hope you all are safe and healthy! I'm creating this short post to honor those with the tragic fate of having birthdays in the middle of this quarantine period (like mine).

*Cue the tears*

Season 7 Why God Why GIF by Friends
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I have to admit, though, this birthday ended up being one of my best ones! My mom made me delicious pad thai and my sister baked me muffins, then I was able to video call with some of my friends. We shared screens to play Pictionary (none of us were great artists :P) and Spyfall (basically the online version of Mafia, 10/10 would recommend). Honestly speaking, I would have had so much more work to do if classes were in session, and I wouldn't have gotten to spend as much time with my friends and family... so this birthday ended up being unexpectedly fun!

If your birthday's coming up soon, happy birthday! I hope you'll find plenty of creative ways to enjoy time with your friends and family. 

P.S. I'm planning to go back to my normal posting schedule, so see you back next Tuesday!

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Review: The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf


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The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf


Goodreads Synopsis: A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut. Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.But there are things that Melati can't protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.---**Content warnings: Racism, graphic violence, on-page death, OCD and anxiety triggers.** 

My Review
Pros:
  • Interesting and unique setting! I didn't know too much about these race riots, so this was a great opportunity to learn some history :).
  • Really really really well-written OCD rep. Every section mentioned Melati's counting and djinn, and it didn't even feel repetitive, it felt authentic; I understood Melati's point of view and feelings from Hanna's writing. 
  • The scenes were all short, but they worked somehow?? Maybe because in times of crisis, you aren't with the people you meet for too long, but interactions are twice as meaningful. 
    • Overall, the pacing of the book was perfect.
  • SO many thought-provoking and/or fun quotes.
  • Lovely characters, especially Vince!  
  • There isn't too much character development besides Melati's (Vince is already caring, Frankie sort of changes [you'll see what I mean at the end], etc.), but because a major theme is mental illness, I think it's important that the author expanded on Melati's POV.
Cons:
  • I would have preferred a slightly longer introduction instead of just jumping into the action (ex background on the riots).
  • Frankie was a bit stereotypical, but I do understand the purpose of his character, and he did fit well into the novel.
  • That's it tbh. This story was really good :D.
Favorite/Most Thought-Provoking Quotes
     Auntie Bee regards him through narrowed eyes for a minute, then decides to let it go. "Did you eat?"
     Vincent snorts. "We're in the middle of a riot and you can still ask me if I ate?"
     "Well? Did you?"
     "Yes, Ma, I ate!"

     The day I gave my mother back her light, I vowed I would never let her know my darkness again.

     He sits down on the edge of the bed and picks up the band, smoothing it against his knee. "I can do more for our people by taking up supplies instead of sticks," he says quietly. "I'd rather help with the healing than the hurting."
    Frankie shakes his head. "Then you're too far gone to realize that your helping is what's hurting us."

Overall Thoughts
I feel like OCD is pretty underrepresented in YA in general, so we need more books like this! The unique setting also made this book special, and I also enjoyed the style of this novel. I give it 4.5/5 stars!

So what did you think? Are you excited to read The Weight of Our Sky? Do you know of any other good OCD rep in YA? Tell me below!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Study of Sherlock

My friend got me hooked to Sherlock (the one with Benedict Cumberbatch) over Thanksgiving break, and it's high time I review the show. But instead of reviewing the series collectively, I've decided to give a breakdown of my thoughts on each episode.
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Season 1
Episode 1: A Study in Pink
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One of the best lines of the episode (credit)
  • Fun fact: I watched this episode three times in one week: by myself, with my family, and with a family friend to try to get them hooked.
  • Super super super good! I love how they explain Sherlock's deductions in a realistic way. He was absolutely mind-blowing in the scene where he first met John Watson.
  • Animation/transitions are done super well.  Time slows down as Sherlock puts the pieces of the case together, and I really feel like I'm in his head.
  • A lot of the episode was watching Sherlock figure everything out. After a while I stopped trying to solve the case, lol.
  • The mystery was very intriguing, and so was the killer's motive.
  • Overall, 10/10!
Episode 2: The Blind Banker
  • First time I noticed that the intro scenes are done very well! I was dying to know what the museum employee had seen that shocked her.
  • Decent mystery, but it was a pretty standard, action-packed story. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the Tintin books (especially when they mention Black Lotus, this is really similar to the The Blue Lotus).
  • Overall, 8/10.
Episode 3: The Great Game
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  • First time we meet Moriarty, one of the two major villains of the show!
  • I actually did not enjoy the structure of this episode; I liked it better when the episode focused on a large case. Moriarty kept giving Sherlock cases, and he solved them. Because we know Sherlock would solve every case, the episode's repetitiveness got boring fast.
  • Killer ending though, no pun intended.
  • Overall: 9/10.
Season 2
Episode 1: A Scandal in Belgravia
  • This was a lighter episode, a nice break from the seriousness of S1E3.
  • I liked that Irene's character was bold and that she was a cunning adversary for Sherlock.
  • Irene's fate (the end of the episode) is very funny.
  • Overall: 9/10.
Episode 2: The Hounds of Baskerville
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Sherlock says he has doesn't have friends, but then John storms away, so he says the above quote. My heart melted (credit).
  • Nice mystery; I was very confused the entire time ;).
  • Some parts almost made me jump! I also think Watson is very brave for running into an empty cage when he thought the hound was chasing him; I never would've thought of that personally.
  • I have to admit, Sherlock guessing the password to open someone's laptop was too extreme. I don't believe Sherlock is that genius.
  • Overall: 9/10.
Episode 3: The Reichenbach Fall
  • SO SO SO GOOD. I haven't seen a better season finale for any show, ever.
  • I cried at the end, even though I'd read ahead on Netflix and seen what was going to happen in Season 3.
  • I really, really liked that Sherlock was stuck and practically hopeless and that he finally takes Molly's help.
  • Overall: 11/10. I would definitely rewatch this one!
Season 3
Episode 1: The Empty Hearse
  • I love Mary :).
  • Best line of the show: "I don't shave for Sherlock." I really want a t-shirt with this on it; it's so catchy.
  • Sherlock was very cruel to John, but it was written in such a funny way with all of John's punching, so I couldn't help but feel a little bad for Sherlock.
  • We didn't really get to see Sherlock dismantle an entire network of people working for Moriarty, he said everything was done from S2E3 to S3E1. But to be honest, I really just wanted to see him united with John and Mrs. Hudson again, so I guess it's fine ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
  • Speaking of which, Mrs. Hudson's reaction when she saw Sherlock was the best <3. 
Episode 2: The Sign of Three
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  • Such a wholesome episode! 
  • Sherlock's speech is so sweet!
  • This episode is also especially funny. For example, Sherlock shows a kid gruesome pictures and the kid is enamored, and nearly mentions this to his mother.
  • Overall: 10/10.
Episode 3: His Last Vow
  • WOW Mary is a queen!
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  • Pretty good mystery. It didn't really draw me in as much as some of the others, but it was still fascinating. 
  • Overall: 9/10.
Special: The Abominable Bride
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  • Creepy
  • but also fun! 
  • Molly honestly looks nice in short hair. I would keep the look.
  • I could not fathom this one at all until Sherlock revealed what was going on. Really well done, again!
  • Overall: 10/10! Though I probably would not rewatch it just because of how chilling it was.
Season 3 was my favorite season because it was a lot lighter and happier than the rest, which was probably to prepare for the gloomiest season, season 4.

Season 4

Episode 1: The Six Thatchers
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  • Sherlock talking to Rosie is one of the funniest moments of the show.
  • Pretty interesting, and it's nice to know what's on that flash drive Mary gave to John. Mary is literally my favorite (after Sherlock and John, ofc ;)).
  • BUT THEN THE END CAME AND EVERYTHING WAS VERY VERY VERY BAD. AND I WAS SCARED BECAUSE SHERLOCK AND JOHN WERE BROKEN AND I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO FIX THEM.
  • Overall: 9/10.
Episode 2: The Lying Detective
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  • SO Sherlock was not okay. And John was not okay. Surprisingly Mrs. Hudson seemed to be doing okay, though she was obviously sad.
  • Good mystery, though I don't know why Culverton Smith made confessions and erased people's memories on a regular basis; he definitely would have been caught one day anyway.
  • Overall: 9/10.
Episode 3: The Final Problem 
  • I was intrigued by Eurus's high IQ and persuasiveness. 
  • I was shocked when she revealed that there was no glass between her and Sherlock when he first went to see her. 
  • Still, the premise of this episode was hard to believe. I found it hard to believe Eurus could control everything on the island she lived on, no matter how high her IQ.
  • Also, the show can't keep making people up. First, there's Sherlock's sister. She was never mentioned before, but fine, I understand if you want to add her into the show. But someone new also came in at the end (I want to reveal more but I can't because it's a spoiler). It got ridiculous.
  • I can't believe how stupid Mycroft was when he gave Eurus a Christmas present. But he made up for it when he kept insulting John so Sherlock would get angry and shoot Mycroft.
  • Not a super satisfying conclusion. I wish we'd gotten to see what happened with Rosie, Molly, Greg, Mrs. Hudson, etc. (besides just a few flashes of everyone hanging out).
  • Overall: 9/10.
I normally don't really watch/read mysteries, but this show kept me on my toes the whole time. I was intrigued by Sherlock's deductive ability, and loved how realistically he could deduce things. (Although, obviously, some clues were just written in conveniently, but still.) I also loved the characters: cocky Sherlock, eager Mrs. Hudson, caring John, and cunning Mary. They all go through a lot of character development, especially Sherlock.

This show was super fun and I hope to see similar shows in the future. But maybe I'll wait until after final exams this time ;).

What did you think? Have you watched Sherlock? Have you watched any similar shows to Sherlock? Do you like mysteries? Let me know below!
sherlock holmes GIF by BBC
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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon


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Goodreads Synopsis: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.


My Review: Oh god. I don't even know where to start with this review; my thoughts are all over the place. This was literally like reading a Bollywood movie, but instead of skipping the cheesy parts, I had to read through all of them and cringed every time. 
Let's start with the good:
  • Insomnia Con was fun.
  • Dimple's drive and focus was admirable. 
  • Rishi was a really sweet character.
  • The dual POV narration worked really well!
And a couple of not-so-good things:
  • This book focused way too much on the romance. Every time the two characters said a sentence to one another, they were "falling for each other". Please, this is instalove in disguise. I would've enjoyed more about Dimple's coding experience.
  • I am actually Indian in ethnicity as well, and no one I know uses as much Hindi/Urdu while conversing with friends as these two. And while I appreciate Dimple wearing kurtis with jeans, I don't know anyone who does this as consistently as her (this may be just me though, maybe I'm unexposed?).
  • The writing seemed a little juvenile.
  • Rishi was nice, but also a little desperate. He doesn't even know Dimple at all and still falls for her! In fact, this pretty much sums up the book:
Dimple: *exists*
Rishi: Will you marry me?

Overall, not what I was hoping for, and I give the book 2.5 stars. What do you think? Have you read WDMR? Was it good rep.? Tell me below!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Bookstagram Reflection #1

Hi everyone! I recently started a bookstagram which you should definitely follow (shameless advertising but this is my blog so :P). It's been a few months so far, so I thought I'd reflect on what I learned and some of the stuff I want to implement. So here's 5 things I learned since September about bookstagram.

1. The more hashtags the better (until a certain point, ofc).
For one of my posts, I wasn't following/being followed by 8 of the people that reacted to it because I used the hashtag #bookstagram and #bookreview. In addition to using many tags, try to use generic ones to get people's attentions.
2. Choose popular books, and feature as many books as you can per post.
For the aforementioned post, I used Caraval, which is pretty well-known (in fact, the third book in the series is a winner in the best YA fantasy category in the Goodreads Choice Awards!). I also put 10 pretty well-known books in the background of that photo, and I think that helped.
3. Use props.
I use candleholders, baked goods, ceramic pots I make, faux flowers, pumpkins, etc. etc. These are really essential to add aesthetic appeal to your photo.
4. Lighting + Color is everything.
If you don't have natural light when taking your photo, apply one of Instagram's darker filters so the lighting looks intentional. For the Caraval photo, the colors of all the books were different and the picture didn't look good, but when I made everything black and white, the photo turned out quite nicely!
5. Sometimes angles, photos, and props just don't work out.
I've had to scrap some photos because they just didn't look good no matter how much I edited them. But that's okay; bookstagram is a learning process!






Baking, setting the stage, and photos I didn't really like and didn't post.
Setting up for a photoshoot.

Before the magic of editing!

Yum (except not really)!

This one looked okay, but I wasn't completely happy with the colors so I decided not to post it.
Overall, these past few months have been fun, and I've enjoyed using bookstagram! I'll be doing a few posts reflecting on my experiences from time to time. Until then, what do you think of bookstagram? Do you have any suggestions/tips/tricks for me? Let me know below! And please make sure to follow me @not_a_prima_donna_girl :).
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