Beatrice Reviews “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman

“Stardust” by Neil Gaiman

★★★★

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Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall—named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining..


My first read off my 2k18 Christmas Reading List was Stardust by Neil Gaiman. This also happens to be my very first Neil Gaiman book and oh my dear stars, I loved it. Granted, I know I’m the exact opposite of a harsh critic given my history of dashing out high ratings but believe me when I say, you’re in for a truly magical time with this book in your hands.

Stardust is undeniably a fairytale, yet goes beyond a conventional telling of magic and adventure. The tale follows half human, half faerie but every bit a boy in the prime of his youth as he makes a blind promise that sets him off on a journey that inevitably changes his life forever. Hailing from Wall, a village situated near the boundary between the world of mortals and Faerie, Tristran embarks upon an adventure into the world of magic and miracles, vowing to locate and safely return with the fallen star he spotted descend from the sky. Little does he know that he is not the only one in pursuit of the star.

Gaiman’s writing transcends the book from what it could have been – just another fairytale with witches, faerie-folk and whimsical characters – to an enchanting quest layered with multiple themes and allegories that resonate with the reader long after the end of the story.

There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.

No doubt that Stardust is a romance (a slightly surprising discovery that tickled my fancies) but the love story interweaved into this book is just one element of the beauty it has to offer.

But through Stardust, we see the transformation and self-discovery of a naive boy, viewing the world as a quest ready to complete, into a man that acknowledges and accepts the challenges and twists that come along his path of fulfilling his Heart’s Desire.

 “The terms of my servitude are fulfilled, and now you and I are done with each other.”

In our world, the word ‘promise’ does not carry as much a weight as it should. But in the world of Stardust, the breaking of a vow is considered sacrilege. Whether it be between a young boy and a star, a family of brothers trying to (actually) kill each other two wily witches – one’s word means something. And sometimes with it comes the sacrifice of one’s freedom.

The wind blew from Faerie and the East, and Tristran Thorn suddenly found inside himself a certain amount of courage he had not suspected that he had possessed.

Brave or stupid? That’s a question I found myself asking about our protagonist, Tristran a number of times throughout his journey. Either way, Tristran possessed courage, a trait of his that is emphasized throughout the book, as he’s made up his mind to see his pursuit through to the end, even if the results may not be what he expected. ‘Courage’ as a theme is often presented in fairytales, sometimes in utterly outlandish manners, but in Stardust, it’s well-written and relatable. Because courage isn’t always about running headfirst into the fire. It’s also about knowing when to step back and let things go.

Stardust is like that old friend you meet up with on rare occasions and yet things are comfortable and familiar. Gaiman’s writing prompts a feeling of easiness and despite its magical, out-of-the-world elements is relatable with parts of our life that we may have not seen coming.

The characters are lovely and it is a joy to witness Tristran’s growth from a love-sick boy to a man of good values. I am not a big fan of the whole ‘damsel-in-distress’ trope and so I count my stars (see what I did there?) that there was none of that nonsense here. In place of sappy dialogues, Gaiman uses witty banter and good humor. The only slight problem I had with the book was the pacing – I found it a bit slow and laggy at parts, but it didn’t detract so much from the reading.

All  in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Stardust. Like an ancient fable passed down from generation to generation, the book is a collection of the best elements of a fairytale one could ask for – a beautiful love story and epic adventure with dashes of darkness and truth. While we may not be able to visit the world of Faerie, Neil Gaiman does a fantastic job of showing us that magic does exist in every nook and cranny of our world and all we have to do to see it is simply believe.

(Now, excuse me while I step away to make this a double-feature of fictional enjoyment and Netflix the movie!)

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Gotta say, the cast sure looks promising!

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12 Days of Christmas Reading

The pleasures of falling deep into the pages of a promising book are endless and an adventure I very much cherish when I get the chance to do so. With December right around the corner, distant memories of curling up in a bundle near my bedroom with a nice steaming cup of cocoa and a good book linger in the back of my mind. Granted, hot Indian winters don’t carry the Christmas-vibe as effectively, I still can’t wait for the season to begin.

And what better way to reignite my love for reading than with a Christmas reading list?

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Boy, would it be a wonder if I get through ’em all – here’s to hoping for a Christmas miracle!

*~~~*

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late. 

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

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Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

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Asked to investigate an incident that needs to be dealt with discretion, Poirot reluctantly agrees to spend Christmas in the countryside with the Laceys. Dreading the cold and traditional English fare Poirot attempts to locate a missing ruby in order to save a kingdom…

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old German girl who given up by her mother to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann in the small town of Molching in 1939, shortly before World War II.

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies

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When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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When the Countess of Morcar’s priceless blue carbuncle is stolen, a reformed thief is charged with the crime.

In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami

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It is just before New Year’s. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s sleazy nightlife on three successive evenings. But Frank’s behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion: that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It isn’t until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

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Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall—named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land.

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

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Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

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Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

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John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle encapture the magic of the holidays shines in these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Where Do I Get My Ideas?

From everything and everywhere.

^^ That would be my answer in its vaguest form, but honestly – there’s not much more to say.

Growing up, I had this little jar which I proudly dubbed ‘The Imagination Sanctuary’ consisting of story ideas I came up with on the go scribbled onto bits of paper which were then neatly rolled up and placed inside. Whenever I felt like working on a new project, I would reach in and grab a chit, and get to work.

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A little Jack Sparrow never gets old. 

Over time, the jar was tossed and replaced by a Word Doc spanning several pages. Not nearly as magical, but it did the job and continues to be sanctum to hundreds (I’m not kidding) of novel ideas I’ve come up with – ranging from fantasy to sci-fi to romance and even childrens’ books. Whether I get them all written out is another story.

I draw inspiration from everything I see on a day to day basis and leave my brain to do the rest of the work. A lot of my stories are imaginings I concocted while being bored out of my mind in the middle of a lecture in school.

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Others are rooted in dreams I’ve had that I jotted down the moment I woke up so I wouldn’t forget the potential they had to be written out. One of my sci-fi story ideas consisting of an alien invasion and intergalactic characters with special abilities was spun from a visit to the dentist and my lack of fondness for modern medical equipment.

So there’s absolutely no restriction on where inspiration can strike from. Although I do have a few tips on how to cultivate a more ‘idea-friendly’ environment for yourself apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned:

Knock yourself out with bingeing on TV shows and movies: this can do wonders. What better way to gain inspiration than from successful and entertaining productions that have engaging characters and good scripts (I hope)?

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Read, read, read: consume the written word like nothing else before it. I used to read a  lot as a kid (the luxury of time having robbed me blind of this satisfaction now). Read genres you love, classic and well acclaimed writers to see why they’re so good and new ones to discover what’s happening in the genre as of late. I’m heavily influenced by the books I read and it helped me become better at the genre I dabble in.

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Your social circles: a lot of the oddball humor and witty dialogues that come out of my characters are directly in relation to my interactions with my close friends and parents. I even based Helena, a supporting character in my story The Closer off of my best friend. It helps to observe the people in your life. After all, your characters are human too. (Or not in case you’re writing about shiny blood-sucking vampires or something. In which case, I sincerely hope yours will be more interesting.)

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The news and whatever’s up in the real world: fun fact –  Suzanne Collins came up with The Hunger Games when she was flicking between two channels; one showing some reality tv show similar to The Bachelor and the other broadcasting latest news about the Iraq War. She fused the two together and BOOM: a worldwide literary sensation was born. Of course, she had to squeeze in a-looot of work in the middle somewhere.

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Writing communities really do help: I talked in detail about this in my previous blog post but being part of one can boost thinking levels to a whole other planet. You get to mingle with writers in similar genres and absorb feedback and criticism on your writing. This not only helps you grow more ideas but improve as a writer too.

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And to save the day if all else fails, Google it: this is self explanatory but a search engine that can produce an endless list of helpful resources is pretty much a modern day magical wizard substituting as one’s muse (except it’s really no magic here but next-level algorithms and mathsy stuff).

In short, like I said at the start, I get my ideas from everything and everywhere. It’s really just a matter of paying more attention and being receptive to your surroundings. Heck, the next time you’re at the bus stop or in a cafe somewhere, I dare you to eavesdrop a little on the conversations people are having around you. There’s bound to be a hidden gem somewhere.

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The 2017 Reading Challenge

As someone who loves reading but hasn’t had enough time to dedicate to the beauty of it, I feel like this would be the right time to commit myself to a personalized 2017 Reading Challenge. Granted, 2015’s challenge was a failure but 2016’s went pretty well, I’d like to give it another shot! After all, one can have no regrets in giving books a chance, right?

For this year’s challenge, I’m doing a combination of various challenges I’ve found online as well as my own. Links to the various challenges I’ve borrowed from are provided at the end of this post. I’ll be updating this list and ticking off the challenges I finish as the year progresses. Recommendations would be very much appreciated!

If you, too, are doing the reading challenge, why not join me this year? Drop a comment below and let me know how 2017’s book-journey has been going so far! If you’d like me to review any book in particular, I’d be up for that too.

***

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bold: complete
(parenthesis: book assigned to a challenge)

*a book with a color in the title  (The Color Purple)

*a book of letters (Love Letters to the Dead)

*a book by a person of color (Persepolis)

*a book with multiple authors (Let It Snow)

*a bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read (Gone Girl)

*a book by or about a person who has a disability (El Deafo)

*a book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile (Flipped)

*a book that’s more than a hundred years old (Anna Karenina)

*a book set in a place you want to visit (The Saffron Gate)

*a book inspired by a a fairy tale (Stardust)

*a book under 200 pages (Man’s Search for Meaning)

*a book of poetry (Rumi)

*a book with a child narrator (The Diary of a Young Girl)

*an autobiography (Night)

*a novel set during wartime (A Cup of Tea)

*a book with an unreliable narrator

*a book set in two different time periods (The Next Together)

*the first book in a series you haven’t read before (Artemis Fowl)

*an adult novel (Big Little Lies)

*a Newbery Medal winning book (The Girl Who Drank the Moon)

*a gifted book (Looking for Alaska)

*a play (Nagamandala)

*a diverse folktale/mythological book (Who Fears Death)

*a book with religious themes (The Red Tent)

*a book on my back list (Can You Keep A Secret?)

*a book by a debut writer (The Hate U Give)

*a book recommendation from a Goodreads pal (How to Be Good)

*a book recommendation from your sibling (The Sword of Shannara)

*a handbook (How to be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life)

*a book by an Indian writer (The God of Small Things)

*a book recommendation from a professor (Waiting for Godot)

*a love story (Eleanor & Park)

*a tragedy (If I Stay)

*a book from your childhood (A Wrinkle in Time)

*your best friend’s favorite (Jane Eyre)

*a French book (Le Petit Prince)

*a controversial book (Lolita)

*a classical romance (Persuasion)

*a book you’ve avoided (The Rape of Nanking)

*a satire (The Importance of Being Earnest)

*a book set in the Victorian Era (Secrets of Midnight)

*a book featuring an animal as the main character (Watership Down)

*a visual novel (Saya no Uta/The Song of Saya)

*a manga (Sakamichi no Apollon/Kids on a Slope)

*a novella (Animal Farm)

*a horror book (In the Miso Soup)

*a book with terrible reviews (Leaves of Grass)

*a book in translation (1Q84)

*a book published the same year you were born (Tuesdays with Morrie)

*a book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able (A Monster Calls)

***

Inspiration from:

http://blog.betterworldbooks.com/2016/12/29/2017-reading-challenge-recommendations/

http://www.popsugar.com/love/Reading-Challenge-2017-42561300

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NC334TlViCh578-VEl9aUJ3WGAOEYY6R0YuC-MxVRj8/edit

http://modernmrsdarcy.com/reading-challenge-2017/

 

 

 

Beatrice Reviews “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

“American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

★★

 

Patrick Bateman is twenty-six and works on Wall Street; he is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath. Taking us to a head-on collision with America’s greatest dream – and its worst nightmare – American Psycho is a bleak, bitter, black comedy about a world we all recognize but do not wish to confront.

 

 *NOTE: The title of this blog post should really be “Beatrice Critically Analyses ‘American Psycho'” because I feel so dang passionate about this novel that a mere review will not suffice. Having said that, this will consist of some spoilers but I’m assuming most of you have already seen the popular film adaptation considering how long it’s been since it’s release!*

I knew I was putting myself in for a rather…challenging read (for lack of a better word) when I decided to add this to my bookshelf. Having seen trailers and certain scenes of the movie when I was younger and again while surfing Youtube, I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t actually seen the full film. However, before watching it, I decided to read the book first – completely aware of the grotesque violence, graphic sex and other controversial themes it portrayed. Best. Decision. Ever.




I haven’t had much experience reading books in the genre of black comedy, but boy, oh boy, does this one pack a punch, figuratively and literally. If you can’t stomach violence, then you will most likely end up heaving your guts into the nearest bin while reading this. Before I actually start off on my review of this masterpiece of the blackest of comedies, here’s a tiny disclaimer:

 
  • The protagonist of this book is a psychopathic serial killer. If you were expecting leprechauns and rainbows, you won’t be getting any. It’s right there in the title!
  • The violence is explicit. I mean there’s Game of Thrones and then there’s this. I’m talking about some pretty dark stuff here: cannibalism, rape,  prolonged torture, animal abuse, necrophilia. So unless you think you can cope with rather vivid imagery of a deranged man’s experiments with insanity…you should read it anyway. That’s what I did. *wink*
  • Misogyny, racism and homophobia are some of the more serious issues covered in this book. Mainly cause the main character and his immediate social circle are insensitive douchebags whose jokes and conversations center around how ‘high-class’ they are. There were parts where I wanted to rip off my own arm and throw it at them for how horribly sexist/racist the characters get. But, it all serves a purpose in delivering the deeper message of the novel. 
 
And now – to start off with my review/profound-thoughts-and-analysis-of-this-amazing-book.
 
 
 
Bret Easton Ellis is a genius. Granted I haven’t read his other novels to constructively critique his writing, I stand by my opinion that this novel delivers perfectly the message(s) that it was meant to: the artificial and narcissistic world of the 1980s’, deemed as the yuppie era. The characters are obsessed with branded clothing, elite dining and most of all: their own greed. There are several rants where the protagonist goes into excessive detail of describing what he’s wearing, what products he uses and his daily routine – which, honestly, bored me to read but I could see why the writer employed such a technique. 
 

To understand what American Psycho is trying to put across, I had to push aside how utterly appalled I was by certain events in the book and try to level with the thought process of a psychopath. Patrick Bateman, the twenty-something corporate banker is an emotionless killer. He is a product of the system he’s part of, a monster born from a society that feeds off those at the bottom and fuels the greed of those on top. 

“My personality is sketchy, and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent. My conscience, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago.”

He is completely aware of his own psychotic tendencies. It made me think a lot; a crazy person wouldn’t know they’re crazy, right? But Patrick admits to this several times through out the novel, directly to the reader and people around him as if in a confessional tone.

 

 

He puts on a mask every morning of being this superior, perfect person much like everyone around him does and yet on the inside…he’s the complete opposite.

 

I think it’s Patrick’s search for meaning, a plea to break from this trap of materialism that pushes him to do what he does. He inflicts pain on others in order to try and feel something but fails. He becomes the very image of a monster that society deems he can’t possibly be and by doing so is actually the most human of them all.

 

Written in the first person point of view, it’s easy for the reader to understand where exactly Patrick is coming from, that is if he/she doesn’t give up on what several people before me have called a rather ‘mundane’ narrative style. The book starts off rather…mellow – depicting Patrick’s high-end life with his posh, white-walled apartment (symbolism yay!) and shallow social circles of pompous, overly obnoxious friends. It delves into much more violent, and disturbing themes as Patrick starts to ‘lose his cool’ and breaks free, more frequently, from his facade of the prim and elite business-man.

He does this, of course, by killing people. His co-workers, and fellow ‘yuppies’ that he’s utterly disgusted with, a lot of women, the homeless, gay, and even a child at one point. I was disgusted by the extents he goes to to make himself try and feel something but in the end he is nothing more than a sick, troubled killer. Nevertheless, the writing is done so brilliantly that it induced me to feel pity for this man who acknowledges he is nothing more than plastic in a mass of faceless people.

 

Does this mean I like him? No. Does this make him any less despicable? No, it does not. The various and disgustingly creative ways in which he tortures and kills his victims is proof enough to show that Patrick Bateman is a repulsive human being. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t understand why he does what he does, what pushes him to do it.

The writer goes into a lot of detail in describing the murders to make the readers feel sick and completely acknowledge the kind of person Patrick really is, despite his outer mask. The smell of rotting flesh, the taste of his victims, and the struggle that they put up is elaborately illustrated. The reader, along with Patrick, will get completely immersed in the act of murder by making it as real as it possibly can be.

 

 

And yet, after every murder, he slips back into being none other than the ‘Bateman’ everyone else identifies him as. As the novel progresses, it becomes harder and harder for him to separate the line between these two identities.

 

I think what struck me the hardest wasn’t the disturbing acts that Patrick commits but the complete negligence that people show when he openly admits it to them. There are several instances through out the novel where Patrick lets out his true self; admitting to his colleagues, his fiance, his dry-cleaner that he is insane. Yet, they turn a blind eye – passing it off as a joke, mishearing him, and continue living in blissful ignorance. The setting plays an important role in understanding that; seeing as the story takes place in New York’s Wall Street – the central hub of narcissism.

“Everyone looks familiar, everyone looks the same.”

People are too obsessed, too taken with themselves to even pay notice to the disappearances and complete psychotic tendencies of those around them. Hell, they can’t even recognize their own friends – once again proving how ‘faceless’ money can make people become.

 

The whole book is just a masterfully written allegory, pointing to the consumerist culture of corporate America. Brand names, business cards, and the ability to make reservations at upscale restaurants become the yard-stick of measuring how worthy people are of being considered…well, people. The characters are incredibly homophobic, and racist and the writer makes it a point of contrasting the void between the rich and the poor through out the book.

 

Patrick, himself, is the embodiment of what a capitalist society can produce. His cannibalistic traits can be linked to consumerism, his work in mergers and acquisitions relating to the immense strength of corporate powerhouses to take over, and dominate others.

As a writer, the fact that this book was able to gauge a strong reaction from me, the reader, just goes to show how brilliantly the book is written. Others don’t quite appreciate the stark violence presented but it’s done to make us live the reality, or really, the absence of a meaningful reality in the lives of the rich. And just when I started getting used to, or in a sense de-sensitized to the violence the book, the writer just throws another, unimaginable act in my face, forcing me to confront just how horrible this American psycho really is. This book is another testimony to the fact that we should never judge someone by their outer appearance or what their position in society might place them to be.

Really, one second they might be like this, just seemingly in love with themselves (we all know people like that):

And the next, they might be running after you butt-naked..with a chain-saw:

However, American Psycho stays true to its comedy – I laughed a whole lot, despite wanting to stuff my head under a pillow and never come out again several times. There are recurring comedic lines, like the whole video-tape excuse that Patrick uses to get out of a situation he really doesn’t want to be in (convenient enough for him, really). It’s the way the line is delivered each time that floored me.

 

 

 

Like, really, Patrick? Is that what you’re going to go with?

It took me a while to get the book out of my head. I started to look at things differently and question how different my reality might be from someone else. In a sea of people, there are guaranteed to be a few Patrick Bateman’s lurking around, visibly sane but really on the edge of breaking apart.  The theme of identity crisis is something I adored about this book. The feeling of waking up and staring at yourself in the mirror, wondering if the reflection looking back at you is really who you are or just a manifestation of what the world forces you to be is something I could personally relate to.

 

Eventually, the shock-effect of the violence fades out to an element that goes well with the dark humor of the novel. The fact that Ellis is able to mock and make a satire of the yuppie culture and, simultaneously, bring out the startling flaws of a capitalist-reigned world is what made me fall in love with the message of this book.

 

In the end, Patrick Bateman’s confession amounts to nothing. There is no path of salvation – he has no one to connect to, no one that will understand him and he simply doesn’t feel guilt but rather, a warped sense of his own identity that stifles him so much so that he admits the truth. The whole truth. And of course, no one acknowledges it.

I think this is what makes American Psycho the classic masterpiece of black comedy. As someone studying business and aiming to go into the field myself, I was able to understand the themes and implications of a superficial, fabricated reality such as the one presented in the novel.

Is money really worth it? Must one sacrifice their humanity to experience the pleasures of material gain? Is it necessary to conform and be a mere cog in the corporate wheel to feel ‘worthy’?
How much is too much?

Life-Changing Plans for 2016

Wow.

It’s funny to think that the last time I wrote in this blog was right before I left off to university. Thursday, June 4, 2015. Now I’m back, I’m in the middle of my second semester with my next round of grueling mid terms right around the corner, and oh yes – busy formulating and executing some life-changing plans for 2016.

But let’s get back to that later.

So much time has passed and I’ve certainly learned a lot of lessons from the wonder that is life. Things like how to survive living on my own and away from home, organizing my priorities and a lot of other adultish stuff, the details of which I am not going to bore you with. (Yes, I consider myself an adult now that I know how to do my laundry and manage money, let me have my moment of glory please.)

There’s nothing like coming from home though, and luckily for me, my parents being the wonderful human beings they are decided to shift to Bangalore and got an apartment. Granted, because of the move, our Christmas and New Year’s celebration wasn’t as grand as normal, it still felt just right for me being able to celebrate it with the two people I wanted to most (minus my brother who I missed terribly). With that under wraps, finally coming from home again opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities I could grasp that I used to take for granted before.

Things like cooking again now that I’ve got my own kitchen. Re-starting my blogs and possibly even my Youtube channel (but let’s not get a little too ambitious) now that there’s no more blocked websites and such under the pain of the hostel WiFi. I can finally get back to having my own privacy and creative bubble to focus on my writing – something I dearly missed and almost completely stopped. All of this got me thinking, and I made a lot of resolutions which I am pretty damn sure I’ll succeed at keeping. After all, when there’s a will, there’s a way! One of these resolutions related to my writing, I’ll be sharing briefly with you guys on here.

So over all, I’m planning on doing the following in terms of my writing resolutions:

I’m also thinking of maybe opening up a section for submissions received from other authors who want to display their poetry or work on the blog. I might also hold monthly contests based on different theme. Maybe even interviews with other authors whose work I’ve read on Wattpad or Protagonize are very good and don’t have the reads they deserve. These are just some ideas I’m playing with for now.

  • Wattpad/Protagonize: constantly update both and do not lose touch with my writing. I’ve got stories like The Sparkle Toofus and Change Is Not Enough currently being updated consistently so that’s awesome. Reads, however, are lacking. So if you’re a member on either site, do go ahead and check out my stories if you’re into Teen Fiction. (You’re still invited to even if you’re not a member!)

I’m also planning on starting a new story offline that ISN’T going to be young adult romance. *le gasp* Beatrice writing something other than romance? Shocker, I know. But I’m looking forward to branching into fantasy and sci-fi this year so it’s definitely happening.

  • A poem a day to keep writer’s block at bay: a new poetry collection under the name twenty sixteen has been started. I’m going to try and aim for writing a poem every day this year. Let’s see how long this resolution lasts though (hopefully at least half the year).

  • The Project: as you guys might have noticed, I’ve been rambling on and on about this ‘exciting new project’ I’m starting off for this year. Wattpad members have a better idea of what this is about as I’ve made it public on there already.

(unofficial cover)

I’m planning on publishing my novel ‘I Promise’. But before it gets to a publish-worthy manuscript that I can ship off to different publishing houses, a lot of revisions will have to be made. And this is the part where YOU come in. Confused? I don’t blame you as I’m being terribly vague but just gear up for the next blog post. I’ll be giving out all the details then.

If you’re not already, make sure you are following me on Twitter, and Facebook where I will be posting most of the updates. Keep your eye an out on the blog too. You don’t want to miss this opportunity!

So yes. That was a very ‘brief’ plan of my year ahead in terms of art and literature. That was as brief as I could get. But I see a wonderful year ahead and I’m definitely grabbing onto every opportunity to make it awesome so that I have something great to look back on. It’s going to be hard work but I can’t wait to get started!

I hope you all had a great Christmas celebration filled with presents and family hugs, and an even better New Years Eve. But now that 2016 has arrived, let’s get the ball rolling and paint a new ending.

I definitely will be.

Beatrice Reviews “Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir” by Ajay Peter Manuel

“Our Last Summer: A Personal Memoir” by Ajay Peter Manuel

★★

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Life is an adventure to embark upon. Having traveled around the world, my life has been full of separations, and new beginnings. Time flows incessantly, no matter what happens around us. The last six years of my life describe a unique journey from high school in Sudan to a university in Canada. The experience enabled me to learn the importance of family, friends, and love- along with the need to live life without regrets. My story begins with my struggles as an eleventh grader at Khartoum American School in Sudan, revealing the raw emotions of my first infatuation with a girl, her rejection, and my subsequent efforts to move on without her. Nothing could have prepared me then for the sequence of events that were to unfold in my life that summer, and the few years that followed. It all began when I found a friend in Tina. Our Last Summer offers a poignant glimpse into a young man’s coming-of-age journey through laughter, tears, betrayal, infatuation, and love as he cherishes the memories of his past, learns to live in the present, and happily anticipates his future.

 

One of the reading challenges on the list is to read a memoir and I figured – hey! It just so happens that my brother has a published book which is a memoir – why not read that? And so I did.

Our Last Summer is the journey of a teenager’s transition into adulthood through his various experiences through friendship, family, and love. We delve into the writer’s past as he reminisces of his time in high school that helped him to become the person he is today. As the blurb above suggests, this ranges from many things that we can all relate to on some level – relationships with people that have opened our eyes to what true friendship is about, our first experience with ‘crushing’ on someone and finding the will to have your heart move on from the hurt of a betrayal. Our Last Summer has something to offer everyone, especially to those who too are fond of their years in high school.

Life always presents us with hurdles and reality doesn’t come without its share of regrets, but you can always make one hell of a nice story about it.

The memoir, of course, employs the narrative voice of a first person point of view. We slip into the shoes and mindset of the writer as he shares his story with us. The ‘characters’, in this case are not fictional, but actual people. If at all, it only makes it easier to relate to them.

We all have that extremely close friend who we think of as a brother or sister. We’ve also had our share of first crushes and infatuations that later had us going: ‘what had gotten into my mind?’ Reading this book, I was able to connect to the various personalities I came across, bearing in mind my own experiences and friends that I’ve had as well.

I also loved the style in which the memoir was written. First and foremost, each chapter started off with a small quote that kind of foreshadows what the chapter will be covering. I found that each quote tied in nicely with the chapter while reading, in a way enhancing the message that Ajay Peter Manuel is trying to get through and at the same time, posing questions to the reader.

Be it success, joy, failure, or disappointment, a man who lives freely should be able to accept the reality of such experiences; even when all is lost, continue to live with hope and dream to strive for the best.

Our Last Summer isn’t only explored through chapters narrating the events of his high school life but the writer also includes poetry, lyrics, and journal entries to bring forth the raw emotions he was feeling at the time. The poems and songs were beautifully written to fit into the mood the chapter brings forth, and delving into his journal entries was a good change from the narration, giving us a more personal insight. I also loved the bits and pieces of light humor and jokes that pop up in the novel from time to time.

She said, “I hate you!” Three words—and she might as well have killed me then.

The only possible drawback I could say there was to this novel is the pacing. Some may find that the pacing of the story is slow, and at certain parts it did seem to drag on. But also, I have to keep in mind that this piece is a memoir. I can see that Ajay Peter Manuel is simply trying to paint a full picture in the minds of the readers and to explore the spectrum of emotions he feels to help take us back on this journey with him.

Our Last Summer is a wondrous blend of poetry and prose, that not only shares the story of the writer himself but a story we have all lived, or will live, at some point in this miracle called life. Through his journey, we recount our own and it’s a melancholic and bittersweet read. Having putting the book down, I felt lighter, happier and had my own walk down memory lane (as cliche as that sounds).

In life, when you bring people together, share your lives together, indulging in their emotions as they do in yours, you risk changing things and losing control. It’s all chaos – until you look back and realize that the only thing you can do is record time as it passes so that even when everything around us is in motion, we still have the permanence of memories.

Ajay Peter Manuel not only invites us to revisit the memories he formed as a budding young man in high school, but reminds us of the beauty of forming our own.