Book review: New Moon (and Twilight)

I had heard a lot about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, and so while browsing around at the bookstore some months ago, I picked up the entire series. It’s a compulsive thing — if I have one book that is part of a series, I need to have them all!

The first book — Twilight — didn’t impress me much. The writing seemed labored and the style and grammar (I’m an editor, what did you expect?!) left much to be desired. But somewhere along the way, I started to enjoy the story — a bit. I like witches and wizards (think Harry Potter) and vampires (think The Historian and Bram Stroker’s Dracula), and Myer’s take on the latter was interesting. They sparkle in the sun instead of burn, have strong piercing teeth not fangs, can drink both animal as well as human blood, and are indestructible and lightning fast. And one of them falls in love with one of us! Interesting!

But since the style of writing left a lot to desire, the rest of the books were languishing on my bookshelf. That is, until I finished reading Ben Okri’s Starbook (very interesting, but rather heavy!) and wanted some light reading next. While going over my stash of unread books, I came across New Moon, the second novel in the Twilight series, and thought, why not?

This one hooked me from page 1, and I finished reading it in two days flat. This doesn’t mean that New Moon was much better than Twilight; it just means that I’ve read some pretty heavy fiction these last two months (see my Reading list) and needed a really, really light read!

The plot (spoiler alert!), with its twists and turns and the introduction of warewolves, had me hooked to the book, as I raced to find out what would happen next.

On Bella’s 18th birthday, Edward and his family throw her a birthday party, where, clumsy as she is, she gets a paper cut. This drives Edward’s brother Jasper out of control, but Edward saves her. To protect her, Edward ends their relationship and the Cullens move away from Forks. This leaves Bella heart-broken, though she goes through the motions in a “zombie-like” state for the sake of her father. That is, until she realizes that thrill-seeking activities allow her to “hear” Edward’s voice in her head. That’s when she purchases two old motorcycles and renews her friendship with Jacob Black, whose sunny disposition eases her pain over losing Edward.

But things aren’t that straightforward, as Jacob is in love with her, and Bella isn’t sure if it will be fair on her part to reciprocate those feelings. She also learns that Jacob and some of the other Quileute tribe members are warewolves, arch enemies of vampires. They protect her from Laurent and also Victoria, who is seeking revenge for her mate James, whom the Cullens killed in Twilight.

There’s still another twist in the plot — through a series of miscommunications, Edward believes that Bella has killed herself. Distraught, he goes to Volterra, Italy, to provoke the Volturi, vampire royalty, who are capable of killing him if he exposes himself as a vampire in their city. Alice (Edward’s sister, who can see the future) and Bella race to Italy to try to save Edward; of course, they arrive just in time to stop him from stepping out into the sun, where his skin would shimmer like a thousand diamonds. The Volturi don’t let them off easily, though. They think that Bella, a human, knows too much about vampires and must be killed or transformed into one herself. Using her gift of foresight, Alice convinces the Volturi that Bella will turn into one of them, and the trio returns to Forks, where Edward and Bella resume their relationship, but not before Bella convinces the Cullens to turn her into one of them after she graduates. And of course, with the return of Edward, Jacob exits Bella’s life, though she’s determined to “win her best friend back.”

The book did drag a bit in the middle, but it was pretty fast paced nonetheless. I also found the writing style much better than the first novel, plus I liked the fact that Myer didn’t dwell overtly on Bella’s clumsiness and Edward’s awesomeness. That was a real pain in Twilight, which was very Mills n Boon-ish. The introduction of warewolves kept the novel interesting, and now I’m intrigued to find out if Myers developed the dynamics between vampires and warewolves in the other two novels.

I’m not sure I would recommend the series to my friends; plus this really isn’t the kind of fiction I generally enjoy. I guess if you’re a teen or pre-teen you’ll like the book. If you want a light read, you just might enjoy New Moon.

Mosaic maker: a pretty cool game!

I came across this game on Kylee’s Book Blog; it looked like fun, so I thought I’d give it a go! It took longer than I anticipated, but I really liked the result!

The concept:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

The questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name

Do leave a comment if you try this on your blog; I’d love to see the results!

Portugal has arrived!!

In the most exciting match of FIFA 2010 so far, the brilliant Christiano Ronaldo led his band of 11 merry men to a resounding 7-0 victory over DPR Korea.

You really can’t call Korea a weak team, they did manage to hold Brazil 0-0 till the second half after all. However, they changed their strategy since that game, from a defensive to an attacking one, and that appears to have gone against them. It doesn’t take anything away from Portugal, however, which gave the Koreans a masterclass in football!


(images from fifa.com/getty images)
There was some brilliant passing from Ronaldo, who set up a number of goals. Plus, when his shots missed the target, his usual theatrics were missing, showing how he has matured as a captain for his team.

“I am always happy to score, but the credit must goes to my teammates,” said Mr. Ronaldo, who was named player of the game. “We were fantastic today.”

Now, what do you have up your sleeve for Friday’s game against Brazil, Mr. Ronaldo?

The World Cup of upsets

What’s up with all the “strong” teams? So far, Argentina’s the only team that impressed in both of its matches. Germany started out extremely well before falling to Serbia; Italy’s just about managed to draw both of its games against Paraguay and New Zealand; England gave away a goal to the US and couldn’t find the back of the Algerian net; Portugal drew nil-nil with Ivory Coast; France is almost certainly on its way home; Brazilian magic worked mainly in the second half; and Spain crashed and burned against Switzerland!

None of the footballing stars have been able to really control the Jabulani ball, and goal keepers haven’t been able to always predict its trajectory. The most successful goalkeepers in this World Cup have been the ones that have punched the ball out instead of trying to catch it, and commentators’ favorite line has been “the ball was too long and went out of play.” The number of times that crosses fly over the penalty box and shots go into the stands is only increasing. Have the best players in the world suddenly forgotten how to play? Or is the reason for all of these gaffes the Jabulani ball, with which players are unfamiliar with, and which England boss Fabio Capello describes as “the worst ball” ever?

It might be sensible to bring the best stars in the world to play in winter conditions, on high altitude, on porous pitches (those in Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and Rustenburg are more suitable for planting potatoes or accommodating homeless moles), and deafen them with vuvuzelas. After all, Sepp has always promised to bring the World Cup to Africa. But to make those stars play with a completely new ball on the biggest stage in the world is more than outrageous. That kind of decision shows total lack of respect for all involved – the players, the fans, the World Cup and the game as a whole. (you can read the entire article on goal.com)

But then how do you explain how Maradona floated a beautiful free-kick into the net during practice? It simply demonstrates that the best players keepers are the ones that adapt the quickest to the way a ball reacts, particularly at altitude.

So maybe the fault doesn’t lie in the Jabulani ball; maybe it’s just first-round fears, with many of the teams paralyzed at the thought of being on the back foot after a match. As the teams get into a more “do or die” situation, chances are we’ll see some world class football once again. If you saw Brazil’s 3-1 victory over Ivory Coast yesterday night, you’d know what I was talking about!

Inspired by an inspiration: Kiran Bedi

I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Dr. Kiran Bedi, India’s first and highest ranking female Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. Her speech, aimed at career women, was one of the most inspirational that I have ever heard.

While we were waiting for Dr. Bedi to arrive, there was a current of excitement among the audience. And once she entered, her presence was almost tangible; she has this aura of energy and awe surrounding her, and the anticipation mounted.

Her hold over an audience was undeniable, as once she started talking there was not a murmur to be heard among the crowd. Since the lecture was aimed at women, she started by asking us what we really wanted to hear her speak about. She initially shared various strategies that she personally used to achieve all of her professional goals, and then opened the floor up to questions. It was an extremely inspirational and very interactive session, and though it’s hard to recreate that energy in words, I’ve attempted to capture the essence of her talk.

The most important thing she mentioned was to create a mission statement for your life. This, she said, would help you to know what you want, what is important for you. If you’re a person who is focused on your career, for instance, you will need to design the rest of your life in such a way that you are able to focus on your work without being pulled in multiple directions or feeling guilty about not concentrating enough on your home and family. On the other hand, if your family is more important for you, then you know that you don’t really need to compare yourself with the other go-getters at work. Then you know that you need to find a job and a position where you can balance your work with your home, and you don’t set unattainable goals that then de-motivate you. So, creating a mission statement will help you to know what you want — and be true to that.

When she was asked about her career and how she moved up the ladder among the male dominated IPS cadre, she said the answer was “focus.” Focus on what you want and on doing what you have to do — the rest, like promotion, will come. When you are true to what you’re doing, and are focusing on getting what needs to get done, done, recognition is bound to follow.

Another important thing when in the corporate arena is to strengthen your home — that has to be your sanctuary. Then no matter what is happening on the outside, at home, where it matters, you can come back and be rejuvenated. Make friends with your mother-in-law; she can be your best support system, Dr. Bedi advised. If she believes in you and helps you, then you can go to work knowing that your home is well taken care of. But at the same time, she warned women against putting all of their finances into a joint account.”Keep a personal account. You never know what tomorrow will bring, and it’s important to be protected,” she advised.

Her greatest strength has been her own inner strength. “Strengthen yourself from the inside,” she advises. “Be of inner steel, strong and pure steel — be secure in what you are. The security has to come from within. If you are strong inside nothing can shake you. You can deal with anything. Tomorrow if people around you are not there, can you move on on your own? That is inner strength.”

It’s also important for you to be your own friend, she counsels. Just the way you ask a friend for advice, ask yourself for advice. Would you be comfortable choosing a certain path? Ask yourself that. Be in touch with who you are and be true to that, that’s one of the important life lessons she shared with us.

Dr. Bedi is also a firm believer in the power of the mind. “The mind is wonderful — it can enslave you and you can enslave it — depends on your thoughts, which can change,” she says. “Thoughts are powerful. When you’re thinking of something, you’ll get the right kind of books/music that will speak to you, that will help you move in the direction of your thoughts.” That’s why she advises people not to focus on their problems. Focus instead on finding solutions — you’ll get answers in a few hours…suddenly, unexpectedly. Work on your mind; change its pattern from negative to positive. The best way of dispelling negative thoughts is to read inspiring books, listen to inspiring music, meditate…It helps.

Filled with anecdotes from her own life, as well as the problems and solutions she gave to people through her television show Aap Ki Adalat, her lecture was uplifting and thought provoking. It left us with a sense of empowerment and a road map of suggestions that we could follow to be more in tune with ourselves and to be successful in every sphere of our lives.

The mind-numbing cacophony of South Africa World Cup 2010

I’m a huge football fan. HUGE. One of the things that I absolutely love about the game, apart from watching 22 hot men chase a ball across the field ;), is the joyous celebration by fans. Their chanting, cheering, moans, groans and funky costumes are what first drew me to the game. It was fascinating to my 10-year-old eyes. I would laugh and clap and cheer along with those fans, without, at that time, really understand what the game was all about. Of course, as I grew older, my father initiated me into the rules of the game, and since then, I’ve awaited the FIFA World Cup like a fanatic. While I do occasionally get my fix with the English Premier League, FA Cup, Euro Cup, etc., the World Cup is a totally different rush!

So, I’ve been counting the days to 11 June, and five days into World Cup fever, and my ears are begging for mercy…for relief…for deliverance…from the mind-numbing buzzing that is heard around the stadium — the sound of a million vuvzelas.

I think it takes away a lot from the game when you can’t hear cheering and chanting fans. And I really wonder how the fans at the stadium are able to stand the noise, and how in heaven’s name are the players able to concentrate on the game?

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo was the latest World Cup star to voice unease about the trumpet, telling reporters that it affected players’ focus. ‘It is difficult for anyone on the pitch to concentrate,’ the Real Madrid star told a press conference. France captain Patrice Evra has blamed the noise for waking the team in their hotel and stopping the players from hearing each other on the pitch. And Argentina’s Lionel Messi complained they made it impossible for players to communicate on the pitch.

So, is there any chance of the vuvuzela being banned? Unfortunately, it appears not.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, through a twitter posting, said:

“I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound. I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country.”

And the vuvuzela certainly is central to the football culture in South Africa, with fans comparing it to the chanting, singing — even the wave — done in other countries.

The darn instrument is also gaining a fan following in other parts of the world.

Football fans in Britain are buying vuvuzelas at a rate of one every two seconds. Sainsbury’s sold 22,000 red vuvuzelas in 12 hours before England’s game – one every two seconds. And online retailer Amazon said sales of the horn had increased by 1,000 per cent.

And for those who can’t get hold of a real vuvuzela, there are now virtual versions available at Apple’s iTunes store!

There are around 11 vuvuzela apps available from Apple’s App Store. One named ‘Vuvuzela 2010’ has been downloaded more than 750,000 times, and is currently the most popular free app in the entertainment category, while another, Virtual Vuvuzela, is the seventh most popular free sports app.

So though a large section of fans may complain about the instrument, it looks like the buzzing of the vuvuzela is here to stay.

(Quotes and image from dailymail.co.uk.)

It's a new look!

And I’m loving it! It’s edgier, funkier, livelier than my older, more plain-vanilla looking blog. I’m loving the green, the funky new page counter, more areas to add widgets…and it’s part of my current campaign of doing something new all the time, instead of getting stuck in the same old rut and routine.

Like my cool new haircut! I love what my stylist did with it this time…he gave me a cool fringe and a more funkily layered look that makes me look even younger. 😉 The husband wasn’t too amused, he thought I looked like a teeny-bopper!! (Yeah right, say I! That would be the day!)

With the new blog and the new look, how about a new pass time? For me, it’s going to be more television viewing (I hardly ever watch the idiot box!) It’s FIFA time folks!! Ole, Ole, Ole!! Time for altered sleep patterns, cheering my favorite teams on, and going totally football crazy. Absolutely OTT!

I’m going to be cheering for a couple of teams – Brazil, Italy, Portugal (Go Ronaldo!), Spain (there goes Torres!) and Mexico (watch out for Messi!) – which teams will you be cheering on?

In total control of my life

One of the things that I’ve been wanting to achieve since a really long time, but have only been thinking about, is weight loss. This month, I moved from thinking to doing — I joined a gym! I thought it was going to be boring, that I might have to push myself to go, and was not sure if I would last out a month. But guess what? I’m loving it! (OK, it’s been less than a month, but still!)

Working out, pushing myself and seeing my fitness levels improve is giving me a high unlike any other in a really long time! It’s made me feel even more confident, and most importantly, I feel like I’m finally in control of my life.

Isn’t it strange, though? I just took one action step to change one area of my life (and trust me, there are a lot of areas I want to change), and suddenly I feel like I’m been pushed off the fence and into the driver’s seat. It’s exhilarating!

Now, where did I put that list of Things I Need to Change Pronto?

(Image courtesy everydaypeople.com)

Random thoughts

We’re going to Dharamsala next week…can hardly wait! Our bookings are done at the Norling Guest House at Norlibungka Institue a little way away from McLeod Ganj. The place looks absolutely beautiful! Can’t wait to get there. I’m already thinking of looking up the cheaper options in McLeod Ganj, ’cause I have a feeling that I’d like to spend more time there…maybe at the monastery, or just hanging out…

Speaking of hanging out, Pushkar was a great place to hang out…roam around the market…chill out and just relax. Our visit there last year was one of the most relaxing trips we’d taken in recent times.

With the stress and humdrum of our everyday lives, it’s really important that we find something to do to unwind and relax — it could be listening to music, reading, working out, doing something creative, whatever works, really. Without a stress-buster, things can get really overwhelming.

“He looked normal”

…has to be the biggest cliché in recent times. It’s the phrase that is bandied about the most when anyone talks about a terrorist – be it “baby-faced” Ajmal Kasab, who was given the death sentence yesterday for the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, or Faisal Shahzad, who was arrested today for the failed bomb attempt in New York.

According to an eyewitness,

“I never doubted that he [Shahzad] could be a terrorist because he was a very normal looking guy. He was holding his passport and sitting there, we could never have doubted him because he looked so normal”

Why, I ask, should a terrorist not look normal? After all, a terrorist is a “normal” human being whose mind has been “abnormally” twisted by fanatical individuals. He wouldn’t be roaming the streets with horns and a devil’s forked tongue!

But things certainly are scary out there, ‘cause seemingly well-to-do individuals are being turned by the fanatical outpourings of a handful of individuals who twist religion and spew hatred for “the other,” with delusions of world-wide dominance, at the altar of which innocent souls are slaughtered.

(image courtesy onegoodthing.net)