How To Train Your Dragon

How to Train your Dragon

Ah.

Honestly, I am not entirely sure why I ordered this off of my library. I got this book (and the next book in the series) for my nephew on his birthday. His excitement at reading a book about dragons and ill-concealed delight at the humor in it may have done the trick. I have seen the movie (of the same name) innumerable times and have absolutely loved it. Naturally, I thought the book would be pretty similar with just a few things done differently but that I would love it nonetheless.

Turns out, there were plenty of different things! I did like the fact that it was so vastly different from the movie but at the same time could not stop myself from comparing the two. If I had read the book first I may not have found it as lacking as I am doing now. I may have liked it a whole lot more.

What worked for me:

The writing style: it was easy to get into and I finished the book rather quickly. The book was quite funny at many places and I wasn’t expecting that. The book startled more than a few chuckles out of me and that is something I love in a book. There were also a few elements in the book – which didn’t make the cut for the movie – like Dragonese and the famous ‘How to Train your Dragon’ manual, to name a few. I also liked the fact that Hiccup had at least one friend – Fishlegs – whereas in the movie he’s practically friendless.

What I did not like:

The utter lack of female characters. No Astrid, no Ruffnut. Hiccup still has his mother but we get nothing from her in the entire book. The lack of substantial female characters was a huge turn off for me, especially in a middle grade book. I don’t recall reading ANYTHING about girls in that village. Am I to understand that they only have male offspring? The young, impressionable kids watching the movie got to see a totally kickass girl who was better at dragon fighting that most of her class put together. The young, impressionable kids reading the book probably thought girls don’t even exist in the universe.

Another thing I missed in the book characters was the connection with them. Toothless was cute, sure, but not enough. The Toothless in the movie made me want to hug him and pet him and fight with him and ride him and protect him from the world. And he did all those things right back at me – I mean, Hiccup. I cried a few times while watching the movie. With the book, I did not really care much about any of the characters.

Also, I like Toothless as the last-of-his-kind Night Fury and not as a tiny Common or Garden. Just saying.

 

So who IS the villain?

If we were villains.jpg

*This review contains spoilers! So readers beware, you’ve been warned.

Reading this book was quite the ride.

It started off decent enough, slowly and steadily and I was happy with the pace. This helped with getting to know the characters (and there are quite a few of those) and their dynamics with each other. The story is told in the back-and-forth-in-time style which I didn’t particularly like in this instance. Other than letting us know that Oliver is in prison and narrating the tale to a cop, that future perspective tells me nothing.

While there was plenty of rich character development for a few chosen characters (Richard, Meredith, Oliver and James) the rest of them may have as well not been there. Alexander, Filipa and Wren are great but not pivotal and I wonder if the story may have progressed just the same without these three. I dislike when this happens, when you have a great set of supporting characters that I feel should be important and pivotal to the story and yet they’re just there. To fill in the gaps between the really important stuff.

I hit a patch, somewhere around 60-70% in the book when I just wasn’t into reading it anymore. During this patch, I thought we were at a standstill with nothing happening and no secrets being revealed and that was really annoying. The only reason I kept reading is because I wanted to know what happens at the end.

I may have skipped whole sections of the play being performed.

But boy, am I glad I continued reading.

The ending of this book was phenomenal. Absolutely fantastic. I don’t mean just the very end of the book but the reveal and the reasons behind it.

I know everyone (including me) thought of Oliver as the good guy, the nice guy, the normal guy. And so I guessed that all the crazy events may have broken him down and screwed him up just like the rest of them. Made him into a killer, even. He was certainly exhibiting violent behavior towards the end. That could have made him our villain. But instead we have a tragic hero on our hands and a villain who may or may not be dead. James, I want to trust you. I want to believe that you love Oliver and that you really did kill yourself out of guilt. Or did you just kill the prime contestant in the race and set it up so the one who loved you would willingly take the fall for you while you ‘faked’ your own death and walked away?

I mean, you’re an actor after all. If its the former, then ‘Awwwwwww Joliver!!’ If its the latter, then you are one cold blooded genius.

I don’t want there to be a second book. I hope this is a standalone novel. Not because I don’t want to read it (if there is a second book) but because having a second book will ruin the mystery this one has created. It’ll be like hoping for a dragon and getting a dragonfly instead.

You get my meaning.

 

Made You Up (right…….?)

Say you’re going shopping. You visit all your usual stores and don’t really find anything. You stand outside that one store you have a love-hate relationship with. Ninety nine times out of hundred it disappoints you. But there is always that one time you find something wonderful. So the question is: will this time be THE TIME?

This sums up my relationship with Young Adult Novels perfectly. I diligently stay away from them for the most part. Once in a while, I’ll take a little peek or dip in my toes just so. Sometimes the water’s muddy, sometimes scalding hot and at times freezing cold. At times there’s stuff floating in it and I promise myself I will never do it again. But there are also times when it’s just right, warm and comforting, times when it’s magical.

Thankfully, for me, this as one of those times.

I came across ‘Made You Up’ when I was loading books on my Amazon cart. I have fallen in the habit of downloading sample chapters of practically every book I think would tickle my fancy and then decide – after reading the sample – if I want to buy it or not.

The story follows Alexandra Ridgemont, a young seventeen year old girl suffering from scizophrenia and paranoia. She can never be sure of what is real and what is delusion. Sometimes, she even suspects her mother of poisoning her food.

There is a statement at the beginning of the book, about people taking reality for granted. I have never been more aware or thankful of the reality I live in till I read this book. While it certainly sounds magical at times (having a phoenix fly over your head as you go home, trees that don’t change colors as the seasons change, listening to your toys talk to each other at night), I realize how dangerous this is too. What happens when you see something dangerous and react to it, only to realize it was all in your head? What happens when you don’t react to something, thinking that something so ridiculous or strange can only be a hallucination and then learn the hard way that it was a threat all along? More than the story line or the slight mystery elements in the book, it was this underlying thread of questionable reality that really resonated with me.

As far as character development goes, I was not particularly happy with Made you up. While Alex’s character’s development was clearly visible and at center stage, the rest of them seemed to be mere aids in her development. For them to appear as real people, it is very important to give them believable background stories and arcs as well. A few characters like Miles and Celia stood out, but the rest may as well not have been there.

This book also deals with bullying and harassment and addresses it very cleverly in one of the scenes. One of the characters does not know on whom she is inflicting pain and thus is fine with it. She seems to think of it as simply an experience she has never had before, a stint at a daring life. It is only when she realizes that it is one of her friends that’s the intended target that she realizes how horrible the deed is. I thought this was pretty darn insightful; bullies probably only think of what they’re doing in terms of the  satisfaction or excitement they get out of it. May be, if they pause to think what it would be like if it was one of their own friends or family member or girlfriend/boyfriend who was at the receiving end of such cruelty, it could change the way they think.

There were a few things I found extremely puzzling: for someone who has such severe problems and has to meet her therapist twice a week, we don’t see the therapist at all, until the very end of the book. I would have liked to see more of the therapist that everyone has on speed dial actually handling the outbreaks, addressing the issues, helping Alex. Also, regarding that big secret is revealed to Alex near the end of the book (I cannot say more lest I spoil it for you), shouldn’t the therapist be talking the parents out of it? It seems pretty obvious not to have kept it a secret. Another thing that could have been better handled with a therapist.

To sum it up, I thought Made you up was an interesting and engaging read. I read it pretty quickly (in less than two work days, I believe). It is not like most of the cliched or typically predictable Young Adult Novels and for that I am truly grateful. It is books like those that make me want to venture less and less in that particular arena.

 

 

Binti – worth all the hype?

Binti

I began reading this book with this in mind:

This is a story of a young woman who gets an opportunity to study at a prestigious university, galaxies away from her home planet. No one in her family has ever received such an opportunity nor has anybody ever wanted to take it up. Until her. And then the reader will witness her journey through space as she leaves behind everything familiar in her deep found yearning for knowledge. How she would cope with homesickness, with being so fundamentally different from everybody else all the while feeding her need for learning.

I would have loved to read that book.

Sadly, this is not what Binti was about.

I liked the beginning of the book. I liked Binti’s worry and guilt for leaving home and family behind. I liked her cautiousness as she made new friends and timidness as she wondered at the newness of potential romantic feelings. I  really liked all the reference to her tribe life, her otjize. I liked the book just fine until the Meduse showed up.

If you’ve read the book, you know they show up pretty early on.

Here’s a list of the things I didn’t like:

The Meduse 

Why oh why must we have yet another space story where an alien species is in the habit of killing people on sight. I need to go find some books with intelligent alien life who want to build something or collaborate with humans or are seeking the help of humans. And not, you know, trying to kill us all the time.

Killing in the name of honor and purpose:

Really? So it’s okay to kill an entire space-ship full of people (minus two. This is important. Wait for it.)? Since when is mass murder okay?

Being okay with killing in the name of honor and purpose 

This one gets a different point because I am talking about Binti here. She is now helping the people who killed an entire space-ship full of people (minus two.), including her friends and a potential love interest.

Letting the pilot stay alive: 

..so he can ‘talk’ to the guys at the University and let them know everything is all right. My question is: why is there only one pilot and not a whole bunch of them? Or even a co-pilot? Is that one poor man going to fly for more than 72 hours straight by himself, with no breaks for food or bodily functions? Am I supposed to believe that he shall not seek to contact anybody on the spaceship EVER and thus discover that everybody is dead? Really? Really!?

Room security: 
Binti is worried that she has been placed in a room that has lesser security than other rooms simply because she is from a native tribe. That doesn’t even make sense! We’ve read for the last so many pages that nobody from the tribes ever travel by these space ships so why would these space ships keep rooms with less security just so they can be used in the rare event someone like her comes along??
After this review, I feel like I should be working at CinemaSins.

The Goal

by Anita Jain

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As an amateur, I would like to pen down my thoughts. It might sound a little funny as I have decided to write down my thoughts on a topic which is somewhat subjective. The title to this article “the Goal” is influenced no lesser by my experiences than a historic event which I witnessed: The Jain Diksha* Ceremony of 16 enlightened souls, at Mumbai on the 22nd of January 2018.

During my school days, much as my college days, I had an inclination towards philosophy and universal-laws. Even today my close friends and colleagues find me discussing Rhonda Byrne’s ‘The Secret’, ‘The Power of Secret’ or ‘Murphy’s law’ or may be principle of ‘Karma’.

These discussions take place mostly at the breakfast table, in the  building-compound of my apartment or sometimes at Starbucks.

Few questions which all/many of us come across, especially on those days when we sit in the company of only our own selves, in isolation, in fact do tickle our minds. Also for few, the tickling, strangely, intensifies after a few shots of tequila, in the midst of coloured lights and loud energetic music with tequila shot glasses in our hands. The typical set of questions encountered consists of the following :

(1) Am I Happy? What makes me Happy?

(2) Do I have an aim or purpose in life?

(3) How to achieve my dreams/aspirations in life?

We all do find answers to those bizarre questions in one way or the other. The immediate answers to these questions are:

(1) To the first question our answer would be, a plain Yes. Definitely, I am happy, having great lifestyle, moderate amount of savings, great wardrobe, great travel stories etc. Doubtless, all these achievements call for appreciation. However, it shall not divert the subject of my question: whether all that amounts to happiness. You would definitely want to shout out loud and say “Yes, I am feeling Happy”.

The above answer to me is a misconception. I believe Happiness is not a mere emotion. You should not strive to feel Happy, but preferably create a state of mind where you are really happy. Happiness cannot be confined to the possession of a thing or happening of an incident or for that matter any achievement. It should rather be a state of mind. One has to create a pattern of life where happiness is a state of mind.

(2) The aim and purpose of life.

To this question, the answer is ‘Be Yourself’.

Don’t benchmark your aim and purpose of life against someone else’s life achievements or goals. They might have achieved greater and higher goals. Certainly, those can be an inspiration but not your ultimate goal. Once you start benchmarking your goals with someone else’s achievement, you have chosen to join a rat race. You will likely reach that spot soon, but you will continue to be in the never ending rat race to one mile post after another.

Therefore, don’t try to achieve the Infinite. Introspect upon what you really want in life; define your goals wisely. It will add to your happiness (state of mind). In life, there is nothing like a 10/10; so consider anything around 7 as a fairly good score.

(3) Turning dreams into realities.

The first step is to stop dreaming and start working. I would like to share the ‘Golden rules’, which I myself try to follow:

  • Prayer: Pray to the universe for all you have. It should be the first thing on your routine. Even if you are an atheist it will be just fine. After all it’s the Universe in your prayer and not any God incarnate which you choose to disbelieve.
  • Let go of all your thoughts which don’t contribute to your development – Be it mentally, emotionally or even academically.
  • Take small steps. One thing at a time. There is no shortcut to great things in life.
  • Be consistent.
  • Don’t hoard; believe in distribution and give back.

 

Happy to hear your thoughts/ views and opinions. Feel free to comment.

*Diksha is a ceremony in which one decides to renounce the world and dedicate his entire life to follow the doctrines of jainism and to follow the path shown by Lord Mahavir. It is a journey towards enlightenment. It is process to conquer our inner evils and to live a life full of compassion. It is a commencement of a Journey to attain salvation in the future lives!

The views shared here are personal and influenced by real life experiences and the author does not wish to hurt anyone’s sentiments in this regard.

About Anita

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Anita is a lawyer by profession, a complete foodie and a free spirit. When not tied up with work, she is known to be exploring the mysteries of astrology (deep stuff) and generously sharing her wisdom with coworkers.

Kids, don’t run for the marathon…

… unless you’ve trained for it.

Or done it before.

Or you know, from your own past experience, exactly how much you can run/walk, even without training for it.

‘You’ll be fine! 21 kms is easy to complete.’ or ‘I did it last year with zero practice and I was still able to do it.’ or even ‘Who runs for Dream Run (6 kms)? Dream Run is a joke, you should go for the 21 kms Run.’

Don’t believe these things! Trust me. They could be true for those people but certainly not for everyone.

Instead of Wordly and Wise, I should be considered as Mouthy and Unwise.

My first ever marathon and I chose the 21 kms Half Marathon.

I ran/brisk-walked for 3 kilometers and then simply walked for another three. I think after the first three kms I had given up pretending that I was going to complete the marathon. At moments like this it is very encouraging to see other people arriving at the same conclusion as you did. I’ll have you know though, that among all the deserters, I was at the lead.

So that’s something.

What I thought this marathon was going to be like:

what i thought.jpg

What it turned out to be:

what happened.jpg

Notable things that happened while I was ‘running’:

  • At one point I thought I was doing a pretty good job, briskly walking at a steady pace when a fellow runner took one look at me and arrived at the conclusion that I was dehydrated and so he gallantly threw his own tetra pack of orange juice my way and yelled, ‘Drink this, Ma’am!’ before sprinting away. I responded to this by picking up the orange juice and sipping it contentedly while continuing my walk.

If you didn’t think I had suicidal tendencies (having chosen to run for the 21 kms marathon with zilch amount of practice), then this should do the trick. Accepting drinks from strange men on a dark, deserted road.

I’m kidding. I am not suicidal, don’t call the cops.

  • A group of fellow runners saw me walking dejectedly and decided to cheer me on. One of them even called out to me, asking me to join their group. And then another one, having correctly deduced from the utter lack of trying on my part, shouted out to the rest that I was probably a volunteer. And then they all waved at me merrily and bounded away. All this happened in less than twenty seconds and I couldn’t get a single word out.

Other than these, I was pretty much left to my own devices, if you discount the stares I got from all the actual volunteers.

If I’m being honest, I am not sad or upset that I couldn’t go beyond 6 kms. I am sad and upset that I completely disregarded my lack of experience in running/jogging/brisk walking and hell, who am I kidding, simply walking for any prolonged stretch of time. I let the opinions of other people lull me into thinking that I was capable of doing this.

Makes me wonder: what other things do I think I can do because *I’ve heard* they’re ‘easy’ and assumed I’m capable of?

On the other hand, what things do I think I cannot do because *I’ve heard* they’re tough and hence never attempted?

(Images: Pixabay)