Category Archives: Books

A Return to Summer- Part 1: Books

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Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

– Bob Dylan, Mr. Tambourine Man

Hello guys! I’m finally out of school. Finals week was crazy on a whole new level. But that’s neither here nor there (untrue. It’s there. In the past. Or something).

Since we last spoke, it has magically become summer. I don’t want to do another Things I Like post after being away for so long, but I do have several things that are quintessentially summer. Some of these things are traditional, ones that have been “summer” to me since I was little. Others are more recent.

Let’s start with books.

When I was little, summer was my time to reread all my favorites. Now that I’m older, it’s more of a time to read books I haven’t had time to get to. Here’s a sampling of my summer reading.

Favorites

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott- This is one of my favorite “growing up” books. The sisters in the story remind me so much of my own.  A fun read!

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt- I had never cried while reading a book before this one. It’s not exactly a love story. It’s more like a tale about the question of immortality. This book feels like summer.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery- Anne is quite a lot like the elementary version of myself, except for the color of our hair. A delightful book that seems custom-made for reading beneath a tree, apple in hand.

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A Milne- It’s Winne the Pooh! Explore the Hundred Acre Wood, get into scraps, and enjoying being a kid…no matter what your age.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith- This book is completely unappreciated. It’s romantic, intelligent, and utterly enjoyable. The heroine is one of my all time favorites.

Anything written by John Green. Seriously. My three favorites are The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, and Looking for Alaska.

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald- The Great Gatsby is a fantastic book. It really is. But although I loved reading it, I never felt that something, that sense of connection to the story, that I had had those thoughts, lived those moments. This Side of Paradise was completely opposite. It starts out dull. I almost gave up before the end of the first chapter. It gets better. I’m so glad I made the effort to keep reading. As the book goes on,  it began to feel more autobiographical, more genuine. It’s worth the struggle, guys.

To Read

Things I’m reading now/planning to read

Office Girl by Joe Meno

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Phantastes by George MacDonald
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
And more…

My next post will be summer films I adore. Let me know if this series is something you enjoy, or if it just seems annoying and vapid.

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Books, books, books!

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So far this year, I have read about 48 books give or take. My brain is filled with love triangles, wizards, superpowers, and teenage angst. I try to vary what genres I read from, but I’m kinda making up for lost time when it comes to young adult novels.

Out of all the books I’ve read, some of my favorites have been (in no particular order):

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (graphic novel)
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  • Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

These are the ones I find myself blathering about and recommending to my friends. I actually only own two of these books personally, but ya know…broke college kid and all that. 😛

I have been asked how I can possibly have time to read as much as I do. The answer is, whenever I’m doing schoolwork, housework, or anything else I’m reading. It is my life.

I mean, it’s been my coping mechanism since I was about 6. Whenever I was bored or embarrassed, I’d read. And now, I have two giant bookcases in my room, books under my bed, books in my closet, and books stored in my sisters’ rooms. Addiction might be the right word.I love books so much that my parents used to actually ground me from reading when I got in trouble.

I am “that” girl: the one who raises her hand in class when the teacher asks “Now who has read ___ ?” or who always says “The book is better” after seeing a movie. And I’m sorry. I’m not sorry for who and what I am, but I am sorry for “book people”.

I know far too many people who have been put off reading by the annoying girl/guy who comes up, makes some snide remark about their reading material of choice, and then flounces away. Do I think that some books are greater? Heck yes! But when we shove those books on reluctant readers,  sometimes it’s enough to crush them altogether.

However, that being said, if I see you reading Twilight, I will point and laugh.. I have read full-on actual romance novels that were better written and had more of a plot. I know it makes me hypocritical, but I just…it…I  can’t, guys!

How do you feel about books? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Do you love Twilight and hate me? Let me know 🙂

 

Sylvia Plath

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“Great wits are sure to madness near allied, And thin partitions do their bounds divide…” -John Dryden

A fine example of this is found in the poet, Sylvia Plath. Her life was scarred from the beginning by the death of her father. He died from complications relating to the amputation of his leg. Plath blamed her father for his own death, claiming that his carelessness about his health was the same thing as suicide. Upon first receiving news of his demise, young Sylvia proclaimed “I’ll never speak to God again” Interestingly, one of her most famous works was entitled “Daddy”.

As she grew up, she used writing as a way to express her emotions, mostly through journaling. It wasn’t until college that Plath began to find her voice. During this time, Plath found moderate success publishing her work in magazines and newspapers.  A series of incidents including a rejection letter from a writing program, severe insomnia, relationships with abusive men, and a panic attack all led to a severe case of depression. She was treated with electroconvulsive therapy, which only made things worse. She attempted to kill herself, but was thwarted. She spent several months in a mental health facility. This pattern of feverous spurts of writing followed by severe bouts of maniac depression was one that followed her throughout her entire life. Prior to her death, Plath had written about 40 poems in 4 months, often writing 2 a day. She killed herself at the age of 30.

Speaking of suicide, Plath said “If you have no past or no future, which, after all, is all that the present is made of, why then you may as well dispose of the empty shell of present and commit suicide. But the cold reasoning mass of gray entrail in my cranium which parrots, ‘I think, therefore I am,’ whispers that there is always the turning, the upgrade, the new slant. And so I wait.”

Now, obliviously I disagree with Plath on…well, most fundamental issues. However, she truly was a brilliant writer. Here are some of my favorite quotes from her poetry as well as from her book, The Bell Jar:

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”

“Some things are hard to write about. After something happens to you, you go to write it down, and either you over dramatize it, or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones. At any rate, you never write it quite the way you want to.”

“I must be lean & write & make worlds beside this to live in.”

“Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”

“Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that – I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much – so very much to learn.”

“There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room. It’s like watching Paris from an express caboose heading in the opposite direction–every second the city gets smaller and smaller, only you feel it’s really you getting smaller and smaller and lonelier and lonelier, rushing away from all those lights and excitement at about a million miles an hour.”

“That’s one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”

“I want to be important. By being different. And these girls are all the same.”

“I knew chemistry would be worse, because I’d seen a big card of the ninety-odd elements hung up in the chemistry lab, and all the perfectly good words like gold and silver and cobalt and aluminum were shortened to ugly abbreviations with different decimal numbers after them.”

“I have done, this year, what I said I would: overcome my fear of facing a blank page day after day, acknowledging myself, in my deepest emotions, a writer, come what may.”

“Living with him is like being told a perpetual story: his mind is the biggest, most imaginative I have ever met. I could live in its growing countries forever.”

“There is a certain unique and strange delight about walking down an empty street alone. There is an off-focus light cast by the moon, and the streetlights are part of the spotlight apparatus on a bare stage set up for you to walk through. You get a feeling of being listened to, so you talk aloud, softly, to see how it sounds.”

“Now I know what loneliness is, I think. Momentary loneliness, anyway. It comes from a vague core of the self – – like a disease of the blood, dispersed throughout the body so that one cannot locate the matrix, the spot of contagion.”

“…we shall board our imagined ship and wildly sail among sacred islands of the mad till death shatters the fabulous stars and makes us real.”

“I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head. Love is an illusion, but I would willingly fall for it if I could believe in it. Now everything seems either far and sad and cold, like a piece of shale at the bottom of a canyon – or warm and near and unthinking, like the pink dogwood.”

“I love him to hell and back and heaven and back, and have and do and will”

“I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.”

“With me, the present is forever, and forever is always shifting, flowing, melting. This second is life. And when it is gone it is dead. But you can’t start over with each new second. You have to judge by what is dead. It’s like quicksand … hopeless from the start. A story, a picture, can renew sensation a little, but not enough, not enough. Nothing is real except the present, and already, I feel the weight of centuries smothering me. Some girl a hundred years ago once lived as I do. And she is dead. I am the present, but I know I, too, will pass. The high moment, the burning flash, come and are gone, continuous quicksand. And I don’t want to die.”

 

 

Things I Love Today…

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I haven’t done one of these in a while!

1. Come Along, Chelsea Lauren- http://comealong-chelsealauren.tumblr.com/

This is my favorite nerdy fashion blog. Chelsea is always so inspiring. She takes characters from shows, books, and movies and then recreates the looks.Here’s an example. This is based on Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars:

2. This video. I’ve had it on replay.

I just recently saw Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I thought it was hilarious, if a bit crude at times. It’s my first foray into the dangerous world of Mel Brooks.

3.

Sherlock and Watson: Ponies by Vondell Swain

Sherlock and Watson: Ponies by Vondell Swain

4.  The fact that I get to read The Hobbit, Frankenstein, and Slaughter-house Five for my science fiction and fantasy literature class.

5.  Guys, I make some mean chocolate Oreo cupcakes, if I do say so myself

The Virgin Suicides

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The Virgin SuicidesThe Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wrote this review when I first finished the book back in December. I just couldn’t share it then. It was fresh and,frankly, it hurt. Since I last looked at this review, even more students in my area have taken their own lives. I don’t think that I’ll accomplish anything through sharing this review, but I do think it represents my role in the collective grieving process of a city crying for its children. Or something less pretentious. I don’t know. Anyways…

Have you ever finished a book, and then just sat there silently, overwhelmed by what you read? This book had that effect on me.

Let me preface this review by saying that this is not an easy book to read. It’s not some candy-coated adolescent take on suicide. The only other book that I compare with it is Looking for Alaska by John Green. Both deal with the deaths of beautiful girls at their own hands, the inability to come to terms with the events leading up to the tragedy, and the boys who idolized them, to summarize in a sentence.

Both are painfully and poignantly painted portraits of what it feels like to be a teenager. As a teen myself, it’s easy to see my friends and classmates in these books. And it makes it more powerful that there was a string of suicides within the last year of good-looking, talented, popular high-schoolers, some of whom were my friends. One was my friend’s older sister.

What drives a person to kill themselves? This book won’t tell you. There is no answer. Instead this book is about those left behind, about the group of boys who loved the Lisbon girls from afar and how they can’t seem to get the deaths out of their minds.

Like I’ve said, this book is raw. There’s drinking, sex, drug usage, and more. This is what teenage culture looks like. It isn’t pretty, but it’s real. If it were a movie I’d rate it as PG-13 at least. (actually there is a movie, an I enjoyed it but for different reasons)

Read this book for your daughters, your granddaughters, your friends, yourself. Read it if the audacity of hope ever seemed to be too good to true.

“It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.

Hunger Games!!!

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The Hunger Games (film)

The Hunger Games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t posted about it a ton, because I know how annoying I sound when I’m into something. When I fangirl, I fangirl HARD! 😀 But guys, can I just tell you how excited I am for the Hunger Games movie?!?

 

I read through the books as quickly as I could. The trilogy is fantastic, although my favorite is and always will be the first book.The thing is, this series gets everything right that series like Twilight got wrong (this isn’t a Twilight bashing. I’ll save that for later 😛 ) I had all but given up hope that I would find a YA series that was fun, driven, and intellectually stimulating. Now, I’m not implying that this book is the intellectual equal of Shakespeare or anything, but it raises valid questions about the nature of entertainment, society, and morality. Pretty heavy stuff.

I’ll admit that I’m a little nervous about the film. The book depends on the internal dialogue of Katniss and that can be difficult to capture on film w/o use of narration (Oh, for the love of all things sacred, please don’t let there be narration! 😦 ). The reviews have been good so far, so that’s encouraging.

I’m going to the midnight premiere at my local theater Thursday night. I’ve never gone to a midnight premiere, so if nothing else, I’m looking forward to that! Unfortunately, I have a history final the day after. Yay?

Are you a fan of the Hunger Games? If so, are you looking forward to the movie?

Books! Books! Books!

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Here’s a survey about me and my experiences with books. I’ve been asked several of these questions, so I’m putting this here for future reference. Thanks to Kayley Hyde (owlssayhooot) for pointing me to this.

1. Favorite childhood book? The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

2. What are you reading right now?  A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.

3. What books do you have on request at the library? Honestly? Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and um…some Stargate SG-1 books. *cough, cough* Yeah.

4. Bad book habit? Stopping in the middle occasionally.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? From my school library, I have several books about Marie Antoinette and libels in France as well as One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. From the public library, I have several more books about Marie Antoinette and libels (I’m writing a paper), Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, probably other stuff…

6. Do you have an e-reader? Actually no.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I’m always reading multiple books at a time.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? Actually, not  really. I mean, I do share what I read more often. Does that count?

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?) Extras by Scott Westerfeld. It’s the fourth book in the Uglies series. Not recommended.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year? The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Read it.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Often. I will give almost anything a try. I may not finish it, but I’ll give it a look.

12. What is your reading comfort zone? Primarily, classics, some YA, poetry…almost anything really.

13. Can you read on the bus? Sometimes. Other times, it makes me dizzy.

14. Favorite place to read? Outside, under the crab apple tree I used to climb when I was a kid. 🙂

15. What is your policy on book lending? I’ll only lend books to friends or people I’m sure will return them.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books? Never.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? Sometimes. I grew up a “books are sacred” mentality, so I’ve only been ok with writing in books for a couple of years. Highlighting though is a common thing. You’ve got to love highlighters…

18. Not even with text books? Reread 17.

19. What is your favorite language to read in? Other than English?  I’m tied between Latin and Spanish.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? It needs to be significant. Since that’s a bit ambiguous, I’ll explain. It needs to be something that made me think, inspired me, or at the very least, made me smile. 😀

22. Favorite genre? Um….

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?) YA. I’m their target demographic. I should be reading more YA.

24. Favorite biography? Currently? Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book? Yeah, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. It was the required text for a summer leadership course I took.

26. Favorite cookbook? How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I don’t own it, but I’ve borrowed it from friends countless times. On the top of my “To Buy” list.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Seriously, read it!

28. Favorite reading snack? Granola bars.I keep the wrap on while I eat, so there’s no stickiness.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience. Does Moby Dick count?

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book? Sometimes, although I rarely read critics’ commentary.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? If a book is bad enough to warrant such a review, I will show no mercy 🙂

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose? French. There’s no hesitation in my mind. French.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It’s not a hard read, it’s just really long! That’s a serious commitment! Also, I had no idea what it was about when I started. (Spoiler: It’s about vampires…like scary Dracula ones, not pathetic sparkly ones).

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? Understanding Physics by Isaac Asimov.

35. Favorite Poet? Probably Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time? My average is 15.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread? Unread or unfinished? I start almost every book. I just give up on some. A good example is New Moon

38. Favorite fictional character(s)? At this very moment, Margo Roth Spiegelman, Sherlock, Beatrice from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and Orual from “Till We Have Faces”.

39. Favorite fictional villain? Sauron, the Phantom, and Gatsby (who is a hero, a villain,  and more phony than Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye)

40. Books you’re most likely to bring on vacation? Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Paper Towns by John Green, The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K Chesterton, The Princess and the Goblins by George Macdonald…

41. The longest you’ve gone without reading. A day?

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish. Moby Dick. I’m trying! The pretentious metaphors get in my way.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading? The little bzzzzz my phone makes when I get a text.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel? Lord of the Rings. Hands down the most brilliant adaption I’ve seen. I also love Sophia Coppola’s adaption of Marie Antoinette, based on the book by Fraser.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation? Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader top the list.  The Phantom of the Opera is fun. It’s completely separate from the book, in my mind. V for Vendetta is one where I loved the movie first, but after reading the book, I was saddened to see all the movie could have been.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? Of my own money? $75

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it? All the time. I’ve found some of my favorites that way.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through? No plot, flat characters, pretentious prose (Moby Dick!), general lack of interest.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized? Yes! By subject, then by author’s last name, then by either book title or number in a series.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? Keep! It’s like in Inkheart. Books are scrapbooks of memories.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? Not that I can think of.

52. Name a book that made you angry. Wuthering Heights. I love it, but Heathcliff and Cathy make me so frustrated!!!! Occasionally, I’ll throw things, yelling “Why can’t you see what’s right in front of you, you stupid, spoiled numpty gonks?!?!?” or something along that line.  Also, Twilight but for the reason that it is terrible, not because it breaks my heart.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did? Dracula by Bram Stocker. It is actually scary, which I wasn’t expecting either.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t? Eragon.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading? John Green or Jane Austen.

I hope that wasn’t too bad. If you decide to take the survey, please post a link in comments. I’d love to read it. Also, feel free to ask questions.  Happy book exploration!