Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I've Edited My Opinion...

...on Twilight.

As you may know, I enjoyed the Twilight Saga. I defended it from people who think it's only for teenagers and lonely middle-aged women. I found it laughable that people could say it was poorly written when it is so engrossing and most readers can't put the books down. However, now I am rethinking how I feel about Twilight. Now, I think that Twilight is like Barbie.

Bear with me here. You hear a lot of complaints that Barbie dolls give young girls unrealistic expectations of how they should look. I grew up playing with Barbies and continued to do so well into college. (Okay, so maybe I didn't play with Barbies in college, but I did make several "Barbie movies" for projects, including The Little Mermaid for Feminist Philosophy.) And I never, ever once in my life thought "Wow, I should have an eighteen inch waist!" I enjoyed Barbie for what she was—a dress up doll.

Twilight can also give young girls some wrong ideas. For example: if you have really low self esteem, it's very important to get a boyfriend—preferably a really hot one who's "too good" for you; if your boyfriend dumps you, go into a catatonic state for several months; you must change who you are to be with said hot boyfriend, even if he doesn't want you to; it's totally acceptable to get married at eighteen; it's cool to have babies at eighteen as well.

I had never thought about the messages these books may be giving to young girls before I saw Breaking Dawn - Part 1 this weekend. After the movie, I saw two teenage girls carrying baby dolls around. I was horrified. Now, perhaps they were just doing this to be funny. But there was also the possibility that they wanted to emulate Bella. It's cute when teenagers dress up like witches and wizards for Harry Potter movies. It's scary as hell when teenagers dress up like mommy Bella.

I have always found Bella's insecurity and her placement of Edward on a pedestal really annoying, but now I find it dangerous. I really hope that teenagers who are already insecure are not idolizing Bella and/or waiting for their Edward. Granted, Bella does become a stronger character toward the end of the series, but she still has to turn into a vampire to become her ultimate strong (and "perfect") self. I feel that these messages are all wrong!

However, it is important to keep in mind that this is a work of fiction, it's not a how-to. I enjoyed the Twilight books as entertainment and didn't look to them as the way life should be. I never wanted a guy like Edward (although Robert Pattinson is mouthwateringly hot) or Jacob. I never thought that having a boyfriend would fix everything. I don't want to be like Bella (or Barbie). I want to be like me.

For a very humorous (and male) perspective on Twilight, please see The Oatmeal.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ahhh, now I remember...

...why I hated Water for Elephants. As I mentioned previously, when I read the book a few years back, I didn't like it. It's not that I'm some elitist who enjoys disliking a book so loved by readers. I mean, c'mon, I'm a card-carrying Twi-hard and a Harry Potter fanatic. I have no problem loving books that millions of others do too. However, this book was primarily set in the 1930s, a time period that I am fairly well versed in, and it irritated me for some reason. I had thought it was because Sara Gruen "hit you over the head" with the 1930s, the Great Depression, and Prohibition. And she did. But also, now that I've re-read the first four chapters (I couldn't read any more—it's going straight to the Goodwill), I realized that the most annoying thing about this book is that it seems like the author just inserted a lot of little tidbits of information she learned while researching the 30s and circuses for no real reason whatsoever. For example*:

  • "Then he drives me to the hospital in his own car, a two-year-old Phaeton that must have cost the earth. So many things people would have done differently had they known what would happen that fateful October." (p. 22)—to me, this is just a gratuitous stock market crash of 1929 reference and also a chance for the author to drop in the name of a 1920s car she learned about in her research. Neither add to the story one bit.
  • "Hell, I even remember the ones who had to drop out after the Crash: Henry Winchester, whose father stepped off the ledge of the Board of Trade Building in Chicago. Alistair Barnes, whose father shot himself in the head. Reginald Monty, who tried unsuccessfully to live in a car when his family could no longer pay for his room and board. Bucky Hayes, whose unemployed father simply wandered off." (p. 29) —this excerpt is from a paragraph where the narrator, Jacob, is talking about how he should recognize his fellow students during his final exam, but he's too shaken up by his parents' deaths to do so. However, it looks like the author read a Wikipedia entry on the behavior of people after the stock market crash and decided to use some of it in a totally unrelated part of the story. It's totally unnecessary and distracted me from how Jacob was feeling at the moment—she should have just concentrated on getting across the point that he was disoriented to the point of not being able to take his exam.
  • After Camel asks a fellow circus laborer, Will, for a cigarette: "The man straightens up and pats his shirt pockets. He digs into one and retrieves a bent cigarette. 'It's Bull Durham,' he says, leaning forward and holding it out. 'Sorry.' 'Roll-your-own suits me fine,' says Camel." (p. 41)—I feel like this part would have been better served if she had just had Camel bum a cigarette from Will without all the useless name dropping of Bull Durham and the explanation that it was tobacco that needed to be rolled in paper. I wonder if the author Googled "1930s cigarettes" and found Bull Durham tobacco and decided to just needlessly insert that information somewhere. Again, it adds nothing to the story other than awkward dialogue that made me cringe.
  • "'Damn Prohibition,' Camel finally says. 'This stuff used to taste just fine till the government decided it shouldn't. Still gets the job done, but tastes like hell.'" (p. 63-64)—Seriously? Is there anyone who doesn't know what Prohibition is? We all learned about it in US History, we don't need another history lesson on it. And, in 1931, when this book is set, Prohibition had been going on for 11 years. I doubt anyone would say anything remotely like this in 1931. Maybe complaining about the flavor of illegal alcohol or wishing Prohibition was over, but geez, this is like a really short explanation of Prohibition as if the people reading this book needed one.
  • "'Not now, boy.  Not now,' booms Al, goose-stepping past like the Brownshirts you see in the grainy news trailers at the movies." (p. 67)—I really think that this sentence could have been served better without the reference to Nazi Sturmabteilung. I mean, do you really think Al was literally goose stepping? Why would he do that? I can picture Al striding purposefully or even marching past Camel and Jacob, without paying attention to them, but not goose stepping. And also, the graininess of news footage in the 30s was the norm and I don't think it was something people in the 30s would really comment on. It is, of course, very grainy to us with our HD movies, but I don't think a person in the 30s would have taken note of it. Of course, we could assume that this is old Jacob talking and he's so used to crystal clear TV and movies, that the graininess of old news footage stands out to him. But still, I think this is a useless reference and one the author only threw in to show off.
  • "'Marlena said Silver Star was off,' says August. 'Wanted me to get the advance man to arrange for a vet. Didn't seem to understand that the advance man was gone out in advance, hence the name.'" (p. 75)—now here is an example of the author throwing in random circus information for no reason. I feel like she found out what an advance man was and decided to insert that information into the story, but didn't know where, so she stuck it here. But don't you think that Marlena, who has been on the circus for however long at this point, would know exactly what an advance man is? Why would she ask August to get the advance man to get a vet for Silver Star when she knew perfectly well he was not there? It just seems fishy to me. The point of this whole statement is that one of the horses is not well and they could use Jacob's veternarian expertise. There is absolutely no need for the definition of advance man.

And that's where I stopped. I couldn't read any more. Sara Gruen's annoying habit of just dropping information into the story where it isn't needed really bothered me and I didn't want to subject myself to it (again). However, as I've said before, the actual story is a good one—one that made an enjoyable movie. I just think that my 1930s knowledge combined with my natural-born-editor's eyes caught all of these annoying information drops more readily than your average reader. Which is why so many people love the book and why I hated it.

All that said, I do feel bad totally ragging on an author's hard work. She actually put effort into researching this time period and circuses instead of just making shit up. However, I think she should have put more effort into making the story flow seamlessly instead of sticking in random bits of trivia here and there. I picture her with little 3x5 notecards with different facts and terms from the 1930s and circuses and just deciding randomly to put one here, another one there, one more over there, etc., into the main story she had created. Whatever her real process for writing it, it just wasn't for me. I usually enjoy the books I read a LOT more than I enjoyed this one (see my Shelfari, linked to on the right) and I usually give them good reviews (mostly 4-5 stars). So I think I'm entitled to intensely dislike a few!

*page numbers are from the movie tie-in paperback edition

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tea Bag Wisdom

No, not that. Although I guess I should say "tea tag" not "tea bag". But "tea bag" is funnier. And yes, I am that mature.

Anyway, we have Good Earth Teas at work (seriously, free tea = awesome!) and they all have quotes on the tea tags. I save the occasional tag that has a quote that stirs something in me. I thought I'd share the quotes on the tags I've saved so far:
  • Ignorance of certain subjects is a great part of wisdom. - Hugo De Groot
  • Unless you believe, you will not understand. - Saint Augustine
  • A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. - Chinese Proverb
  • The palest ink is better than the best memory - Wise Saying from the Orient
  • The whole life of man is but a point of time; let us enjoy it. - Plutarch
  • Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes. - Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. - The White Queen in Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  • Every artist was first an amateur. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • He that can have patience can have what he will. - Benjamin Franklin
  • I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes. - Sara Teasdale

Some echo my sentiments (for example, Hugo De Groot and Frank Lloyd Wright) and others are reminders of how I want to live my life (like Benjamin Franklin, Plutarch, and Sara Teasdale) and still others just make me smile (like Lewis Carroll). It's kind of nice to enjoy a (free) cup of tea in the morning and be greeted with an inspiring quote as well. :)

Sunday, May 08, 2011

French Grammar

If you couldn't tell already, I'm a big fan of anything French. And, you could probably already tell that I love books from the 1920s and 1930s. So imagine my delight when yesterday, I found the following at M & M Antiques & Collectibles in Monroe, WA:

It says "COPYRIGHT, 1901" on the back of the title page, but in the preface, there's a bit about "this edition" and it's dated 1903, so I'm guessing this book was printed in 1903—but then again, I know nothing about old books, so I could be very wrong. In any case, what makes it so exciting to me is that it was owned by a girl named Violet Weeks in 1920:

And to make it even more adorable, Violet wrote her classes (English, French, and Civics) and a French/English phrase (compter jusqu'a - count to) on one of the pages:

This amazing find I got for the incredible price of $2. I'm not even kidding. Joining my 1930 Ex-Wife, 1918 Khaki Girls of the Motor Corps books (the first two in the series), and 1920 The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, this book has become one of my most prized book possessions. The antique store also had a 1920s works of Shakespeare that I really wanted, but as I already have an existing works of Shakespeare, I didn't see the point in buying it when I'm trying to be a bit more frugal. Although I'm hoping it'll still be there if I ever go back—it was only like $10! If you ever happen to be in Monroe, you should definitely check them out—they had SO much cool stuff (not just books) and at really reasonable prices. 119 W Main St, Monroe, WA 98272

Friday, April 29, 2011

Les livres pour les francophiles

I've been on a bit of a French jag with my books lately. I think I might have to take a break from reading France-centric books for a bit and give other countries a chance to hold my imagination. Here are some of the wonderful books I've read recently dealing with things and people that are French:

Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl by Debra Ollivier
I read this book a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I liked how Ollivier boiled down her observations of all things French into nice little lists (so very appropriate for an American audience!). I got quite a good number of movie, book, and beauty product recommendations.

French Women Don't Sleep Alone by Jamie Cat Callan
This was a very cute book. It's definitely put me in the mind to accept more social engagements and to put more effort into my appearance (even if it's just a trip to Trader Joe's). Also, a walking "date" sounds so much more appealing than a one-on-one dinner and a movie date, so I'll definitely be suggesting that in the future. And, of course, keeping the mystery alive, even when you're married is always a great suggestion.

All You Need to be Impossibly French by Helena Frith Powell
Another very cute book that attempts the feat of boiling down millions of French women into the things that make them French and therefore different from British and American women. I liked how the author said she'd take the things she liked about the French and apply them to her own life, but also keep what she likes about being British. I agree—the French have many desirable attributes: a healthy diet, a mysterious air (due to NOT spilling every single little detail about themselves to everyone they meet), a polished appearance, ability to drink in moderation, matching underwear etc. But they also have idiosyncrasies that I would not like in my own life, such as the prevalence of cheating (obviously this happens just as much in the States too, but the French seem more understanding about it) and the lack of girlfriends. So I think I will do like the author did and incorporate the things I admire about the French into my life but also keep my insistence upon monogamy and my best friends.

French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano
Surprisingly, I had not read this book until this year—crazy, I know. I already loved the author because my former French teacher's name was also Mireille and because she's the former president and CEO of Veuve Clicquot, my favorite champagne. This book did NOT disappoint. It's all common sense, really, but the way Mireille tells it, it makes even more sense. These are not things Americans are taught to do—eat bread and cheese and yogurt—so perhaps it's not common sense to most people, but I found her advice to ring true. I have definitely made some steps in the right direction with what I eat after reading this book. But to be honest, I only lasted 3/4 of a day on that Magic Leek Soup weekend. I am absolute rubbish at fasting—even fasting that includes eating leeks and drinking leek soup. However, I'd never had leeks before, so to discover that I actually like them quite a bit was a nice surprise!

The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano
I'm not exactly what you'd call a cook. In fact, I don't really cook at all. In fact, I honestly think the first time I've ever cooked pasta was just the other night. When you hear about people who can't even boil water, picture me. I'm not even kidding. So, while I have only tried two of the recipes in this book so far (Magical Breakfast Cream—seriously SO yummy and something else involving peas that I didn't really care for), I do plan on trying more and actually learning how to cook. But seriously, that Magical Breakfast Cream is delicious. I have had it every morning for breakfast for the past three or four weeks and cannot get enough of it!

What French Women Know About Love, Sex, and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind by Debra Ollivier
Another great book by Debra Ollivier. It brings to light so many wonderful aspects of the way French women think, act, and live. After reading it, I'm more inclined to embrace my imperfections and just enjoy life as it happens. That is far sexier and more enjoyable than trying to control every little aspect of your life like many American women do!

I also have plenty of French books on my "plan to read" list, such as:

Reading all of these books about French women has definitely made an impact on me. I see things in the French that I would like to exhibit myself. Namely, taking very good care of myself (eating well, walking a lot, drinking lots of water, taking excellent care of my skin, hair, and nails, making an effort with my appearance at all times, etc.), not really caring what others think of me (which you might think is mutually exclusive with wanting to look good all the time, but it’s not!) and not needing everyone to like me, allowing some mystery about myself (I am really bad about sharing too much!), wearing matching scanties, drinking only in moderation, and not trying to achieve perfection. I like how the French don’t need everything spelled out in a relationship, but I would still like to know for sure that the relationship I’m in is monogamous and will stay so—I’m not into “open” relationships. That said, a little more mystery is a good thing—your significant other doesn’t need to know every little secret about you.

And there are some French things that I think I already exhibit. For example, in What French Women Know, Debra Olliver quotes Véronique Vienne “[joie de vivre is] a form of bliss triggered by the world at large, not by an internal reality. Unlike happiness, which can be described as an inner state of contentment, joie de vivre is not self-involved. You derive this kind of joy from acknowledging greatness outside yourself—in things, in nature, in others.” I never noticed this about myself until recently, but after taking the VIA Survey of Character Strengths, it showed that my #1 strength is “appreciation of beauty and excellence”. I thought this was a sort of weird strength to have as my #1. I mean, what can you do with an appreciation of beauty and excellence? Does that translate into a job? And then I remembered that our jobs do not need to be our lives and I can enjoy the beauty and excellence around me any old time and who cares if I get paid for it? It makes me happy. Anyway, as soon as I read Vienne’s definition of joie de vivre, I got all excited—I have joie de vivre!

Of course, there are other so-called French attributes mentioned in more than one of these books that I am not overly fond of. Everything You Need to be Impossibly French had a whole section on how French women don’t hang out with other women like Americans and British women do—they just don’t do “girlfriends”. While I admire the French way of co-ed socializing (I really could stand to do more of that myself), I love my girlfriends and I can’t imagine life without the occasional girls’ night out. It was also mentioned that one of the reasons they don’t do “girlfriends” is because they’re all worried their female friends are going to steal their husbands/boyfriends. This seems silly to me. I trust my girlfriends implicitly. I would just not be friends with a woman I didn’t trust. And if my significant other could be “stolen”, then he isn’t worth my time. Also, the whole French inability to stand in lines. I experienced this first-hand in Paris—especially in Disneyland Paris. I’m definitely not calling French people rude because I met the nicest, most accommodating French people when I was there. But, at the train station and at Disneyland Paris, I encountered the most annoying lack of respect for lines I’ve ever experienced. I’m a firm believer in first come, first served and I dislike it when people cut in line because they think they’re more entitled. My sister even hip checked a girl into a trash can in line for Space Mountain because she tried to get in front of us. I think it’s only polite to wait in line and I will continue to think so, even if that makes me terribly American. I have no problem with that.

I find much to admire in French women (see, there goes that appreciation of beauty and excellence!) and plan to incorporate those admirable qualities in my own life. But I also have developed a better appreciation for myself and can proudly claim some of my very American traits, such as love for my girlfriends and patiently waiting in line.

Monday, April 25, 2011


So I just bought a copy of Water for Elephants online—even though I already read the book a couple of years ago and HATED it. I thought the storyline itself was great and it was obvious that Sara Gruen knew her stuff (i.e. did extensive research). However, I thought the way she set you in the 1930s was too obvious. I felt like I was being hit over the head with it. And that's what rubbed me the wrong way and made me hate it.

As a huge fan of the 1930s—the movies, the books, the music, the culture, the outlaws (I'm obsessed with Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger)—I probably know a lot more about this time period than your average reader. And so, I totally understand that Sara Gruen's writing style is probably not irritating to the millions of people who loved this book. But to this 30s fan, it rankled me big time.

However, as I said before, I think the story itself was great and the characters were wonderful. Also, being a fan of all three leads in the movie version, I went and saw the movie on Friday night. I figured the movie version would be better because they could visually show you the 1930s without overdoing it. And I was right—I enjoyed the movie much more than the book (even though the line about "He hates Ringling Brothers even more than he hates this depression" made me cringe and I'm pretty sure the flag on the big top had 50 stars on it, but I could be wrong).

One of my favorite things to do after watching any movie is to go to IMDb and read all of the goofs and trivia about it. When I did this for Water for Elephants, I found out that Sara Gruen wrote the novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I couldn't help but be impressed. I've never given NaNoWriMo a true try before (because it has to be a new novel, not one you've been working on and I'm still working on one and don't want to start a new one yet), but I can figure out for myself that it's no easy thing to do. Of course, she obviously didn't write the entire 350 page novel in 30 days, but she wrote at least 50,000 words of it.*

I've been wanting to re-read the book so I could give specific examples of why I didn't like Gruen's writing style. Every time I explain to people why I didn't like it, I think I sound like a know-it-all who thinks she's pretty awesome because she knows a lot about the 1930s. And, well, I am and I do. Having forgotten much of the book since I read it in 2008 or 2009, I can't honestly remember the specific passages that drove me crazy. So I figure if I re-read it, I can make note of them and better defend my opinion. But also, now with my new-found respect for Sara Gruen, I might actually enjoy it this time.

We'll see. . . .

*Edit: when I received the book in the mail, it had a little interview with Sara Gruen in it and she never mentioned NaNoWriMo,which is  kind of lame. I'd brag about that shit!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Glad Game

If you've read the book or seen the movie, you know that Pollyanna is a big proponent of the Glad Game. Which is, basically finding a reason to be glad about everything—even if at first glance, you think it kind of sucks. I am big fan of this way of thinking. I honestly feel that positive thinking creates a healthier, better life. I believe you become what you think about. And oh boy, would I like to be glad.

Sometimes (like today), it's harder than others to play the Glad Game: it's raining; I feel stuck, unchallenged, and unmotivated at work (and I greatly desire a new job that actually fulfills me); I most likely have some female hormonal thing like PMS going on, etc. I've already cried like three times today. Over not much.

So it's times like these that it's even more important to play the Glad Game. One cannot get out of one's funk if one continues to think funky thoughts. So here are some glad thoughts to counter the bad thoughts:

  • I'm glad all the rain will help the trees, grass, and flowers grow and we'll have a lovely spring because of it
  • I'm glad I work with such amazing people that I enjoy being around
  • I'm glad I have a job that gives me a salary and health benefits
  • I'm glad I no longer have the devil IUD that caused even more female hormonal PMS-like things (and very frequently too)
  • I'm glad I don't keep my emotions all bottled up inside

And here's some more random glad thoughts to further help get me going toward a sunnier outlook:

  • I'm glad I have this beautiful little yellow rose in a cute little blue pot on my desk—it's sunny & cheerful
  • I'm glad I finally watched the videos for The Black Keys', Tighten Up and Howlin' for You - those are funny guys who write some pretty great songs (yes, I'm a bit behind the times as far as music videos go)
  • I'm glad my sister and her husband get to go to Orlando next week—and get to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disneyworld and other amazing Florida stuff
  • I'm glad I have the two cutest little basement cats ever (okay, cutest cats ever, regardless of fur color)
  • I'm glad I have a stack of 12 library books at my house (and one at work)
  • I'm glad I found cute black ballet flats with little birdies on the inside at H & M this past weekend
  • I'm glad I'm a brunette now (I look best with brown hair, I think)
  • I'm glad I'll come home to find Mad Men Season 4, discs one and two waiting for me in their little red Netflix envelopes in my mailbox
  • I'm glad I got to see my grandparents this weekend and hear interesting stories about their lives and see interesting keepsakes (including my great-great-grandfather's potato that he kept in his pants pocket to help his arthritis and my great-grandmother's pair of glasses from the 50s or 60s)
  • I'm glad I have a beautiful black PT Cruiser—I love my car!
  • I'm glad I get to each lunch now!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Shadow of the Wind

This is a gorgeous book. I mean that literally—look at that cover! I was browsing in Barnes & Noble one day and happened upon the Z section of Fiction and this book jumped out at me. I just thought the cover was stunning and intriguing. So, I read the back of the book and deemed it even more intriguing.

It's the story of Daniel Sempere, who lost his mother to cholera and has lived alone with his father since. Daniel's father, a bookseller, takes him to a wonderful place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (I seriously could spend months in a place like that). There, he finds a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Mesmerized by its story, Daniel sets out to find more of Carax's books. Unfortunately, no one has any—they're all being bought up, stolen, and burned. Of course, this just makes Daniel all the more curious and he goes to great lengths to find out the truth about Julián Carax and why his books are being systematically destroyed.

It's a mystery set in Spain in the 1940s and 1950s and the way Carlos Ruiz Zafón describes places and people and the feeling of the time, you feel as if you really were there. Zafón's way with words is a magical gift. His writing is purely beautiful without being too flowery or over the top. For example, here is the opening of the novel:
I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of a Barcelona trapped beneath ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Mónica in a wreath of liquid copper.
Can't you just picture it and feel it? I can! You can tell that Zafón is a great lover of books as well. Take this quote from Daniel's father about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books:
This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a book shop closes down, when a book is consigned into oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody's best friend. Now they have only us, Daniel. Do you think you'll be able to keep such a secret?"
I apologize for the lengthy quote, but it's just so beautiful. The man clearly loves his books. And it puts into words how I feel about physical books—there is something magical about reading a book: its smell, its feel, turning its pages...  e-readers may be very convenient, but I still get a kick out of books.

The mystery of Julián Carax is one that will keep you guessing (as any good mystery book will do). You never know which characters to trust and which clues will lead you in the right direction. Zafón lets you guess some secrets and then completely surprises you with others—ones you never saw coming. It's one of those books that when you finish it, you want to start it all over again because now you know what really happened and you want to see all of the foreshadowing and clues with knowing eyes.

I was reading this book on the bus the other day and a lady a couple people over asked me if I liked it. I told her I loved it! And she said it was one of her favorite books of all time. I can see why. I've never read a mystery told so beautifully and with such interesting and rich characters. I would love to re-learn all of the Spanish I've forgotten and read the book in its original language because I bet that's an even more amazing experience. I will be re-reading this one over and over again for years to come!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Random Thoughts on the Milennium Trilogy

I finally finished the last book in Stieg Larsson's Milennium trilogy this weekend. It makes me quite sad that he was unable to write more—although I do think that the ending of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest serves as a nice ending to the whole series.  ou're not quite sure what will happen to Lisbeth and Mikael, but at least they're in a good place.

I know I attempted a comparison between book and movie for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I decided not to do the same for the other books and movies. As I stated in that blog post, I will always prefer the book to the movie. And, as I learned in the case of these books and movies, I should definitely not watch the movie based on the book so soon after reading the book—it just makes it so hard to enjoy the movie for what it is. But in the movies' defense, these books are so full of different characters and subplots, that it would be impossible to make the movies just like the books. There will be some inevitable shaving down of parts and characters. And I think if I re-watch these movies at another time, I will enjoy them much more! I definitely think people who have not read the books would think the movies were incredibly awesome.

So, I have read that Stieg Larsson planned to do more books in this series, but his untimely death put a stop to that. I have also read that his partner may continue writing the books based on what he had written so far and his outlines. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it might be nice to get answers to some unanswered questions I have. Namely:

  • Whatever happened to Lisbeth's sister—was she going to enter the picture at any point?
  • Does Lisbeth ever regain her interest for math and Fermat's theorem? Does she ever remember how she solved it?
  • Did she indeed have Asperger's syndrome?
  • Why was she so interested in DNA? Was she looking for some connection between her and her father (and possibly half-brother and why it was he was born with that condition where he doesn't feel pain)?

I also would love to hear about the end of the Blomkvist/Figueroa romance. I just didn't buy it. She seemed too needy to me—always trying to coerce him to spending more time with her. Just the sort of behavior that usually drives men away. But then again, he's used to very strong women, like Berger and Salander who don't require him to be around all the time, so maybe Figueroa was a breath of fresh air. And perhaps I didn't like Blomkvist falling for Figueroa because I was sort of expecting him and Salander to end up together. I am a sucker for a happy ending and I thought it was quite sad that the first time Lisbeth let her guard down enough to fall in love, he was too busy f'ing Erika Berger to even notice.

Speaking of Blomkvist, I wonder how Stieg Larsson saw him in his head—I could definitely tell that he was middle aged and not exactly a super model or in the awesomest of shape, but several women in the series did find him attractive, so he must have not been too bad. I liked that an average looking guy was hooking up with average looking women (perhaps Lisbeth is an exception to this, of course)—sometimes I get sick of reading books where everyone in them is gorgeous and desirable.

Once I got used to all of the Swedish names and places and worked through the boring financial portions, I was definitely hooked on these books. Larsson creates very unique and complex characters—even the bad guys have depth to them. I got so caught up in the lives of these characters and read for hours at a time to find out just what happened. In the second book when Palmgren revealed who Lisbeth's father was, I actually audibly gasped. And I cheered (in my head) for both Lisbeth and Annika at the trial as they kept beating the shit out of the prosecution (figuratively)—especially the part where Lisbeth takes Ekström to task for not asking actual questions.

I can definitely see why these books are best sellers and I will definitely be re-reading them in the future. I have a feeling that they're the kind of books where you discover something new every time you read them. And, of course, knowing how the story plays itself out will help you notice all the foreshadowing and clues that you probably didn't notice the first time. I'm kind of excited for enough time to pass so I can read them again!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Stars and Books

I usually keep the image heavy and classic Hollywood posts for my other blog, but I found an adorable picture of Jean Harlow reading a book today and felt compelled to look for other similar pictures of my favorite classic stars. I also wanted to link to some great biographies about them, which really makes this sort of post more appropriate for this blog. So, here you go:

The aforementioned Jean Harlow shot. Just like Marilyn Monroe after her, she was way smarter than many people gave her credit for.

Grace Kelly. This is a shot from Rear Window (immediately after this shot, she whips out a Bazaar magazine and reads that instead).

Clara Bow. Don't read any of that Hollywood Babylon crap about her—read David Stenn's biography of her instead! She was an amazingly talented actress who had to overcome so much.

Norma Shearer. Another great book that deals a lot with Norma is Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood by Mick LaSalle—an incredible read!

Clark Gable—awww, he's reading one of my favorite books ever (and obviously preparing to be Rhett Butler). Admittedly, I have yet to read a Gable biography, so I feel funny recommending one. And most of the Gable biographies have such terrible reviews, so I'm just linking to the Clark Gable paper dolls—I loves me some Tom Tierney!

Margaret Mitchell. I had to follow up that picture of Clark Gable with this one! I have yet to read her biography, but I own it, so it's definitely on my "plan to read" list.

Vivien Leigh. Well, while we're on a Gone With the Wind roll... I haven't read her biography either, but this one got good reviews and the cover photograph is stunning!

Olivia de Havilland. Let's just complete the Gone With the Wind portion of this post with the lovely Melanie. I have yet to read a biography for her and I suspect there might be some trashiness to the books about her and Errol Flynn and her and her sister, so I'll just link to a book about her films.

Joan Fontaine. Speaking of Oliva de Havilland's a shot from Suspicion. I haven't read her autobiography, but I bet it's riveting!

Barbara Stanwyck. This shot is from Stella Dallas. I have read this biography by Al DiOrio, but it was written before she died. I'd like to read another, more recent biography some time and get the full story on this most amazing actress!

Joan Crawford. No, I have not read Mommie Dearest (although I have seen the movie) and I don't plan to. There's another Joan Crawford biography that recently came out, Possessed, and I really want to read it!

James Cagney. That man could sing and dance even better than he could play a gangster. I'd really like to read his autobiography!

Greta Garbo. I'd like to read other Garbo biographies to compare them to Barry Paris'—that one kind of left me depressed. But then again, Garbo didn't exactly have the most uplifting and happiest of lives. She's still as fascinating and glamorous as you can get!

Louise Brooks. Okay, so technically she's not the one reading in this picture. And man, does she look bored. In fact, so bored, she'd rather eat a donut.

Audrey Hepburn. Wow, there a LOT of pictures of Audrey Hepburn reading, but this is by far the coolest. I haven't read any of her biographies either, but this one by her son seems like it would be pretty cool.

Bette Davis. Seriously. This is an amazingly cute picture. Sadly, I haven't read any of her biographies either, so I'm linking to her autobiography.

Cary Grant. Sigh—yet another of my favorite actors that I haven't read about. Many of his biographies have good reviews, but I chose to link to a book about his style, because, c'mon, look at his style!!

Dean Martin. Ha! That's all I can say about this picture. Perhaps I should read his daughter's biography of him and see what it was like growing up with this guy!

F. Scott Fitzgerald. I would be remiss if I didn't include my favorite author ever. Not sure if he counts as a "star", but he was famous in his own day, so I think so. If you are a Fitzgerald fan and you haven't checked out The Romantic Egoists, you need to—SO amazing! An incredible peek into his private and professional life.

Gary Cooper. He had love affairs with my two favorite actresses ever, Grace Kelly and Clara Bow, so who knows why I haven't read any of his biographies. Perhaps this one by his daughter isn't the one to spill the beans about his romances, but it sure looks good! Oh, and how cute are pictures of stars reading the books their movies are based on (like that Clark Gable one)?!

Gloria Swanson. Look—they just happened to catch Gloria reading in her library, looking very pensive. I so need to read her autobiography!

Humphrey Bogart. Wow, another shot of an actor reading the book his movie is based on. Why is it always the men? Another star I haven't read about—probably because I've only seen his 30s movies and I'm sure most books would deal more with his later movies, life, and love with Lauren Bacall. This book about his films seems like it would be the most interesting to me.

Jeanne Moreau. I love French movies and I love Jeanne Moreau! Perhaps I should check out this biography of hers and write a review on it.

James Stewart (and Valerie Varda). There were some adorable pictures of Jimmy reading magazines, but I tried to stick to book pictures only, which is why I ended up with this shot from Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. I haven't read any of Jimmy's biographies, but I have read his book of poems. And they're really cute.

Una Merkel. I was unable to find any books about Una Merkel. Sad face. But she is mentioned in Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood by Mick LaSalle and Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood by Mark A. Vieira, both incredible reads with gorgeous pictures.

Walt Disney. Sweet Lord do I love this man. I started to read Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler, but found it too bogged down with facts and figures that I wasn't interested in—I wanted to know about the man himself—so I stopped reading it. Next up on my list is this one by Michael Barrier.

Unless otherwise noted, I have read the books I linked to and would recommend them to anyone interested in these stars or in classic Hollywood in general!

I leave you with a shot of my cat, Scarlett, who would really rather I pay attention to her than read:

(and yes, she is named after the character in Gone With the Wind—as is her sister, Melanie)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Book vs Movie

I am definitely one of those people who will always think that a book is better than the movie based on it. I often have to watch the movie version first so that I can actually enjoy it and not sit there thinking "That never happened! She doesn't look like that! They left out the best part!", etc. I know that it would be very hard-to-impossible to exactly translate a book into a movie—it probably wouldn't be as entertaining and the pacing would be off, etc. But even knowing this, I still get irritated at some of the liberties movie makers take when turning books into films.

Case in point, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I loooooved this book. Loved it. And I was so excited that they were making it into a movie—especially because I heard that Kevin Spacey would be playing Jim Williams. I have always been a big fan of Kevin Spacey and I just knew that he would be perfect in this role. I also was quite excited that John Cusack would be the narrator/lead character and that they got some of the real characters in the book to play themselves (like Lady Chablis). However, all of my excitement went right down the drain and was replaced with furious anger when I discovered that the character of Mandy (described in the book as being overweight and totally and completely in love with Joe Odom) was played by Clint Eastwood's thin, hot daughter and the character now fell in love with John Cusack's character. Really? Really?! I know such a little thing shouldn't have upset me so much, but it did. Did Clint Eastwood really have to beef up his own daughter's part like that? But even despite that annoying turn of events, the rest of the movie wasn't that great either. It definitely made me intensely dislike Clint Eastwood and I now have my own immature personal boycott of him and his films.

Okay, rant on the bad, bad movie over! I have actually seen movies that are very good interpretations of the books they are based on. Case in point, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson, et al, left out only the parts that really didn't add to the story and they moved some things around and gave some lines to different characters, but all in all, these movies were incredibly faithful to the books. And I love them all!

The real point of this whole post was really to discuss The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I recently finished reading and watching. If you have not read or seen it yet, you probably don't want to read the rest of this post since there are some spoilers! The book took awhile for me to get into. I myself know nothing about the world of finance, so I was a bit bored and confused by the beginning. But I knew it'd get better and so I kept reading. And boy howdy, did it! I got a little confused at all the Swedish names and places and I had to constantly keep going back to the Vanger family tree at the beginning of the book, but I finally did manage to keep the characters straight.

Even though I normally watch the movie version of a book first so as not to be disappointed in it, I decided not to do that this time. I didn't want to have the mystery solved for me in movie form—I wanted to read about it. And I'm sure glad I did! I thoroughly enjoyed the book and expected no less from the movie. The movie stayed mostly true to the story, with a few derivations for entertainment and simplicity's sake. It was totally understandable (and even preferable) that they cut down the family tree a bit and made Henrik the uncle of Harriet instead of her great-uncle. I also felt that Noomi Rapace was totally believable as Lisbeth Salander, even though she was more buff and boy-like than the tiny and doll-like description given in the book. I often get irritated when the movies change the hair color of characters from what they're supposed to be—because c'mon, how hard is it to get a freaking wig or to dye the actors' hair? But I get that for the story's sake, they had to make Harriet a blonde in the movie so that she'd look like Anita. I would just think that after she disappeared, Harriet would definitely want to change up her whole appearance so as not to be identified as herself. I also get why they had Lisbeth discover the connection between the names and numbers in Harriet's diary and the Bible verses instead of having Blomkvist's daughter do it, like in the book—it definitely simplified things to have it that way in the movie. Also, having Lisbeth provide Blomkvist with all of the damaging evidence against Wennerström in the movie instead of having Vanger promising to do so and then delivering old info and then having Lisbeth get the real dirt simplified the plot line and gave the movie a neat ending.

One thing I did not like about the movie were the allusions to "All the Evil". Since I have not finished the other books in the trilogy, I do not know exactly what "All the Evil" is yet. And gee, now I know it involves a younger Lisbeth, fire, and someone in a car. Thanks, movie makers, for ruining the surprise for me! The second time they showed the flashback, I looked away until I could tell it was over. And even though I still don't know exactly what "All the Evil" is from watching the movie, I would have rather discovered what it is in its entirety from the book, in Stieg Larsson's words (or rather, his words translated into English). I am almost halfway done with The Girl Who Played with Fire, so I gather I shall be in the know soon. And I'm sure the movie makers assumed that many people seeing the movie would have already read all the books and know what happened. But still, I was a bit upset that they put this in the first movie.

I also did not like that they had Martin Vanger try to avoid hitting the truck and going off the road and begging Lisbeth to save him when in the book, he drove straight into the truck, committing suicide because he knew he couldn't face the consequences of his actions and possibly because he knew his sick, murderous activities could not possibly continue now that he was caught, so what's the use of living? I guess this change of events in the movie showed again that Lisbeth had absolute hatred for men who abuse women, but I personally thought that was already evident.

I kind of felt sorry for the movie version of Blomkvist because he didn't get nearly as much action as the book Blomkvist did! His relationship with Erika was only shown in passing in the movie and he never even hooked up with Cecilia at all! He did get to have sex with Salander, so at least he scored there. But man, if I was Michael Nyqvist, I'd be pissed that I missed out on all the hot sexy time!

All in all, I thought it was a great movie version of a book. If I had not read the book before I watched the movie, I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more, but there's just something about reading a mystery before you watch it—it's more intense and suspenseful if you have to read it. It takes no effort to sit and watch a movie for two hours and find out what happens, but it (obviously) takes lots more time and effort to sit and read a book. And when you find you can't put it down because you're so invested in the story and finding out what happens, that's what makes books magical!

Monday, February 07, 2011


Sometimes I wonder about the lasting impressions I make on strangers. Not like a "Oh my God, does that girl think this outfit look stupid?" type wondering, more like, "I wonder if I've ever said or done anything that stayed with a complete stranger for a long time?"

Case in point—I simply cannot listen to The Light of a Fading Star without growling the line "And the light..." and balling up my fists like a really drunk guy I saw at a Flogging Molly show in Arizona in 2005. Seriously. Six years later, and I'm still doing it.

I wonder if anyone ever imitates me like I imitate that guy? And all I have to do is sing "And the light..." and my sister and brother-in-law know exactly who I'm talking about too. I wonder if that guy knows he's famous. Well, to us.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Love West Seattle!

So last night, after posting about how much I love the trees and wildlife in West Seattle, I was definitely in the mood to take a little walk down to the beach. And I saw some amazingly beautiful sights:

Seriously—look at that beautiful sky and its reflection in the beautiful water! And hey, a little bit of a bare tree in front of the sky too—yay!

Okay, so this is blurry (taken w/ my camera phone), but this is a bunch of ducks all bathing out in the Puget Sound—so cute!

Another view of the Puget Sound.

And I'm back to get a shot of that tree and the white house from the first picture—I love that house! In fact, I love all of the older houses along the beach in West Seattle. One of the best things about West Seattle is that most of the houses and apartment buildings look completely different—there's no attempt to make everything match or fit in the same mold. Every time I drive down my street, I feel like I'm in a vacation town. It's a good feeling!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's the Little Things

I'm big on noticing the little things. Okay, so maybe they're not literally "little" things, but they're the things you might normally overlook in day to day life. There are certain things that I see almost every day, but when I pay special attention to them, I get super happy and feel blessed and all special inside. For example:

Bare trees silhouetted against the sky.
I love a bare tree—I think it's just so beautiful and elegantly skeletal. And to see one with a beautiful sky in the background is even more breathtaking. Obviously this is only a sight for late fall into winter, so I have to take advantage of it while I can. Luckily, with the amount of trees in Washington, this is not a problem!

Washington's fall leaves.
Another reason I look forward to the fall—the leaves turning colors. I think Washington has the most beautiful fall leaves because they're all mixed in with our evergreens and you get a whole beautiful rainbow of oranges, browns, yellows, reds, and greens. But then again, I may be biased. ;)

The birds of West Seattle.
I love crows. LOVE them. I think they're the most beautiful bird ever. Probably because I just love all-black animals (again, I might be biased, having two all-black cats). But I also love hearing their caws. I also love seagulls—just seeing and/or hearing one makes me feel so giddy that I live this close to the Puget Sound. And blue jays—man are they pretty! Technically, this bird pictured is a Steller's Jay and I think that's the kind I see in my back yard, but then again, I know absolutely nothing about birds, so I could be wrong. All I know is that they're blue and they look like that little guy. I get to see all three of these kinds of birds quite frequently in West Seattle and I love it every time my attention is called to one of them.

Man, are these little guys cute! Once, there was a little squirrel running about the apartment complex I lived in. On a whim, I called him over to me, like you would a cat or dog—and he totally came! Right up to my foot! And then proceeded to climb up my pants leg. I thought this was pretty awesome until I started to wonder if he would keep climbing up me and scratch my eyes out and give me rabies. So I ran. He still kept a hold on my pants.  So I shook him off. But then I felt really bad because I was sure he didn't mean any harm. I went back to where he was and called him over again. He gingerly came towards me, but then I got freaked out again and ran away. And then I called him back and he started to come again. And then I got scared and ran away again. He stopped coming after that—no matter how I called to him. Sigh. Anyway, despite my fear of getting my eyes scratched out with rabies infested claws, I still love squirrels and thoroughly enjoy it whenever I see them. Seriously—so cute!

My favorite flower ever! This one I have to wait for winter/spring to see, but it's worth the wait. They're just so sunny and beautiful! Every year when I first see daffodils being sold at Trader Joe's, I get the happies. Maybe I'm biased towards daffodils because I'm from Puyallup and we had the whole Daffodil Festival and Daffodil Parade (and my grandmother was a Daffodil Princess back in the day!). But they really are a beautiful flower and it makes me so happy when they're in bloom.

Wow, I just noticed that all of these "little" things are found in nature. Yet, I would never ever consider myself a nature person. It just goes to show you how the great outdoors can really feed your soul. And I leave you with a picture of two of my favorite things—a murder of crows in a bare tree silhouetted against the sky: