Friday, May 27, 2011

So You Want to Be More Like Rory Gilmore...

Well, according to Wikihow, the first place to start is by wearing blue contacts and dying your hair brown, but this is not the most important thing. By far the most important aspect of Rory is her wit and intelligence, the latter being best exemplified by her lengthy reading list1. So, if you really want to be more like her2, then get reading!
9.A Separate Peace by John Knowles
10.Atonement: A Novel by Ian McEwan
11.A Mencken Chrestomathy by H.L. Mencken
12.An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
13.A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
14.A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
15.Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (Why haven't I read this? I've read so many other books on this topic, yet I haven't read this?! I need to correct that post haste.)
16.A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
17.Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
18.A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
19.Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
20.A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
21.A Month of Sundays by Julie Mars
22.A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
23.Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
24.Beloved by Toni Morrison
25.Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
26.Brick Lane by Monica Ali
27.Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
28.Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
29.Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress by Dai Sijie
30.Cousin Bette by Honore De Balzac
31.Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
32.Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
33.Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe (still working on this one)
34.Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
35.David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
36.Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky
37.Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
38.Daisy Miller by Henry James
39.Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
40.Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
41.Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
42.Emma by Jane Austen
43.Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
44.Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
45.Extravagance by Gary Krist
46.Empire Falls by Richard Russo
47.Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
48.Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
49.Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
50.Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
51.Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest people in the World by Greg Critser
52.Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
53.Howl by Allen Ginsberg
54.Hamlet by William Shakespeare
55.Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
56.How the Light gets In by M.J. Hyland
57.How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
58.Holidays on Ice by Davis Sedaris
59.Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
60.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (I plan on giving this another go now that I'm older)
61.Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
62.Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
63.Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
64.Life of Pi by Yann Martel
65.Lord of the Flies by William Golding
66.Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
67.Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
68.Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
69.Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
70.Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
71.Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Haven't read this, but I loved In The Heart of the Sea: The Sinking of Whale Ship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, which is the true account of the killer, white whale)
72.Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
73.My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
74.Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
75.Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
76.My Life in Orange by Tim Guest
77.My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
78.Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
79.New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
80.Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/a Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
81.Night by Elie Wiesel
82.Nervous System by Jan Lars Jensen
83.Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
84.On the Road by Jack Kerouac
85.One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest by Ken Kesey
86.Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
87.Othello by William Shakespeare
88.Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
89.Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
90.Oracle Night by Paul Auster
91.Old School by Tobias Wolff
92.Pushkin: A Biography by T.J. Binyon
93.Please Kill Me: Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
94.Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
95.Property by Valerie Martin
96.Quattrocento by James McKean
97.Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
98.Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
99.Rescuing Patty Hearst by Virginia Holman
100.Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
101.Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
102.Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia De Burgos by Julia De Burgos
103.Swimming with Giants: My Encounters With Whales, Dolphins, and Seals by Anne Collet
104.Savage Beauty: the Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
105.Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
106.Sanctuary by William Faulkner
107.Snows of Kilimanjaro by Hemmingway
108.Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
109.Selected Letters of Dawn Powell 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
110.Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
111.Sybil by Flora Schreiber
112.Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
113.Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
114.Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
115.Songbook by Nick Hornby
116.Small Island by Andrea Levy
117.The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
118.The Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank Baum
119.The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir
120.The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
121.The Awakening by Kate Chopin
122.The Manticore by Robertson Davies
123.Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
124.The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
125.The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
126.The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
127.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
128.The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
129.The Naked and The Dead by Norman Mailer
130.The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
131.The Group by Mary McCarthy
132.The Portable Nietzsche by Nietzsche
133.The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
134.The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath
135.The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
136.The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
137.The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
138.Time and Again by Jack Finney
139.Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fritzgerald
140.The Little Locksmith by Katherine Butler Hathaway
141.The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
142.The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway
143.The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
144.The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
145.The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
146.The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn by Mark Twain
147.The Art of War by Sun Tzu
148.The Last Empire Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
149.The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
150.The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
151.The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
152.The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
153.The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
154.The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
155.The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (My mom wouldn't let me read this. It was the first time I can ever remember being told No about a book.)
156.The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
157.The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
158.The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
159.The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
160.The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
161.The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
162.The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duff
163.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
164.The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
165.The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
166.The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
167.The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
168.The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
169.The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
170.The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
171.The Time Travaler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
172.Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
173.The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
174.The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
175.The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
176.The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan
177.The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
178.The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
179.The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
180.Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher
181.Unless by Carol Shields
182.Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
183.Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
184.War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
185.Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
186.When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
187.1984 by George Orwell
188.In cold blood
189.Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
190.How I live now

i am
zombie girrrl
& i have
a lot
of reading to do

footnotes_______________________________________________________________
1. I don't know why the list begins at 9, but I assure you this is the complete list.
2. And there surely must be people who do, since there was a whole article written about it on Wikihow. There was even one on how to speak like a Gilmore Girl, which is actually a fairly useful skill to have.
3. Key: Read, Incomplete for Whatever Reason, Family Library, Public Library

Friday, May 20, 2011

My (revised) Take On: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.
Until now.
Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.
So, yeah...
I already said what I thought while I was reading this book, and incase you missed that you can read it here. But in case you don't like chasing links or whatever, I'll just summarize my pre-review by saying this: I was less than pleased and slightly more than bored.
However!
Have you ever read a book that was better in retrospect? It just didn't seem that great while you were actively reading it, but once it was over and you had all the pieces in a row, it was better? Maybe not fully redeemed, but better. Well, this turned out to be one of those books.
I was underwhelmed while reading The Gathering, but as soon as I set it down and mulled it over for a bit1, I came to see that, not only was it not that bad, it was actually pretty good. Just, not while you're reading it.
It's hard to explain.
Like, while I was reading, the lack of action2--and not just fight scenes, but the lack of action taken by the characters--bugged me and made it seem too easy and like there just wasn't a story; but after finishing it, I realized that, hey, this was actually a good story that must have been somewhat hard to tell because the kids didn't know that the company which provided such a high standard of living for their families is evil to its blackened core.They have to figure out what we already know.
And, yes, the ease with which the characters seemed to gain and then dismiss important information was frustrating. They'd just realize something and then say, "Well, now doesn't seem like the right time to deal with this--I'm too hungry, and my friend stubbed his toe, and I need to feed the pine marten--so I'll just sit on this importante tidbit for a few days."
But by the end3, it had much improved. Something was happening!
So. I give The Gathering...
...3 zombies.
It took forever and a day to get going, and it ended right when it was getting good, but I like where the series seems to be headed so I'm looking forward to seeing what develops--especially in regards to certain characters' abilities...

i am
zombie girrrl
& this got
betterbetterbetter
but then
it ended

footnotes_________________________________________________________
1. "A bit" being about 30 minutes.
2. For the first 230 of 359 pages, hardback.
3. Which, let me warn you now, is one of the biggest cliff hangers I've ever read. Seriously, the scene just ended in the middle of the action and I was like, "Wait. That's the end? It had just gotten good!"

Currently Reading The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong...

...and it is dull, dull, dull. I feel bad saying that because I liked the Darkest Powers series so much and was so looking forward to reading this book, but it's true. I feel like nothing much happened until page 237, and that every time Maya gets close to finding something interesting, or at least reacting in some interesting way to something potentially interesting, she backs off. I'm into the late 200's now and it's finally staring to pick up, but I feel almost like Kelley picked the wrong character to follow. You see, there's this other girl, a peripheral character really, who is actually doing stuff and digging around and asking questions, and I'm left wondering, "Why aren't I reading about her?"
So, you can count this as my review because I don't feel like sitting down and racking my brain over what this was really saying1 and how I felt about the flow2 and the characters3 and the story4, yet I still wanted to say something about this book because I'd been looking forward to reading it so much.
I'll admit that the problem might not lie solely with the book, though; it might also be that I'm a bit emotionally shell shocked after losing my cat5 and I can't seem to get into it as fully as I'd like. With that in mind, I will be reading the second book when it comes out and judging from there whether I'll read the rest of this series. My hope is that this series will pick up in book two, because I do like this world and her writing style, but I'm chalking The Gathering up as a fail, for whatever reason.

i am
zombie girrl
& this was
a snooze fest
that i'm going
to write off as
a bad start

footnotes___________________________________________________________________
1. Nothing much, as far as I can tell.
2. It's slooooooow.
3. I actually really like the characters, especially Maya and Daniel and the dynamic between them. It's one of those friendships that you are either blessed to have, or wish you had.
4. So much untapped potential! So many mishandled clues! So much that the characters seem to know without knowing what they know... if that makes any sense. Like, weird things happen to the characters and they brush it off as being a normal "personal quirk" or talent that some people have.
5. She's not dead, so please don't send condolences, but she isn't coming back. Short story: she wasn't as much of a stray as I thought and her family finally showed up to take her "home". Honestly, after a year and half, I think they just should've let sleeping dogs, or contented cats, lie. I miss her6.
6. *Understatement of the year*

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Take On: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Fever Crumb is a1 girl who has been adopted and raised by Dr. Crumb, a member of the order of Engineers, where she serves as apprentice. In a time and place where women are not seen as reasonable creatures, Fever is an anomaly, the only female to serve in the order. Soon though, she must say goodbye to Dr. Crumb-nearly the only person she's ever known-to assist archeologist Kit Solent on a top-secret project. As her work begins, Fever is plagued by memories that are not her own and Kit seems to have a particular interest in finding out what they are. Fever has also been singled out by city-dwellers who declare her part Scriven. The Scriveners, not human, ruled the city some years ago but were hunted down and killed in a victorious uprising by the people. If there are any remaining Scriven, they are to be eliminated. All Fever knows is what she's been told: that she is an orphan. Is Fever a Scriven? Whose memories does she hold? Is the mystery of Fever, adopted daughter of Dr. Crumb, the key to the secret that lies at the heart of London?
If Hayao Miyazaki were to write a book, this would be it.
Fever Crumb was utterly original, palpable, and strongly visuallized novel based in a distant future that bears the blurry shadows of our own culture.
Archeologists, a very important faction in the city of London, dig up remnants of the past, such as misunderstood tech. The very earth is permeated with our refuse from when the high-tech Now crumbled into the nearly alchemical and superstitious Future.
Even the language and culture was pregnant with slang and beliefs derived from our current pop culture: blog(ger) was a well-used substitute for certain explitives and Harry Potter was briefly mentioned as being some sort of prophet with a zealous following. The nods to the misunderstood past were hurmorous, well-placed, and gave this otherwise fanciful story a root in reality. It also helped show how much knowledge Fever's world had lost, how much continuity they lacked between our present and this future. Not that it was a very realistic story, though--this isn't some sort of cautionary tale. Which brings me, I think, back to Myazaki.
The plot was somehow reminescent of an anime movie: Our hero, surounded by mystery in regards to their origin, must discover who they are; there's a lot of heavy drama playing out around them, including politics and a past and impending war; the boundary between good and evil is found to be not nearly as black and white as it was originally assumed to be; and the ending, well, it wasn't very... end-y. I know that there's another book after this2, but as I read the last few lines and came to realize that, indeed, this was where the book would end, I couldn't help but think of the ending of Howl's Moving Castle3 when the exilude began playing while the characters were still trying to work things out and tie off those loose ends. Not that I'm complaining.
But it was more than just the vague similarity between the plot style and anime movies, it was also the vibe. From the very first scene in which Dr. Crumb and Fever are making Paper Boys on the roof of Godshawk's Head in the middle of a smokey London, I visualized this as an anime movie. And a bloggin' good one, too. It just didn't work out my mind unless I was visualizing it thusly. Again, not that I'm complaining.
It was a bit slow going, I'll admit, but this book made up for it in sheer coolness.
I give Fever Crumb...
...four zombies!
There wasn't a lot to read into with this one, no hidden truths that I could discern beside the important role of the Church in tending the flocks and keeping the paths clear, but Fever Crumb was genuinely fun to read.

i am
zombie girrrl
& this book
is different

footnotes___________________________________________________________
1. 14 year-old (I felt this needed to be mentioned somewhere sort of official because I kept forgetting hor young she was, probably because she was very clinical and logical; somethign that also made it hard to get attached to her.)
2. As well as a whole other series, this being the first book in the prequel series to The Hungry City series which is about "Municipal Darwinism", something that sounds both extremely awesome as well as a bit mysterious but is actually exactly what it sounds like: survival of the fittest city.
3. The movie, not the book. I actually can't remember the ending of the book all that well.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My Take On: The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

basis, n.
There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.
If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it—you’re done. And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance, ready for whenever you want it back. Sometimes it’s even there when you thought you were searching for something else, like an escape route, or your lover’s face.
How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.
To be quite blunt, this was an utterly original book about the stinginess of modern love. Yet The Lover's Dictionary was nevertheless an addictive read with style, wit, and, if not moral integrity and sincerity, at least honesty.
It was not, however, YA. This book is about two adults, in a very adult relationship, dealing with the very adult consequences of their not so very adult decisions. Also, there is a good deal of swearing, including several F's, a couple GD's and one use of a worse word. Yeah, apparently there is one.
So, while I would not recommend this to teens--because it really isn't written for teens, no matter what Levithan's past publications or its being shelved in my libraries YA section may lead one to believe--and while I do not agree with the relationship it flaunts as being the modern norm, it was, nonetheless, a good read. It read something like an Anne Hathaway movie, actually. At least, that's what I was thinking of while I was reading it. Just not the fluffy princess kind. More the hook-up kind that I only ever see the previews of and then snub as being too smutty for my taste. But, thankfully, there wasn't anything strictly explicit in this book, though I did skip a few definitions. But I digress.
As for the stinginess I mentioned above: if this book truly is a portrait of modern love, then we are a very poor generation of lovers. The image it painted was one of love being a mere feeling, something that is fleeting and that can be gone in an instant like sunshine behind a cloud, and while that description may be true of such things as trust or amusement, it is not an accurate depiction of love.
Love is one person willing the good of another. It's a decision to do right by them and to take care of them and never willingly hurt them. Love is a choice that must be made several times a day: I will forgive/apologize because I love you; I will be chaste because I love you; I will commit to this relationship 100% by marrying you because I love you; I will make this work because I choose to love you. It was this self sacrifice, which is the true nature of love itself, that the relationship in the Dictionary was missing. Like a cake with no leaven or a smile that never reaches the eyes, without self-sacrifice, there was just something essential missing. This was the type of relationship in which no one is fully commited and everyone is on tenterhooks about it falling apart suddenly like a paper balloon in the rain. And while I appreciate that this cavalier mindset is some peoples' reality, I don't appreciate this view of love being perpetuated as the new norm.
The truth is, there is no new norm of love. Love is and always will be what God made it to be, and anything less is exactly that: less.
I give The Lover's Dictionary...
...three zombies.
It was a stylishly written, interesting look at the flippant outlook people have come to possess of love, as well as a thought provoking look at selfishness in the place of selflessness and how that can altar a relationship from being something beautiful and wholesome to something that causes nearly constant grief and anxiety punctuated by rays of pleasure or affection.

i am
zombie girrrl
& love's got
a lot to do
with everything

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Take On: I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

Girl meets boy.

Girl loses boy.

Girl gets boy back...

...sort of.

Ava can't see him or touch him, unless she's dreaming. She can't hear his voice, except for the faint whispers in her mind. Most would think she's crazy, but she knows he's here.
Jackson. The boy Ava thought she'd spend the rest of her life with. He's back from the dead, as proof that love truly knows no bounds.
This is the first novel I've read that was written in verse. In fact, it had never really occured to me, until quite recently, that someone would write a novel in this format. I was a bit unsure as to whether I would like it--would there be enough character development, what about backdrop and details and sub-plots?1--but I need not have worried.
It's true that there wasn't a whole lot of detail in regards to backdrop and apsolutely no sub-plots, there wasn't space for it in this spartan style, but it never detracted from the story. And you really can't complain about it not having enough character developement, even though the book is very short and only took a couple hours to read, because the whole book was based on the developement of Ava, who narates the story, as she grieves the boyfriend she lost and learns to live again.
Another thing about this book that is worth mentioning is the false impression I had of it as being yet another paranormal book. Yes, there is a ghost. Yes, he communicates with his girlfriend in ghostly ways--in her dreams2, by turning on the radio3, or by poltergeisting her room and breathing cold ghosty breath down her neck. But, and this is a big "but", this is not so much about Ava being haunted by her dead ex as it is about her dealing with the grief and guilt of his sudden death. And it's the second emotion, guilt, that really kept me reading. In fact, I was about to get bored with the story of Ava being sad and Jackson being dead when I was thrown a line of intrigue. How did he die? Why does Ava feel responsible? Why did Jackson come back at all4? Schroeder struck a very good balance by adding that aspect of mystery and shame, and the answers were revealed at the perfect pace.
I give I Heart You, You Haunt Me...
1/2
...4 1/2 zombies!
This is a quick, satisfying read that explores the themes of life, death, guilt, grief, and how true love never dies yet yearns always for the best of the beloved.

i am
zombie girrrl
& this was
sweeter
than it was
spooky

footnotes____________________________________________________________
1. Furthermore, would it rhyme? Because that's a deal breaker. I am happy to report that this book is not written in rhyme.
2. Which is insanely awkward though, thankfully, not dwelled on too long nor described in great detail.
3. Music plays a large-ish part in setting the emotional tone between Ava and the late, great, bald-pate Jackson.
4. Ghost Rule #1: a ghosts can't move on if they have baggage or unfinished business.

Blank Spaces Have Great Potential...