The Reading Corner is a place where books of all genres are examined and reviewed. Comments, questions and disagreement are welcomed. Grab some coffee and a comfy chair and make yourself at home.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Science Fiction

I love it. I don't know why. I used to think it was boring -I liked Star Wars, but I didn't want to read any books about plasma cannons or aliens. It just didn't seem interesting.

I think it started with Dune, Frank Herbert's book. My great-grandmother gave me her copy (as an aside, my great-grandma and I are the same person, 79 years apart. She sits around and reads all day, wants to be left the hell alone and has a load of turquoise jewelry), and out of respect for her and the prospect of a new book, I started reading it.

Within the first 2 pages, I was hooked. Absolutely hooked. This book wasn't aliens and funny guns that go pewpewpew when you shoot them and no plot -this was politics. This was and human nature and fear. This was amazing!

There are lasery type guns and big-ass sandworms and alien sorts of people, but they make the story real for its setting. The actual story is what got me. The tangled webs people weave, the politics and the science, the theocracy and the myths. It's an absolutely incredible piece of writing. I read it about twice a year, so I don't forget. And every time I pick it up I find something new about it that comes a little clearer, like washing off a muddy uncut diamond and seeing new ways that it will catch the light.

After I read Dune, I didn't have a sci-fi epiphany. I didn't immediately go out and see what there was to see where the genre is concerned. I more or less fell back into my original patterns -mostly fantasy, a little fiction-fiction, eventually some chick it. I hardly read fantasy anymore, honestly, because I have a hard time finding anything new in that genre. The book Legacy actually looks good, but there are just so many same-y fantasy books floating around anymore that it's not worth the effort. Suggestions I'll take, but I no longer have the urge to hunt down good fantasy.

Then I picked up some Terry Pratchett. Some Douglas Adams. And I tumbled headfirst into those -granted, I've only read a few of the Discworld books (I think I'd rather own them than check them out from the library. That doesn't feel right) and I've only read Hitchhiker's Guide once. These books are very different from Dune, but the same general principles applied. The focus was on the ideas, not the pewpewpew and the little green men.

Then came Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 I have loved from the first time I picked up a copy of the book. Now I have it in graphic novel form as well, and oh my god. I can't get enough of it. If there was ever a book I'd sleep with my arms around, Fahrenheit 451 would totally be it. When I was in the hospital for a few days a couple of summers ago, I took a gigantic book with me -Bradbury's collected stories. I can hardly lift that book, but it kept me entertained and thinking while I was hooked up to an IV and getting contradictory results from various doctors. There's a reason the hospital here is known as Death Valley...but that's another story.

Then (then, then, then) I picked up a copy of the Jane Austen Book Club (which I would totally have joined. Also, Hugh Dancy is in the movie and that is just so much win) and discovered Ursula le Guin thanks to a relatively important plot point regarding her. She is by far one of the best sci-fi writers I have ever had the good fortune to read. Like Herbert, like Bradbury, le Guin is an idea writer. She examines a concept in an alien setting that is nevertheless a familiar or plausible concept. What if, she asks us in The Left Hand of Darkness, gender was a non-issue on some world? Thus comes Genly Ai, to explore it and discover what the answer is -in a way. I mean, it's just brilliant. The book is brilliant, the writing is brilliant... wow.

I watched A Scanner Darkly during winter or spring quarter at school, and the movie was decent. I am not Keanu Reeves' biggest fan, but he plays a drugged out narc really well. ;) So once summer hit, I decided I needed to check out the book. The movie made a striking point, and I wanted to see if the books was the same. It was (of course) better. So much better. Philip K. Dick is another writer who has my unending admiration.

All of these examples from someone who, for the majority of her life, claimed to despise or be uninterested in science fiction. Holy shit, man. Now I'm reading (slowly but surely) some Robert Silverberg. Jonah gave me a bunch of his books, so I've been reading those off and on when I remember that I have a bunch of books stored in my laptop (it still freaks me out a little, non-physical books. I like the Kindle, but I don't know if I'd want one, really)...

It's amazing, science fiction. I know as much of it is as pulpy as a lot of fantasy is -but, like with any genre, if you find a book or an author made of gold (or some fantastic otherworldly gem), you hang on with everything you've got.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Generic Crunk Rap

It's stuck in my head. Thanks a lot, MC Lars. (No, seriously. Thanks. I like the song).

Yesterday was coffee night. Oh, wait -that's every night. Last night I had coffee with my friend Carolyn, which made it a different sort of coffee night. :) Very fun though. It's always nice to catch up and talk to a fellow English department-er.

Reading-wise I've done nothing lately. Well, that's a lie. I read "Morris the Moose Goes to School" before I fell asleep last night. Otherwise I've done nothing. I'm packing for school and trying to cram in as much time as I can with my family and Jonah. Reading has taken a backseat to that. Tonight I'm planning on starting the Hard SF Renaissance anthology I snatched up last time I was at the library.

I need a good dose of science fiction in my life.

Who knows? Maybe it'll jump-start something for me.

Any ideas on what else I should be reading? I'm leaving for Athens to go back to school, so I'll have a much bigger library to muck around in and find things to read.

Another thing I'll be working on is setting up a reading corner in my dorm room -which, fortunately, will be a single. I'll have a room of my own! (Blatant Virginia Woolf reference. Please somebody catch it.)

I'm thinking (wishfully perhaps) that I'll have enough room for my papasan to come with me, since I don't really have that much stuff. I'm not going to take it with me when I first move in, but if I think I have room for it, it'll come down eventually and become my reading corner. It's the most comfortable chair on the face of the planet.

What's your reading corner like?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Healthy lifestyles and the living dead

Yesterday I came across a book called Fat of the Land. So I wrote a review of it. I haven't read the book, although I'd like to. I tend to do that when I'm short on my own books to review and need something new to write about -review books I haven't read, I mean. I need to get on The Library at Night, but that'll wait until I'm back at school since it's already packed up in a bin and honestly I don't have the stamina to dig through the bins and boxes and bags I'm taking back to find one book no matter how much I love it. Allow me to breathe for a moment -that was quite a sentence.

Anyway, this book. It looks good. I compared the author to Bear Grylls. You know something is being done right when that happens. If I hadn't liked him I'd have compared him to Les Stroud. I hate Les Stroud with a fiery passion that I don't really understand. He just annoys me. I go from annoyance to hatred with spectacular speed, clearly. I also cannot stay on topic today. Not enough caffeine in my system.

Basically the idea of Fat of the Land is that we need to be able to find our own sources of food. Langdon Cook is going to tell you how. And, according to all of the reviews I read and his blog (which I now follow), he's going to do it in a very entertaining manner. All the more reason to drop a few bucks on the book -you could be entertained and save quite a bit of money into the bargain, if you're willing to get your hands dirty.


I've also been writing like a woman possessed for Suite101. I wrote 2 articles yesterday (despite my goal of 3. I do other things with my day than write. Sometimes. Yesterday was just one of them), and of course by write I mean sat down and thumped my keyboard until coherent thoughts formed. It also involved several games on Mindjolt to, you know, get the creative juices flowing.

In the end I got them written, polished and published. Then I went to bed and read a tawdry mystery novel that I didn't really like all that much. If a writer develops his characters so poorly that I can't actually remember their names 180 pages into the book, something is very wrong. But I digress.


I reviewed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which you should read. The book, I mean. And the review).

I also wrote about Reading and Understanding Ayn Rand. Because I could.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Twilight fans are insane

Allow me to preface this story with a confession: I can be a bit of a snob. A jackass, if you will. When it comes to literature, I like to think I know my stuff -and to some extent, I believe that I do. I at least know enough to recognize good writing from bad. I have the ability to pick out themes and symbols and I can write some damn sharp commentary on how certain parts of a book relate to other things that might not even be in the book. I'm a creative writing major, for crying out loud. I know a little bit about writing.

So when I, from an informed viewpoint, say that Twilight sucks...I'm going to agree with myself. It does. If you want a detailed list of reasons, go to my review and read it (or e-mail me and I can send you an even longer, more expletive-filled list; I didn't feel I needed to get overly vitriolic in my already scathing review).

However, I will admit that I'm kind of a dick sometimes. I like pushing people's buttons, especially regarding Twilight. It's just funny to watch/read people getting all hot and bothered about a series of books that I don't like, because their defenses for the book are uniformly lame, unintelligent or illogical. And so it's a win-win situation for me: I get to piss someone off a bit, know that I'm right (at least in my mind) and get a belly laugh out of the whole thing. I've joined a few Twilight fan sites for that express purpose -that and promoting my review (the primary objective, of course).

There's one in particular that proved to be pretty fruitful, for about 3 days. I posted my link in a few relevant places, had some decent discussions and then kind of forgot all about it. I'm not so into hating Twilight that I make it a hobby. It's more of a spur-of-the-moment trolling. A drive by troll, if you will. I haven't actively promoted my Twilight review anywhere in about a month, and on the site this story concerns in over 2 months.

So imagine my surprise when, a mere 2 days ago before I went to see Inglourious Basterds (which I recommend you see, by the way, just because it's awesome) I get an e-mail telling me that someone named Rosalie Hale (one of the Twilight characters' names, for those of you fortunate enough not to have read the series) commented on my profile page. I have a Blackberry (I'm spoiled), so the e-mail came to my phone and my laptop. I don't do a lot of website stuff on my Blackberry unless I'm AFK, so I popped over to my laptop and signed into the website to check out this comment, which I was hoping would be filled with rage about the audacity of my review.

It was certainly filled with rage. And poor spelling, no sense whatsoever and a threat!

Clearly, I thought to myself, clearly this is an important comment.

I read it a few times, deciphering things like "wen" (when), "won" (won't) and there (their) before I was finally able to understand that Rosalie Hale is tired of Twilight haters coming onto the fan site and talking about not liking Twilight -and apparently she had taken it upon herself to track down each and every one of them to inform them that there are anti-Twilight websites they could get on so why not go there? This poorly spelled ramble was finished up with the following sentiment: "I would have my friend use the internet to track them down so I could kick there [sic] !@^$!$$^%^&*#!#%@ ass." I'm not sure what swear word that was supposed to be, but I would really like to find out. I'm sure it's devastating.

So, just to recap: this is a website that I used for 3 days, tops. I posted in 4 threads and all in all commented approximately 20 times, then left. After over 2 months, Rosalie Hale decides I'm a nuisance and should have my !@^$!$$^%^&*#!#%@ing ass kicked.

I returned her comment by asking what her comment was in reference to and why she thought threatening me would get her anything. I received a flood of comments, most of which were the word I, and which sent my phone into a vibrating frenzy, since each comment = 1 email to my phone. There were around 17 of these strange comments before she said anything else of relevance to my question, replying that she's tired of "u stupid haters" getting on to bug fans about how stupid Twilight is.

Well, I thought. Well, well, well. Here we go.

I returned her comment again, entering snotty mode. Basically I said that Twilight haters have every right to be on a fan site expressing themselves, and that fan sites are nothing but a gigantic circle-jerk for people who like Twilight anyway (I actually did use the phrase circle-jerk), so she could pretty much just quit telling me not to talk, since I hadn't said anything to her personally and she got on and told me to shut up when I hadn't even been active.

This story, by the way, is relevant only in that I like how irrational people get about stuff like Twilight. It's amusing to me. I am aware that not all fans of Twilight are insane teenagers who like to threaten people they don't even know over a series of books, but it's surprising how many are. And how many of them manage to find me (online, not in real life. Otherwise I'd be keeping a tally of how many little girls I'd gotten locked up for assault and/or battery).

Onward we go!

After remarking that Twilight fan sites are open to non-fans as well and she had no place attempting to curtail my free speech, she replied by telling me that the only reason "haters are on this site is because 1. they are total jerks and like to bother ppl or 2. they have nothing better to do with their lifes or 3. they havent read the books and are already judgeing it [sic] [sic] [sic] [sic] and [sic]." I'm sure I missed a few [sic]s in there, but we'll live. So you see what I was dealing with?

Not only does she not understand that I'm using her website solely to promote my review (and be a jerk) but she can't even argue with a semblance of intelligence, good grammar or logic. My reply was essentially that yes, I'm a jerk. But I've also read the books, know enough about them to argue with any fan and can do so intelligently and with better grammar. I told her (again) that I was inactive on the site and therefore still did not understand her apparently overwhelming desire to do me physical harm.

I received the reply that "this is a fan site there r sites for haaters [sic] [sic]." etc. and "just because someone says the books sucks doesn't mean it dose [so much sic]."


So I laid out a few reasons that the books suck, reminded her that I'm not an active user, don't define myself as a hater (I don't participate in the so-called "war" that rages betwixt those who worship the ground Stephanie Meyer walks on and those who hate the books. I just hate the books all by myself -I don't need people to commiserate with) and never did anything to her to provoke this unjustified attack, and if I had, I'd have done so with impeccable grammar and spelling.

I was told that I have serious mental problems and need to check myself into a hospital.

"Look, Rosalie. I'm a perfectly normal person (okay, so that's a bit of a lie), but I'm not the one who has issues here. You threatened me for no reason, used poor grammar to do so and can't even come up with a reason why other than that the haters on the site bother you. I'm not one of them, so what's the deal?" This is not an exact quote, but that's the gist of what I told her.

I find out that she has "anger problems" and her mom taught her "never to take shit from ppl [sic]" and she's sick of haters getting onto random threads and talking about how bad Twilight is because there are hater sites for people to "bicth" about hating the books, etc. etc.

I replied without using all caps, which impressed me, because at that point I became aware that this was the sort of person on whom caps lock would have made an impression. Still calm, laughing quietly to myself over the clatter of my keyboard, I replied that she never took any shit from me to begin with. She attacked me, completely unprovoked by anything I had done or said, and all I wanted to know was why.

Her reply? "Why do u think they made anti sites? [sic]"

This person, this "Rosalie Hale," is off the charts batshit insane. The best kind of person to converse with, bar none.

I replied that I had no idea, probably because they could. Anti-Twilight sites, I told her, are as much circle-jerks for people who don't like Twilight as fan sites are for those who do. I have no need to sit around and agree with a bunch of people online about not liking a series of books. That's even more pointless than, oh, say, threatening someone who never said a damn thing to or about you because there is a difference of opinion.

I think I finally got through with that comment, because she backtracked, saying only that she is sick of the fighting and people arguing all the time.

So your solution, I asked her, was to threaten me? That's how you thought to defuse the Twilight debates? By threatening to kick the ass of an inactive site member? Bullshit.

She fled, leaving me with a comment that I imagine would have been sobbed if spoken. "I'm so tired of this. I'm giving my sister my account. Rose out."

Yes. That all just happened.

Take a few deep breaths. This was a long one. I won't inflict much more on you, readers, but just let all of this sink in. That was the logic of a Twilight fan -the logic of the many who comment on my review.

"First," they must think, "I'll try to intimidate you into shutting up about my beloved books, then I'll attempt to out-logic you using circular or flawed reasoning"- (we didn't even discuss the books all that much), "then I'll act like a pitiable little puppy and run away feeling like a victim."

Her sister commented on my profile shortly after Rosalie deleted all relevant comments and asked what the deal was. I told her that Rosalie had first tried to scare me and failed, then tried to argue with me, and lost. It happens a lot.

Any takers? I'm spoiling for a fight.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Suite101, Marian Keyes and Other Nonsense

I fell through the cracks yesterday and didn't update. I felt funky all day, culminating in a migraine that I was able to kill with lots of coffee and some motrin (I've discovered that if I feel a migraine coming on, mainlining caffeine and inhaling motrin as fast as possible will generally work to beat it back into submission. By which I mean I'll just have a mildly bad headache and feel dizzy the rest of the evening). Worth it, because I went to see Inglourious Basterds with Jonah and I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on it for anything. Awesome, disgusting, disturbing, funny piece of film.

So! Time for the reading corner portion of this blog.

I've begun writing extensively for Suite101, which is awesome. I have 7 articles up right now -almost at my 3 month minimum after barely a week of writing. I think that's pretty cool.
The first three were posted in a previous entry (and are pretty easy to find if you click around on these next few or go to my profile).

The most interesting thing about writing for Suite is that, unlike writing for Examiner, I'm not just limited to literature. Granted, that's my forte. That's what I like -I eat, breathe, drink, dream and exist surrounded by literature, but I've found that I can write about other stuff pretty well too -which is encouraging, since I plan on applying at another writing website where you write to what they want. I'm enjoying stretching my writing boundaries -I hate feeling stagnant, which reviews were starting to do just a little for me.

I still love them, I'd still write them for a living if I could (and hey, maybe I can), but it's nice to also write about

It's still sort of centered around literature and academia, but I'm branching out, little by little. It's proving to be rather fun to see what sorts of things I can dig up doing just a bit of research -the driving/texting article in particular was pretty cool. It was also sad to come across so many websites that show horrible, fatal accidents caused by teens (predominantly girls) who were texting while they were driving. Kind of a good reminder for me.

So that's Suite! I'm loving writing for it already. It's fun to learn how to research and use keywords, format articles and get really concise. Writing 400-800 word articles is actually challenging for me, which is new. I'm not used to having to rein in my verbosity, so it's making a nice change. Of course that just means I'll get all the more wordy on here, but then I'm not really getting paid to be concise on my blog, am I?

S101 is a fantastic website. Not just because I write for it (obviously that helps, ha ha), but because they're very concerned with quality writing. The articles on there are pretty much uniformly good -there's still so much personal style in each one, but they're all informative, interesting and easily read. I've been snooping around on Suite a lot more since I got hired and I'm more and more impressed.

I'm also becoming slowly disillusioned with Examiner. Granted, I love it. I like being able to sit down and crank out a short piece on anything I want (as long as it involves literature) and get paid for it over time...but the way my page views fluctuate smells strongly of fishiness to me. Getting 5oo+ views one day and only 45 the next doesn't make much sense, especially when I update with awesome articles (if I may say so myself) just about every day. Seriously. I'm writing view-whore articles about back-to-school stuff, and it's like a snowstorm of views one day and the friggin' Sahara the next. Something is rotten in the area of my Examiner reviews, methinks, but whatever. I'm still making money (sort of), so it's good.

Yesterday I found a book written by a 16 year old girl that's won a ton of awards and actually looks like something I'd read. So I reviewed it (yes without having read it, so sue me) and I'm hoping eventually I'll pick up a copy.

It's called Legacy. Check it out.

In other book news, I made one last binging library visit. I swore I was just going in to get their sole copy of The Fountainhead on VHS (the first half of which I watched yesterday in a headache-induced half-slumber in the basement), and left with it and four books. For shame, for shame. Whatever. I'm a book whore, I really can't help it. If it has pages and text and inky goodness, I want it.

The first book I grabbed out of my towering stack of four books (no, really. One of them is a SF anthology, and it's about as big as my torso, boobs included) is Marian Keyes' book Under the Duvet. It's about her life as a writer -it's all nonfiction, so finding it in the fiction section sort of bummed me out regarding the library's efficiency, but it's not like I was actively looking for it, so serendipity was working in my favor. Reading this book is sort of like a guideline for a path I don't want to take but could see myself skirting along the edges of. Not her alcoholism or crippling insecurities, but the writing bit.

She makes it sound like fun again, which is refreshing. I've read too many things by writers who bitch and moan about writing like they have to cut off their own leg in order to get 3 words onto the page. Yeah, I know that's how it feels sometimes (I'm in college and still writing academic papers, I absolutely know how that feels), but why can't writers ever expostulate about the times when the words just come running out of the pen or away from the keyboard like they can't wait to plaster themselves all over the page? Why is it always the monumental struggle, the staring at blank paper until your forehead bleeds, the writer's block? All of those things happen, but they make the art of writing look like walking through a room filled with broken glass while drunk and blindfolded. It's not always like that. Sometimes it's awesome.

So that's why I'm liking Keyes. She's not a great writer, I don't think, but she's funny and refreshing and honest. I'd totally recommend checking her out, whether you're a writer or just need some laughs. She writes about pretty much anything -from her alcoholism to buying a house with her husband (who she calls Himself) to getting free samples of makeup. It's a cute book.

That's all for today folks -I think I more than filled the space that would have been taken by yesterday's post and hopefully I've given you a few things to read or think about or argue over (even with me).

Tomorrow we'll have a Twilight-related bit. Fans are interesting people.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Library at Night and healthy eating

I finished reading it last night! Wow that took forever to read! (Okay, so it took like a couple of weeks, that is forever to me. I can barely remember back two days ago, so shut up already). It was totally worth going through it slowly though...I'd start it all over again right now, in all honesty. I wish I was as well-read as Alberto Manguel (I also wish my name sounded that cool). He conveniently includes a "non-canonical" list of his favorite books at the end of TLaN, which I think is awesome.

Yes, I'm going to read all of them. I'd read a few that were on the list...but not too many. Less than 10% I'd bet. Sort of depressing, given how much I read, but he's had a lot more time to read than I have!

Also, listening to Queen makes me want to watch Flash Gordon. No, I'm not kidding. I'm hitting up the library after I leave Panera to see if they have that or the movie version of The Fountainhead. I know that a) they won't and b) the movie will probably bug the hell out of me since it won't be as good as the book, but it's Gary Cooper playing Howard Roark. I can't resist that. I just can't.

In other news, I wrote a review of a book about eating healthy smoothies and how good it is for you. I figure since I now have doctor's orders about cooking all my own food at school this year due to severe food allergies (essentially I'm allergic to everything ever*), I should probably start looking for cheap healthy ways to not starve to death. Also this book just came out it and looks pretty good.

*Seriously: I'm allergic to artichokes, MSG, preservatives (including formaldehyde, which is in a surprisingly large amount of foods) -which are ubiquitous in anything that isn't a raw vegetable essentially and soy, which is also in everything. I'm not kidding. It is so hard to avoid eating this stuff (minus the artichokes, they're pretty easy to spot), and it really restricts what I can eat, how much I can eat and where. It's not like I get instantly sick eating stuff, but if I have high concentrations of any of those things within a limited time period, it does not end well. So now you know.

Also, I wrote a bunch of stuff on Suite101. I wrote 3 articles and put them up. But still! That's 3 articles! I'm working on a fourth and rewriting a previously written piece about another book by AJ Jacobs (who I love), so I'll have plenty of stuff to start putting up. The Suite articles are
The ones I'm working on will be of
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Oh yes. It will be awesome.) and
  • The Know-It-All (which you should go read right now, because I said so)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Twilight pisses me off

Okay, okay. I know I've ranted about this over 9,000 times (anyone who knows me IRL should know better than to get me started on Twilight at this point), but I came across something that really irked me the other day. being drum up publicity for Wuthering Heights.

I'll let that sink in for a minute.

Twilight, the shitty series of novels aimed at pre-teen girls with an IQ of 40 and no sense whatsoever*, is being used to promote one of the finest pieces of English literature in existence. I don't care if you didn't like the book when you read it in high school, it's an amazingly complex and worthwhile piece of fiction. And it needs the help of Stephanie f#cking Meyer to get people to read it?

Give. Me. A. Break.

I'd say more about that, but I'm afraid I'd have an apoplectic fit and fall over dead. The absolute atrocity of the entire situation is enough to have me sputtering curses and shaking my fists at my computer screen.

I love me some books and all, and you all know how much I like to trash Twilight, but this is just ridiculous. Since when have the mighty fallen thus far? I am irked. Severely irked.

In other news, I wrote 2 articles about symbolism in The Scarlet Letter that should be up later today. Check back for links. Sometime in the near future there will also be an article about Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. Ohhhh yeahhh.

Here they are!:

Religious Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter
Social Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

* Just as a disclaimer, I am in no way implying that all readers of Twilight are tasteless idiots with an IQ of 40 or are lacking in sense, just that the books are aimed at (and read by) a large group that fits that description.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shut up about Susan Boyle already.

Here's something I don't care about: Susan Boyle. Or Susan Boyle's makeover. I really cannot stress how little I care about that, whatever reality TV show she was on (was it American Idol? Is she American? Has it become International Idol and I missed the memo because I don't care?) or what she looked like before -or after -her makeover.

So for the love of the Internet, Internet, stop spamming me with ads about it. It's either Susan Boyle or TV shows I don't watch (like Mad Men. Can someone explain the appeal/storyline of this show to me? It looks spectacularly uninteresting, but I'm hearing more and more about it) or how to lose x number of inches off my waist in 4 weeks or less. I have a 25 inch waist. If I lost any of that, I'd probably die, because I'd have to have some sort of eating disorder or exercise freak-out in order to do so. My 25 inches of waistline are fine, stop telling me I need to lose weight. I don't. Jeez.

In other news, writing is fun. I'm working on a piece about symbolism in The Scarlet Letter. I like the book now as much as I did when I first read it (that is, not much). Although I have to admit, I'm appreciating it more. Maybe it's that I didn't read it with as much clear-headed ability to analyze it way back in the day when I first read it, or maybe it's that I just didn't have a very good teacher, but I'm seeing a lot more merit in the book than I once did. The piece should be done today or tomorrow (probably tomorrow since it's my brother's 8th birthday -yay him! -and we're going out to eat), so keep an eye out for a link to that.

As for what I'm reading...well. I'm slightly ashamed, although I seem to have worked something out regarding my own reading psychology. I'm a binge reader. I'll read 4-8 books/week for several weeks in a row and then suddenly it's like I hit a wall. My brain goes, "Whoa there, Nelly (who's Nelly?), chill out. Too much information. Too many new characters. I can't keep track of all of this." So I'll find one or two books to go through at a slower pace until my brain has time to digest everything I've been reading. Hence it's taking me forever to get through The Library at Night (which is amazing, a fact that I cannot stress enough), and I am totally okay with this.

I'm working more on writing what I already know instead of diving headfirst into new book territory and reviewing it then; it's making it easier for me to do research that refreshes my memory instead of trying to teach myself new information constantly. Thus we end up with articles on Examiner about buying cheap textbooks, the benefits of dual enrollment and lists of books I think everyone should read in order to be a fully functioning human (this applies to me too. I have over 9,000 lists of books I need to read. Not over 9,000 books, mind you, over 9,000 lists. I like lists. A lot.).

So that's me for right now. I have 2 1/2 weeks (give or take a day-ish) before I go back to school. I'm trying to use that time wisely. By which I mean I'm spending a lot of time reading, writing and hanging out with Jonah and my family. I think that's wise, don't you?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Setting up the reading corner

Now this is a reading corner!

Readers out there, you know how it is when you need a place to get into that new book you just got (or that old favorite you need to refresh). You just have to have a place where you can be alone to read -or surrounded by some of your favorite things. Wherever this reading corner is, it needs to be yours and yours only. Otherwise it's just not the reading corner.

This blog acts more as a soapbox for me than a reading corner (after all, I'm not reading these entries, I'm writing them), but it's become my corner while I'm at home, since I no longer have my own room in the house (I've been told I can use the basement as my "apartment" but I don't get internet or cell phone reception down there, so what's the point of that? The love seat is less comfortable to sleep on than the bunk bed -although it's excellent for sitting on and watching, oh, say, Coraline in ridiculous 3-D glasses).

The lack of a reading corner for me is one reason I'm looking forward to going back to school. I plan on setting up one part of my room (which is a single) specifically for me to read in. The awful, uncomfortable chair the school provides will get a cushion, a footrest and a bookshelf on or around it and a nice source of light somewhere near it...and preferably this chair will be facing a wall, not my door. Or my computer. I like having few distractions when I read; although I can read through pretty much anything but kid's television shows (they are so distracting! I love them), I prefer to have some semblance of serenity. And maybe a candle.

For other people, a reading corner might consist of a big leather armchair with a lamp over it, or an old tree-house or even just their own side of the bed.

Setting up your own reading corner is important, especially if you read as much as I try to (that is, 3-4 books/week, depending on the books and what life has thrown at me). Having a space to which you can retreat and read is the best way to really get into a book. A reading corner is really always going to be a personal thing, but here are some of the things I've tried when searching for that perfect place to read.

  • The reading corner should not be the kitchen/dining table, the family couch or in front of a computer -unless you can read well with over 9,000 distractions all the time, these high-traffic areas are not going to be conducive to a quiet reading session. That said, if you're a busy parent and only have a few minutes to read, the kitchen table can be a good option.
  • The reading corner should be somewhere that makes you comfortable. This should kind of be a no-brainer -if you can't get comfy, you won't be able to get into the book. Whether comfortable implies big plushy cushions or a wooden chair is your call, but if you like to sit on silk and choose a rock for your reading space, that's going to take a lot more getting used to than you'd expect.
  • The reading corner should be well-lit. There are all sorts of adages about not reading in low light, and even though it might not be bad for your eyes to read when it's not bright, it's still not fun. I like to have a low lamp in the vicinity of my reading corner -overhead lights are too bright and candles aren't quite bright enough (unless I have several of them, but I don't want to waste the candles I have -they smell too nice!). Too little light is just as bad as too much. Evening and morning sunlight are always nice as well, but I find I have trouble squinting at the page during midday. It's just too damn bright.
  • The reading corner should not be where you have your day job (unless absolutely necessary). If you bring work home, leave that work out of your reading corner. Your reading corner is for reading. I refuse to write for my job where I write for pleasure, and I refuse to read for work or school in bed (unless I'm just that tired and I really need to read it and it'll just be this once and whatever other excuses come to mind). But seriously, try to keep work and reading separate. Reading should be pleasurable -and if your job isn't, combining the two spaces can ruin it. Even if your job is incredibly fun and you adore it all day every still need a break. It can just be for an hour, or half an hour, to get out of your head and into a book.
  • The reading corner should be somewhere quiet. No matter how many distractions you can take, it's best to have quiet. If you have to have noise, play some music, but try to keep the area quiet. Whether this reading corner is in an inglenook or takes up an entire room, it's easier to read when it's not noisy. Think about a library -if all that quiet freaks you out, make a little noise...but I'm pretty sure you'll find that if you try reading in the quiet for a while, that's the only condition under which you'll ever want to read. If all else fails, a good pair of headphones can work magic.
  • The reading corner should not be near a television or computer. Seriously. You'll get distracted. You'll want to check your e-mail or watch just the last few minutes of that show or read a news article or update your Twitter to let the world know you're reading...and before you know it, your reading time will have vanished. And that's a bummer, every time.
  • The reading corner should be somewhere that makes you happy. Always. Whether it's your reading corner or a space you've created for someone else, it should be somewhere that promotes peace, comfort... and reading.

What's your reading corner look like? If you don't have one...what does your dream reading corner look like? Why not make it?

Cedar Point and book reports

Cedar Point yesterday was sort of a hodgepodge of good and bad. On the plus side, Jonah went with us to meet my stepdad's family and they didn't act entirely insane the entire time or scare him off or anything like that. It rained, but that let us spend a couple of hours screwing around in the arcade. I'm pretty damn good at air hockey. Just, you know, in case you were wondering.

On the minus side, I got really sick around 1 and ended up...getting really sick on the midway. It wasn't too traumatic, but nobody wants to be horking at Cedar Point. It's just not cool. I managed to walk to Famous Dave's Barbecue after that (check that place out -they have delicious food and the service and atmosphere are excellent -plus not too many people know about it) but I don't really remember the walk because my vision kept sliding off somewhere and leaving me with a sort of hazy darkness. Uncool, but I lived. Sprite, hot tea and chicken wild rice soup had me halfway back to normal. I spent the rest of the day feeling dizzy and slightly disoriented, but I still had a lot of fun anyway.

So that was that. My siblings go back to school tomorrow (neener neener neener) and I don't go back until early September...I'm looking forward to a quiet couple of weeks just hanging out with Mom and working on writing. And reading -I still have a couple of books to finish before I've exhausted my birthday supply.

Speaking of writing, I published my first article on Suite101. It's all about how to write good book reports -and even if you're past the age of book report writing, it has good writing tips for anyone. I'm pretty pleased with it, honestly. I edited this thing probably 15 times before I was satisfied, again under my mom's discriminating eye and then a 17th time when it was 200+ words too long (I like to write, so sue me).

Anyway, it's a decent piece of writing. I also have a few articles up on Examiner that seem to be pretty popular, one about back to school books, one about dual enrollment and one about cheap textbooks. Allll riiight.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Words, words, words.

Because it's David Bowie as Jareth. And because I could.

Well, here I am -back from the birthday high of yesterday. It was an excellent day. Presents were opened (awesome, awesome presents, I should add), coffee was had and dinner was consumed -followed by dessert and more coffee. It was a good year to turn 20. I got a new coffeemaker for school when we did Festivus with the Shoemaker clan-along with Coraline, candles and some blank books to write in-so you know it's a good day when that happens. Coffeemaker (and coffee to go with it), money for books (remember The Library at Night? I'm still reading that, actually -slow going right now because I've been leaving the house more often. Weird.), a thing to sit my Mac on so it stops burning my legs (I actually have what appears to be a burn mark on my left leg from using my extremely hot laptop for long periods of time. No joke), a t-shirt that says "Han Shot First" (he totally did) and a game called Literati, which will be opened and played with great gusto at some point today.

Okay, enough of me being as excited as a little kid about all of my neat gadgety and/or papery presents, on to my next item of interest. Last night, as a mental change from reading The Library at Night, I started reading my copy of The Time Traveler's Wife. I felt that was fitting, since the movie came out yesterday and Eric Bana is in it. Yummy. I will see the movie based on him alone, whether or not I like the book. However, and this is an early judgment since I read 6 pages before I fell asleep, I think I'm going to like it. Niffenegger's clear prose and familiar yet elegant style centered me very firmly in the book. The characters feel like people I've known or could know and the story itself just seems interesting. I'm sure the movie version isn't going to do it justice (when do they ever? Seriously. Name a few), but it's worth seeing anyway I'm sure.

When I write my inevitable review, it will of course be on Suite101 as opposed to Examiner, which I'm now stocking with articles written more to attract a lot of fast hits than anything else...people aren't appreciating my lengthy literary reviews on there. So I'll put them somewhere that they might be useful -hopefully. We'll see. It's hard to know if people read about literature on the internet. I do, but that could just be because I write about it online. And because I'm a nerd.

Regardless -once I start posting to Suite, I'll start giving you links. In the meantime, my Examiner is still going to be updated 3 or 4 times a week (maybe), but it won't be the stuff you're used to seeing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's my birthday! I'm 20 now.

That's all for today. I'm going to go have some coffee with a very special guy and then hang out with my family. :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I just got hired by Suite101. Allow me to say that again, for my own benefit. I just got hired by Suite101. I applied a little over a year ago, maybe two....and got rejected. That sucks -writers know this -rejection sucks. So in my bitterness I went on to write at several other places, including, for my local newspaper and of course for (as well as getting published in the North Central Review). All of those things combined helped me get hired by Suite, which is a very nice place to write. :)

Since I got hired this morning, I haven't published anything yet -I'm still learning the ropes and planning out a few articles. They actually have very specific standards (unlike Helium and Examiner, where pretty much anything goes, no matter how bad it is). Hopefully within the next few days I'll start putting some stuff up. And, of course, there will be links.

In other news, I just got a CD with a bunch of novels (and songs) on it from this pretty cool guy I know. ;) I'm sure there will be many more mentions of the Robert Silverberg stuff I'm beginning to read as time goes on, as well as a few reviews...yay for new materials! It's been a good week so far...

Any other writers out there with rejection or acceptance stories? I could share plenty more stories, but right now I'm going to go break in my new legal pad!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A quick update

There is a massive thunderstorm going on right now, and it's great. The thunder sounds almost reluctant -like the sky is getting popped instead of cracked in half. It's pretty crazy. Also the rain is great, as it's been about 2 weeks+ since we had any.

I'm still reading The Library at Night, because it's worth reading slowly. I'll work through an essay and then pause for a few minutes to allow for mental digestion. It's really a fantastic book. I will admit, however, that I am itching to begin the graphic novel version of F451; I am aware that if I start it I won't read anything else until I've finished it, so I'm holding off.

There is no review today, obviously, it's a Tuesday. There might not be one tomorrow, either. There might be a little thing about some current events in Cleveland, perhaps. I'm not sure.

Also, just because I feel like letting the world know -one of my biggest pet peeves is when people say, "A whole nother." Nother is not a word. It's "another whole." Please? For my sake?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Trying to read over the noise of my little brother's Speed Racer Sky Jump toy is impossible, even for me. It sounds like a cement mixer. As much as I love explosions, car crashes and death-defying stunts, sometimes the desire for silence (or at least quiet) takes precedence.

Reading The Library at Night is not an experience to be had when noises abound. The book takes on the feel of a library and its many silent tomes, and it demands to be read when the reader is able to sit peacefully, still and soak up the stories. At least that's how it seems to me, book-obsessed as I am (this book proving to be no exception to the rule; in fact in many ways the desire for this book is greater than for others, this being a book about libraries -a book about books -a book written by a man who has a gorgeous library that, when I see pictures of it, fills me with envy).

The Library at Night is a book I read with coffee in mind or at hand, and with nothing else going on. It's spoiled otherwise. Stringent demands for a reader like me; I read anywhere: in class, in the car, in bed, outside, inside, in restaurants, while driving (okay, just kidding) -you get the idea.

The book is great. Habent sua fata libelli -my new favorite phrase. Books have their own fate.

Go buy a copy of TLaN. I haven't reviewed it yet, but I'm telling you now -you don't want to miss out on this.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

In the life and times

I drove my little sister to Mass today (something which, given my own religious views, always gives my conscience a bit of a prick...I feel like I'm taking a lamb to the slaughter, if I may mix metaphors and religious symbolism into an anti-church sentiment; I figure she has to travel the road herself. Nobody told me what to believe [unless I was in a church], and I won't attempt to convert her to my way of thinking. Plus it'd freak her out I think) and I was exposed to three different examples of the people going to/coming from the church that just made me shake my head. Or laugh hysterically.

  1. After dropping the sis at the door, I swung back around to leave the parking lot. I'm cruising along at less than 10 mph, listening to music at a tolerably respectable level (I wasn't blasting Highway to Hell, which I am always tempted to do) when a girl tries to swing left in front of me to get a parking spot. As I clearly had the right of way, I neither stopped nor slowed down, resulting in her having to come to quite an abrupt halt. This resulted in her giving me a dirty look and the finger. The bird. She flipped me off. Call it what you will, but this little Catholic girl (who couldn't have been more than 15 or 16 and driving on her temps -Daddy was in the front seat) on her way to worship almost hit my car and got pissed at me for it, despite the fact that an accident would have been her fault. It just reminded me of that weird attitude some (but admittedly not all) religious people have: they'll be respectful and kind for an hour on Sundays. Outside that? Watch yourself, buddy.
  2. I returned about 45 minutes later to sit outside the church and bring the sis back home. I parked behind a car near the curb, shut the car off and proceeded to start reading some more of "The Library at Night" which is rapidly taking its place among my favorite books (and I'm barely 30 pages in!). Shortly before 7, a group of 3 people saunters out of the church. Each individual is roughly my age and, upon spotting me sitting in the car behind theirs, each promptly began laughing and making random and peculiarly rude comments directed at me (none of which made sense, either). All stared at me, got into their car and drove off -still staring. Now what is that about? Did my parking somehow offset their karma? Was the fact that I was clearly not attending the service upsetting? Did my reading of a book frighten them? Is it that I have short hair? Maybe that the car is a white Mazda. The world may never know. Regardless, I think it's sort of odd/funny/to be expected that a group of people leave a church service and immediately start mocking someone not of their ilk.
  3. The final incident was the least amusing of the three, to me. I'm not sure what the deal was, but a woman in a minivan with a few kids pulled up shortly after I did (maybe they were doing a food drive? I know they caught the last few minutes of the Mass). Before they entered the church, the woman who had been driving proceeded to scream at the kids for a solid minute and a half. About what I'm not sure, but if her voice didn't carry all the way to the pulpit of the church, I'd be surprised. It was a pretty heavy scene; I wasn't sure if it was going to progress beyond just yelling, so I kept a close eye on things. Nothing physical was done to the kids, but their red faces and teary eyes were bad enough. I can't imagine walking into a church service (or any crowded place) 10 minutes before whatever program is ending with a blotchy, tear-stained face and the memory of having shortly before getting verbal whiplash. It seems profoundly unchristian and certainly wrong in any walk of life to just lay into little kids like that. I get annoyed with my siblings, but I don't scream at them until they cry (I resort to sarcasm and biting comments -just as bad, but with fewer decibels).
It was one of the most bizarre church-related scenes I've witnessed in a very long time. Maybe I should go to church more often!

Friday, August 7, 2009

August 10. The new August 14. Kind of.

The most frustrating thing about buying books online is, of course, the wait. The shipping. I got a friendly e-mail from Amazon a couple of days ago when I ordered my books saying the delivery date is expected to be August 10 (4 days before my birthday). I got that e-mail August 4 and figured, "Oh, hey, that's only 6 days -not bad at all, considering the shipping was free and I'm getting 4 books." Here I am two days later, having bitten off all of my fingernails and having begun spazzing every time I see a UPS truck pull onto the street. August 10, although only 3 days away, seems like it will never come. I want my books.

Yesterday I was in a pretty foul mood all day, so I avoided human contact as much as possible. Of course, without a car and sans my own room, it became kind of difficult. The internet/cell phone don't work in the basement and my little brother's room (where I sleep) just isn't built for solitary hanging out. There's nowhere to sit but the bunk bed or the floor...and I sleep in the bunk bed and I try to keep my electronics out of it and my butt goes numb after about 10 minutes of floor-sittage. There are no other viable (read: comfortable) areas in the house where I could sit undisturbed and be a bitch in peace. Alas for all involved. We lived, and I wasn't the only crab-ass in the house.

Today I decided to do something that would a) take my mind off the fact that my books won't be here for another three days and b) would put me in a better mood than the one I was in yesterday. Essentially I beat myself all to hell. 4 games of Wii tennis (all of which I won of course), 3 rounds against those infernal punching bags (there's really no way to win there -the punching bags explode and my arms hurt for two days), 15 minutes on the treadmill (accompanied by the band And Then There Were None -good stuff) and then 20 minutes of Wii fit exercises. These include lunges, the half moon yoga pose, hula hoops (yeah, really), ski jumping, jackknifing and those weird ab twists that supposedly tone your whole waist area.

By the end of all of this, my knees are shaking, I've downed two rather large glasses of water and my head hurts. But endorphins make you happy (remember the Legally Blonde line? Thought so. Not that I have a husband to kill, happy or unhappy as I may be, but the same principle applies). Hopefully this grueling workout will keep me slightly more cheerful than I was yesterday -and who knows? If I keep it up, maybe those ab twists will actually tone my waist. Not that I need that, but it never hurts to be in better shape.

However, all through these workouts, I was still half hoping the UPS guy would show up with my books, despite the fact that I'm wearing red Pirates of the Caribbean men's medium boxers that I got at Disney World and a pink and orange sports bra (my two least favorite colors in one garish garment that should never be exposed to the light of day. Boo-yah). He didn't, of course. It's only just after 11 right now, and UPS guys don't show up in my neighborhood until around 2 or 3, sometimes later. Cue heavy sighing here:_____.

The books that are coming are awesome! I'm really excited about them. They were all paid for by a birthday present from my dad, who is also awesome. His only requirement was the I get one specific book, called The Library at Night. It looks sweet.

The other three books I got were:
  1. The Time Traveler's Wife (the movie comes out on my birthday-August 14- and I've been meaning to read the book for ages anyway. Plus Eric Bana is in it. Win-win-win situation.)
  2. Secrets to Happiness: A Novel (chick lit that isn't really chick lit. I've read good things about it, and it's about time I found a companion to my favorite chick lit book, English as a Second Language).
  3. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation (you read that right. If you know what that means, give yourself 1 internet. If you don't, I'll tell you: it means I got Fahrenheit 451 in the form of a graphic novel. Two of my favorite things -graphic novels/comic books and Ray Bradbury's genius -in one package. I couldn't not buy that and remain a whole entire person).
So there you have it, folks. This is why I'm more excited about August 10 than my own birthday (well, kind of).

It's supposed to be a review day, but since I plan on applying for a (better paying) job at another site, I'm skipping it. I've put up 3 things this week anyway, so it's not like I haven't met my goal. It's all good. Anyway, I'm sure some of you need refreshers on what I've already written, so go check it out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The living dead

I'm a big fan of the show True Blood. I don't have HBO at my house, sadly, so I have to watch grainy videos of it online the day after each episode comes out. Yes I'm that dedicated, shut up. I'm not missing that much of the season just because I don't get the right channel! It's a fun show -by which I mean it's nasty, snarky and full of violence and blood -and not a little sex. The characters are good, the acting is better than what I expect and it's just a nice mindless way to spend an hour every week.

The books the show is based on are not that great; I'll be honest. I like them a lot, but as far as literature goes? They're trashy. They're trashy, low-brow, simply written, easily read little books. And that is what makes them great. They're just good enough to merit being read for pleasure. And unlike some books, they don't pretend to be the next big thing in literary history. They're just there for fun, sort of like that one friend who always wants to go out and party -fun for a while. It's the coffeeshop books you go to for substance (real, capital L Literary books like Jane Eyre or Rebecca), and it's these books you go to when you need a mental break and something light to read.

Thus, today's review: Living Dead in Dallas (aka season 2 of True Blood). Awesome. Get on it.

It's been a slow couple of weeks for me, reading-wise. The library's shittiness is finally catching up with me, and I seem to have run out of steam. I'm still reading Zadie Smith's book White Teeth (slowly but surely) and I have a few other things out...but on the whole, I think I need a bit of a breather. I'm trying to build up a log of reviews for when I go back to school and yet here I sit with something akin to writer's block. It's very frustrating. Like someone has cut off my arm, or denied me coffee. I know the best solution to writer's block is just to write, so I have been -every day, writing something. But none of it is really breaking through the review block I seem to have developed.

I have a book on curing writer's block (which is sort of a funny thing when you think about it -the idea of writing a book about how to be able to write when you can't. I don't know. I'm amused), but it's largely geared toward fiction writing, which I do...but which doesn't offer much help in writing reviews. I don't need to create believable characters with human depths and flaws in them to write a review, I just need to write about the characters other people have already created. Normally that's not a problem. The problem is that I'm not reading as much, as fast or with as much pleasure.

And for that I blame the library. I have 4 new books coming in the mail from Amazon; hopefully they'll be here within the next week. That will give me some motivation to read/write again, so there's definitely a light at the end of this particular tunnel. For the time being, I'm just going to keep plugging through the same stale offerings at my public library and attempting to find some sparks there.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Review's up! Go read it!

Additionally, I checked out White Teeth from the library yesterday (or was it Saturday?) and borrowed Field Notes from the Compassionate Life from my grandma yesterday and received instructions from my dad that I am to use part of my birthday present (amazon gift card) to buy a book called Libraries at Night. So all of these things will lead to further awesomeness in the realm of reviewing.

I'm also buying my textbooks today. I won't review most of those (unless they're just that awesome), but one of them is Frankenstein, so we'll see what happens with this. I'm pretty pumped. I love getting books.

And coffee makers. I totally got a baby Keurig for my birthday as a joint present from parents/grandparents and if I was the type to descend into girls acronyms this post would be filled with omglolwtf-type writing. Keurigs a) make the best coffee, b) make it one cup at a time and c) are absolutely gorgeous pieces of tech. I made my excited face when I got it. It's not as excited as Bubby's excited face, which we were witness to when he realized he got an Indiana Jones Lego set. I can't wait to see what happens when Jonah gives him the Force Unleashed Wii game he got... :)

August is birthday month. My uncle's is the 7th, mine is the 14th, my cousin's is the 15th, my dad's (Braden, not biological) is the 16th, my brother's is the 19th and my grandpa is somewhere else in the middle of all of that. And I think my other cousin might be in here somewhere soon, too, maybe early September? I don't know. That's too many people for me to keep track of -suffice it to say, there are a lot of birthdays going on right now. And it's always fun. :) Lots of cake and ice cream and hyperactivity.

I'm excited to buy me some books today. Look for more reviews soon. Also this week will be my piece on what Literature is!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Saturday

Puns kill me (not in the ha-ha, killer joke kind of way, either). I don't know why I continue making them; I despise most puns. I don't think they're usually very clever, and they definitely don't take much effort...not that all cleverness does, but you know. I'm just not a fan of puns, okay?!

I am a fan of Spongebob, however. And Zadie Smith's "White Teeth" -which I checked out from the library today. Something I'll have a good time re-reading! Expect a review of that within a week or two.

Short entry today -I'm off enjoying my Saturday. You ought to be as well. :)