Thursday, June 16, 2011
It's been months of work. And I've been nervous to show it off, holding off these last few weeks because I'm so nervous. But, you don't get anywhere by being scared.
There are still some kinks to work out. We're still playing with the design of the homepage. But, I want to blog again, so it's time.
Thanks to all who have read my posts and thoughts here. I hope you follow me and we can keep the conversations going.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
But also, I've been working on something kind of cool. I'm not quite ready to share it yet, but soon. And then I'll get back on track.
I've still been reading though, and can't wait to discuss:
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet
The Happiest Mom
Out Stealing Horses
Monday, April 4, 2011
Monday, March 7, 2011
Whip It: Roller Girls have always intrigued me. For some reason, I think I could be good at a sport like this. Plus, it’s a hard-hitting, fast-paced sport For Girls. Which is awesome. The movie was cute. Ellen Page was her typical self. The storyline was sweet. And while I’m not a huge fan of hers on SNL, Kristen Wiig really impressed me in this movie. She was thoughtful, engaging and one of my favorite characters. I’d recommend it for a girls’ night movie, because these ladies kick ass.
The Social Network: My husband and I watched this together and we really liked it. I wasn’t too concerned since I’ve loved all things Aaron Sorkin since Sports Night (which was so before its time and canceled way too early). It was really interesting to watch an empire being created from the ground up. Eisenberg made Zuckerberg seem like an incredible douche and villain - with the touch of a (broken) heart - but yet, you still pulled for him. This was also one of my first exposures to Andrew Garfield, and I really liked him as an actor. JT wasn’t so bad either. We enjoyed discussing after the movie who really deserved part of the fortune, and who got away with a lot of money for doing so very little.
The Kids Are All Right: I liked this movie, too. It’s nothing flashy or groundbreaking, really, just nice. It was nice to watch a movie about two women raising a family where the fact that they were lesbians (or the fact that the kids had two moms) was not an issue. It just told it like it is. Marriage is hard. Motherhood is hard. People screw up, and then you still love them. Why Julianne Moore wasn’t nominated, though, is beyond me. She was terrific.
Catfish: I first heard about this documentary on Ellen (must’ve been a sick day or something), when she had the filmmakers on and just raved about the movie and the “twist.” It studies and documents the relationship of 24-year-old Nev with a family he meets on Facebook. And things aren’t as they seem. So, I knew there was a twist going in – and you can kind of assume what the twist is – yet the movie still really surprised me. There are rumors it may all be a hoax, but whatever. It was crazy. And good.
What have you seen lately?
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel
An unfortunate and depressing fact about mankind living on planet Earth is that eventually the rock we call home will not be here anymore. The Sun will die, expanding to the point that Earth will be swallowed whole by the very star that gives us life. Of course this is billions of years from now, but what if mankind (or whatever we’ve evolved into) could escape this by traveling to a parallel universe? What if mankind could escape the solar system long before this happens by traveling to another star, perhaps faster than the speed of light? These are the topics brought to life by theoretical physics professor Michio Kaku of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in his book Physics of the Impossible.
I’m sure right now you’re thinking, "Why would I want to read 300 pages about theoretical physics?" I have an engineering and physics background in my former career, and that doesn’t even sound fun to me. However, at some point we’ve all thought about what it would be like to time travel. We’ve all seen teleportation in Star Trek, or traveling faster than the speed of light in Star Wars. How many movies and TV shows have been made about robots becoming smarter than we are and turning on us? Terminator or I, Robot, anyone? What about Watson on Jeopardy?
Kaku takes the pop-culture sci-fi topics that everyone has thought about at one point or another, and describes the physics that may actually make them possible in a (more or less) easy-to-read fashion. You don’t need to have a huge science background to understand what’s going on. Kaku deconstructs into three classes what most people think are impossibilities. The first class being impossibilities that don’t break known laws of physics, and may be possible in this or the next century, including force fields, teleportation, invisibility, robots, UFO’s, and starships. Can you imagine how the world would change if you could order a book on Amazon and it would be teleported to you? You think that the USPS has a hard time now?! Also discussed are class II impossibilities that might be realized within a millennia or more (time travel, parallel universes) and class III impossibilities which violate the known laws of physics which would require a fundamental shift in mankind’s understanding of physics (perpetual motion machines).
Kaku takes great care in honoring the past scientific discoveries by giving a bit of history from the scientists whose research has brought us to where we are today. Sadly, many of these great thinkers were persecuted for their beliefs (some even committing suicide) that were later proven in labs. Ludwig Boltzmann was hounded for his belief of atoms and hanged himself in 1906 because of the intense pressure. What Boltzmann didn’t realize was that Einstein had written a paper in 1905 demonstrating their existence.
While the research from the past has made possible everything society takes for granted today (the internet, cell phones, computers, space travel), we are an infantile society when it comes to scientific discovery. It is highly likely that societies are thriving in the universe (or in other universes) that are much more advanced than we are. Kaku paints a broad picture of how we may discover and use technologies to become a more advanced civilization, and on the extreme long-term timescale, survive. Kaku does so in a way that someone with little scientific background but a little bit of nerd in them can understand. I myself can’t wait for his next book Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Not surprisingly, I gobbled up (no pun intended) the second Hunger Games book, Catching Fire, in less than a week. Surprisingly, I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about it. When the book opens, Katniss and Peeta are off on their victory tour through the districts. Of course, here comes their design team to dress them all up again and prepare them for the tour. While I love the design team (Cinna definitely captured my heart), I thought to myself, “I already read this in the first book.” So, right away I was disappointed. And then I wondered, “Is Collins going to drag us through each and every one of the 12 districts?” Because: Boring. But she didn’t, so she redeemed herself there.
But when we’re only a few chapters into the book and the tour is over, then what fills the rest of the pages? Oh, another Hunger Games. She can’t possibly figure out a way to throw Katniss back in to this hot mess that makes sense, can she? Oh, but she can. Granted, it was a surprise to everyone – a completely unorthodox move by the Capitol. However, I’ve already read about the Hunger Games, so again: disappointed. I felt like Collins was taking the easy way out.
Another note: As an editor, it drives me CRAZY that they spell Capitol with an “o.” It’s a city, not just a building. It should be spelled Capital. Who let that get by?
To be fair, I can see why providing us with another Games isn’t completely stupid. We get to see a different environment then the one the Capitol created in the first book. We also get to meet a whole new slew of characters - though not quite as deeply as we could’ve, I don’t think. But another Games? Eh.
However, in the end, there was a scheme to it all. There was a reason, and I have to say it’s a good reason. So, again, Collins redeemed herself. In my opinion, if you cut out some unnecessary sections—and the few “review” pages up front of each book (just assume we read the previous book(s) and move on!)—this series could have been two books instead of three. Though, how many two-book series are there in the world? I’m guessing not too many.
So. I’ll say I liked it. It offers up good characters, it’s easy to read, it’s engaging, and I love Katniss. And maybe after finishing Mockingjay, I’ll like the series as a whole better than each individual part? To be continued...
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
The story follows Liesel, a young girl growing up in a foster home in Nazi Germany. The Hubermann’s have taken her in when it was clear to her own mother that their family was in danger. Death comes across Liesel’s path in a couple of instances in her lifetime and is struck by this special girl, which is why he chose to tell her story.
A few themes I loved:
Death’s compassion. It hit me about halfway through the book that Death, at least The Book Thief’s Death, isn’t scary. He’s sad. He’s busy. He’s compassionate. He’s devastated about sitting up top bath houses and catching body after Jewish body that’s been gassed and killed. He can’t believe the things humans do to one another. He talks frankly about when he takes people and when he doesn’t. I learned to love Death as a character.
In the back of the book, there’s a Q & A with the author, Markus Zusak, and he says this about Death as a character: “Death was to be exhausted from his eternal existence and his job. He was to be afraid of humans – because after all, he was there to see the obliteration we’ve perpetrated on each other throughout the ages – and he would now be telling this story to prove to himself that humans are actually worth it.”
Hans & Rosa Hubermanns love. When we first meet this couple, they poke at each other, gripe at each other, call each other names. You think, 'Wow, this couple must loathe one another.' But it’s exactly the opposite. They are so much in love. When your husband brings home a Jew to hide in your basement and you ask no questions because you would do anything for him… Well, that’s love. And they loved Liesel like their own. It’s almost heartbreaking.
A favorite quote: “Life had altered in the wildest possible way, but it was imperative that they act as if nothing at all had happened. Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing that 24 hours a day. That was the business of hiding a Jew.”
The other side of the story. When we think of Nazi Germany, it’s so easy to hate all the people who lived there. How could they let this happen? How could they just stand by? Sure, we know the stories of people like the Hubermanns who were brave and helped those who need it. But, some just choose survival. They might not agree with the Nazi party, but they join, just to survive. They might not want to go fight for them, but they do so their son doesn’t have to. There is always another side. And it makes you wonder: Who would I be in that situation? Would I risk my butt? Or would I fly under the radar? Either way works, just as long as you live, right? And the same goes for current times. I try to remember to always give someone the benefit of the doubt. Because people can be going through some tough stuff and just need a break.
I loved this story. It was engaging and special and it sticks with you once you close it. It’s not joyous by any means, but there are several happy parts to it. Happiness to hang on to amongst the rubble.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
As I started reading on my Kindle, this is how I felt for about the first half of the book: I missed that feeling of accomplishment. With a real book, you get that satisfaction as the pages you’ve read start outnumbering the pages you haven’t. You can physically see how far you are. You can also easily flutter through to see how many pages you are away from the end of a chapter. With a Kindle, sure you can page to the end of a chapter, but it’s not as easy as holding your finger in the book to mark your spot. Along the bottom of a Kindle page, it shows the percentage of what you’ve read. So, this should give me that feeling of accomplishment… but as a visual learner, this meant very little to me. But, I assume as I read more and more books this way, I’ll get use to this method.
But, I have to say, by the last half of the book, I forgot I was reading on my Kindle. I got used to the “flipping,” it read easily on the e-ink, and it was so convenient to slip into my purse. (Maybe I would’ve stuck with Pillars of the Earth if I had it on a Kindle instead of lugging around 1,000 pages? Probably not.) I’m reading a real book again at the moment, and love holding it in my hands, but I have to say, the Kindle isn’t so bad to hold either.
Another downfall: I’ve told one of my bffs that she’ll really enjoy The Hunger Games. And I realized I can’t lend it to her. And that makes me sad. But, I have a goal to declutter even more in 2011, which means selling lots more of my books. The reason I keep books is to lend them out. But, having more space and a more peaceful mind needs to outweigh keeping books just for the possibility of lending them (sorry, please still be my friends!), and maybe more Kindle books is the way to do that.
Commenting on my first Kindle post, Manda asked me if using a Kindle means I still feel “connected” to everything. Manda said she likes picking up a book and turning off all that technology. I didn’t feel that way at all. My Kindle isn’t connected to anything. I’m not planning to sign up for news through it or anything. Nothing bongs or tweets at me while I’m reading. It’s going to strictly be for books and just because it’s “electronic,” well, even after just one book, it doesn’t feel “electronic” to me. I’m just reading as I always have.
Other people commented on missing libraries and bookstores. First, I’ll never stop perusing bookstores. I love them, even when I don’t buy anything, which is most often. However, I’ve been buying (or having people buy for me) a majority of my books online for years now. They’re cheaper. They come right to your house. It’s easy for gift-giving. So, that part I won’t miss, actually. I can still stop at B&N over lunch – and buy children’s books now! – and the only thing that really changes about my buying habits is that my books get delivered to the Kindle in seconds as opposed to the house in days by mail.
In the end, I really like it. I do still feel a touch guilty about that, though. And, like iTunes, when you can just click “buy” and instantly have a book in place, it’s important to learn restraint. Because I still have plenty of books on my shelf left to read, too, I’ve put a limit on my Kindle purchases. Right now, nothing more than $5 or so - and with $40 in gift cards to spend, that's a lot of books. After awhile, I’ll re-evaluate. And I’ll obviously still be reading both ways. I don’t expect ever to give up actual books, but if it comes cheaper on the Kindle and it’s something I really want to read, the Kindle it is.
So, now what do you think? I think I've struck a good balance, plus I tried, and enjoyed, something new. Have I changed any minds?
Friday, January 21, 2011
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before - and survival.When I first read the synopsis, I wasn't sure. Seemed a little too Sci-Fi for me... however, I've enjoyed Sci-Fi a bit more lately, plus this was a young-adult novel, so I knew it wasn't going to get too complicated or out there for my liking. The premise is obviously depressing and I couldn't imagine actually enjoying a book that kills off teenagers one by one - for sport. But the author does a decent job of making several of Katniss' competitors, and the residents of the Capitol, unlikable while at the same time making our heroine our primary concern.
The Hunger Games are kind of like the Olympics because there's training, an opening ceremonies, costumes, interviews and performance. A good portion of the book is devoted to all these elements leading up to the actual Games. While it was interesting and you meet some important characters during this part of the book, I was anxious for the action to start. And, I have to say that while reading about kids killing each other (sick, right?) was hard, the Games were the most interesting, fast-moving part of the novel. You learn about strategy, survival, greed, alliances, trust and love.
When you go into book knowing there are sequels, you lose part of the mystery, but then The Hunger Games ends on a loose end and definitely makes you want more. I really liked the book, it was written very well and was very engaging. I read for two hours straight last Saturday night and I haven't done that in a long, long time. So, I'm very excited for the next two books.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
1. Huckleberry Finn Censoring.
This came as quite a shock to me when I heard it on the news the other day. It seems very strange and misguided to change the text of a historic book in order to protect innocent readers, increase use in schools or just be more politically correct. Like Dr. Sarah Churchill says in a Guardian article,
“The fault lies with the teaching, not the book. You can't say 'I'll change Dickens so it is compatible with my teaching method'. Twain's books are not just literary documents but historical documents, and that word is totemic because it encodes all of the violence of slavery. The point of the book is that Huckleberry Finn starts out racist in a racist society, and stops being racist and leaves that society. These changes mean the book ceases to show the moral development of his character.”
However, an EW blogger points on that this censorship would only happen in certain copies of the book – most likely those meant for school-aged children. So, is this any different than censoring R-rated movies on TV so an immature audience doesn’t see/read something its not ready for? I thought that was an interesting point, at least. [Edited to add: This post by Flavorwire, changing other challenged books to be more "appropriate" is great. Also, Susan Orlean's take in the New Yorker.]
In the end, I think I fall on the side not changing the book. It just seems wrong. If I wrote a book one day, I would hate for the powers that be to decide to change it after I’m gone. (Yes, this is a short and simple thought on an very complex issue. But, I don't have the energy to really get into it right now.)
2. New Yorker’s Millennium Trilogy column.
Critic Joan Acocella asks Why Do People Love Stieg Larsson’s novels? She points out many reasons not to like them. Bad dialogue. Loose ends. Unnecessary detail. Not enough detail. A poor choice in male protagonist. I read other bloggers commenting on Acocella’s column saying they agreed with her – they hate the books, too. However, I don’t think Acocella hates these books. She does defend Larsson and the books a bit as well. She thinks the claims he’s a women-hater because of the scenes of violence against women are unwarranted. She likes Lisbeth as the heroine. And, she praises the books use of technology.
I agreed with her on all accounts. Sure, the books have too much detail – I barely kept reading Dragon Tattoo because the first 100 pages were so hard to get through – and there were huge loose ends (Lisbeth's sister??) and bad dialogue. I chalk the loose ends up to the author’s early death. And bad dialogue? Well, see Star Wars and Twilight, and I still love those. I too loved Lisbeth as a heroine, and I was very impressed by Larsson’s knowledge of computers and hacking. He was very up-to-date - if not ahead of our time considering when he wrote these - on security measures and hacking abilities when it comes to technology.
Something I found interesting was Acocella's analysis of Larsson’s view of Sweden. Perhaps it isn’t the Utopia of everything that we Americans think it is?
I was pleased to see The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on several lists. I’ve had this book for several months and am reading it right now, so I feel proud to have picked this one out on my own before seeing it make all these lists.
The third book in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, also made many lists. I’m late to the game on this series – much like Twilight – but I’ve heard good things, so I plan to start it soon.
Room is also all over these lists. I’ve read about this book and heard from trusted sources that it’s pretty amazing, yet quite sad and disturbing. I’m not quite sure it’s up my alley, at least for the moment.
The Emperor of All Maladies also made several lists. This has been on my Amazon Wish List for awhile. I’m waiting for this book to either drop its Kindle price or come out on paperback, but I’m definitely interested.
I didn’t read The Corrections, so Freedom, even though it made ALL lists, isn’t high on my own reading list.
I couldn’t believe Time picked Faithful Place as a top book of the year. While I liked it, it wasn’t as good as her others, and with only picking 10 books out of all from 2010, I couldn’t believe this was one of its choices.
What are your thoughts? Censorship opinions? Millennium lovers or haters? Your top books published in 2010?
Monday, December 27, 2010
I talked you up, man. I would rave about you. I wrote papers in college analyzing your complex characters. Those first books are ones I keep on my shelves – they’ve moved with me from dorm room to first apartment to condo to townhouse. They've never been thought of as bait for Half-Priced Books. That’s how much they mean to me. Yet, with each following book you’ve written, part of my love for you dies. Your stories aren’t funny anymore. They’re actually either puzzling or quite boring, in fact. And why should I continue to love someone who bores me?
This last book, Juliet, Naked, was the nail in the coffin, I’m afraid. I did finish it, for the most part because it was quick and something to do on the bus, but I was never attached to any of the characters. Not the jerk/creepy music fanatic, not the lonely middle-aged woman, not the washed up, lazy rock star. Nothing stuck with me, and really I didn’t see the point in the story at all. And that lackluster ending? If I had liked the book, it would’ve been a complete disappointment. But then, its lackluster-ness might have just been on par with the rest of the story. If so, you get props for consistency, I suppose.
So, Nick, I’ve been disappointed one too many times. I’m going to have to say goodbye. I’m too busy to waste my time on you anymore. I would say: it’s not you, it’s me. But that would be a lie. It’s you.
Monday, December 20, 2010
[Note: However, when my hubby, the music lover, couldn’t quite get on board with iTunes right away and kept purchasing CDs to show his support, I was on him about all the space they take up (!) and how much easier and cheaper iTunes was. Same argument, different genre. A tad hypocritical?]
Well, I got a Kindle for my birthday. It was a very generous gift from my MIL; she was super excited to buy it for me, and even though Jon told her I didn’t want one, when she asked a second time, he told her to go for it. I was very surprised by the gift. As we were on the way to our birthday dinner, Jon asked me if I really liked it. I told him I thought it was cool, it’s convenient, the books are cheaper…but it will take me awhile not to feel like a sellout. The publishing industry is my world; am I betraying it by reading books like this? Even my boss, who does everything via iPad, has yet to purchase a real electronic book.
However, it is very easy to read on. I don’t have books on there yet, but I’ve been reading the user’s manual and the e-paper is pretty cool. Plus, the books are like 50 percent cheaper, which in tough economic times, that means a lot. And, as a friend pointed out, I don’t have to read all books this way.
I’m going to keep it, because it was a lovely gift from someone who cares about me a lot. And I don’t remember the last time I received (or treated myself to) something this extravagant. (I use the free cell phone from our plan and a hand-me-down iPod; I don’t have my own computer.) And it’s not like I won’t use it. I’ll just use it while having an internal struggle and a bit of book-lover's guilt. All the while still reading physical books, too, and sharing those with my friends.
So, am I a sellout? I’ll keep you posted on my thoughts on the Kindle.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Help. One of my first books of 2010 and I’m so glad I read it. This book was touching, educational, funny, sad, joyful, vengeful and moving all at once. I fell in love with Skeeter and Aibileen, and I grew more and more embarrassed of our past. I laughed, I cried. Two things that always guarantee I’ll like and remember a book. I’m very interested in the movie, too.
Millennium Trilogy. Yep, I was one of the millions who got sucked into Lisbeth Salander’s three-book adventure. While the books could be quite detail-driven and it was easy to get lost in side stories that were overwhelmed with information and Swedish-sounding surnames, there was enough action and female kick-ass-ery in these books to keep me flipping the pages. Plus, being a journalist, I very much enjoyed the evolution of Millennium magazine. They were tough, conscious-driven editors – we don’t have enough of those these days. But, in the end it was all about Lisbeth and she’s definitely a character for the ages.
Where Men Win Glory. Once again Krakauer taught me a bunch of things I didn’t know. He did it with Under the Banner of Heaven and Into Thin Air and once again with this book. I learned so much more about the wars we’re fighting, basic training, friendly fire, the (despicable) marketing of war, and a man who was truly unique. Pat Tillman was a thoughtful, generous, caring person whose life ended much too early. The book made me mad and sad and depressed about our current situation, but it also made me a bit hopeful that perhaps there are more men like Pat Tillman out there. God knows we need them.
So, what were your favorite books you read in 2010?