Saturday, November 29, 2008

Twitter tweets

I joined Twitter last year, but never actually...uh...twitted. And I couldn't remember the username, password, or e-mail address I used to join, so I just created a new account. It's here, if you want to follow me. I can't guarantee that it'll be interesting, but you never know...

I'm a Performer!

I've taken Meyers-Briggs personality assessments before, but I can never remember what they classified me as. This one is oddly on the mark, though:


(Click for a larger view)

From the Typealyzer, found via Joanne.

In other news, BoingBoing has a holiday gift guide featuring comics and graphic novels and Neil Gaiman is having a contest, of sorts, to promote The Graveyard Book. I'm off to help set up a display at the tiny public library...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Thankful

Today's Booking Through Thursday question:
Today is Thanksgiving here in the U.S.
Now, you may have noticed that the global economy isn’t exactly doing well. There’s war. Starvation. All sorts of bad, scary things going on.
So–just for today–how about sharing 7 things that you’re thankful for?
This can be about books, sure–authors you appreciate, books you love, an ode to your public library–but also, how about other things, too? Because in times like these, with bills piling up and disaster seemingly lurking around every corner, it’s more important than ever to stop and take stock of the things we’re grateful for. Family. Friends. Good health (I hope). Coffee and tea. Turkey. Sunshine. Wagging tails. Curling up with a good book.
So, how about it? Spread a little positive thinking and tell the world what there is to be thankful for.
I'm thankful for:
1. My family. I love spending holiday time with them. This is the first year my sister (the newlywed) is getting to host Thanksgiving, so I came down yesterday to "help" (i.e., play with my nephew and watch her clean). Mom's coming later, and then we're having a big dinner with both families (us and Sis' in-laws). Should be interesting...
2. Literacy. I love reading, and I love writing. I'm thankful that I can do these things, and I'm thankful that I can help others do these as well. Which leads me to...
3. My job. I love being a teacher. I've had some crap jobs - retail clothing store sales associate, dishwasher, grocery store deli clerk - so it's great to finally be doing something that 1) utilizes my degree, and 2) makes me happy. Especially in the current economic climate.
4. My friends. These guys pretty much fall under #1, too, but they can have their own category as well. My roommate is great (and keeps us well-stocked with baked goods), my fellow teachers are a wonderful support system, and my non-teaching friends are always there when I need them. My blogging friends rule, too; it's nice to know that someone besides me actually reads these missives and gets something out of them. :)
5. Technology. Seriously, where would we be without the Internet, iPods, cellphones, digital cameras, etc? I take my Nintendo DS with me everywhere!
6. C.O. Bigelow Mentha Lip Shine. I am addicted to this stuff. It's amazing. I actually have, like, 10 different flavors in my bathroom right now (there was a sale not too long ago, and I stocked up) and I always have at least one in my purse. Yum!
7. Last but not least, tofurkey! Or just tofu in general, I suppose. I don't eat meat, but I love having something to sink my teeth into while sitting around the table.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Check out Booking Through Thursday for more opinions.

Happy Turkey Day!

Hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving! And for those of you outside the U.S., I hope you're having a great Thursday! :)

I was in charge of the cranberry sauce; here's my recipe:

1 (12 oz.) bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice (I prefer the pulpless kind)

Put all the ingredients in a medium pot and heat over medium-high heat until it starts bubbling and the berries start to burst open. Stir and continue heating until the berries are all split and it turns a lovely reddish color. Take the pot off the burner and let cool, then put in a covered dish and chill until it's time to serve. Yummy!

Bonus links:
Neil Gaiman's cranberry sauce recipe.
Dietribes: Cranberries
Crochet holiday pie hats! (I am so making one of these for next year!)

Title Drop FTW!

You know how in some books the title shows up in the narrative? Well, Bybee is having a vote to decide by what name we should call that phenomenon. So go vote!. And if anyone knows the real term, please share. :)

Real Turkey Day post coming later.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poor repressed Edward

My BFF sent me this link, and it's too good not to share. Ever wonder what Edward was doing while Emmet, Rosalie, Jasper, Alice, Carlise, and Esme were - ahem - "busy"? Here's your answer:

NO ONE UNDERSTANDS MEEE HE WOULD SEETHE AS HE PRESSED HIS WILDFLOWERS

AND, there's a sequel, wherein Edward watches porn for the first time:

I DO NOT BELIEVE A LADY COP WOULD DRESS IN SUCH A MANNER

Review: Twilight (the movie)

Really, ladies, is this attractive?First, a little background on my experience with Twilight (the books). Last year, my BFF (a Children's Librarian in Atlanta) called and told them that I had to read this book. She warned me that the writing wasn't the greatest, but the story would absolutely suck me in. She was right, of course. I couldn't find a copy at my local library, so I took a chance and bought a copy at Waldenbooks on my way home from class. I finished it in one afternoon, went back to Waldenbooks the next day, and bought New Moon. Finished that one that afternoon, went back the next day, bought Eclipse, finished it that night, then waited impatiently for Breaking Dawn. I amused myself in the meantime by reading The Host, but it wasn't the same.

Vampire eyes are watching you/They see your every move...The Twilight series is like literary crack - it's incredibly bad for you, but also addictive. Parts of it annoyed me, sure. The best description I've ever heard of Meyers' writing is that she never uses a sentence when a paragraph will do, and lord knows I could do without all the smoldering, chuckling, and late-night stalking. But the books are a fun and easy read.
Hawt? Nawt!
The movie, though...I know a lot of people out there loved it. I, however, went in expecting to hate it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't horrible, but parts of it were boring. A large chunk of the book takes place in Bella's head: her thoughts, suspicions, feelings. Trying to take that and put it on a movie screen just isn't going to work. Plus, some of the stuff that sounded dubious or silly in the book (I'm looking at you, sparkly!vampires) looks downright LAME on the big screen.

Much cuter undeadMy big gripes first:
The makeup was bad. The vampires were pale, but not in an attractive way. I expected that, having seen a bazillion promotional images of Edward and Co. for the past 3 months. Kurt Loder said it best, I think: "[...] it doesn't help that [the vampires] have been so heavily caked with face powder and overloaded with hair product that they look like a troupe of unusually fey mimes." That still makes me giggle every time I read it. Jackson Rathborne suffers the most from this. He's an actually pretty cute IRL (that's him on the left, sans vampire makeup, and then again on the right, with Edward and Alice), but EVERY TIME he came on screen, the entire audience began laughing. It's not really his fault, although he did tend to have some really strange expressions on his face. I think he was going for pain or fear, but it didn't really come across.This is a good picture. He usually looks constipated.

The other part that really bugged me was Jacob. I HATE his character in the books - so whiny and needy, and can't take no for an answer - so I really wasn't expecting to like him much in the movie. I didn't. His wig was really bad and did nothing for him. Plus, he had one of the stupidest lines in the entire movie:

HATE!Bella: What did your friend mean, about the Cullens not coming here?
Jacob: Caught that, did you?

I mean, HONESTLY. The dude was standing two feet from her, TALKING DIRECTLY TO BELLA. Of course she "caught it" - she's not that dumb. I actually laughed in the theater when he said that (I laughed at a lot of things in this movie) and my friends and I decided that would become our new catchphrase for whenever we did something Really Obvious.

[Begin Tangent] My other least favorite line in the movie was Bella's reaction to Edward scaling a tree with her clinging to his back:

Bella: Things like this just don't exist in my world.
Me: What, trees?

I think I said it a little too loudly, because other people laughed as well. We had a pretty eclectic mix of movie-goers at the theater: jaded 20-somethings, squeeing!teenage fangirls, suburban soccer moms, assorted males who may or may not have been there for Edward (this was Midtown Atlanta, after all). We're pretty sure the soccer moms were making a drinking game out of the movie - it was one of those awesome theaters that actually serves alcohol, and every once in a while you could see a bottle being chugged while Edward and Bella were having a "moment." [End Tangent]

These costumes are almost as great as the knickerbockers and pageboy caps.There were parts of the movie that I enjoyed, believe it or not. The baseball scene was pretty cool - I liked seeing the grace with which Alice pitched, because that was one aspect of vampiredom that didn't come across in other parts of the film. The biggest surprises, though, were Kellan Lutz and Billy Burke. Not exactly a 'bear,' but close enough.Emmet and Charlie were never the focus of my attention in the books, but I adored both of them in the movie. Charlie was just sweet and protective, and Emmet always looked like he was enjoying himself. They were the two who seemed the most in tuned with the characters from the book to me. And yes, that includes Bella and Edward. I'm sorry, but I just didn't buy that they were in love.

I can't imagine what it must have been like to see this movie without reading the book(s) first. Two of the people in our group had no idea what was going on most of the time, and they couldn't understand why Bella was so hell-bent on being with Edward. Because, you know, he's a vampire. We ended up having a really long (and loud) discussion in the theater lobby after the movie, trying to explain what the movie missed, but I don't think they really cared that much.

To sum up: not the greatest movie I've ever seen, but certainly not the worst, either. I hope to see more of the other vampires when they make the inevitable sequels. I won't see it again in theaters, but I'll probably buy it (used) when it comes out on DVD, for the MST3K possibilities if nothing else.

Other reviews:
Bookish Bent
Tripping Toward Lucidity
Pop Culture Junkie
Erin the Librarian

Bonus links:
True love does exist, and science can prove it!
Cute amigurumi Edward doll for sale on Etsy

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Awards II Challenge: Ella Minnow Pea

Title: Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Author: Mark Dunn
Genre: Fiction/Epistolary
Published: October 2002
Pages: 208
Rating: 10 / 10
Challenges: Book Awards II Challenge
Awards: According to Wikipedia, it was selected as Borders' Book of the Year. Yes, that is a stretch, but I'm behind on this challenge and I'm going with it. :)

Synopsis: From the back cover:
Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet, "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog."

Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island's Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letter progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl's fight for freedom of expression and a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

My Review: This was a very quick, entertaining read. I loved the play on words, even in the title: Ella Minnow Pea is written in an epistolary format, so it truly is "a novel in letters." I loved reading how the incredibly clever Nollopians dealt with the loss of their beloved letters by coming up with new spellings. "Hensephorth" is pretty recognizable; how about "lophlee" or "ephereething"? Throughout the ordeal, they manage to retain their sesquipedantic style of writing. The change within the book is gradual, so it's actually pretty easy to read, as crazy as it looks. All in all, it's a great little book. Will Shortz fans will especially enjoy it, I'm sure.

Other Reviews:
Fyrefly
Kim
If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Weekly Geeks #26

This week's WG challenge: bloghopping!
1. Using the WeeklyGeeks category here in my blog, find 5 Weekly Geeks you don’t know. The easiest way is probably to look at the Mr Linkies in my weekly Saturday posts.

2. Visit each of your 5 new blogpals and snoop around their blogs to find at least one thing you have in common.

3. In your blog, write a post, linking to your 5 new blogpals, about what you have in common with them.

4. Come back and sign Mr Linky.

5. As you run across other Weekly Geek posts (or deliberately seek them out) if you see anyone mentioned who has something in common with you, pay them a visit.
I decided the easiest way to find out if I had something in common with other Weekly Geeks was to check out the responses to WG #24. I found several people who liked the same authors I do, and linked to them on my own WG #24 post. Here are other commonalities I discovered:

1. First up, Ali from Worducopia. In addition to having an awesome blog name, Ali is also a fan of Christopher Moore. She's read several books (including The Gargoyle, Madapple, and Eat, Pray, Love) that are on my TBR list, she has a Guster song in her sidebar playlist, she loves Harold and Maude, and she's visited Paris and Italy - two places I very much hope to see myself one day.

2. Next, Sam from Wrongdecade. I'm going to go into detail explaining this similarity, I can tell. See, I used to work at a clothing store that played music from the 50s and 60s, and because I heard it so often (and knew so much of the music already, because my mom listened to the oldies station exclusively while my sister and I were growing up) I knew the words to pretty much every song and would sing along with them. Loudly, if there were no customers in the store; quietly, if there were. There was one song called "Born Too Late" by the Poni-Tails (hear it here) that used to come on at least once a day, and of course, I would sing along. My co-worker, Stella, used to joke that the song had been written about me, because I clearly belonged in an earlier decade. For what it's worth, I would've made an awesome flapper. Anywho, Sam also feels that she was born too late. Plus, she's a vegan, and I'm a vegetarian.

3. Sarah from Behold, the thing that reads a lot and I both disliked The Nanny Diaries.

4. Florinda from The 3 R's and I are both fans of Michael Chabon. And I love the links in this post. She's also responsible for introducing me to this quiz:



Jessi's Dewey Decimal Section:

083 Collections in other Germanic languages

Jessi's birthday: 11/03/1980 = 1103+1980 = 3083


Class:
000 Computer Science, Information & General Works


Contains:
Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.



What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com



5. Last but not least, Jessica at The Bluestocking Society. We have the same name, enjoy the same books (The Handmaid's Tale, Coraline, Midnight Sun, The Graveyard Book, and An Abundance of Katherines - those last two are currently in my TBR pile, although I started The Graveyard Book during last month's Read-a-Thon), and I love the idea of reclaiming a formerly-disparaging term and embracing it as a way to describe intellectual, literary women.

Quidditch World Cup

Turns out, there's a group of college students who actually get together to play Quidditch. Just...wow. I wonder if this would catch on at the high school?

Weekly Geeks #25: Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

This week's WG challenge: a books-based Weekly Geeks Gift Giving Guide!
1. Think about the books that you and people in your life love. It’s best to use more obscure books, because we’ve all heard plenty about the more popular ones.

2. Come up with categories, based on relationship, personality, or whatever else you like. I think this is easier to do once you have your books in mind; you can then just assign categories to those books.

3. Post your own gift giving guide! Add short blurbs about the books, just enough so that your readers can determine if it’d be a good gift for people on their list. Don’t forget to come back and sign Mr Linky.

4. Visit other Weekly Geeks, and if you like their guides, maybe add links to the bottom of your own.
I know it's late, but I was really excited about this WG theme and wanted to share my ideas. Here goes...

For that friend who made sure you were registered to vote and then pestered you endlessly about how great Obama is:
Anything by Christopher Buckley. The man is a genius at Washington satire. His most famous novel is undoubtedly Thank You For Smoking, which was made into a pretty awesome movie starring Aaron Eckhart (pre-Batman). He has plenty of other great books, too.

In Boomsday, Washington spin doctor and nighttime blogger Cassandra Devine comes up with an unusual way to help defray health care costs. Supreme Courtship, Buckley's newest novel, has a reality show judge being appointed to the Supreme Court. Little Green Men examines what happens when a Beltway insider finds himself abducted by aliens. And for the feminist, Florence of Arabia, in which the youngest wife of an Arabian prince decides to use TV to help women all over the Middle East gain their freedom and independence. Optional: print out a few pages of The HuffPo and use them as gift wrap.

For the reluctant reader:
The 39 Clues #1: The Maze of Bones, #2: One False Note (available for pre-order; it comes out next week), and Card Pack #1

This is a pretty smart idea. The 39 Clues is a mystery series about Dan and Amy Cahill, siblings who have been chosen to find the Cahill fortune. But they're not alone! Several different descendants are also on the trail, and readers can play along. Each book (there will be 10 in the series) comes with 6 collectible trading cards (350 are available in all) which can be registered on The 39 Clues website to help unlock puzzles, games, and more clues. There are special prizes for each country, so no one has an advantage. There are also Card Packs, which have 16 random cards (there are 56 total in this first series), including at least one rare or ultra-rare in each pack. Sounds confusing? Your Pokemon- or Naruto-obsessed son/little brother will understand, and have a field day with it.

For the Jimmy Buffet fan/environmentalist:

I've sung the praises of Carl Hiaasen before, and I'm going to do it again. The man is funny, and his love for Florida is evident in his novels. His YA novels (Hoot, Flush, and the soon-to-be-released Scat) are perfect for middle schoolers, and there's sure to be something in his other novels for the adults in your life. If you live in the UK and enjoy musical theater, why not buy a copy of Lucky You and include tickets to the show as a bookmark? Actually, a great way to package any of these would be to get a metal bucket and stuff it with one of the books, a copy of Songs You Know By Heart, and a few Coronas. Your beach bum friends will thank you.


For the comic book lover:
Everyone loves Fables, but there's another Vertigo comic that's equally amazing: Y: The Last Man. In the near future, a plague kills off every animal on earth with a Y chromosome. Yorrick Brown, English major and amateur magician, is the only male on the planet to survive, along with helper-monkey-in-training Ampersand. The books follow his adventures to find his missing fiance and to discover how he survived the plague.

Other graphic novels: Watchmen (read it before you see the movie!), or, for those who are already fans, Watching the Watchmen. Fans of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series will get a kick out of The Little Endless Storybook, The Dead Boy Detectives, or Death: At Death's Door.

Some other random ideas:
My family is making gifts this year. I've bought a few books for gifts, but the majority of my shopping will be spent finding supplies for these:
Cake in a Mug - put all the dry ingredients in a plastic baggie, include the instructions, and gift it with a thrift store mug. Instant yum!

If you're crafty, Lion Brand Yarn has some really cute amigurumi patterns up on its site. I made this penguin for a friend of mine in no time. There are tons of other free amigurumi patterns available, plus projects for kids and ideas for pets.

I'm also a big fan of mixtapes - er, mixCDs now, I guess. My Secret Santa gifts this year will include my awesome holiday mix, which features Christmas songs by Atlanta area bands. A good place to find music is last.fm: search for the type of music you want, and it lets you listen to full-length songs. It also has some some free mp3 downloads, which is nice. Sign up for an account, and it learns your musical taste and starts recommending stuff to you. Pretty sweet.

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

It's Thanksgiving vacation week here at casa casual dread, and all I can think is, "Thank Jeebus." I have been running myself ragged over the past few weeks, trying to get planning, grading, and holiday stuff done. I've already broken down my days:

Today I will be catching up on reviewing and blogging, so look for last week's Weekly Geeks post and at least four other book reviews later.

Tomorrow is grading day - I have mounds of papers piling up, and I want to get them done! I'll be dog sitting, so that seems like a good time to do it.

Wednesday and Thursday, I'll be at my sister's for Thanksgiving. This is her first year doing hostessing duties, but we're all pitching in to help with the food. I get to make a carrot souffle and wear my kick-ass "To Serve Man" apron that she made me for Christmas a few years ago.

Friday is shopping and a movie. I'm voting for Madagascar 2 or Quantum of Solace. One of my cousins has created an animated commercial that will run before those two movies in the Atlanta area. So, yes, I will be going to the movie for the previews. :)

In between, I've got books to read and Secret Santa presents to ship, not to mention gifts to make. Here's to a productive week...

Review: The Ruins (Audiobook)

Title: The Ruins (Abridged Audiobook)
Author: Scott Smith
Genre: Horror
Published: July 18, 2006
Pages: 384
Run Time: 6 hours (5 CDs)
Rating: 5 / 10
Challenges: N/A
Awards: none, although it was #87 on EW's list of New Classics

Synopsis: From the back cover:
Eerie, terrifying, and unputdownable, The Ruins is Scott Smith's first novel since his acclaimed debut A Simple Plan earned rave reviews and stormed bestseller lists.

The Ruins follows two American couples enjoying a pleasant, lazy beach holiday together in Mexico. On an impulse, they go off with newfound friends in search of on of their group - the young German, who, in pursuit of a girl, has headed for the remote Mayan ruins, site of a fabled archeological dig.

This is what happens from the moment the searchers - moving into the wild interior - begin to suspect that there is an insidious, horrific "other" among them...
My Review: Hoo, boy, Where do I start? Well, first of all, I'm not much for horror stories. I read almost everything Steven King and Dean Koontz wrote back in middle/high school, and I haven't really had a taste for it since then. But I had read some reviews of The Ruins and it sounded pretty good, and I had been wanting to read it. I went to the library last week looking for an audiobook version of To Kill a Mockingbird (for my class), saw this sitting on the shelf, and decided to give it a listen. It's read by Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl/Raoul - swoon!), which was great. I didn't realize it at the time, but it's also abridged, which is also probably a good thing.

Basic premise: four Americans - Eric and Stacey, Jeff and Amy - are in Mexico, getting drunk and enjoying the beaches. They meet some Greeks - Pablo, Juan, and Don Quixote (not their real names) - and a German, Mattias. Mattias is worried about his brother, who has gone off to an archeological dig with some chick he just met. He wants to go after him, because they're supposed to fly home in a few days. Amazingly, Jeff volunteers to go with him, and he manages to convince his friends to come along. They end up finding a huge hill, covered with dark green vines and pretty red flowers. The local Mayans, who had been trying to warn them away from said hill, now begin holding them hostage and refusing to let them leave. And then things start to get bloody.

Honestly, I wasn't a big fan of this book. It's not my favorite genre, for one thing, and for another, I just didn't really like the characters that much. The girls were shrill, only two of the guys were non-moronic, and it took me a while to be able to distinguish them. I'm not a big fan of horror/slasher books or movies; listening to it was infinitely better than reading it, but still had me squirming uncomfortably a few times. The "other" - the enemy, the person/thing that starts killing them - is completely ridiculous and required a leap of logic I wasn't prepared to make.

And here's where I'm going to spoil it for everyone, so if you want to read this book some day and don't want to know what happens, skip this next paragraph.

Ready? Okay... It turns out that the vines are carnivorous. AND they can talk and mimic human speech. How? I don't know. It's never explained. The characters are not exactly scientists; they agreed to go off into the wilderness of a foreign country with a complete stranger, after all. The vines are also capable of setting traps and thinking. They can sense human emotions and manipulate our protagonists by trying to divide them.

So, yeah. Completely unbelievable. It wasn't a terrible read/listen, just not my cup of tea. Plenty of other people have enjoyed it, though. It was even made into a movie:



In conclusion: meh. If you like horror stories, you'll probably enjoy it. I can't imagine what the unabridged version is like, though.

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Review: The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love (Giveaway!)

Title: The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love
Author: Rosie Rushton
Genre: YA
Published: 2005
Pages: 325
Rating: 7 / 10
Challenges: N/A
Awards: none

Synopsis:
The Dashwood sisters - Ellie, Abby, and Georgie - have always live an affluent life in their cozy Holly House in Sussex, England. Then one day, tragedy strikes, and the girls are forced to uproot their lives and move to Norfolk, a windswept country on the east coast of England. The sisters are devastated, but what starts off as the toughest challenge they've ever had to face quickly becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
Practical Ellie has always had her head firmly on her shoulders, until she loses it over a boy named Blake. He's perfect, except for two not-so-tiny problems: he's her horrible stepmother's nephew, and he just happens to have a girlfriend.
For impulsive Abby, moving to such a sleepy village is tantamount to social suicide. To amuse herself, she decides to play matchmaker for a new friend at school, but her scheme backfires when the guy falls for her instead. And things get even trickier when she meets Hunter, a boy who just might be too good to be true.
Even youngest sister Georgie finds herself in uncharted waters when suddenly boys are interested in her for more than her love of extreme sports. But will Georgie lose her inner tomboy just to be seen as a girl?
With lots of laughs and a spat or two, the Dashwood sisters navigate the ups and downs of sisterhood and romance, eventually discovering their very own secrets of love.

My Review: This is a very cute book. I won't go as into detail with this review as I normally would, because it should be rather obvious what the novel is about and how it ends. It's a modernized version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. It's a very cute update, but nowhere near as great as the original.
Things I liked: The youngest sister, Georgie (Margaret in S&S) gets a lot more screen/page-time in this version. The relationship between the Dashwood sisters and their father is explored more.
Things I didn't like: The "Lucy Steele" character in this novel is a raging bitch. I couldn't understand why Blake stayed with her. The same goes for the "Willoughby" character: in S&S, he really does love Marianne, but can't marry her for financial reasons. His loss. In this novel, Hunter is a complete jerk. I could tell from the get-go that he didn't really care about Abby. Having those two characters so unilaterally unsympathetic really bugged me.
Those small quibbles aside, I enjoyed this book. It's a fun, easy read. I registered my copy on BookCrossing; if you'd like to be entered into a drawing to win it, leave a comment. I'll draw a winner next Sunday.

Other Reviews:
AustenBlog

If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Review: Paper Towns

Title: Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Genre: YA
Published: 2008
Pages: 305
Rating: 9 / 10
Challenges: N/A
Awards: none (yet!) but it made the New York Times Bestseller List and is being optioned for a movie (via bookshelves of doom)

Synopsis:
Quentin Jaconsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows.
After their all-nighter ends and a new days breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues - and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

My Review: This was my first John Green book, and I have to say it definitely won't be my last. I actually was familiar with John through his Brotherhood 2.0 project, but I didn't realize it until reading the author blurb at the back of Paper Towns. The project was interesting, but I would totally recommend checking out his blog, which is full of wonderfulness like his "feud" with Maureen Johnson and a discussion of whether or not Margo Roth Spiegelman is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

But back to the novel. If you have been anywhere near a bookblog in the past few months, chances are you've heard of Paper Towns. You've probably read rave reviews, telling you how great it is. They're all true! This book is fantastic. From the synopsis and all the other reviews I'd read, I expected it to be similar to As Simple As Snow (which I also loved), and it is, a little. But it's also very, very different. One of my favorite things about Paper Towns is the relationship between Q and his best friends, Radar and Ben. Margo's an important part of the story, sure, but to me the relationship between these three guys is what makes the book great.

First up, Q. I think this passage helps describe him:
Both my parents are therapists, which means that I am really goddamned well adjusted. So when I woke up [after finding a dead body with Margo], I had a long conversation with my mom about the cycle of life, and how death is a part of life, but not a part of life I needed to be particularly concerned with at the age of nine, and I felt better. Honestly, I never worried about it much. Which is saying something, because I can do some worrying.
Q is neurotic. It's nice when Margo comes along to help break him out of his shell and get him to actually take some risks (hence, the MPDG comparisons). Q's two best friends are Radar (nicknamed for the M*A*S*H character he resembled pre-puberty) and Ben (who is slightly obnoxious, but very awesome). Radar is obsessed with Omnictionary, which is a non-copyrighted version of Wikipedia, and spends his free time editing it. Also, his parents have the world's largest collection of Black Santas. Like Q, that made me smile every time it was mentioned. Ben is obsessed with "honeybunnies" and spends his free time trying to get laid. He referred to girls as "honeybunnies" enough times in the first 20 pages that I really wanted to slap him. Mercifully, Q felt the same way:
I'd tried telling Ben that "honeybunny" sounded more sexist and lame than retro-cool, but he refused to abandon the practice. He called his own mother a honneybunny. There was no fixing him.
After that, it didn't bother me as much. Besides, Ben quickly became one of my favorite characters. Q and Radar are the straight men to his zany comic sidekick.

Ben playing video games:
"Come here you little bastard," Ben said, the controller twisting in his hand. "Daddy's gonna put you on a sailboat across the River Styx."
"Did you just use Greek mythology to trash talk?" I asked.
Radar laughed. Ben started pummeling buttons, shouting, "Eat it, goblin! Eat it like Zeus ate Metis!"
Ben drunk at a party thrown by one of his new girlfriend's "friends":
So Lacey and I followed Ben upstairs, where he opened the door to Becca's room and said, "Your party kicks so much ass! Even though you suck so much! It's like instead of blood, your heart pumps liquid suck! But thanks for the beer!" Becca was alone, lying on top of her covers, staring at the ceiling. She didn't even glance at him. She just mumbled, "Oh, go to hell, shitface. I hope your date gives you her crabs."
Without a hint of irony in his voice, Ben answered, "Great talking to you!" and then closed the door. I don't think he had the faintest idea he'd just been insulted.
Sure, Ben's annoying. But chances are you have a friend just like him. I know I do. These characters and the friendship between them (even with all the insults and trash talking) kept the book going. I enjoyed them so much, to me the whole Margo storyline was secondary. I wouldn't even mind reading a book just about Q, Radar, and Ben; they're that awesome.

In case you couldn't tell, I enjoyed this book immensely, and am looking forward to reading more of John Green's YA.

Other Reviews:
Fyrefly
mental_floss
bookshelves of doom
Ali at worducopia
Bold.Blue.Adventure
Nymeth

If you have reviewed this book as well, leave me a message in the comments and I'll link to your review.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Advice from the undead

If you're as excited/scared about the Twilight movie as I am, you might enjoy this: Edward Cullen's Guide to Vampire Dating. He forgot the three most important things, though:

* Smolder ("with the eyes!" as Tyra would say)

* Smile Crookedly (or however your girlfriend refers to as her "favorite")

* Chuckle (A Lot)

This movie has great RHPS potential. I cannot wait for the suckfest (hee!) to begin.

Weekly Geeks #23 Part II: Winner!

Here are the answers from this WG redux two weeks ago. I realized earlier today that I have misplaced my digital camera, so I've done my best to find the book covers using Google image search. A few of them are pretty old (they belonged to my dad) and some of the newer ones I've just finished reading and will be writing reviews on soon. Probably next week, when I will have some glorious time off for Thanksgiving.

1.
The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love, Rosie Rushton

2.
Harry Potter y la camara secreta, J.K. Rowling

3.
Paper Towns, John Green

4.
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

5.
Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn

6.
The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Kim Edwards

7.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard

8.
The Mermaid Chair, Sue Monk Kidd

9.
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

10.
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle (I couldn't the exact cover for this one, so I found a picture of someone reading it and cropped them out. Sorry, random guy.)

11.
Dune, Frank Herbert (This is actually the 1984 movie poster, but it's the same as my book cover.)

12.
How Right You Are, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse

13.
Watership Down, Richard Adams

14.
Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman

15.
Thunderstruck, Erik Larson

And the winner is...Heather! Heather, I've sent you an e-mail about your prize. Congratulations!

Wordle!


Make beautiful word clouds with Wordle! The one above is made from words frequently used on my blog. Now let me see...what do I write about the most often? (via N. Vasillis)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Weekly Geeks #24: All About Carl

This week's WG challenge: fun facts about authors!
How to:

1. Choose a writer you like.

2. Using resources such as Wikipedia, the author’s website, whatever you can find, make a list of interesting facts about the author.

3. Post your fun facts list in your blog, maybe with a photo of the writer, a collage of his or her books, whatever you want.

4. Come sign the Mr Linky below with the url to your fun facts post.

5. As you run into (or deliberately seek out) other Weekly Geeks’ lists, add links to your post for authors you like or authors you think your readers are interested in.
I picked Carl Hiaasen.

I was introduced to him last year, when the 7th grade class in which I was student teaching read Hoot. It was pretty much love at first page. So far, I've only read his two YA novels (Hoot and Flush), but I acquired a copy of Sick Puppy thanks to BookCrossing and have added it to my continuously growing TBR pile. Fun facts about Hiaasen:

1. He was born and raised in Florida, and writes regularly for the Miami Herald. Florida has been the setting for the majority of his novels.

2. His books include:
* 12 fiction novels (one of which was a collaboration with 13 other authors)
* 4 non-fiction novels
* 3 YA novels (Scat is available for preorder now!)
* one short story, "Tart of Darkness," which was published in an issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition
* 3 novels co-written with fellow journalist Bill Montalbano inspired by their own reporting experiences
* 2 collections of his Miami Herald columns. Whew!

3. Although his novels are usually filed as "Mystery/Thriller," they generally deal with the environment and Big Business trying to destroy the natural beauty of Florida. As Wikipedia puts it, "Hiaasen's Florida is a hive of greedy businessmen, corrupt politicians, dumb blondes, apathetic retirees, intellectually challenged tourists, hard-luck redneck cooters, and militant ecoteurs. It is the same Florida of John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee, but aged another 20 years and viewed with a more satiric or sardonic eye."

4. Two of Hiaasen's books have been made into movies: Hoot and, amazingly, Striptease. I wish I were kidding.



(I would have a Striptease trailer here, just for comparison's sake, but searching "Demi Moore Striptease trailer" in YouTube is surprisingly unhelpful.)

5. Another one of his novels, Lucky You, has been made into a play with music by Loudon Wainwright III, father of Rufus and frequent Judd Apatow collaborator:



Other authors from my fellow Weekly Geeks:
Christopher Moore by Ali
Neil Gaiman by Softdrink
Sarah Dessen by alisonwonderland
Anne Bronte by Lynda
Dean Koontz by Naida
George Eliot by Chris
Dr. Seuss by Belle
Homer by Rebecca
Markus Zusak and John Green by Suey
Michael Chabon by Florinda
Roald Dahl by Jessica

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Why Buy?

Today's Booking Through Thursday question:
I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?
As much as I love my local library, it is woefully tiny and inadequately stocked for my reading needs. I do check out books - usually YA fiction or books I've heard about but am not positive I'll enjoy - but the majority of my books come from purchases. I think I've pretty much broken it down into three categories:
1. Books I know I'll love and want to read again. These are usually books by authors that I enjoy (Jane Austen, Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman) or graphic novels (Y: The Last Man, Fables, Sandman).
2. Books that I get super-cheap or as part of a gimmicky promotion. "Buy 2 Get 1 Free," Friends of the Library sale, the discount bin at Waldenbooks...
3. Books that I really want to read, but can't get from a friend/the library/BookMooch/BookCrossing. Sometimes these lead me to new books for category #1, and sometimes they are just a Big Mistake and end up being BookCrossed/BookMooched/donated/given away.

It seems insane to essentially waste money on books, but I can't help myself! They aren't that expensive, especially when compared to video games (another one of my passions), and I do try to get a deal on them when I do buy.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Visit Booking Through Thursday for more opinions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Christmas already?!

So, after all the drama I had this weekend, I figured the rest of the week would be cake. And then I found out that my great-aunt died. She was 101 years old; she lived a very full life! The funeral was yesterday and I was somewhat hesitant to go, mainly because the last time I took a day off my fourth period class took advantage of the sub and went completely crazy. This time, I went overboard - silent reading, ten pages of worksheets, and I asked another teacher to look in on fourth period for me (he has planning that period, and we have a lot of the same students, so he was happy to oblige). The funeral was nice, under the circumstances; I rarely get a chance to see my dad's side of the family, and I enjoyed the chance to catch up and reminisce about Aunt Hazel . And my classes, by all accounts, were well-behaved and worked hard.

Now, on to the Christmas-related postings. I signed up for two Christmas swaps this year:
Dewey and Nymeth have organized the 2nd annual Book Bloggers Christmas Swap. Details are here.
And The Friendly Book Nook is having a Christmas Book Swap. Details are here.

Not Christmas-Swap-related, but still a good idea:

I'm actually pretty low on cash this season (who isn't?), so the majority of my gifts will be homemade. For my "big" purchases, though (family and close friends) I will be buying books, and you should think about doing it, too. The Buy Books for the Holidays Blog has more info and bookish gift ideas.

And with all the drama from this weekend, I completely forgot all about last week's Weekly Geek post. I will get around to announcing a winner soon.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

On reunions and death, part 2

I wasn't going to check my Reader, but then I decided that checking my "comics" tag would be really helpful, because who doesn't love comics? I know they usually help cheer me up. And I really needed to clear out a few of those 300+ items.

So...this was the most recent Penny Arcade comic.

Not that I'm planning revenge or anything, but it made me smile.

On reunions and death

I apologize in advance for the depressing, reflective nature of this post. It's been a while since I've felt the need to go all emo!kid on a blogpost. This weekend has been bittersweet for me. Yesterday, my mom picked me up after school and we drove down to Statesboro for GaSoU's homecoming. Mom was the only person I could find who would come with me, and I didn't mind because she's one of my favorite people in the world. I graduated five years ago, and the only reason I wanted to go back this year was because the Honors Program had arranged for a reception, and I knew (courtesy of facebook) that a lot of my college friends would be there. There was really one in particular that I really wanted to see, though: Holly*. She was one of my best friends for those four years. We lived in the same dorm when I was a freshman and she was a sophomore, and we ended up taking the same Spanish class first semester. I still remember having to introduce her to the rest of the class that first day - it was one of those silly "getting to know you" things teachers do, but because we were in an intermediate Spanish class, it had to be en EspaƱol. The majority of my happy memories from college are tied to Holly: going to Waffle House in the middle of the night to write Harry Potter fanfic, driving to Savannah and singing the "Once More with Feeling" soundtrack in harmony, doing callbacks to Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Russell Union...not to mention all the English classes, Jennifer Nettles concerts, and UHP stuff we did together. We had our rough patches, to be sure, but I always thought we'd be friends forever.

When I graduated, Holly was one of the few people I made an effort to keep in touch with. It got difficult: she rarely responded to my IMs, was too busy to e-mail or phone, and I guess we both drifted apart. I'd try to call and renew contact every year or so, but always with the distinct impression that she didn't really care that much. Then, last year, I joined facebook. Holly sought me out and sent me a friend request, and asked me to join a few groups she had started. Encouraged, I wrote on her wall and waited for the friendship to pick back up.

It didn't.

Which is pretty heartbreaking. I mean, why bother friending someone if you're not going to...you know...be their friend?

Flash-forward to last month. I received an e-mail from the UHP alumni relations, telling me about the reunion/reception. I also got an invitation through facebook, thanks to another "friend from college" that I haven't actually had contact with since accepting their friend request. I spent a frantic week trying to find someone, anyone, to go with me - the drive to Statesboro is boring at the best of times; in the current economic climate, it would be downright painful - before managing to talk my mom into it. Knowing that Holly would be there (along with several other people that I hadn't seen in five years) and believing that I would finally get a chance to talk to her about what she had been up to made me giddily eager for the night to begin.

We got there late and ended up having to spend the first hour or so at a table full of strangers. But then, finally, we were told to mingle and given an opportunity to walk around. I spotted Holly across the room with a group of mutual friends, and practically made a beeline for her.

(You can see where this is heading, right?)

She ignored me completely. I think she might have given me one of those "O hai" head-nod-jerks, but that was about it. And then the whole group - a group of people that I once considered my closest friends in the world - left. The night wasn't a complete bust: I did get a chance to hang out with some other friends, and had a great time with them, but it wasn't the same.

This morning, I asked Mom if we could go for a walk around campus. It's changed so radically since I was in school! Most of the buildings that I really wanted to look at were closed, but we did get into the completely renovated library. And guess who we ran into?

Some teeny, tiny part of me hoped that maybe the night before had been a fluke; maybe they didn't realize that they had totally snubbed me. Surely fate had brought us together (again) so that I could reconcile with my former friends. Right?

Nope. Mom made some excuse and left, giving me a chance to talk without her around. But that didn't matter. I tagged along, feeling like an outsider and trying to make conversation. I asked Holly about her post-collegiate life and was rewarded with a smile and a very succinct answer. I probably only stayed with them for five minutes, but it felt like five incredibly awkward hours. Only one person - Jennifer*, the sweetest person in our group, then and (it would appear) now - made an effort to talk to me. When Jennifer mentioned that she needed to go back downstairs to meet some other people, I said my goodbyes and left with her. I told her, on the elevator ride back, how much I had been looking forward to seeing everyone. She offered no explanation for their behavior and I, not wanted to offend, didn't press. She seemed sympathetic, though, and asked me to keep in touch.

The minute we got back into the car, I unloaded my frustration and hurt on Mom. She gave me the usual Mom-like advice, which was nice but didn't really help. The whole experience saddened me, but it also made me thankful for the friends that I have and still keep up with.

But wait, there's more!

One place I insisted on visiting was the old comic book store. I spent so much time and money in that place, it was like a second home to me. As it turned out, the original store had been sold and closed down, but luckily Mom agreed to help me find the new location. She waited out in the car while I went in, promising not to buy anything.

Unfortunately, this was the first thing that caught my eye:


A tribute to Michael Turner. My favorite comic book artist. A man I actually met in the flesh and totally fangirled over. An incredibly beautiful, talented, and strong human being. He died over the summer, and until I walked in that store, I had no idea. Once I got over the shock, I actually started crying. IN THE COMIC BOOK STORE. And then I had to buy the book, and go out and explain to Mom exactly why I had bought a book when I said I wasn't going to, and of course she understood. I opened it up a few times on the trip back and started reading it, but I kept having to stop because it upset me so much. It seems strange to be so emotional about the death of someone I didn't even know (especially four months after the fact) but I think it was that plus the disappointment of (not really) seeing my friends that did it.

So, that's my really pathetic weekend. Now I'm off to my sister's; we're going to a wedding tomorrow. I have 300+ items waiting for me in my Google Reader, several book reviews and a NaNoWriMo novel to work on. Not to mention a lesson plan about To Kill a Mockingbird to create. If you've stuck with my rambling for this long, thanks. Writing is so cathartic; I really didn't want to have to drive with this weighing so heavily on my mind. Hopefully tomorrow will be better - maybe I'll catch the bouquet or something equally horrifying. :)

* Names have been changed, blah blah blah...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yay!

OBAMA!

...and now I'm going to bed. The kids will be CRAZY tomorrow.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Feliz Cumpleanos a Mi

Today is my birthday! I turned the big ol' two-eight. To celebrate, my roommate showed up during fourth period with a cake and balloons. The students got excited, but there wasn't enough for everyone so I gave them leftover Halloween candy instead. The cake was awesome; my roomie works as a cake decorator at Publix, and she drew a unicorn on it! I didn't want to cut it until I had taken a picture, but we went to Drama Club after school and one of the Drama kids offered to take a picture and send it to me in exchange for sharing cake with the club. I haven't gotten a copy of the picture yet, but Tiffy also drew unicorns on my balloons, so you can get an idea of what the cake looked like:


And in case you're wondering what the deal is with all the unicorns:

Girls love unicorns!

And:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Weekly Geeks #23

This week's WG is a repeater:
Exceptionally simple instructions!
1. Browse through the previous Weekly Geeks posts.
2. Decide what you’d like to repeat.
3. Do it!
4. When you finish, come sign the Mr Linky with the url to your specific post, not just your general blog url.
5. Don’t forget to check out what other Weekly Geeks chose.
I decided to do WG #15: Take close-up photos of book covers and see if my readers can guess which books they are. Sorry about the flash glare on some of them; some are easier than others. Send your guesses to xjessideex@gmail.com. Whoever gets the most right will win a free book! You have until next Saturday, November 8. Good luck!

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14.
15.