Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fiction

I might've read more Non-Fiction this year than Fiction, which is definitely a first. I've learned to appreciate more genres of literature this year. On to the list:

Twisted Tales from Shakespeare by Richard Armour: Recommended. Richard Armour succinctly and humorously retells Shakespeare’s life and some of his plays. If you aren’t familiar with Shakespeare, this probably isn’t the book you want to read to get to know him or his plays. There are a lot of puns, sarcasm, and other humorous elements.

Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart: Recommended. One of the reasons I love to read Mary Stewart is that she writes “on location” if you will. This particular tale takes place on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Her descriptions of the surroundings will make you feel like you can see the place, or wish you were there. At the same time she spins an intriguing tale of murder and mystery that makes you wonder Who is to blame?

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart: Recommended. Mostly a love story, but also a story of treachery and mystery. Personally I enjoy Stewart’s murder mysteries better, but this is also a very interesting tale.

The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus: Neutral. I think this book is based off of experiences the two authors experienced as nannies in New York City, but I could be mistaken. It’s a pretty good story, but mostly it leaves you feeling sorry for everyone. It was fun to read at times, but other times just made me frustrated. Take it or leave it.

Atonement by Ian McEwan: Recommended. I enjoyed this book a lot, as it told an interesting but very sad love story and also a story about a foolish little girl. It also shows a vivid look at the retreating of troops in France during World War Two. Be aware, however, there is a brief sex scene and, as I said, a rather vivid description of the war. Also, the end was rather disappointing. Overall, I’d recommend it to mature readers.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Neutral. Conrad painted a descriptive and (I assume) accurate depiction of colonial Africa. However, at times it was difficult to understand the plot, especially at the end. It made a good discussion of humanity, but it was difficult to understand what exactly was happening at the end with that one guy (Kurtz?), at least for me, maybe because I was bored with Conrad’s style of prose. Anyway, it was interesting, but I wouldn’t read it again.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse: Neutral. This story was definitely not what I was expecting to read. It was about a man named Siddhartha, but it was not Siddhartha Gautama, whom the modern world knows as the man who became enlightened and recognized as Buddha. This particular Siddhartha started off on a righteous path but veered off just as he was about to reach enlightenment and spent his time with a famous whore instead, and made lots of money, only to retire as a ferryman. It is, however, an interesting story of the phases of a man’s life, as well as an interesting look into the India of the day. I think I read somewhere that since Hesse was German, he didn’t approve of the Hindu ways and used this book as a way to show what he thought of it. But I could be totally wrong and probably am. (Note: my roommate says that this is one of her favorite books because it helped her put perspective on life during a time when she felt lost. Take that into consideration when you read my recommendation.)

Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya: Neutral. Another story set in India, this time an India in an industrializing time. I found it an interesting but depressing story of a woman and her struggle to keep her family together and alive through droughts and famines, as well as times of plenty. She deals with persecution at times and nearly always struggles, but love keeps her together and alive. The reason I don’t strongly recommend it is because it is rather a depressing story all around, rarely allowing time for happy moments. But if you like that sort of thing, be my guest.

This Side of Paradise by F Scott Fitzgerald: Neutral. The story of a boy who grows up to be a man. He almost always gets what he wants and is, in my opinion, rather spoiled, although I blame his mother for that. He deals with love and loss and somehow in the end starts to go crazy and then thinks about being a socialist. Why? That’s why I don’t recommend it. If you want to read something by Fitzgerald, read The Great Gatsby. Although I did remark a while ago in my blog that I thought it fun and interesting that the opinions of ghosts under your bed and how to deal with them were the same in the twenties as they are now.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Recommended. This is the most humorous Science Fiction book I’ve ever read. There are so many random and hilarious parts to it! I remember the first time I read it I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Read it.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams: Recommended. The second installment in this random and funny series. Incidentally, my favorite part of this book isn’t funny at all—the description of prehistoric Earth, because it sounds so serene and beautiful and untouched.

Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams: Recommended. The sort of last book in the trilogy (there are actually two more books after it, but it’s still a trilogy for some reason). It has probably a more thrilling plot than the second book. My favorite part is probably when Marvin is stuck in the mattress swamp.

Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf: Neutral. I think probably this should not have been my first Virginia Woolf book. It all takes place on one summer afternoon while a community play is being put on. The writing is indeed clever, but a little difficult to understand, as I am told most of Woolf’s writing is. It was an interesting story, but a little too hard to follow.

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart: Recommended. More supernatural than Stewart’s normal mysteries, but still interesting. Someone said it was weird because there was romantic interest between cousins, but remember that this is England and apparently that’s acceptable. Just don’t be weirded out too much and it’s a great book.

Charade by Peter Stone: Recommended. This is an excellent murder mystery, especially if you haven’t seen the movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. I saw the movie long before I read the book, and although it ruined the whodunit element, enough was different that I didn’t feel like I was reading a script from the movie. Especially if you like mysteries, read this book.

Beowulf Translated by Burton Raffel: Recommended. I happen to enjoy ancient myths and legends, so this was a fun book for me. It was also fun for me to compare elements of epic poetry in Norse and Latin/Greek style. If you’d like to read a bit of ancient history, pick this up and read it in a day or two (it’s short).

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: Recommended. This is probably my favorite book written by Ray Bradbury, who is also one of my favorite authors. His prose cannot be matched. This particular Bradbury novel is a coming-of-age story of a young boy who deals with all sorts of realizations regarding life and death one particular summer through numerous events that happen in his little Illinois town. I love this book, but don’t recommend the sequel at all (Farewell Summer) because it seems redundant in Douglas’ coming-of-age, not to mention it was published about 50 years later, so the audience wasn’t right. And it’s definitely not in the caliber of Bradbury’s other novels. So read Dandelion Wine, but skip the sequel. (I don't include this in YA Fiction because, although the main character is a boy, I feel like the story is aimed more at adults who have lost themselves or grown up too quickly.)

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde: Recommended. I recommend this book only if you’ve read the first two in the Thursday Next series. I jumped in on this, the third and final installment, and I’m sort of sorry I did. Parts of it were confusing and therefore boring because I didn’t have the necessary background, but once I got past that (it was over halfway into the book), it was fun to read. I enjoyed the quirkiness of the Book World and thought that parts of it were so hilarious I literally laughed aloud.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: Neutral. This book was enjoyable for the most part—a realistic tale of circus life during the Great Depression, love, and a bit of mystery (the reader is introduced to the memory of a murder in the prologue which is later revisited and it becomes clearer who the perpetrator was). I did have a few qualms with the book, however. The biggest, most bothersome thing was that there was a scene of crude sexuality, a brief description of a pornographic book the main character found, and another scene of sexuality (though less crude). I skipped over those parts, but read enough to be annoyed. If you can skip over them or handle them, then I recommend the book. If not, skip the novel, because it’s not like it’s the greatest book ever written or anything.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: Recommended. Let’s just say that ever since I had to read The Old Man and the Sea in my eighth-grade Reading Lit class, Hemingway and I haven’t exactly gotten along. But after reading some of F Scott Fitzgerald’s work and coming to the realization that twenties “lost generation” literature isn’t really all that bad if you ignore all the drinking (what? You say there was a prohibition going on?) and revelry, I decided to give Hemingway another chance. And whaddya know, I actually rather enjoyed it. And it takes place in France and Spain (okay, so no prohibition here, but that doesn’t excuse America), two places I find exotic and exciting. In fact, it was a discussion in an English class about Hemingway’s books The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon that made me want to go to Pamplona in Spain to see the running of the bulls and experience that festival. It was a video I watched of the event that made me change my mind. But still, the book is a good one.

Young Adult Fiction

I certainly read a lot of YA Fiction this year...more than I intended. But hey, it's good stuff sometimes. Sorry it's Harry Potter heavy.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling: Recommended. The first in a series of seven, Sorcerer’s Stone is a cute(?) story with darker undertones. One may not entirely understand the reason for everything that goes on in the novel at the time, but it is an important ground structure for the books to come. If read alone, it makes for a nice story about a magical world, although Rowling’s writing had not been perfected at the time, nor had she entirely figured out all the details of the way her magical world works. Not my favorite of the series, but definitely worth reading, especially if one intends to read the rest of the books.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling: Recommended. Second in the series, Chamber of Secrets continues Harry’s story. This book is a little more interesting than the first, but still is creating a foundation of the story to come.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling: Recommended. Although it may seem to go off-track from the story of Voldemort for a bit, this is actually my favorite of the first three books of the series. I remember reading it all in one school day and being enamored and hungry for more. I don’t think the next book came out for a while, but if this is your first time reading the series, you’re a lot luckier than the rest of us who had to wait.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling: Recommended. This book takes a big leap from Harry being a child to finally beginning to understand what is going on in his life and dealing with growing up. The story is multi-layered but mostly focuses on the Tri-Wizard Tournament, an exciting game sort of like the Olympics but not really. Anyway, it’s a really great book, although it’s something like three times the length of the previous books. I may be exaggerating.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling: Recommended. The story continues and Harry deals with things that happened in the fourth book while also dealing with a whole new set of complications. The story’s layers begin to be revealed…

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling: Recommended. Much comes to light in this penultimate installment of the series. Harry and everyone else deal with the threat of a coming war, as well as trying to find a way to defeat Voldemort once and for all. I don’t want to give too much away if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t read anything or seen any movies or heard anything, but this is definitely a book you should pick up.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling: Recommended. Finally you find out what everything’s been all about. Pretty much everything is explained, and you find yourself going back to the previous books to look for clues, hints, and foreshadowing events, and there certainly are a lot of them. Rowling tells her tale with plenty of emotion, including humor and sadness. I recommend reading this series more than once.

Tales of Beetle the Bard by JK Rowling: Recommended. If you read Deathly Hallows, you’ll appreciate the fact that Rowling took the time to publish this book. Mostly a book of children’s fairy tales, it is fun to look at some background behind occurrences in Hallows in more detail. Very short and entertaining.

Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond: Recommended. Written for younger audiences, I first read this book when I was in fifth grade. However, I still enjoy it enough to read it now, ten years later. It tells the story of a young boy learning to adjust to his new life in an ancient mining town. He deals with the illness of his grandfather, making new friends, and coming to terms with death and the dark past of the little town. I highly recommend it, even if you’re an adult. If you are, you can read it in a couple of hours or so.

A Walk in Wolf Wood by Mary Stewart: Neutral. I was supposed to read this book a long time ago, when I was still young enough. I did appreciate Stewart’s descriptive prose, and thought that she had a good conflict going in the children threatening to lose their memories the longer they stayed in the mystical land, but she sort of dropped it when the story was drawing to a close, and I thought that was bad form on her part, so that’s why I am neutral in recommending it. I would certainly recommend it for children, but I think it’s perhaps too young for older readers.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles: Recommended. This story is a very good telling of how school-age boys dealt with coming of age with a war on the horizon. It also talks about jealousy, friendship, and what is right and wrong. I highly recommend this book—it’s one of the best coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read.

Skellig by David Almond: Recommended. Although this book is for young readers, I still enjoy it. It doesn’t take long to read (it’s the shortest of Almond’s YA novels), but it’s worth it. A young boy must learn to deal with living in a new house, a baby sister who is ill, and also a mysterious man he finds living in the decrepit garage. This man turns out to be something more and, with the help of a new neighbor and friend, the boy learns to deal with everything going on in his life. It sounds sad, but it’s a very good book.

Heaven Eyes by David Almond: Recommended. Perhaps not my favorite of Almond’s YA novels, but still a good read. A couple of orphans sail down the river and get stuck in the middens in the middle of the night. They come across a creepy old man and a mysterious little girl. The theme of this story is finding a family in your friends when you don’t really have a family by blood. There is an element of mystery when it comes to the little girl. Overall, it’s a good book.

When Will This Cruel War Be Over? The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson by Barry Denenberg: Recommended. I recommend this book for young readers. It only took me about an hour and a half to read the whole thing, and it was enjoyable because of the diary format, and because I enjoy things that show the “other side” in a war (watch, for instance, Traitor with Don Cheadle, if you can), because it annoys me when people forget that “the enemy” are people too, with ambitions, lives, and families.

Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger by Louis Sachar: Recommended. I read the Wayside School series many times when I was younger. This one I think is the third in the series, and perhaps the funniest. “Pet Day” was and still is my favorite chapter. Read it. Make your kids read it. Whatever.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell: Recommended. This book reminds me of my childhood and everything my siblings and I pretended we were. Not the sad parts, of course, but the living alone and living off the land, having wild dogs as pets and making friends with the native wildlife. Not to mention, it takes place on an island off of Southern California. I remember reading it in fourth grade and thinking of how brave the girl was to live alone for all those years. It’s a good book even today, and it took only the morning for me to read. And it has the Newbery Medal, so that’s always a plus.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin: Recommended. I’ve read this a few times, and the interest of the puzzle mystery never gets old. I also appreciate the sometimes quirky humor. I’ll read it again many times, I know. If you’ve never read it, take the time to read it, as I’m sure it will peak your interest.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini: Not Recommended. Although I appreciate that a fifteen year-old could attempt to take on the task of writing a 500-page book, and the first in a trilogy, I think that perhaps his age and his parents’ “in” with the publishing business were probably factors that led to his being published. The world seems a ripoff of Tolkien's (with even some elements reminiscient of Harry Potter), and the story drags on and on. Most of the 500 pages are taken up by boring accounts of traveling around with the occasional chance meeting with those you don’t want to meet. Some of the analogies or wordings Paolini used were a little on the ridiculous side; for instance, he said something about the steam coming off of water “like blood in winter.” Really now, who can relate to that? Eragon was hurt so often I wondered if Paolini had never been hurt much himself and thus had a strange fascination with it. And another thing: just because your third grade teacher gave you list of words you can use instead of “said” doesn’t mean you have to use them all in one novel. I felt like Paolini had been going through a checklist in his thesaurus. But if you’re young and have never read Tolkien, this book is good for you. But if you want good fantasy, read Tolkien. The end.

Non-Fiction

The time has come, the walrus said. I've finally read my 50 books for the year, and I have reviews to share with you. We'll start with the non-fiction:

Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes: Recommended. A continuation of sorts from Mayes’ book Under the Tuscan Sun, one can also read Bella Tuscany without reading the first and missing out on much of anything. Although Mayes can be a bit dreamy or wishful in her interpretation of people she meets and the supposed history of things, her narrative is enjoyable and fun to read. One particular incident I loved was towards the end of the book when Mayes is walking home from town on the deserted moonlit road and unbuttons her dress a little to let the soft Italian breeze blow against her skin. And soon as she hears a noise she quickly covers herself up, but the fact that she allowed herself that little indulgence I rather enjoyed. If you like travel literature or just enjoy reading about the ups and downs of owning a villa in Italy, pick up Bella Tuscany and prepare to be entertained.

The Pipes are Calling: Our Jaunts Through Ireland by Niall Williams and Christine Breen: Neutral. I randomly picked up this book in the library while doing research on a fanciful trip to Ireland. At the beginning of the book, Williams and Breen claimed to be an American couple living in Ireland on a whim. However, it turns out that Williams grew up in Ireland and was in America only briefly, while Breen had spent a considerable amount of time in Ireland with grandparents. Or something, it’s been a while. Anyway, I wasn’t too entirely impressed with their writing or their claims to being brave about the way they were living. However, I did enjoy their descriptions of little villages they visited, especially on the Dingle Peninsula. I also enjoyed the sequence of the Wishing Chair up in Northern Ireland, brief though it was. I’d recommend this book, but it isn’t top-notch writing, so be aware of that, and I probably wouldn’t read this book a second time cover to cover.

A Year in the World by Frances Mayes: Recommended. Keeping in mind that Frances Mayes can have a fanciful attitude toward the world, this book is really great. I like that she talks about food so much in her travels, since food is one thing that really helps you to get to know a culture.

Silent World by Jacques-Yves Cousteau: Recommended. I first read this book in high school, and I think it was the first bit of non-fiction I’d read voluntarily. It tells of the discoveries and experiments conducted after the invention of the first self-contained breathing apparatus (SCUBA) back in the 40s. Parts of it get a bit scientific, but overall, it’s an exciting recounting of explorations into the deep. I love it and recommend it to everyone, especially people interested in the ocean, SCUBA diving, marine life, history, or anything.

Forever Old, Forever New by Emily Kimbrough: Neutral. A few years ago I read Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Kimbrough and her friend (forget the name). It recounted their adolescent adventures through Europe and was very humorous and fun. Forever Old, Forever New is not that book. Parts of it were quirky and fun, and it was nice that it focused solely on Greece (one of my favorite countries to dream about visiting), but at times it was a bore, and Kimbrough just seemed to ramble on. I recommend it only if you are prepared for it.

1066 and All That by WC Sellar and RJ Yeatman: Recommended. This little book was funny and entertaining, but I think I would have enjoyed it a great deal more if I had more background in British history. Apparently the brief summer-home-school sessions weren’t enough to help me understand all the jokes and puns. Even if you aren’t British though, it’s still a funny book. It’s non-fiction as far as the facts are straight and the jokes aren’t too…jokey.

The Wild Trees by Richard Preston: Recommended. I love this book. At times the biology talk can get a bit technical, but the rest of the book is the very interesting story of the people that found and climbed the world’s tallest tree, a redwood named Hyperion. It was a journey that took nearly thirty years. Most of it is hiking and climbing and dealing with personal relationships, but the most thrilling part of the story involves an incident where a man falls nearly a hundred feet from a tree. I won’t tell you what happens because I really want you to read it. So, do.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer: Recommended. This is the story of Chris McCandless, who tried to live off the land in Alaska one particular summer. There’s a lot more to the story than that, and this book looks into why he did it, what motivated him, how and why he failed, and of course, the story of his two-year journey that led him to Alaska. There is a bit of side-tracking from the author, including a chapter about his own solo climb of a crazy mountain somewhere in Alaska, but I can see why he’d think it was necessary to put it in the book. After you read the book (or before) I recommend seeing the movie, as it helps put some of the more emotional elements in a better, more understandable light.

Dove by Robin Lee Graham: Recommended. Graham set out on a journey around the world in his little sailboat at the age of sixteen. He returned five years later with a pregnant wife and a head full of knowledge and experience. I liked this story because it dealt with loneliness (he sailed nearly the whole trip completely alone, aside from various cats and a short stint in the Fiji islands with the woman whom he later married) and learning about the earth and the sea. Some things Graham did I certainly thought were silly, but I enjoyed reading about his journey and recommend it to others. I have to admit though, I thought it odd that he included a chapter about his conversion to Christianity and his views on politics. But that’s just me.

Blink by Malcom Gladwell: Recommended. When I first started reading this book, I was skeptical. It looked like a self-help book, and it seemed like the type of book everyone in Utah would be obsessed with (everyone I knew who’d read it and talked about it was from Utah) and I let myself stereotype and say Utahns really loved their self-help and psychology books. Blink is a book on psychology, but it’s definitely not a self-help book. There were many interesting tidbits on how people make judgments and what it all means. I’ve mentioned a few things I found interesting already in earlier posts on my blog, but one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is a particular incident where the Pentagon was conducting a war game, and the American general they asked to play the enemy did so well without using the kind of technology and tactics modern military and the United States side used, that they were upset with the result (the enemy won). The government’s response? They made them play the game again; and this time, the “enemy” general wasn’t allowed to be so good. They forced them to make decisions in ways that wouldn’t actually occur in the field of war. This isn’t preparing the military at all! I was ashamed our government would do that. Malcolm Gladwell says the point of his book is to call for social change—to try and get people to think and act differently when they make decisions.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff: Recommended. I read this in anticipation of our trip to England in the spring, since we will be visiting Marks & Co Booksellers while we are there. This little book tells of the correspondence between said bookstore and Hanff, a correspondence that lasted twenty years and spurred lasting friendships. I don’t mean to be cliché, but the book was really a charming one. It was also short (only about 100 pages), and a quick read (I think I read it in a little over an hour).

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff: Recommended. Perhaps lacks all the charm of the first book, but is still very enjoyable. I love Hanff’s descriptions of her encounters with the people of England, as well as the sites. I was a little sad that she never got to meet Frank, but that’s life I suppose.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Marrakesh? Marrakech?

The other day I got an email from Gwyneth Paltrow (yes, Pip, always the best of friends) telling me to go to Morocco and see Marrakesh, though I didn't need her to convince me. Morocco has been in my travel plans for ages. You can read the newsletter here (http://goop.com/newsletter/61/en/). But doesn't it just seem amazing? I would love to go to North Africa. I love the architecture and I think it would be quite the experience to spend some time at a market there, not to mention the potential photographic opportunities.


P.S. Firefox is broken on my computer and I can't tell you how much I miss it so. Safari is stupid and Chrome is confusing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In This World of Purchase...

Pioneer Book is a used book store on Center Street in downtown Provo that has been there since probably before I can remember. Whenever we went there when I was a kid, I'd spend the hours (my mom really was and still is that dedicated to her book searches) wandering in awe through the maze of ceiling-high bookshelves, breathing in the aroma of millions of dusty old pages, of the rejected readings of thousands of people over the years. I'd literally get lost in the maze of narrow, makeshift-looking shelves of the huge store. It was always quiet, quieter than a library because all sound was muffled by the buffer of books at every turn. Sometimes I'd go into a dead end of the maze and sit, lightly and quietly fingering through the books with interesting-looking covers or enticing situations summarized on the back.

In short, I was enthralled by the magic of the store, and when a road trip to Utah to visit grandparents or spend a few days at the Shakespeare festival was announced, I got used to asking if we were going to go to "that cool bookstore," and it became a regular stop.

Several years later, my sister Megan worked there and loved it. She told me how she wished she could slip into the envelope of books they were mailing to faraway places and be mailed along with them. I remember her opening the book vault for my mom and I once, where they keep rare and delicate books. The magic just couldn't go away.

Or so I thought.

Yesterday I went there looking for Christmas presents for myself and a loved one (who shall remain unnamed since the Holiday hasn't yet passed). I noticed that they'd finally opened the wing with a little cafe that apparently has been in the works since my sister was employed there. I was excited to see how it had turned out, since the time I went with my sister and her kids to talk to the manager about how it might turn out. My first thought as I approached the store this time was that they had chosen a rather silly name for the cafe: Cafe Trendz. Really? Trendz? And with a 'Z'? It seemed ridiculous. But I went inside-- you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you know. Immediately I could sense that something was different. There were no stacks of books on the checkout counter, waiting to be sorted and reshelved. Had there ever been? Had my memories of the place been only romantic visions? I moved on. The entire first part of the store was covered in LDS literature and the like, with a small section for 'Popular Picks' and History. Okay, fine, it is called Pioneer Book. So I moved into the second room, now the cafe. It was cute, but looked just like a Starbucks or any other little coffee shop-- only far fewer people, and at least half of them were only there for the WiFi.

So I passed on through to the third section, where two giddy college girls were laughing at each other and shelving books. I was only slightly annoyed until one of them threw a couple of books to the floor from where she was standing (on a ladder, shelving on the topmost shelf). The books landed, splayed awkwardly, with a flapping thud. I'm certain my eyes widened because after noticing I was there she said quickly, "Oh, that was a bad idea." But didn't get down to pick them up or set them straight. I wanted to browse the general fiction section, but that's where the employees were working hard, so I looked at the Classics section and got a little peek at General Fiction when one of the girls left to go get something, but I couldn't find anything I was looking for. I did find a couple of books I liked, but they were priced exorbitantly. I mean really, $2 for a book with a bent and grainy cover? I saw one for $3 that was almost water-damaged beyond recognition.

I thought about asking one of the girls in the next aisle if they had any Bradbury or Vonnegut, or if they could direct me to Mary Stewart's section, but doubted they knew much about the situation. They probably might have, but when I realized the bookstore was no longer quiet (the hip tunes emenating from Cafe Trendz and the laughter and odd remarks from the employees saw to that) and the scent of the books was being masked by the smell of black coffee, I began to be annoyed, but mostly disappointed. I put down the books I was thinking of purchasing, stepped over the pile of books on the floor that had been tossed there, and left thinking how sad it was that one of my favorite childhood places had been turned into something else.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Kenna

That book I mentioned yesterday, Blink, had a chapter on why marketing research is bunk. Among some other products (like Coke and some crazy new chair that sounded a lot like the one Eric and Adrien have in their office), Malcolm Gladwell used the example of Kenna, an artist who had lots of promise and was adored by top people in the music industry like U2's manager and some other people. However, research showed that he wouldn't be popular or a good sell, even though the couple of live performances he'd had started an apparently very devoted fanbase. I'd never even heard of Kenna, so I looked him up and thought most of his music was just alright, but I rather like this one song of his, "Hell Bent." Mostly I like it for the match with the music video, which...well, just watch it.

Embedding is disabled, so: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsRB-N_WCOo

Kenna was nominated for a Grammy this year for his song "Say Goodbye to Love," which honestly...is alright, but not okay. The sound is (to me) a little too synthesized, and makes me think of the music in the Chip's Challenge game. Also, I'm disappointed because he seems to have gone a bit more mainstream, when his original idea was to be different from everyone else. They couldn't even categorize him. This song makes me feel like now they can.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Roles

I was reading my Anthropology textbook this morning and came across something that made me wonder. The chapter was "Sex, Gender, and Culture" and this is the paragraph that made me think:

"Western colonialism also appears to have been generally detrimental to women's status, perhaps because Westerners were accustomed to dealing with men. There are plenty of examples of Europeans restructuring landownership around men and teaching men modern farming techniques, even in places where women were usually the farmers. In addition, men more often than women could earn cash through wage labor or through sales of goods (such as furs) to Europeans. Although the relative status of men and women may not have been equal before the Europeans arrived, colonial influences seem generally to have undermined the position of women."

There are a lot of things this makes me think of, one being that the European mindset seemed to have been that women are not "worth" as much as men, even in cultures where they clearly had already established some form of status. It seems like a step backward.

Coincidentally, I was also reading this morning in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell about how people, whether they like it or not, tend to judge people upon first glance based on race and gender, generally putting white men above all others. This is even true in people who have made a conscious decision not to. The reason for this is because these sorts of judgments are made subconsciously. Harvard has a test called the IAT that puts your tendency to do one thing or another on a scale. It's pretty interesting. If you want to try one or a few tests, go to www.implicit.harvard.edu and select the demonstration. I think you should try as many as you are even vaguely interested in-- it could be very educational.

I digress. Both the things I read today implied that the culture we are exposed to determine about how we feel about the roles of gender (or minorities). It is possible to counteract these stereotypes, consciously and subconsciously (though subconsciously is more difficult) by exposing ourselves to and interacting with those types of people more often.

Food for thought.

P.S. If you want to know results I got on the tests, email me privately. Tell me yours privately too. I don't want people to be too judgmental one way or the other.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Changes

Sometimes when we feel we need a change in our lives and we can't really do anything about it without making a drastic difference in the way we normally go about things, it helps to do something small (but effective) like cleaning your room, reorganizing books or movies, repositioning furniture, or changing bedsheets (I have many sets for just such a reason).  I tend to do the last one the most often, especially since with my currently tiny room I can't really rearrange furniture.

Maybe you don't really need a new job or really want to quit school or get new friends or anything, maybe you just need new sheets.  At least for a while.

Note:  Yes, I did do a photoshoot with my bedsheets.  Shush.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bonneville Seabase

On Saturday Adrien and I braved the snow, freezing winds, and ill-fitting rental equipment to spend the day SCUBA diving at Bonneville Seabase up in Grantsville (very near the Great Salt Lake).
When we arrived, there were several snorkelers already on the premises kicking up silt and screaming and being generally irritating. They left around lunch time, however, and a beginning SCUBA course arrived, who were also loud, but not quite as irritating. Adrien and I were there until closing. What I loved most about this place was that since they don't get tons of customers, especially in the winter, the customer service was excellent. From the time we arrived we were barraged by equipment help, dive trip information, jokes, recommendations on everything, inquiries as to our well-being, assistance in weighting, and orders to holler no matter where we were on the base if we needed anything at all. It sort of felt like they were our personal team of dive helpers.

On the base, there are three "bays" to dive (or snorkel) in: White Rocks Bay, Habitat Bay, and the Abyss. White Rocks Bay is where we did three of our five dives. White Rocks was a covered pool with tons of fish and fabled nurse sharks (which we spent two dives searching for but never found, sadly). We bought lettuce for $2 and fed the fish with it. It was fun to hear them munching and feel the strong pull of fish beaks on soggy lettuce (fun to watch too, but visibility was so bad that most of the time they caught me by surprise). In Habitat Bay (called so because of a sort of diving bell "habitat" area under the water somewhere...we couldn't find it) there was a boat "wreck" for divers to investigate on clearer days. We did poke around there for a bit, but since it was unsheltered, it was considerably colder and we didn't stay long. The Abyss is about 65 feet deep and the deepest spot on the base. We originally intended to only descend to about 40 feet, but after local light failure and my neglecting to take my flashlight into the Abyss, we ended up going to 50 feet, which was all well and good except that it took a little longer to ascend and we ran out of air faster than we'd planned for so we couldn't do a sixth dive to look for the sharks (again). I plan on returning in warmer weather for a better look for the sharks and the boat.
The entrance to White Rocks Bay
Habitat BayThe Abyss-- under that white thing
This picture is funny for 3 reasons: our faces, since the guy gave us no warning as to when he was taking the picture; the fact that we can't put our arms against our body; and that it documents the aftermath of putting on the wetsuits-- we considered making a video of us trying to get them on because it was quite a hilarious endeavor and people had to ask through the dressing room door if we were okay.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to Look Creepy

I don't even know how I found this. This is me as a shrunken head:

You can customize your hair/head style, decorations, skin and hair color, background, and even soundtrack! What fun!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Update (Boring)

Currently I'm working on a few projects and I seem to be not doing very well on many/all of them. I need help and inspiration!

For instance, my "50 books by the end of the year" (which started at 100 if you recall) is going very slowly. I noticed in reviewing my list that nearly two-thirds of the books I've read were within the first four or five months of the year. There are only about 50 days left until the start of 2010 and I still need about twelve more books (however, I must say that the one I just finished-- in three days I might add-- The Wild Trees, was a very interesting, informational, and inspiring book-- especially for non-fiction-- and I will readily recommend it to anyone). The main problem here is that I'm trying to work through Founding Brothers, which is probably the dullest book I've ever been required to read (after Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics I had to read for my Greek Literature class a year ago).

This obstacle brings me to my next suffering goal which was to finish all three of my Independent Study courses by January first. I have to get through F. B. and another required novel and I must point out my online instructor claimed about these two books, "you will enjoy them so much that you'll soon forget that you are reading for a class." Ha. Clearly this person has never met me. Anyway, so I might be able to complete the courses by January first if I become a temporary hermit for a while and speed through as many lessons as I can, but I'm afraid the quality of my work would greatly suffer. I've determined that I'm a better student in a physical, rather than cyber, classroom.

This month I'm supposed to be participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge alongside my mom and sister Megan, but it's nearly two weeks in and I still only have one sentence and a lot of ideas, but no clue how to put them onto paper.

Also, I'm rather sad to say that my third day in the food challenge I'm working on did not go very well at all. I'll write about it more tomorrow over on the Hungry Thing so I can combine it with day 4, but I'm really quite disappointed in myself. At least it isn't a real, health-threatening situation.

Tomorrow we have a cleaning check, and for some reason the management gave me the longest list of things to clean out of the rest of my roommates. And the most difficult tasks...like the fridge. Wish me luck for tomorrow (yes, I have yet to clean) and hope that I come out of the sticky, drippy, smelly mess of the fridge alive and on-time!

P.S. Perhaps this will cheer you up (the first two minutes are the most important part...and also the part at 5:40):

Friday, November 6, 2009

Looking Forward

The New Moon premiere is coming up in a couple of weeks. Unlike my sisters, I will not be attending the midnight showing. No, I'm setting my sights on a different midnight showing...a year from now. That's right kids, I'm already counting down to Deathly Hallows pt 1 on November 19th! Don't get me wrong, it's not like I've put up a paper chain or anything, but there it is. I'm just a little miffed that Germany gets to see it two whole days before we do. Harumph.
Harry and Hermione bury Dobby at Shell Cottage
Also, part two comes out July 15th, 2011.

Other things I'm looking forward to?
-dive trip to Bonneville Seabase next weekend
-Christmas, a time to see family and an excuse to make tons of sweets (and eat them of course)
-SCUBA stress and rescue course starting Feb 25th
-St Patrick's Day (a favorite holiday because I get to show what pride I have for a place that contributes, however minimally, to my ancestry...and who doesn't love corned beef and cabbage?)
-two weeks in England at the end of April/beginning of May (oh gosh. I just said it. Now I'm excited.)
-sailing lessons if I can raise the money and find someone to take it with me
-probably starting culinary school next August (read what I think)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Puggles and Fingerlings and Squeakers, Oh My!

I found this list of baby names for various animals and thought it was both interesting and sort of hilarious:

Alligator = hatchling

Alpaca = cria

Ant = antling

Antelope = calf

Ape = baby

Armadillo = pup

Badger = kit, cub

Bat = pup

Bear = cub

Beaver = pup, kitten

Bee = larva

Bird = hatchling, chick

Bison, Buffalo = calf

Boar = piglet, shoat, farrow

Bobcat = kitten or cub

Butterfly = caterpillar, larva, pupa, chrysalis

Camel = calf

Caribou = calf or fawn

Cat = kitten

Cattle = calf

Cheetah = cub

Chicken = chick, pullet (young hen), cockrell (young rooster)

Cicada = nymph

Clam = larva

Cockroach = nymph

Codfish = codling, hake, sprag, sprat

Coyote = pup, whelp

Crane = chick

Crocodile = hatchling

Crow = chick

Deer = fawn

Dinosaur = hatchling, juvenile

Dog = pup

Dolphin = pup, calf

Donkey = colt, foal

Dove = squab, chick

Duck = duckling

Eagle = fledgling, eaglet

Echidna = puggle

Eel = leptocephalus (larva), elver (juvenile)

Elephant = calf

Elk = calf

Emu = chick, hatchling

Falcon = chick

Ferret = kit

Finch = chick

Fish = fry, fingerling

Fly = maggot

Fox = kit, cub, pup

Frog = tadpole, polliwog, froglet

Gerbil = pup

Giraffe = calf

Gnat = larva

Gnu = calf

Goat = kid, billy

Goose = gosling

Gorilla = infant

Grasshopper = nymph

Grouse = chick, poult, squealer or cheeper

Guinea pig = pig, pup

Gull = chick

Hamster = pup

Hare = leveret

Hawk = eyas

Hedgehog = piglet, pup

Heron = chick

Hippopotamus = calf

Hog = shoat, farrow

Hornet = larva

Horse = foal, colt (m), filly (f), stat, stag, hog-colt, youngster, yearling or hogget

Hound = pup

Human = baby, infant, toddler

Hummingbird = chick

Hyena = cub

Jay = chick

Jellyfish = ephyna

Kangaroo = joey

Koala = joey

Lark = chick

Leopard = cub

Lion = cub

Llama = cria

Louse = nit, nymph

Magpie = chick

Mallard = duckling

Manatee = calf

Mole = pup

Monkey = infant

Moose = calf

Mosquito = nymph, wriggler, tumbler

Mouse = pup, pinkie, kitten

Mule = foal

Muskrat = kit

Nightingale = chick

Opossum = joey

Ostrich = chick

Otter = whelp, pup

Owl = owlet, fledgling

Ox = stot, calf

Oyster = spat

Panda = cub

Parrot = chick

Partridge = cheeper

Peacock = peachick

Penguin = chick

Pheasant = chick

Pig = piglet, shoat, farrow

Pigeon = squab, squeaker

Platypus = puggle

Porcupine = porcupette

Porpoise = calf

Possum = joey

Prairie dog = pup

Pronghorn = fawn

Quail = chick

Rabbit = kitten, bunny, kit

Raccoon = cub

Rat = pup, pinkie, kitten

Reindeer = calf

Rhinoceros = calf

Sand Dollar = larva, pluteus, juvenile

Sea Urchin = larva, pluteus, juvenile

Seal = pup

Serval = kitten

Shark = pup

Sheep = lamb, lambkin, cosset

Skunk = kit

Snake = Snakelet, neonate, hatchling snake)

Spider = spiderling

Squirrel = pup, kit, kitten

Swan = cygnet, flapper

Termite = larva

Tiger = cub, whelp

Toad = tadpole

Trout = fry, fingerling

Turkey = poult

Turtle = hatchling

Wallaby = joey

Walrus = cub, pup

Wasp = larva

Weasel = kit

Whale = calf

Wolf = pup, whelp

Wombat = joey

Woodchuck = kit, cub

Woodpecker = chick

Wren = chick

Yak = calf

Yellow Jacket = larva

Zebra = colt, foal

Monday, November 2, 2009

Color

A rainbow of color...in vegetables!
Check out my new post on l'autre blog.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat?

Happy Halloween everyone!
I haven't dressed up for Halloween since high school when I was Queen Elizabeth and Ian was Tony Blair:
But this year I was invited to a Halloween party at the Hughes' so I decided to dress up. The only thing I could think of on short notice was a skipper:
While I would much rather have been a Star Weasel crew person:
Oh well, maybe next year.
In the mean time, enjoy this funny trick:

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm Basically Famous

About a week ago I sent in a question with a couple pictures to Apartment Therapy (since I recently learned how to do a screen shot-- so simple, so awesome!!! I'm easily amused...) about the headboard in Across the Universe, which I think is a beautiful piece of carpentry and would love to have grace my future perfect bedroom.
Anyway, tonight the editor/s decided to post my question! Hopefully I will get some response from this.
In somewhat related news, over the summer when Mom and Adrien and I went shopping in Salt Lake (and didn't buy anything...) we passed this wonderful apartment building that looked like it was falling to bits, but I of course loved. I took a couple of grainy pictures with my phone:

What is wrong with me? Why do I find such dilapidated buildings so beautiful?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Boo

When I say "Boo" I'm not really talking about Halloween stuff because I don't really have anything Halloween-related going on right now (though there's a party at the Hughes' I might go to the day before and a movie at Jared & Megan's Halloween night, which I'm excited about). I sort of want to make Kleenex ghosts to hang around the house, but I don't have any Kleenex, so...boo.
That's really the sort of "boo" I mean to talk about right now, so this might be a little complain-y for you. Feel free to not read on.
I curled my hair today. It was frizzy and creepy so I put it in a ponytail. That made me feel like a 50s librarian. Or maybe like I needed to be wearing a poodle skirt.

Yes, I did just take this picture as I was sitting here typing this.
Actually that doesn't look too bad, at least not from this angle. I guess I'm too hard on myself sometimes. Well anyway.

My grilled cheese sandwich stuck to the pan, which has never happened to me before...maybe it was the pan? Though I'm pretty sure I've used that pan to make grilled cheese before...hm. Anyway, it made it taste all nasty and tore holes in it. But I'll have you know I ate it anyway. So there.

I didn't babysit this past week because the grandma/mom was in town, and you all know how grandmas are, they love their grandkids enough to babysit so the babysitter doesn't have to. For me this meant not only that I didn't have to wake up before the sun rises over the mountains and brings light and life to the valley, but also that I didn't get my $30 in spending money this week. But my habits didn't change, and the bills came early (or late?) so I have no money (though I did save enough cash to be able to buy a few necessities at the grocery store this coming week, thank goodness for my moderate foresight), and I'm having a craving to make many tasty and delicious things but I can't pay for the ingredients! I am so very, very sad :(
Luckily, Mom's coming to town on Thursday so maybe I can get her to pay for some superfluous groceries if I make tasty things for her to eat!

Madraste? Will you?

P.S. I posted a recipe for cheesecake on my other blog.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Having Fun

You know how kids are lean and scrawny because they run around all the time? (Well, besides those whose parents buy them video game consoles) Well, it's because they're having fun. Remember the days when you didn't want to come inside when you were called in for dinner as the sun was setting on another beautiful day involving running all over the yard and maybe even down the street to the huge open fields? Even if you don't, you can learn something from all of this-- fun is good exercise! Remember my post on the Tumble Gym? I went again last week and woke up sore the next morning, and I don't remember doing anything that wasn't fun, meaning the fun is what made me sore (okay, I'm stretching a bit here, but I'm trying to make a point, mkay?).
The other day Adrien and I discovered this type of "dancing" that, when we tried to learn it, put us out of breath but also made us anxious to try more because it was fun.
In Sweden they did this test to see if they could get more people in the subway/metro/whatever to use the stairs by making them more fun. And it worked! Watch the video:

So getting more exercise doesn't have to be a chore. Find a way to make it more fun. Go to the rock wall place (definitely gets your heart rate up, especially if you're afraid of heights like me), go to the tumble gym, make up challenges like "how many jumping jacks can I do during the course of this song?," or learn a jumpstyle dance! You'll feel a lot better, I can assure you.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Des Livres

So far I have thirteen books left before I reach my goal of reading 50 books this year! I have compiled a list of books that I would like to read next and came up with twelve.
Here, in alphabetical order, with an explanation:

84 Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff
-recommended/ in preparation for the London trip this spring

Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
by Steven Callahan
-read a good review/recommendation

The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll
by Alvaro Mutis
-read somewhere one's life would be incomplete until this book had been read

The Big Over Easy
by Jasper Fforde
-I read the beginning of this book ages ago and loved it but had to surrender it to the proper owner before I got very far

Blindness
by Jose Saramago
-recommended by a friend

Blink
by Malcom Gladwell
-recommended by a friend

Founding Brothers
by Joseph J Ellis
-required for my Political Science class

Gideon's Trumpet
by Anthony Lewis
-required for my Political Science class

Into the Wild
by Jon Krakauer
-I think this is an interesting story and hope it will be a good read. I know the guy had flaws, but no one is perfect, right?

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss
-recommended by a friend

Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen
-read a good review/recommendation

The Wild Trees
by Robert Preston
-came across this book a while ago, thought it looked interesting, and haven't had the chance to read it yet

Now here's where you come in. I need a thirteenth book! Recommend something to me! Also, if you see something on my list that you read and didn't like or that you want to read too, or something/anything you might want to comment on, go right ahead. Here's to fifty books!