Saturday, February 28, 2015

An Abundance of Katherines // Book Review


So I finished An Abundance of Katherines. (all except the Appendix because math)
I'm sorry to say that I wasn't impressed.



Don't start throwing books at me, though, please? I still think John Green is a genius. I still relatively enjoyed reading the book. But compared to Looking For Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, this book just doesn't measure up. And maybe it's unfair to judge a book based on the author. Okay. But another thing that gets me is that this is a Printz Honor book...an award that I hold in high esteem...but I don't think it is as good as Printz books usually are.

I mean, The Book Thief won a Printz Honor the same year that this book did. 

Then again, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging was also a Printz Honor book and I pretty much hated it. So maybe awards aren't the best way to judge books, either.

So, my problems with this book:

1) There really wasn't much of a plot. 
It was there, but minuscule. Like a tiny hill instead of a mountain.

2) I didn't connect with any of the characters.
I just...didn't. I'm glad they weren't stereotypical, but I had no feelings at all towards them. I honestly didn't care what happened to them.

3) All of the lingo got on my nerves.
OH MY GOODNESS STOP SAYING FUG AND JUST SAY THE REAL WORD ALREADY.
Look, I know teenagers really talk like this. But I don't want to read it. And it wasn't just this one word...it was a whole mess of them. (This is also why I can't read Mark Twain--I hate trying to translate dialects and slang and abbreviations.)
They identified three side-characters by acronyms that they made up. (TOC, JATT, and SOCT)
I thought it was funny how he identified his ex-Katherines like monarchs (ex. Katherine XIX) but sometimes they were identified like K-19 and the inconsistency drove me crazy.
And the list goes on.

4) I thought Colin's Theorem was stupid.
It was basically all he was concerned with throughout 95% of the book, but I really, really did not care about it. Creating a formula that could map your past relationships? Why would anyone care about that? And thinking that it could predict future relationships is ridiculous.

5) The conclusion was disappointing.
After everything he has gone through...this big road trip, meeting all these new people, developing his Theorem, finding out truths about himself and the world around him, etc., the conclusion (or his big "eureka" moment that the book has been leading up to) is that

the future is unpredictable
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Now, I know I tend to judge books harshly, so I don't want you to think that this was the worst book I've ever read. It wasn't. There were parts that I really appreciated. I'm glad I read it, even though it wasn't what I wanted it to be, and I don't want to discourage anyone from reading it.

A few things that I did like about the book:

1) Colin wasn't an aspiring writer.
I feel this is really overdone in all novels. I understand because authors tend to write what they are familiar with, and as an author they know what it's like to be a writer. But Colin was a child prodigy that liked languages, anagramming, and worked with math a lot. So at least he was original.

2) The theme was pretty relatable.
Senior in high school not knowing where he's going in life? Yeah, we've all been there. 

3) His friend was Arabic.
I've never read a book with an Arabic character. Most of the time they are just white middle-class Americans. Diversity is good.

4) It had some decent quotes.
Not as many as the other John Green books I've read, but still a good amount. I love quotable books.

So all-in-all, I think it deserves 3/5 stars.


~~~

And in other news...


By the same writers that adapted TFIOS.
Do I look excited? Yes. Yes I do.

Am I extremely worried?
YES.

I always liked the fact that Looking for Alaska wasn't a film. It might be something about the dark cover, the fact that it is John Green's first book (and his only to actually win a Printz Award), or maybe it's because most of what makes the book magical are the feelings captured in the narration. There are so many literary elements that I don't think are capable of being translated to the screen, which means it will simply be another teen-angsty film where something devastating happens. You won't get any of the good stuff.

I'm not saying that all movies have to be driven by an interesting plot instead of literary elements. Some movies--usually the award-winners--balance the two quite well. But film is a different type of art than novels. What makes a novel spectacular is not what is going to make a film spectacular. 

So while I'm excited to see the story come to life, I'm also a bit sad.

~~~

I've now read two.
(I know I'm a really really really slow reader and I hate it.)
Both of which are not even on my list for books to read this year. (No surprise there, really. I like to slyly break my own rules.)


My question for you guys is...which book on my list should I read next?
Or which book that is not on the list should I read next?
I've been thinking Mrs Dalloway, but I'm not sold on it yet.

--Emily
currently listening to: Next Year by Two Door Cinema Club

Saturday, February 21, 2015

a wonderland





I had once thought it a gloomy, sulky place that stifled everyone within it like a gas chamber, but I see it now more of a type of wonderland. Other places might regularly experience the same heavy fog, but I doubt they could replicate it entirely. The way all lights in the distance were dimmed and diffused like a lampshade over the town, the sound of train whistles hollering in the far distance, the damp sidewalks and lingering wetness as one hurried across thresholds...all of those are common things, I know, but somehow this town made them unique. It was pushed in the corner of the state--cut off like a castle on a hill--so even though it was filled with things that other places might also have, it still felt new and removed from the rest of the world, like the Galapagos islands. 

I didn't like it at first.

Instead of seeing its isolation as rare and unique, I saw it as lonely and confined. For the first year that I was there, all I wanted to do was be someplace else. I had left my comfort and all familiarity miles away and my existence was limited to language, reading, and a small room with one window. My friends were scarce and the ones that I did make did not count me as close. Everyone already seemed to know each other and to have been there for years--it was a home to them, and I was the lost, dirty cat sneaking in from the rain. Even now, I'm not sure I could call it home. I'm not sure I was there long enough for my paw prints to stick.

But it grew on me, as most things do over time. I began to love the humble size of the campus; the birds on the telephone wires in the morning, calling at me as I hurried to class; the comfort of a consistent day; the recognition of faces on a sidewalk; the world and time feeling uncommonly distant. And now, living in a bustling town that seems to never stop, I miss it. The fog here is not the same. It does not diffuse the lights; it stamps the city down under its foot like a beetle. The cats are left out in the rain, meowing at bolted doors.

I've no reason to go back, though, and I do not plan to fabricate one. As much as I miss it there, going back is never the same as the memory of it. The birds call too loud, the faces are not the ones you remember, the fog is too heavy on your shoulders, the wetness screams against your skin. 

Wonderlands, I've learned, are better left as dreams.

--Emily
currently listening to: Over You by Ingrid Michaelson

Avatar: The Last Airbender Appreciation Post


I know I post about the world of Avatar more than just about anything else these days, but TODAY IS SPECIAL.

It is the 10th anniversary of the franchise's beginning.

So I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on how amazing this series is.


A short list of reasons why Avatar is really, really amazing:

1) Even though it's aimed at kids, it can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone at any age. It's not overly cheesy, goofy, or stupid. (Though it can be hilarious, there is a healthy balance between being silly and being serious.) And even though it's ten years old, it stands the test of time.
.

2) While the show is entertaining, it is also filled with real, tangible themes and messages.


3) GIRL POWER.
Even though it was created by two men, it is filled with unbelievably strong female characters.

4) It portrays characters with disabilities, but these disabilities don't define or hinder the characters.
Guys, Korra's is not a disability. She has been thrown off a cliff, thrown into an emotional battle, and nearly died. She's just recuperating and trying to fight off depression. It's not a disability.

5) Character development.
You will never find another show where the characters actually evolve and change and grow in the ways that they do on this show. I think this is most obvious in Zuko's character, but ALL of them undergo changes from beginning to end. It's beautiful.

6) The animation is gorgeous.

7) The creators put so much thought and effort into it. Seriously.

8) The soundtrack is amazing.

9) BENDING.


But the non-benders are not lesser-people, like in standard superhero stories. They are equally as fierce.
Non-benders

10) Azula is the greatest villain of all time.

Bonus: It gave way to its spin-off, The Legend of Korra, which is also pretty amazing, even though it has different characters and a completely different feel to it.

Extra Bonus: Appa and Momo are adorable.
momo and appa

Extra Extra Bonus: THE FEELS
Zuko redirects lightning. =)
the last episode of Avatar the last airbender this part almost made me cry.

So even though I didn't start watching the show until about two years ago, I wish I could have been there during its debut in 2005. Still, it's never too late to become a fan and I doubt I will ever get to the point where I don't love this show.

--Emily

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mid-February Updates


events:
my sister turned 26
i can only knock down 9 bowling pins. that last one hates me.
snow has come and it is my fault. It would be glorious but Rolla doesn't know the meaning of snow days.
The driver seat in my car is really, really broken.
Valentine's Day = good food all day long
Deacon's grandma Ginnie (who I suppose is now my grandma as well!) turned 78

thoughts:
1) WHAT LANGUAGE DID GOD SPEAK WHEN HE SPOKE EVERYTHING INTO EXISTENCE? It is some proto-language, from which all languages derive? Is it the same language Adam spoke? I need to know!
2) Switching from Jane Eyre to An Abundance of Katherines was probably a poor decision.
3) I want to name my future dog Pilot. This will probably change by the time I actually get a dog.
4) I've still been having dreams about the dog I had growing up, Venus. She died YEARS ago, about 2008 or 2009.
5) I'm more comfortable teaching than giving in-class presentations.
6) I read the word "method" last night and had no idea what was going on.
7) I always confuse the Danes/Norse with the Anglo-Saxons and I'm an English Major Fraud.
8) future reference: the darker the chocolate, the nastier is tastes.
9) WHY DIDN'T I KNOW ABOUT A NEW IMAGINE DRAGONS ALBUM ON SPOTIFY?


tv shows:
Gilmore Girls (halfway through season 7)
Ancient Aliens
House Hunters International
Criminal Minds (Deacon watches this, I just sit in on some episodes)

movies watched:
Black Swan
Her
The Imitation Game
Jane Eyre (2011 version)
Laggies
Dolphin Tale
The Judge

books:
still working through An Abundance of Katherines 
currently: page 86
verdict: I like it so far, but not as much as I thought I would.


How is your February going?

--Emily
currently listening to: Bloodstream by Ed Sheeran


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My "50 Shades of Grey" Conundrum


So, here's the deal. We've all heard about the bestseller 50 Shades of Grey and its sequels, especially now that it's about to come to theaters. A lot of people have very strong opinions about it...to both extremes. 

Personally, I have not read it. But for about a year or so, I've been going back and forth between whether I want to read it or not.

A short list of why I want to read 50 Shades of Grey:
--It's a bestseller, and apparently I'm all about "bandwagon books"
--I'm pretty against the entire premise and the content of what is in the book, but I don't agree with being against something that you know nothing about.


To say that I dislike or disagree with the content of 50 Shades of Grey would be just like people blindly claiming that they hate Harry Potter because it involves witchcraft. To which my reply is always, "Have you even read the book?"

Generally, though, my religion would say to stay away from anything that might be perceived as being unholy or unwholesome. And to an extent, I agree with that. I mean, I'm pretty against the use of heroin but I'm not going to go give it a try just so I can have an educated opinion on the matter. 

Another point to consider: If I do happen to be against the book, I don't want to buy it and contribute to the franchise. Not that my $2.99 will make much a difference in the grand scheme of things, but the principle is there. But there's a solution to that, of course--libraries.

I don't care to see the movie. The trailer alone makes me uncomfortable.
(It does, however, have a great soundtrack.)

I want to say the relationship portrayed in the book is abusive. I want to say that it's wrong. I want to know why the BDSM community says that it is not an accurate portrayal. 

But do I really want to read the book? 


Generally, my advice to myself is to not force myself to endure something that I know I will not enjoy. If I read this book, it will not be for pleasure--it will be so I can support my opinion on the matter. But why is that so important? If I'm not interested in it, why not just keep my mouth shut and go on my merry way? So what if other people like it? How is that bothering me? 

On the other hand, though, I'm immensely curious. And if I read it, what am I afraid of? That I'll actually like it? That other people will judge me for it? That I'll be persuaded into thinking that everything about it is okay? I mean, I want to read Mein Kampf, but I don't think I'll be idolizing Adolf Hitler anytime soon. Just because I read something doesn't mean I have to agree with it.

10 Hot '50 Shades of Grey' Quotes That Will Make You Fall in Love All Over Again (PHOTOS) | The Stir

Still in a conundrum. But here's the version of "Crazy in Love" from the trailer:


P.S. Laci Green has a video over 50 Shades, which can be seen here.

--Emily

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Jane Eyre // Book Review

I have an important announcement to make:

I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED READING JANE EYRE.
Jane Eyre Literature Poster, Modern Literature Print, Book Poster, Reading Wall Art on Etsy, $20.00

This, for all of you well-seasoned readers and lovers of classic literature, might not seem as a large endeavor. Elementary, you might say. But for me, this is a huge accomplishment.

But wait, Emily, you might say, I thought you were an English major!

This, my lovely readers, is true. I have a Bachelor's degree in English, yet I was never required to read Jane Eyre at any point during my education. I was required to read the other two Bronte's--Agnes Grey by Anne and Wuthering Heights by Emily, but never Charlotte. I expect this is because they assumed most of us had read it already.

This is why I set out to read it last year. I felt like an English-major fraud. 

So what did I think of it?

[spoilers ahead]


Well, first off: it took me nearly three months to finish the book.

This was partly because I've been really busy, partly because I generally don't like classic literature, partly because I did not have a deadline because it was not for school, and partly because I simply found a lot of it dull and uninteresting.

For comparison, I read Wuthering Heights in a little over a week because it was required reading. 
I read both of these on my Kindle, which generally takes me more time than printed books.

It is also important to note that I went into this novel not ever seeing any of the film adaptations and knowing very, very little about the plot.

My general consensus: I liked it about as much as I expected I would. The language was absolutely beautiful--Charlotte Bronte writes at a level that I can only dream of ever achieving. It's breathtaking.


As for the story, I felt it was a bit predictable. There was only one instance when I was generally surprised about something, which was the condition of Mr. Rochester at the end. My biggest qualm was how long and unnecessary the first half of the book seemed to be. Jane's childhood seemed to last forever and I'm not entirely sure what the point of it all was. I know it mirrored the author's life and gave the readers some background over Jane's character, but I ultimately felt that it was too much. The second half, however, was great. It didn't seem like much a struggle to get through it and I was pretty interested in the story from then on. It was a rough start, though.

Now, I might have liked the book more if I had read it in the classroom setting and was able to discuss some of the points with other people and pick up on things that I had missed. That's why I love going to Shmoop's website. They do a great job at explaining things and pointing out literary elements that I probably missed, which makes me appreciate the story a lot more.


Personally, I've been thinking about the lady in the attic a lot over the past few days. A lot of people feel sorry for Mr. Rochester...but I'm not sure I do. His wife had a mental illness. Sure, he made sure she was taken care of, but she was locked away and hidden from the rest of the world. If this were to happen today, there would be an outrage. Mr. Rochester would probably be arrested for abuse. Then, I thought to thinking about how Jane was locked in the red room at the beginning and pretty much had a mental breakdown--is that some kind of symbolism? Would Bertha's mental state have been better if she had been treated like an actual human being, instead of being locked in a room?

And I absolutely hate that the happy ending only came as a result of her suicide. It's like everyone wanted her to just kill herself because it would solve their own problems. Jane and Rochester could get married, no problem. Nobody actually loved Bertha, so it wasn't a big deal. They obviously couldn't kill her themselves, so suicide was the only way everyone could win. Right?

That's just a sickening resolution. 

How would I compare it to my other Bronte reads? I think I liked it more than Wuthering Heights, but maybe not more than Agnes Grey. If it was shorter like Agnes Grey, I think I would like it more, but it just took so much time to get interesting.

Overall, I would give it a solid 3.5 stars.

So...my next question. I haven't seen any of the film adaptations and I know that there are SO MANY OF THEM. Do you guys have any that you prefer? Some are available on Netflix and I'm thinking I'll watch the 2011 version, but I want to know what the best of the best is. Let me know in the comments.

Have a lovely week!

P.S. Next up on my reading list: 
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

--Emily
currently listening to: Josh McBride by The Head and the Heart

The Legend of Korra: Thoughts on Raava and the Avatar State


So far, I've spent a lot of time in 2015 rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. I've been watching the episodes by themselves, then going back to watch them with the commentaries...because I'm a nerd and I love learning everything I can about the Avatar universe. Also, I have Book Two and Three on blu-ray, and let me tell you now: buy Korra on blu-ray. It's a few extra dollars, but it is well worth it. You will never be able to fully appreciate how visually stunning this series is until you watch it on blu-ray. 

The commentaries aren't the best, but they make me laugh and you do tend to learn little pieces about the show and how it was developed. I also learned that sky bison are a hybrid between a bison and a manatee. Who knew?

But today, I'm here to talk about a small detail from Book Two.
Legend of Korra - Book 2 - Spirits

So Book Two: probably my least favorite season from both Avatar series, but it's also special because you get to learn about the first Avatar, Wan.

Avatar Wan

We learn how Wan is able to keep his fire from the lion turtle when he is banished into the spirit wilds, which is where he learns how to live and cooperate with the spirits. 

Wan has received something very special from the Lion Turtle. (Gif)

Wan Firebending training  The Legend of #Korra

And then, of course, he is tricked by Vaatu and separates him from Raava, bringing chaos across the world. After seeing the devastation he has caused, he sets out with Raava to master all four elements. To do this, he must travel to each lion turtle civilization.

The Legend of Korra: lion turtles - I loved the different colored eyes for each nation!

But since Wan already possesses the element of fire, Raava must hold the other three elements for him. By passing through his body, she is able to transport the different elements to him for a short period of time. 

Avatar Wan and Raava - Legend of Korra

But then, during harmonic convergence, Wan and Raava are able to bind together, meaning he has access to the Avatar state and all four elements at once, since Raava is inside of him.

Wan, right after uniting with Raava.

the first Avtatar: Wan, we are bonded forever, for all of your lifetimes

At the end of Wan's story, we have a beautiful scene of him talking to Raava right before he dies. He apologizes and says that there wasn't enough time to destroy Vaatu. And Raava replies:

The Legend of Korra: Wan: The moment that everyone cried .... or at least I did

Wan then dies, something leaves his body (his spirit? Raava? both? I'm not sure), and a baby cries, signalling that the Avatar cycle has continued. 

All that is very well. Now, here is my question:

If Raava only held the elements of Air, Water, and Earth, how are subsequent Avatars able to firebend?

This might not be a problem with Avatars from the fire nation who are naturally able to firebend, but for the others, I don't know how they would possess the ability. Raava never received fire from the lion turtle--Wan did.

This is assuming that the reincarnation of the Avatar focuses on Raava being present inside of them and it is Raava that gives them the ability to bend all the elements. It is possible that Wan's ability to firebend somehow combined with the elements Raava held when they were united. It's also possible that Wan's spirit is reincarnated into the next Avatar, carrying the ability to firebend with him. We kind of see this theory when Avatar Aang's spirit gives Korra the ability to energybend in Book One.

Another question:

Does someone become an Avatar at birth or at conception?

The baby crying after Wan dies makes me think birth, but how does Raava become part of them? I admit, I know very little about reincarnation, so maybe this is just really basic stuff. Does the fetus just form with Raava inside of it? Or does Raava leave the previous Avatar's body to search for a new one? 

I previously thought it was the latter, but then I realized that this could not be true, because the only way Raava was able to bond with an Avatar's body after separation was during harmonic convergence. 


So what do you guys think? Is there an explanation within the beliefs of reincarnation that I'm missing, or am I just over-thinking the whole process?

Let me know!

P.S. I found this GIF on Pinterest of Korra's journey and I think it's beautiful:
Korra's Journey by motorcyclles

--Emily