I Don’t Like Mysteries! (Except Sometimes I Do)

I Don’t Like Mysteries! (Except Sometimes I Do)

When I think of mystery novels, I think of those flimsy, slightly trashy looking books that sit at the checkout of grocery stores. You know the kind – the latest Dan Brown (or equivalent), which is sat next to a romance novel that definitely doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. Now I’m not actually judging these – everyone likes their own kind of books, and reading is reading, even if it’s not a book I’m likely to own, myself.

This is just to say that I never really thought that I liked mystery novels for adults. Now kids mysteries, that’s another story! I was raised on Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew, but I never continued in the genre once I started reading more mature books. I read an Agatha Christie, and an Alexander McCall Smith or two, and that was pretty much it.

Except it wasn’t. A few years ago I heard my mum talking about this new mystery novel that she’d just read by this guy called Robert Galbraith. I took a mental note and forgot about it, since I was too busy with school reading to read for fun. A long time passed, and then it came out that Robert Galbraith was J.K. Rowling. Well that caught my attention! I love Harry Potter – partially for the story, but I just re-read them over the summer and let me tell you, the writing really holds up. Rowling can tell a darned good story. Most importantly, she sprinkles in details that seem innocuous, but at a later time end up being crucial to the story! Think about the vanishing cabinet – it’s mentioned in prior novels, before it becomes major to the plot in book six! All in all, this is skill that makes a fantastic mystery novelist, so it’s no wonder that her books have all been best-sellers, even before her pseudonym was known!

Image result for the cuckoo's callingI was at a local second-hand bookstore last summer, and I saw that they had The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first novel in the series, and so I picked it up. Nearly a year later, I finally had time to read it. And I could not put it down. The Cuckoo’s Calling centres around a fairly typical detective – Cormoran Strike. He’s down on his luck, a war vet who lost his leg to an IED, and he’s just broken up with his tempestuous fiancée. Robin, a temp, arrives at his office and winds up becoming his assistant, leaving her agency and helping him with his newest case. This case is that of Lula Landry, a supermodel who had committed suicide, jumping off of her balcony – except her brother thinks that she was pushed.

I’ll say no more than that, as I don’t want to ruin it for you. But I just want to say that this book is good. While Strike can be a bit brusque, Robin really balances him out with her excellent social skills and quick thinking. While I don’t want to ruin the plot for you, I have to say that the ending is highly satisfying. In typical Rowling style, all the loose ends suddenly come together in a dramatic climax, while also not ending too neatly. It really is some good writing. This sets a precedent for the rest of the series, and the next three books easily meet it.

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In The Silkworm, Strike, now famous from solving the high-profile Lula Landry case, is asked to find an author who has gone missing, leaving a highly inflammatory novel behind him. This is my least favourite book in the series, as it is graphic and frankly disgusting at parts. It also falls into a pattern of objectification of the female characters, which didn’t exist as much in The Cuckoo’s Calling – the male gaze is strong with this one. I was falling a little out of love at this point, but the mystery was still resolved well; I was satisfied, even if I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Cuckoo’s Calling.

By the third novel, I was back in love with the series. Career of Evil is a bit guesome, but it was definitely a fast read – it has to be, considering it’s about a serial killer who is threatening Robin as a way to get to Strike! I could barely put this book down, and I read it in about three days (and these are not short books!). This instalment had the added bonus of getting the killer’s point of view every once and a while, adding suspense to a novel that was already a page turner!

Image result for career of evil                               Image result for lethal white audiobook

(Side note, the fact that the changed the cover style for Lethal White  really bugs me! Why would you do that?)

The latest book in the series, Lethal White, was published in September, and I just finished reading it. Career of Evil ended on a cliffhanger, of sorts, and so I couldn’t wait to get started. Once more, I was not dissapointed. While the mystery in this novel was perhaps less compelling than that of the previous three, there are things happening in the personal lives of our protagonists that draw you in. My mum and I were reading this novel at the same time and there was a lot of “I can’t believe that Robin [spoiler]!” “Right? I hate it! I hope that she [redacted]!” It was a lot of fun, and it transformed this novel into even more of a page turner, especially near the end!

While I’m trying my best to spoil absolutely nothing, I hope that I’m getting my point across: this series is great, even if you don’t think you’re into murder mystery novels! I would recommend giving it a go! It’s definitely different from Harry Potter, but J.K. Rowling can still write!

Crazy Rich Asians: Is it Worth The Hype?

Crazy Rich Asians: Is it Worth The Hype?

Alright, so I may be late to the game, but I’m here to talk about Kevin Kwan’s famous book about the lifestyles of the rich and famous in Asia, Crazy Rich Asians. I’ll also talk about the film adaptation, because it’s pretty much impossible not to.

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Let’s start with a disclaimer: I am very, very white. I have no personal experience with Asian family dynamics or anything like that. However, I am from the Vancouver area, a place that gets occasional shout outs in the series for it’s large number of rich Chinese families living here, and I did go to UBC, which the book calls the “University of a Billion Chinese” (while we know about this title, most people I knew preferred its other nickname, the “University of Building Construction,” as there are always several large projects on the go, blocking your shortcuts and generally getting in the way!). Most of my friends are Asian, and through my work, I’ve come across people who are not unlike some of the tycoons mentioned in the novel. So that’s my disclaimer – I have no personal experience with this, and so I may get things wrong along the way, since my cultural viewpoint is definitely different from the one of the novel.


 

I know that sometimes I see a bestseller and go “What??? Really? How is that so popular?” Or I think of other bestsellers that haven’t been all too well written (50 Shades, romance novels, gritty detective novels from authors that churn them out seemingly every week) – sometimes I get jaded about the bestseller lists, and think that just because something sells well, doesn’t mean that it’s written well. In general, I get sceptical about things that get wildly successful. After all, I went through that whole Twilight thing when I was 12, and a lot of book crazes remind me of that.

So I was a little sceptical about Crazy Rich Asians as well. The one thing that the books had going for them was that a friend of mine had told me about them well over a year ago – way before they became sensationalized and boosted to the top of the bestseller lists. And that friend was totally right! I could not put this book down. It was a page turner in the best way: not only was the plot great and fast moving, but the writing was fantastic. I love a good satire, and this book was full of pointed wit. And, in case you were worried that you don’t know enough about Singapore, Chinese culture, or any of the languages spoken in the book, you’re in luck – Kevin Kwan makes use of the footnotes as a space for hilarious commentary and explanation.

loved this book. It’s hilarious. The satire is brilliant, and almost Austenian at times. It was nuanced, and the characters all felt real and full of life. Kevin Kwan definitely knows how to write. In case you don’t already know, the basic premise of the novel is that Nick (who comes from a family so rich and secretive that they’re entirely unknown in Singapore, where they live) brings his American girlfriend, Rachel, to his best friends wedding in Singapore. His mother is furious that he’s dating a Chinese-American Econ prof, and she wants him to end it with her (and many of her friends also want this, as they try to pawn their daughters off onto him). There are side plots involving Nick’s glamorous cousin Astrid (who’s marriage seems to be falling apart, because he husband is sensitive about being poorer than her), Rachel’s experience of a stupidly exorbitant bachelorette party on a private island (not great), the need to keep up appearances at all costs, and the wedding of a century.

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If I haven’t recommended this book highly enough yet, here’s another thing. I rarely read a whole series back to back,  as I find that I can get tired of the characters. I often try to space other books between them, to give my little brain space to breathe and a quick break. But when I finished the first book, I immediately started the next one. And when I finished China Rich Girlfriend, I wanted to start on the third (Rich People Problems). Unfortunately, I’m borrowing the books from a friend, so I’ll have to wait to get the next one, but I’m eager to start!

 

Now on to the movie, which is the reason that the book is so popular at this moment.

Image result for crazy rich asians film poster
I went to the movie the day I finished the book, which may have been a mistake. Now the movie is not a bad adaptation by any means! I had a blast watching it; it was beautifully made, funny and poignant. But, as with most film adaptations of novels, a lot has to get lost along the way. After all, you can’t fit a 500 page novel into two-hour long movie! I was sad about the nuance that was lost through the adaptation, but overall, the plot was the same, and the spirit of the novel was definitely there! Even my Irish granny had blast watching it!

As I mentioned earlier, I live in an area with a high Asian population, and so I’ve had a lot of conversations about representation in media over the years. I think back to how I felt watching Wonder Woman, with one of the first truly strong female superheroes, one of the first female led action movies that I actually loved and related to. Representation is so important, and Crazy Rich Asians did it so well. I’ve seen tweets and blog posts and videos on the internet from people saying that this movie meant so much to them. I saw a video of Constance Wu crying when talking about this movie. So even if this movie had sucked (which, to reiterate, it really, really didn’t), the cultural work that it performed was phenomenal. It’s made over $200 million in the box office, and has proved that you don’t need white people in a movie to make it funny, relatable, or just good.

I would highly recommend reading Crazy Rich Asians. And if you’re not a book person (first off, why are you here?? Not that I’m complaining, of course!), go watch the film! If you’ve already read it, what were your thoughts? Was the movie as good as the book?

 

The Best of Books and the Worst of Books

Well. I guess my Uni hiatus was a little bit longer than anticipated. But, now that I’m not in school anymore, since I got that very expensive piece of paper, I guess I have more time to write! Quick personal update before we get to the real topic at hand: I’ve graduated with a major in English literature and a minor in history. I’ve got a part time job, but I’m now searching for something full time while I try to figure out what I want to do with my life. Anyone have any good advice on either finding a job or figuring out what I want?

Anyway, since I just spent four years of straight reading and writing (seriously, I spent a term in 3 English courses and 2 history courses. I wrote 12 papers in 13 weeks and read about 16 novels), I think I can give an overview of the best and worst things that I was forced to read! Most of these are going to be English lit books, but I know for sure that one history book will sneak its way in here.

Let’s start with the bad, shall we? These are in no real order. I hated them all equally! I would be super interested in hearing if any of you read these books, and if you had similar experiences, or if you really loved these books!

5) Pamela – Samuel Richardson 

This is by far the worst thing I’ve even read. And to be totally honest, I didn’t even read all of it. We were only assigned specific sections (blocks of about 200 pages), and I couldn’t even stomach that. If you haven’t read this, it’s 18th Century Brit Lit – which sounds pretty good right? It’s the era that has Austen and the Bröntes and all of those sweeping romances and excellent gothics! Except for the fact that Pamela is an exercise in victim blaming!

Pamela is a poor girl and servant whose mistress dies, leaving her in the employ of Mr. B. From then on the book is essentially this conversation, on repeat:
Pamela: Oh my virtue! I have to protect my virtue! I won’t let this frightful man near me ever again!
Mr. B: *tries to assault her, have sex with her, steals her letters, lies to her parents about her whereabouts, etc. *
Pamela: He’s so horrible, I hate him! Mr. B, I hate you! Somebody help me!
Mr. B: *does something vaguely kind*
Pamela: Oh Mr. B., I love you! You are the kindest! I want to marry you but I need to keep my virtue in tact in the meantime!

And repeat. It’s brutal. And over 500 pages. I borrowed my mum’s copy from when she was at the same school, and whenever I whined about it, she would say something along the lines of “well I had to read it 30 years ago, it’s your turn.” This book was worsened by the fact that it was part of my “Adaptations In/Of the 18th Century” course, so we had to read two adaptations of it. I will never get these hours of my life back. (Honourable mentions to Anti-Pamela, and Shamela – neither of which were actually that bad, but in the context of Pamela I had no time or desire to read them).

4) The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon 

Honestly, I don’t even have that much to say about this one. It was so strange because each word made sense individually, but no sentences were comprehensible to me. I made a friend with this book, though, since both of us were super confused about it. Of course, when he had to read it again for his conspiracy theories course, he decided it was his new favourite book. This betrayal really stings.

I think my other major complaint about this book is that the protagonist is so horrendously passive. She doesn’t seem to like any of the characters, but she also ends up having sex with about three quarters of the men. Oh joy. This was for my American Lit course, and it does feel pretty American to me. Lots of excess and angst.

3) Neuromancer – William Gibson

Image result for neuromancerThis one actually makes me feel a little bit guilty, because I should have some hometown pride for Gibson. But nope. No such thing. My complaints with this one are actually extremely similar to those in Lot 49. It makes no sense, and the female characters are the worst. The best part about studying this book was the fact that my prof said “I know this book is really confusing, so I tend to keep the Wikipedia page open beside me while I read it.” I feel like that says it all. This was for my course “@Snapchat Obsessed in Contemporary Literature,” which was generally a fun course, and this fits with the course. I just really did not enjoy this book. I only finished it because it was the first thing we read, so I had no excuses not to!

2) The Spoils of Poynton – Henry James 

What I remember the most about reading this book in second year is that it feels like one or two chapters of a larger book, just expanded into its own book. It’s about this girl trying to marry into a rich family because she likes all the stuff they have. It’s highly materialistic and so, so boring. It’s also very petty.

Two years after taking this course (“prose fiction”), I discovered that the prof I had for this course was one of my mum’s profs when she was at uni! He tried to seduce her away from law school and into doing a masters degree in English lit, focusing on Henry James! How weird is that?

1) Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

I feel as though this book deserves this slot for the sole purpose that it started so promising, and it let me down so hard! I really love the concept – anarcho-capitalism is so cool, and it’s conceptualized really well in this novel. I would watch the heck out of this movie.  I mean, look at the cover. There’s a sword on it. Image result for snow crash neal stephenson

But the book is just too smart for me! It devolves into this weird conspiracy theory focused around Babylonian religion and weaponizing that via technology. It went way over my head – and while I’m no genius, I’m also not stupid, and it’s not often that a book just completely baffles me. Thankfully, I still managed to write a paper that focused partially on this book and received an A. Thanks schmoop.com. My experience with Snow Crash seems to be pretty common around those who were in my class. A lot of people hated this book. But for me, since I loved the first hundred pages or so, I found it really hard to hate the book. I got there eventually, though, and I’ll never read it again. That’s another 500+ pages of my life that I will never get back. (I just feel so betrayed by it!). The rest of the books we read in this course were awesome, though, so I’ll forgive my prof for this one. (The course, by the way, was “Posthumanism”).

 

Moving on to the fun stuff! The best books I read in university!  Again, no particular order. These books are all fantastic!

 

5) I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

I’ve never been super into sci fi books, although I love sci fi films. This book may have changed by mind. I think I just dislike really vast sci fi, the same way I don’t always like reading fantasy that focused too much on the word and the rules of the world. I, Robot is nothing like the Will Smith film, before you get any ideas. Rather, it is a set of short stories chronicling the creation of robots. From my vast (okay, Wikipedia) reading about the book, the stories were all published independently to start with, and then Asimov brought them all together into this one book. The frame narrative is fantastic, and it connects the stories really well.

I think my favourite thing about the novel (which I wrote about in my paper – coincidentally the same paper which I mentioned in my Snow Crash review) is that it chronicles robots as they become increasingly human. Starting with the stereotypical robot that shows up in picture books and comics, and resulting in a robot which is so human that people cannot tell that it is a robot. The evolution is fascinating. It also uses the three laws of robotics (yes, the ones from the start of the Will Smith movie) in such a cool way, where at times they need a “robopsychologist” to figure out how the robots are interpreting what they’ve been ordered to do.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone, and I’m looking forward to reading more Asimov in the future! He’s near the top of the list of “Authors I’d Like to Read More Of!”

4) Kissing the Witch – Emma Donoghue 

This is another book of interconnected short stories. This time, they’re adapted fairy tales, which was for (you guessed it!) my fairy tales/children’s lit class. I don’t really know how to describe these, but they’re so cool. They’re not necessarily modern, and they’re not necessarily magical. Each of the tales is based on a traditional Western fairy tale, starting with “Cinderella” and ending with “The Little Mermaid” – with one exception. The final tale is original, with no literary antecedent.

I really cannot explain these tales. They feel magical, even though there’s no magic. They’re highly romantic, and also highly emotional. They detail abuse, neglect, and fear. They chronicle love, freedom, and the creation of identity. My paper on this book was about queerness and female characters. It’s got a bit of everything in it – straight couples, LGBTQ+ couples, platonic relationships, romantic relationships. The tales are connected because the secondary character in one tale is the primary character of the next, making a chain of stories told down the line.

I know that I’m not doing this book justice. So go read it for yourself, it’s short. It’s also fairy tales, but it’s not childish. It’s written for an older audience for sure!

 

3) Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Joan Didion

Oh wow. Another book of short stories. Would you look at that. It’s like there’s a theme (there’s not, but I think it may be that books of short stories are really refreshing when you read 12+ novels a term, nearly all of which are 300+ pages of one story!). This is also the first non-fiction book on the list! We read it in my American Lit course, which probably has the most mixed bag of texts I’ve ever read. There were several that I loved, I hated Lot 49, and there were two books that I simply didn’t finish.

This book is actually a bit of a microcosm of the course. Because they are unrelated short stories – actually articles that Joan Didion wrote throughout her years as a journalist – some of them were stories that I really connected to, and some I did not. But overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I wanted to include it because it’s so different from anything else I read over these four years.

Didion is also on the list of “Authors I’d Like to Read More Of,” and I keep meaning to watch the Netflix documentary about her life. Her writing style is so clear, and it feels purposeful, but not laboured.

2) Life and Death In the Third Reich – Peter Fritzsche

I actually wrote a really long instagram post about this book when I was reading it, in February 2017, so I think I’ll just insert that here:

“I’m currently reading this excellent book for my history class. And if there’s one trend that I’m noticing it is that SILENCE MEANS ACCEPTANCE. It is because people didn’t resist the boycotting of Jewish shops, Jewish professionals, and eventually any contact with Jewish people, that it became possible for the Nazi Party to roll out more and more severe policies against the Jewish population.

“We just watched Trump’s speech to Congress, and this is all I could think about. His rhetoric included calling out illegal immigrants for the types of crimes which are committed by American citizens every day.

“Reading this book is too grounded in the present for me. We all need work together the ensure that hatred and othering does not become the new norm – even in Canada it has been evident that there has been an increase of hatred. So please, everyone, let’s work together to ensure that we can turn this around.

“Also read this book, it’s fascinating. (Ps. I’ve not been very political over social media in the past. But it is important to resist this hateful way of thinking, even in small ways such as this.) ”

Essentially: this book is really grounded in the present, but it also a fascinating look at the every day life of Germans in the onset of World War II, and throughout the war. It’s a study in complicity. I would highly recommend it.

1) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

I bet you weren’t expecting that. I have a long standing love of P&P. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve been watching the 1995 adaptation since I was a baby, and I first read P&P in grade 7, when I was 11. I’ve been a huge fan of all sorts of adaptations – Bride and Prejudice (a bollywood film), the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (youtube webseries), even the Mormon film (okay this one is weird but I really want to find someone else that’s seen it so we can talk about some of the interesting choices they made in making it!).

So when I saw that this was assigned for my adaptations course, I was so excited. And honestly it was everything I’ve dreamed of and more. I haven’t seen the film, but apparently it’s crap (my friend’s review was “2/10, and only because I like Lily James and she’s worth at least two stars), so if you’ve seen the movie and you’re thinking “what is she even thinking?? This is the worst version of Pride and Prejudice I’ve ever seen!”, bear with me.

This book makes some awesome choices; sure there are zombies, but marriage is still the priority for Mrs. Bennet, and the sisters have to balance survival with propriety. Not to mention one epic (and epically disgusting) zombie transformation of a primary character. It even includes the line “What? Five girls and you don’t have any ninjas?” (that’s paraphrased, but put it in Lady Catherine’s voice and you can’t go wrong). In my class we had some awesome discussions on orientalism, propriety, Mr. Bingley, the Darcy-Elizabeth romance, as well as Charlotte and Mr. Collins almost singlehandedly destroying all of our preconceived notions of their characters. Honestly if you like Pride and Prejudice at all, go read this book.  P&P&Z is delightful.
Congrats, you made it to the end! This is longer than a lot of papers I’ve written!

But seriously, I would be really interested in your thoughts on these books. Did you have a similar experience? Or did you hate a book I loved? What were the best and worst books that you’ve had to read for school!

I’m hoping that, with more time on my hands, I’ll be writing more posts. What do you want to see next? I think I’d like to talk about the best English courses I’ve taken, but I might do a few more in depth book reviews before that… any thoughts?

Podcasts, Music, Audiobooks – oh my!

Hi again!

I thought that this time I would talk about some things that my ears have been enjoying recently.

So first off, podcasts. 

I’ve always liked Welcome to Night Vale, but most people have already heard of it, so I thought I would write about some things you maybe haven’t yet heard of!

1. The Protagonist Podcast

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This is a podcast run by two guys who seem to have known each other from childhood, and both of them are profs. They usually pick a movie, book, show, or comic book to talk about each week, and within each episode they pick a character (yes, usually he protagonist) to talk about. Okay, so they talk about books and movies and tv shows, what’s so special about that?

Well first off, they’re really funny. They do a really quick synopsis at the beginning of each episode, followed by a much more detailed plot summary. When the plot gets convoluted (See the episode on Jane Eyre, or the one on Wuthering Heights), they get really funny. Oftentimes their producer (the brother of one of them) pops in with questions, and it’s just very enjoyable. They also are not afraid of embarrassing themselves, so they do things like tell stories from their childhood, their children, or write (really bad) pun-runs because a listener asked them to.

Secondly, they’re feminists! Yay! They spend a lot of time talking about female agency, and it’s just really nice to know that a podcast run entirely by men can be pretty feminist. Now admittedly it’s pretty first world feminism, but it’s a start, and it’s based off of whatever material they’re dealing with each time. They also eschew social norms of hyper-masculinity and spend entire episodes gushing about Pride & Prejudice (I’m actually wearing a pride and prejudice t-shirt right now, so that will always get me hooked). They also gush about Disney, which is good fun.

Finally, my favourite thing. Sometimes they do what they call “drafts”. For instance, on mothers day they took a bunch of fictional orphans, and assigned them fictional mothers. Their producer has to decide who wins. I think my favourite one though, was when they had to each come up with tv shows which were loosely based on already existing works. I would watch Bronte General in a heartbeat.

Warning: do not listen to this on the bus. You will laugh. People will look at you like you’re crazy.

Here are links to a few of my favourites, I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Tangled, Wuthering Heights, Valentine’s Day Draft, Jane Eyre, Elevator Pitches

2. The West Wing Weekly

WestWingWeekly.pngOkay, I feel like some of you will have already heard of this.

I’ve been watching The West Wing since I was about eight, which in retrospect was a bit young. But they were just releasing the whole series on dvd, and my mum bought them and was watching them when I was around, and I was interested enough that she started from the beginning and watched them again with me. It’s a show about (idealized) American politics (what could be more perfect right now??), which ran from 1999-2006. It’s really good and it’s by Aaron Sorkin, so it’s well written!

This podcast is run by Joshua Malina and his friend Hrishikesh Hirway. Josh was one of the actors on the show (seasons 4-7), and so he has lots of insider behind the scenes information.

“But what exactly do they do???” I hear you ask. Well, they go through the show, one episode at a time and just talk about it. They nitpick, and they talk about how attractive Rob Lowe is, and Josh beats up on Bradley Whitford and it’s great. They also get actors, crew, and relevant politicians on the show to talk about certain episodes.

They’re currently halfway through season two, so there’s not too much to catch up on! If you haven’t watched the show, this is a great way to get into it. It’s spoilers free for future episodes. I would suggest watching the episode, and then listening to the corresponding podcast.

Honourable mention: Dear Hank and John

Music!

I really just want to talk about 8tracks, because that’s where all of my study music comes from. And I’m just going to leave links to my top five study playlists, and a few other playlists that I really enjoy.

Also I’ve been listening to “Hamilton” non-stop (hah. Hamilton puns)! If you haven’t listened to it, why?????

Study Playlists:
Storytime: The Prologue (actually a whole series of these but this is the first)
100 Songs Later
Storybook Springtime
Friendly and Tenacious
I bear you always in my heart

Other playlists (oh goodness there are a lot…):
Ginny’s ipod – indie
They were never together: a peter/balthazar fanmix  – Lovely Little Losers fanmix
My Angel Put the Devil in Me – Electroswing and swing
Sharpie Stars  – Fanmix for Lola and the Boy Next Door
Mini-Show 387: 60’s Summer – 60’s music
You Can’t Stop This Beat – musicals!
Dancing Like an Idiot – more 60’s music
It’s not my fault, i’m happy – happy pop music
Who am I, darling, to you?  – Chill indie music

Finally, Audiobooks!

I’m an English major (wow, it’s like I say that in every post I make or something). This means that I have a metric crapliton of reading to do. It’s honestly crazy. Last year one of my friends mentioned Libravox, which is a website/app/youtube channel where people read books that are in the public domain (aka they’re free). I tried it once and wasn’t too fussed, but then I had to read a Dickens novel for class. In three weeks. And well, there’s only so much sitting in one place and reading that you can do when you’re tired and the subject matter can be dry. (Although lots of this book is really funny, large parts of it also are very dry.) And when you have five papers to write in three weeks.

So I had to clean up my room because the floor-drobe was insane and I thought “hmm, maybe I’ll see if they have Our Mutual Friend as an audiobook,” and what do you know, they have three different versions of it! So that’s been a life saver. Especially the other day when I had a headache behind my eyes which made reading and essay writing impossible. I just listened to it instead! Although I definitely fell asleep and had to put it back at one point. Whoops.

Anyway, if you have trouble reading classics, but you like them, this is a great way to do it! Some versions suck, but others are really good (I’m using OMF#3 because the first two were mediocre, but the woman doing #3 sounds like a pro!)

So these are some things that I’ve loved listening to lately! What about you? Any music recommendations? Audiobooks? Podcasts? Anything else you listen to?

I’ll be back soon, although probably not before the end of school,

Megan

 

So…it’s been a while

Hey hey hey,

I would just like to say that halfway through the summer I had the best intentions to be regular here. I actually really like spilling my guts out and just rambling on some subject or another. I actually have a stack of post its (from work, lets be honest) that’s been sitting on my dresser since….july?

It says:

  • Blog post: faves (with a list of things I loved over the summer, ranging from books to podcasts to makeup to ice cream so….)
  •  The last five years (and then what I loved about it)
  • a cue-card whining about how everyone things I’m stupid and a slack because I’m an arts (humanities) student (honestly though I could spend months ranting about that)
  • Blog post: my trip (which was in may)
  • Blog post: my friends wedding! (which was July)

So the intentions were definitely there! But….something must have happened. And then once school started, all bets were off. This is the busiest term I’ve had so far. I have two weeks of classes left and three papers to write. I’m actually part way through one of them now, so yay me. But seriously, that’s what I should be doing right now. But instead I thought I would just remind y’all that I still exist and that hopefully my school papers/studying procrastination will pay off here, and I’ll get a post or two done.

Here are some other things I want to talk about

  • the crown (because holy crap, this show is awesome and i’m only four episodes in)
  • maybe just all the tv show’s i’m really loving
  • my classes, because they’re all seriously interesting
  • all the things that i’ve never read/watched but really should
  • hamilton?
  • the election  actually I don’t even want to go there, and I’m Canadian sooooo
  • books that I read this term for school
  • my dirty poetry class (okay so it was 17th cent poetry but lets be honest, we only read the dirty poems)

Okay, I seriously should be finishing my paper on the Earl of Rochester and his very dirty poetry. So bye for now. I’ll be back, I promise.

In the meantime, why don’t you tell me what you’d like to see from me, and I’ll try and make it happen. (Preferably from the above list but honestly, I just do better when people expect things from me so if you want me to write anything, it will probably happen).

See you all on the other side of finals!

 

Megan

Book Questions!

Book Questions!

So I saw this list of questions on tumblr, and I really wanted to answer them. I don’t think I’ll do them all now, but lets get to it!

1: What is your favorite book? 

I made a post about this which can be read hereBut that’s only a short list and who can pick their favourite book anyway?

2: What was the last book you read?

So a few years ago my mum was working on a book. I want to be an editor so I just read what she’s written so far (and totally love it!). But the last real book I read was probably The Complete Perseoplis by Marjane Satrapi. And this is something I almost never say, but… I think I liked the movie better? Anyway, it’s a graphic novel about life in Iran during and after the revolution. I think it’s a pretty interesting read, especially about something that I don’t know a ton about.

3: What is the worst book you’ve ever read?

Look, I’m an English Major, I read books that I hate all the time. I also read books that I love all the time. But so far, I think the worst one was The Spoils of Poynton, by Henry James. It doesn’t have a plot. I mean it does, but nothing happens in it and it’s just so boring.
4: Top 7 book characters.

Oh geez. Okay. Hmm. This is off the top of my head so please don’t take this as the best/most complete list ever. It’s also in no particular order.

  • Ginny Weasley (Harry Potter)
  • Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)
  • Ella (Ella Enchanted)
  • Cath (Fangirl)
  • Gemma Doyle (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy)
  • Char (Ella Enchanted)
  • The Weasley twins (Harry Potter)

Okay, so that was mostly just me looking at my bookshelf and trying desperately to remember any characters at all.

Also I realize that that last one is two…just shhhh.

5: What is your favorite genre?

I don’t even know anymore. I used to say fantasy, ‘cuz, Harry Potter. But I don’t even know anymore. I’ll read anything? Or at least I’ll try anything.

6: Book you cried the hardest reading?

I don’t know about hardest, but the first book I ever cried reading was Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson). I was about 12.

7: Book you laughed the hardest reading?

Harry Potter 6. Every time.

8: Which book character(s) do you most relate to?

Cath, from Fangirl. Pretty much anyone who spends too much time on schoolwork, or inside fictional universes.

9: Favorite author(s)?

I love Kit Pearson, a wonderful Canadian kids author. Also the inspiration for my blog name. I love Maureen Johnson for YA (the Shades of London Series is awesome). Gail Carson Levine, Neil Gaiman, John Green, Jane Austen, Shakespeare (look, I’m an english major okay? also ye olde-fashioned dick jokes are hilarious)….the list goes on,

10: Do you judge books by their covers?

YES. I mean I’ll read something with a not as nice cover, but, to quote Elle in Legally Blonde: The Musical “I know that books with ratty covers stay on the shelves”.

11: What is your favorite quote from a book?

My favourite short quote from a book is “I feel too deeply and want to much” from  the Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray.

But my favourite long quote is probably

Because after all the shattered hopes, after all the blood and death, we woke as if from a nightmare only to find that the ugly still are not beautiful, and the dull still do not sparkle. That this one sings better than that one, and he got the position I wanted. And her cow gives more milk. And they have a bigger house and he married the girl I loved. And no writ, no bill, no law nor declaration will ever change it.

or

I will rain down silver and gold for you. I will shatter the black night, break it open, and pour out a million stars. Turn away from the darkness, the madness, the pain. Open your eyes and know that I am here. That I remember and hope. Open your eyes and look at the light.

both of which are from Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly.
12: Which book do you recommend to friends and family most?

It all depends on who I’m recommending it too!

13: Which book is so special to you that you don’t share it with others?

I’m not actually sure that I have one!

14: Do you have any signed books?

Yes I do! Signed John Green books. My friends mum wrote a book which won the Governor  General’s Literary award, and I have a copy of her book which I signed. I also have a signed copy of Chasing the Moon by Penny Chamberlain, which is another awesome Canadian kids book.

15: Have you met any authors?

my friends mum, a few people from my church, but no one “cool”.

16: Buy books new, used, or go to the library?

All of the above! I usually just buy books new because it’s guaranteed that I’ll get it, whereas at a library or second hand shop, it’s a bit up for grabs. I also read things on my kobo a lot. I also like owning books, so I’m more likely to buy them than go to the library.

17: Where is your favourite place to read?

Anywhere warm and sunny! I have a really wide windowsill, so I used to always sit there to read. (I also get a lot of reading done on the bus to and from school, but that’s not very pleasant!)

18: Prefer books set in the past or the future?

PAST. I loooove history, so things set back in time are amazing.

19: What 5 elements would your ideal book have?

  •  a kickass female character
  • some sort of romance that I can totally get behind (but preferably that isn’t the whole plot….although I do love me some chick lit)
  • humour!
  • tears! (I freaking love a book that can make me cry)
  • diversity!!!!

20: Do you ever hope to publish your own book?

Well, I’m going to help my mum with hers, so hopefully that gets published one day!

21: Prefer stand alone or series?

Sometimes a stand alone could have a wonderful sequel, and I’d be down for that. And then sometimes I love a series but it just goes further downhill with each new book *cough Blue Bloods*

22: Do you mark/highlight/dog ear your books or keep them in perfect condition?

Have I mentioned that I’m an English major? I write in books for a living.

But even before that I would highlight. And I also lose bookmarks, so I’ve been dog-earing books for years.

Books are made to be loved. They aren’t museum artifacts. If I need to, I’ll buy a new copy (but I’ll always keep the old copy!)

23: Hardbacks or paperbacks?

…I don’t have a preference?  Paperbacks are easier to cart along with you though, but they’re also more likely to get ruined in my backpack.

24: Do you watch any booktubers?

Nope.

25: Have you read _______?

Please send me blanks to fill in! (I just really love talking to people about books they love)

26: Do you like twist endings?

YES.

27: Do you reread books?

YES YES YES.

28: E-readers or physical copies of books?

I love physical copies, but I also like the portability of my kobo. It’s the best for holidays. Plus if you finish one book, you have more on hand!

29: A book that makes you feel comforted?

Harry Potter.

30: Would you rather read any ending that makes you feel happy or sad?

Either, as long as I feel something very, very strongly.

31: Favorite villain in a book?

Not the one in The Cursed Child, that’s for sure.

32: Do you like to write reviews when you finish a book?

Sometimes! (Maybe I should write one on The Cursed Child? I have a lot of conflicting emotions about this.)

33: Do you experience “book hangovers”?

Oh Lord do I ever.

34: Favorite book cover(s)?

tumblr_mixxgtpasx1s3jza0o1_500all_the_light_we_cannot_see_doerr_novel

90478_300 (this one especially!)

35: Send me a book recommendation?

Please do. Because I don’t have enough books to read anyway, and it’s not like school starts up in two weeks or anything…

 

 

Holy crap I did it. I did them all.

Anyway, I was thinking about maybe doing a favourites post at the end of the summer. Favourite movies, books, fashion, etc. Branching out of my literary shell (oh boy was that a mixed metaphor). Lemme know what you think?

 

As always, recommendations, comments and questions are welcome!

(Also congrats on making it to the end, this seems to be a long one)

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Cross posted from my book tumblr, which I’m now going to get rid of since I never use it. Originally published over a year ago.

So I’ve finished my exams! No more papers, readings or studying for me. Which means that I finally have time to read again! A few days ago I finally finished my first (reading for fun) novel of the year. And yes, I realize it’s April. I’ve been working on it, two pages at a time, while eating breakfast, and I finally got to read the last few hundred pages sitting outside in the sun. It was wonderful.

The book I was reading, if the title of this post didn’t make it clear, was American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

I’ve read Neil Gaiman before. I loved Stardust, Smoke & Mirrors, and Coraline. So I was familiar with his style of writing, and I quite love it. However, I’m not sure how I feel about this novel (maybe writing this will help me out?).

I love the concept: When people travelled to America, they brought with them their gods from their own religions and cultures. But as the years went on people stopped worshipping these gods, and instead started worshipping the modern gods of technology, innovations,  and inventions. This left these “foreign” gods to slowly fade, not getting what they need to survive.

This is all I knew when I started the book. As I went on I realized that although the writing was exactly what I expected (and loved. Seriously, Neil Gaiman writes so beautifully. And if you somehow doubt that, read “Dark Sonnet”, a poem which I adore), but I wasn’t in love with the plot. (I did love the ending though, and the ending is one of the best parts of a book.) The way that Neil Gaiman writes lends itself well to visualization and really feeling what is happening. I am not a visual person when I read. I don’t see characters or see the story playing out like a movie in my head- and yet when I read this book I really could. Which was pretty exciting to me.

Actually, now that I’m thinking it over I’m starting to like this book more. I loved the characters, they had real depth to them, which is always lovely. I really understood them, and their motivations, and their thought processes.

Maybe it’s just one of the books which you need to let sink in. Honestly, I would still give it a solid 7-8 out of 10.

I would reread it. Maybe not in tiny chunks like I did the first time (which is what I now blame my initial gut reaction on), but sit down and properly read it in a day or two.

My Recommendation:

I wouldn’t recommend that this be the first of his books that you read. I would start either with a short story anthology (such as Smoke and Mirrors), or something slightly more optimistic (like Stardust). But I would definitely say read this book.

I would also say that it’s not for younger readers. Be like 17 or older if you’re planning to read it. It’s kind of graphic. Although I was listening to Neil Gaiman on The Nerdist, and he rightly pointed out that he puts one very graphic, very visceral scene at the beginning (like first chapter), so that you can decide right off that bat if you’re going to read this book.

Other than that, I hope you read it.
Send me questions, comments, recommendations on how to better format this? (It is, obviously, my first book recommendation, so please give me feedback!)

Hope you’re having a great day and reading some great books!

Megan

 

ps. since publishing this post last April, they’ve announced they’re making this into a tv show – I think a mini-series – which I’m totally excited to watch!
pps. I would also recommend Coraline, which is creepy but great.

THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY – DOUGLAS ADAMS

Another review taken from my book tumblr (which I never use so I want to take everything off there and put it on here!)

So this book is a classic. And I had never read it.
Well that’s not quite true. About a year and a half ago I was babysitting, and I finished my book. I had seen HGGTTG on their bookshelves before, so I grabbed it and started reading. And I instantly loved it. I read the first hundred(ish) pages while babysitting, but then school got in the way and I didn’t have time, and they needed me to babysit less, so I couldn’t read it when I was over there. So what I’m saying is that I never got to finish this wonderful book.

This book is fantastic. Plot aside, the writing makes me think of the weird things that my friends and I say all the time. It’s great. The plot is really funny, and I giggled my way through the entire book.

I seriously relate to the protagonist, Arthur Dent, with his confusion and refusal to believe what is happening around him. (If I was in the position of being the last human, hitchhiking through outer space, I would refuse to believe it too.) In case you haven’t seen the film (I still haven’t) or just have never heard of this book, I’ll give you a quick little summary:  Arthur Dent discovers that his best friend is an alien, who then forces a reluctant Arthur to hitchhike his way across…well the galaxy. I guess the title pretty much sums it up. They constantly run into problems and are getting themselves in and out of scrapes!

Essentially, I really, really, really love this book. It is hilarious, and despite being absolutely ridiculous and far fetched and taking place in space I somehow found it relatable. Which is kind of weird.

This was a short book, so it was a quick read. However, there are four other books in the same “Trilogy” (it’s called the Trilogy of Five, which I find hilarious). Even with five books, I would say it’s a fairly quick read. It’s not complicated or confusing (although I wouldn’t call it a simple book).

I have the edition pictured above, and it came with a forward by Russell T. Davies (who was the Doctor Who showrunner during the 9th and 10th doctors), and at the end of the book there were some letters, posters etc. about the book and its fandom, which I found fascinating.

I have not yet read the other four books in the the Trilogy of Five, but I didn’t just order them from chapters, so I’ll read them when they get here. I also haven’t seen the film, but I’ll watch that after I finish the book.

Edit: I’ve read the rest. The first is by far the best but they’re all enjoyable! Still haven’t seen the film though!

I would give this book a 9 out of 10!

My recommendation: 

Read it. Please read it. It is so funny. I’ve already lent my copy to a friend because seriously this book is wonderful. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone below high school age, although there isn’t much that’s racy in it, so that is a very loose age recommendation. (I probably would have loved it if I had read it any time after grade four)

Anyone who likes Doctor Who or Neil Gaiman would absolutely love this!

So go forth and read it, love it, share it. Let me know what you think about it!

Happy reading!

Megan

All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr

Cross posting this from my book tumblr so I can get rid of that.

Let’s be honest, I chose this book for two reasons:

1) The cover is beautiful. My edition has a slight shimmer to it too, which just adds to the appeal
2) It’s about World War Two, which I find one of the most fascinating eras of history (although really I find all eras of history fascinating, but WWII has a lot of fantastic literature….). On top of that it is half about a French girl, and half about a German boy. Most of the WWII fiction I’ve read has been from either a British or Canadian standpoint, so both of those are fairly new to me.
2.5) It’s partially set in St. Malo, a French city which I’ve been too, and which I will be visiting this summer.

When I heard that it was about “a German boy-genius  and a blind French girl whose lives intertwine at the climax of the second world war”, or whatever the blurb on the back of the book said, I was definitely expecting a love story in which the boy betrays his country to save the beautiful but strange girl he met in France. What I got was so much better.

I found the descriptions in this book very visceral. I mean, there was rarely any violence, blood, gore, or sex in it, and yet everything prompted a strong reaction from me. Especially the scenes in which I could see the Nazi indoctrination. (A few days before reading this book I actually had a series of really terrifying dreams in which that type of indoctrination happened, and so when I was reading it, which made it even more vivid and horrifying for me.) I really enjoyed the way that it didn’t portray the Nazis as a group of people who all believed what they were told, because let’s be honest, not all of them did. A survival of the fittest atmosphere was created, and that is shown extremely well in this novel; how if you wanted to live (and live well) it was necessary to follow orders and do things you would never do. Side note: this really scares me because what if that ever happens to me? I like to believe that I would stick up for what is right and join the resistance and such, but when it comes down to it I have no clue if I would have the guts.

This novel also portrays the French resistance and the occupation of France. It shows what happened to people on the home front, in both France and Germany. (Again, interesting, because I haven’t read much fiction about the German home front. )

Overall, I would say that this book is interesting and beautifully written. It did take me a little while to get into, but it was worth it.

I would also give a trigger warning for rape. It’s barely mentioned (and is barely explicitly said), maybe just in a page or two, but it isn’t pleasant, and if that is something that you don’t want to read about, I would stay away from this book. Use your discretion.

I’m going to give this novel an eight out of ten.

If you’ve read this book, what did you think? Any book recommendations for me?

Favourite Summer Books (so far!)

So where I come from, university exams finish right at the end of April. Which means that I’ve already had two months of summer vacation, with two months still to go! Now obviously I haven’t been just sitting around and doing nothing, like I did a lot during the summers back in high school. I’ve already been on a three week vacation, been in my year end dance show, helped my friend prep for her wedding (which is in four days, I’m so excited!), and I’ve been working a lot.

I’ve also been reading a lot. Plane rides and train rides and lunch hours are very good for your reading milage. So I thought that I would talk about the top two books that I’ve read so far this summer. Go get some snacks, this may be a long one. (These are such good books that  I don’t know if  I can keep it brief!)

Between Shades of Grey – Ruta Stepetys

 between-shades-of-gray

Okay, so I’d like to warn you off the bat that this book is not light reading. It’s set during World War 2, and it’s about a part of second world war history which is not very well known.

It follows Lina, a Lithuanian teenager, as she and her family are deported from their home country by Stalinist Russia. Lina, her mum, and her brother are separated from her father. Along with many other innocent Lithuanians, they end up in Siberia. Lina’s family are victim’s of the Genocide of the Baltic Peoples-in which (according to some quick research, so don’t quote me on this – although it does sound right from what I already knew) approximately seven million people died. Now, I’ve taken three world history courses which cover this time period, and we’ve talked about this all of once. Unlike the commonly known Holocaust, this has been covered up by various Russian and Soviet regimes after the war, all of which would have made it extremely dangerous to speak out about the atrocities which occurred during this genocide.

This next paragraph is a bit of a spoiler, so be warned.

The most moving and fascinating scene, in my opinion, happens when Lina and the other prisoners are moved extremely far north, above the Arctic Circle. The NKVD (Soviet police or soldiers or something like that – to me they seemed analogous to the SS or Gestapo) herd the prisoners into buildings, and forbid them from leaving. All the while, American troops are bringing food, building supplies, clothing, and more – giving them to the NKVD, who are hiding the Lithuanians from the Americans. The Soviets know that they are doing something wrong; they know that the Americans would have a problem with this, that they would fight back about this unjustified persecution of innocent people. This angers me – when I read it I was livid. It’s just so infuriating that people can ever do such truly heinous things and know that they’re wrong. I can’t even properly put it into words.

My recommendation is that you read this book. Now. Despite living through such horrific events, Lina, her family, and her fellow prisoners keep hope. It’s rather sappy, but that is really inspirational to me. I also think that it’s super important that people learn about things like this. Novels are a great way to get basic information on a subject – I personally plan on reading up on this as much as possible (although a cursory Google search already shows me that this is going to be difficult to find information- maybe I’ll hit up my school library!)

 

 A Song for Summer – Eva Ibbotson

This book is much, much lighter than the other – despite being set around the same time period. And I’m going to be perfectly honest: I haven’t actually finished this book yet, although I’m pretty darn close. But I can tell that the ending will be just as good as the rest. I’ve read other books by Eva Ibbotson; The Star of Kazan was a favourite of mine when I was a kid. Ibbotson has a sort of magical style of writing. I honestly don’t know how to explain it – her books are set in the “real world”, and yet they feel almost like fantasy novels.

Ellen is an English woman, who grew up in a house full of extremely feminist aunts and her equally feminist mother. But instead of wanting an academic career, as was encouraged by her family, she moves to Austria to be a house mother and house keeper at a rather odd school for the arts. You quickly meet all the personalities who reside at the school – the ballet instructor who gives herself the biggest role; the metalwork teacher who runs around naked, showing off a scary looking appendix scar; an angry Marxist (but also very rich) student; a cute, innocent little girl, abandoned by her divorced parents; all of the characters are larger than life, and yet the setting of the Hallendorf School is more than large enough to hold them all. Alongside all these large character is the gardener, Marek. Marek is the only “sane” person at the school. He gives tortoises wheels so that they can walk easier, showing exactly the kind of compassion that Ellen likes 😉 But – at the risk of sounding like a cheesy back cover blurb –  Marek comes with a mysterious past.

Seriously, this book is like sunshine. It’s glorious. Despite being set at the onset of the Second World War, in Austria (pre-annexation), I’ve still been smiling the whole way through the book. And yes, even though it’s a book that feels like summer in written form, it also puts an excellent emphasis on what it was like to live in Austria while the threat of Hitler overshadowed everything. Also it uses the word “defenestrate” on a fairly regular basis. I love it. It’s worth reading for the ridiculous opera singer alone….

I’ve been reading it on my Kobo, but I think I want to buy the physical book so I can mark it up a bit (oh the english major in me will not be kept down).

Please read this book. And then get back to me and tell me what you think.

 

 

Actually, please read both the books. They’re super different, but both excellent. Let me know what you think!