Friday, March 26, 2010

A Absurd Take on Twilight

I was originally going to include this in my last post but figured it warranted its own posting. A few weeks ago I was in Boston for a conference and was killing time by visiting the Harvard book store (side note: I felt incredibly out of place, like everyone there knew that I didn’t go to Harvard which I doubt). So, I picked up Nightlight to read which is written by the staff of the Harvard Lampoon. The book is a parody of the book Twilight (which second aside: this is something that always bothered me. Why is Twilight considered a saga and Harry Potter which is way more epic is just a series? What makes a saga? I must research this further). I didn’t finish it then but I did finish it today while killing time at Borders.
It is absolutely absurd. Now I’m not a die-hard Twilight fan, I’ve read the books and seen the movies (finally saw New Moon thanks to Netflix) but this is just a ridiculous parody. The story is about Belle Goose, the teenage heroine who moves from Pheonix to the tiny town of Switchblade, Oregon to live with her father who is the only window-washer in the whole town (already absurd). She goes to school expecting to be a big hot shot and acts like the most self-absorbed person in the history of the world. She meets a boy, named Edwart Mullen, who is the dreamiest person she has ever laid eyes on whom she is convinced is a vampire because he’s pale, has bags under his eyes, doesn’t like blood, and won’t date. Plus she thinks he saves her life when he jumps in front of a snowball destined for her (that part was actually pretty funny but she was ridiculous about it). She finally wears him down and he takes her hiking to see his freak robot that can only stand up and fall back down (that will be important later on). She tries to get him to carry her out of the woods because he is so fast and strong but he can’t do it he is barely breathing by the time he finishes the five foot walk. She also meets his family including his plastic surgeon father who admits to doing illegal surgeries on his family. Yet she relentlessly insists he is a vampire (is that some sort of commentary on teenage girls today?) and not just the weird nerd he really is, and keeps hoping he will turn her into one of him. She insists on them walking her home through the cemetery, which he is terrified of, because it is the perfect setting for her transformation. He makes her stop and they sit down on this grave and it opens up to reveal an actual vampire, Josh the Leather King, who was also in her class but she ignored for her fake vampire boyfriend. Belle isn’t worried because she thinks Edwart will save them because he is a vampire, but he sits her down and assures her that he is not and then runs away. Belle however now falls in love with the actual vampire who thirty seconds ago wanted to eat her but now wants to take her to the vampire prom. They go, and due to her terrible dancing and a dress mishap the vampires decide they want to eat her. I won’t spoil the ending (the robot saves the day) but I assure you it’s just as absurd as the beginning.
Now don’t get me wrong it was funny, I did laugh out loud at multiple parts, but I felt like they were trying too hard and forcing the comedy. They took terrible writing and made it worse, they took barely likeable characters and made them unlikeable (except Edwart was way more likeable than Edward Cullen), and took the already confusing musing of a lovesick teenager and made it even more muddled and weird. It was a funny storyline at first but as it went on I enjoyed it less and less. It is worth a quick read if you got time to kill in a bookstore but not worth the $15 you would have to pay for it.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book is the story of Hanna Heath an Australian rare book expert specializing in Medieval Hebrew manuscripts. She is tasked by the UN to preserve and conserve the Sarajevo Haggadah, a book with gorgeous illuminations and telling the story of the Passover Haggadah, that has a past as storied and arduous as the Jewish people themselves. The book was created in Spain in the 14th or 15th century and then smuggled out in the Jewish expulsion in 1492, it then resurfaced in Sarajevo during the bombings of the Bosnian War in 1992 where it magically survived the bombing of the museum it was housed in. Hanna is called in admits all the artillery fire to work on the manuscript. While investigating it she finds some interesting things including an insect wing, a white hair, wine stains, saltwater, and missing clasps. She investigates further and learns not only about the books history but about those people who created and helped save the book over its 500 years.

The book was a really good piece of historical fiction. Everything is purely fictional but like all good historical fiction is rooted in fact. The book actually existed and the author based most of the people and trials of the book on what real historians believe actually happened. For example the book really was miraculously saved during the bombing of Sarajevo and historians believe it was hidden from Nazis in a mosque in the mountains thanks to a brave librarian. I did sometimes have to remind myself that it is fiction as I wondered how Hanna knew such minute details about these people and their connections to the book. But then I guess that is a good sign in a fiction piece that it makes its readers believe this really happened. Plus I learned a lot about the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people during the modern era.

The book goes back and forth with past and present which can be a little confusing, but this was not. It flowed well. Every time Hanna learned a new fact about a strange thing she found out about the book there was a section outlining its significance. It was pretty short and engrossing and I read it relatively quick (although I can’t remember when I started it so I guess it may have taken me awhile). My only criticism is that there was a pretty needless story about Hanna and her parents. Not that I don’t care about her and her life but I wanted to learn about the book and this stuff just felt like filler, but it didn’t take me out of the story completely and it was really good regardless.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Four Months of Catchup

I’m a negligent blogger. It has been months since I last posted. No one really cares, because no one really reads this but still I feel bad. I haven’t stopped reading of course, just blogging. So to make up for it, here is a list of the books and a brief explanation of everything I’ve read since November.
1.) Reread The Twilight Saga: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer: Not the best book literary wise but when you work with teenage girls they talk of few other things (Justin Bieber, lip gloss, and boys) besides how dreamy Edward Cullen is and whether I am Team Edward or Team Jacob (the latter). So a year ago I took the plunge and read the books to see what the hype was about and to gain some street cred, taking many other twenty year old girls with me. I found the books are far better than a lot of people give them credit for. While Stephanie Meyer isn’t the best writer she does get in the head of a lovesick teenage girl and the storyline is pretty engrossing. If you’re looking for unintellectual y/a chicklit definitely read them. They get better as they go on.
2.) Gossamer by Lois Lowry: A short but pretty good story. It was about dream givers. An old woman serves as foster parent for a young boy who has terrible dreams that the Sinisteeds a group of evil horse-like creatures (I think there is a Doctor Horrible reference in there somewhere) who inflict nightmares on this sensitive subject. But luckily for him he also has his dream-givers to help, Littlest a dream giver-in-training who has Thin Elderly then to teach her. It was a quick read. It took only a few days to read and relatively little brain power but when it ended I felt happy all over.
3.) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle: A series I call, Books I Missed From Childhood. (I promise I read books meant for my age). It was a little bit to me like a less complex version of the His Dark Materials trilogy with its combination of science fiction/fantasy with spirituality and physics. In the story Mr. Murry a physicist exploring time travel goes missing. His children (and a random boy named Calvin) meet three strange women who tell them they need to help save their father and that they will aid them in traveling across time and space to do so. It ended a little abruptly for me and I wished there was more, but there are three more books in the series. It is another quick read (meant for kids). I read it in two days. I really liked it. I definitely wish I had read it when I was little but it’s never too late.
4.) Finished reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates: The story of the Wheelers is a new take on 50’s nostalgia. It is very long however. I started reading it a long time ago and stopped reading it. I can’t remember why I stopped. That says something for me. I rarely stop reading a book, especially if it’s good. But the fact that I can’t remember why I stopped reading it is a good sign. Over Thanksgiving I left the book I was reading on the train (I wasn’t all that upset I didn’t really like it) so all I had for the trip was A Wrinkle in Time for the five days I was home which included two six hour drives and two three hour train ride. So at my parent’s house I looked at my old books to see what I could read. I found this remembering I never finished reading it. I grabbed it and completely forgot why I stopped reading it in the first place, immediately drawn back into the story. It is slow but with a good ending. If you like a dark realistic take on suburban life or the 1950’s I recommend reading this.
5.) The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin: Another book I missed from childhood. The story of the sixteen people who are summoned to the home of Samuel Westing where they hear that he has died and that they are all heirs to his fortune, but that one of them is also his murderer. They must play this ridiculous game he created to win his fortune and figure out who the killed it. A quick read but seriously confusing. I wanted desperately to figure out the mystery and I got most of it but they threw me for a loop in the end and I had to think way too hard for a book meant for kids half my age. The characters are really interesting and it reads well no matter your age, I liked it and would recommend it if you like mysteries.
6.) Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Someone recommended this to me way back when and I never read it. It is the story of Piscine “Pi” Patel a vegetarian Indian boy who studies zoology along with religion. He practices Hindu, Islam, and Christianity. His family owns a zoo but decide to move to Canada and sell all the animals. On the trip to move and transport the animals he ends up shipwrecked and the only human survivor with a Bengal tiger and other animals. In order to survive he must come to terms with the fact that he has lost his whole family and train the tiger so it doesn’t kill him. Not to mention do all kinds of things he probably would not have done normally. It is a story of animal training, psychology, and the things people will do to survive. It ends a bit weirdly but was a relatively quick read and I definitely recommend it.
7.) The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: I’m a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh. Ask the stuffed Classic Pooh I’ve had since I was a child. If he could talk he would tell you. Or ask my brother and sister who both bought me this book for Christmas. This is a book about how Winnie the Pooh is an Eastern Philosopher because instead of worrying, over-thinking, pontification, not living up to what he says, or being depressing like all the other creatures in the Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh just is. The book is a quick read and is a lesson on how to live happily plus it includes many of the original illustrations from the A.A. Milne classic. I found myself analyzing my character in the other characters (I’m a Rabbit). If you like philosophy and/or Pooh I recommend this.
8.) Reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. It’s like the Twilight of my adolescence. This book came out two and a half years ago and the first time I read it in two days, which is huge for me. This time I wanted to take my time and let it all sink in. This time I saw the signs I should have seen before, sure I knew what to look for but still. It was definitely more enjoyable this time around. On a related note, my Mom read it for the first time recently and she thinks she is so brilliant and the queen of mystery solving because she figured some key mysteries out. To which I say, it’s a kid’s book. But really I’m jealous.
9.) College Girl by Patricia Wietz: The story of Natalie Bloom, a bookish college student at UConn who is jealous of the bourgeois kids for their money and sad that she won’t leave college with her M.R.S. or better yet with her V-Card. She throws herself into her studies as a Russian History major because it’s something she can control. She meets a guy named Patrick who seems ideal because he’s smart, not in a fraternity, and interested. They begin dating and she eventually gives it up to him (even though when he first tries she isn’t ready but shortly afterwards she changes her mind). But then her world falls apart. Her grades start slipping, she becomes nothing more than a friend with benefits to Patrick, and feels even less adequate. I found this book seriously realistic and heart-wrenching. Not the mindless chicklit I was thinking but really good!
10.) The Giver by Lois Lowry: Another book I missed from childhood. The story of Jonah who lives in a Utopian society where there is no color or pain, you share your feelings at dinnertime, children are given out to those whose applications are approved (and only one boy and one girl), you are assigned a career, and just about everything else (including your name) is decided for you. Jonah gets the unlikely job of being the new “receiver” the one who does know pain and sadness and becomes the keeper of the memories. It was very deep and interesting story especially with what Jonah decides to do with this new job and the privileged information he learns. Mostly I found myself thinking that this Utopia society seemed really odd and that I wouldn’t want to live in it. I’m not sure how I would have felt about it had I read it when I was little but at this age I liked it.
11.) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larrson: A thriller and mystery set in Sweden. It is the story of the journalist Mikael Blomqvist who is disgraced by the being sued and convicted of libel for printing a story about an industrial mogul. He is then higher by a new industrial mogul, Henrick Vanger, to solve the mystery of his niece Harriet who disappeared years ago and he suspects she was murdered. It also tells of Lisbeth Salander the PI/Hacker who teams up with Mikael. They then undercover even more sinister murders. It was a page-turner from start to finish. I figured out a key part of the mystery but as per usual I did not figure most of it out. Definitely good if you like murder mysteries. I’m going to hand this book to my mom the next time I see her and see if she can figure it out because she is the self described queen of mysteries (see Harry Potter entry). The ending came out of nowhere and set things up for the next book in the series but it was a good book as a stand alone book.

I think I may have left some books off (I can’t remember at all what I read in the end of January and the beginning of February) and they may be out of order. But still eleven books in four months is a pretty good accomplishment even if half of them are found in the kid’s section of the library. In a few days I’ll have a real post on the last book I read, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks and hopefully I will keep up with it this time.