Monday, January 28, 2013

Savages: Despite Aaron Johnson's face, I remain unconvinced

Savages, man. This book made me feel kind of empty inside. Not that I didn’t enjoy it. Because I think I did?

The story: Chon and Ben have a successful hydro-growing operation in So Cal, where they manage to do business with very little violence. Behold, the Good Guys. The Baja Cartel is expanding into Southern California and wants to take over Chon and Ben’s growing operation, with excessive violence if necessary. I present to you, the Bad Guys.

The female characters are a bit of a problem for me. We have exactly two of them: O, playing the part of Free Spirit, and Elena, Tough Boss Lady. To me, they seem like stock characters from some dude’s private fantasies (I’m looking at you, Don).

How to describe O? Tattooed manic pixie dream girl with an insatiable sex drive and a shopping addiction and daddy issues and a natural knack for machinery (“I'm an expert marksman even though I've never touched a gun before now!”).

And I LIKE wearing this schoolgirl outfit.

I think I’m supposed to care that she might be decapitated by a chainsaw and I just . . . don’t.

Elena is marginally more intriguing. As the last living member of the cartel's ruling family, she has very little choice about taking over leadership. And in the ultra-machismo Mexican drug culture, she has to prove that she’s not weak. But she doesn’t relish the role she plays.
“She didn’t want to kill them, but she had to, and for this she blames herself. Because she allowed the first man who disrespected her to get away with it. And the second, and the third. . . . Men teach you how they must be treated.” (pp. 97, 99)
She victimizes to avoid being victimized, which is absolutely a thing. But then this happens:
“In the U.S., Elena would be called a definite MILF.” (p. 101)

The leading men, Ben and Chon, are set up as exact opposites.
“Ben is warm wood, Chon is cold metal.
Ben is caring, Chon indifferent. . . .
She loves them both.
What to do, what to do?” (p. 42)
I can understand how O is in love with both of them, especially since O is such a . . . special lady. But the fact that the men in question are OK with this simultaneous loving is a little hard to swallow. (No pun intended. I apologize.) O has no idea how they feel about her divided loyalties (and doesn’t really care), so we never get insight into their thoughts on that matter. But I think it would have been a better book if Ben and Chon ran away together and ditched the blonde.

I rest my case.

The writing style is what salvages it for me. It’s machine-gun fast and cinematic, with small portions written in screenplay format to heighten the effect. The anonymous narrator has a clear, strong voice that really represents Southern California. And in the process of writing this paragraph, I’ve almost talked myself into liking the book.

Maybe if the women weren’t blowup dolls. Maybe then.

Friday, January 25, 2013

HP and the Readalong of Secrets 1: Quidditch continues to perplex me

So far, I'm enjoying Chamber of Secrets quite more than I thought I would, since it's my least favorite of the films. But I have hangups, friends.

In sports, the equipment is usually somewhat standardized for fairness, correct? But some Quidditch players have far better brooms that give them a big advantage over the other team (and even sometimes people on their OWN team . . . I'm looking at you, Harry).

But I like this:
"Ron's old Shooting Star was often outstripped by passing butterflies." (p. 46)
Which reminds me, MUCH was made of how poor the Weasleys are and how Mrs. Weasley had to clear out their vault at Gringotts just so she could afford to buy everyone's school things. But on the very next page, George and Fred are stockpiling fireworks. When money is tight, fireworks are usually the first thing to go, I would think. Do they have their own money? Are they endearingly mischievous twin SHOPLIFTERS?

Another possible concern:
"Snape looked as though Christmas had been canceled." (p. 81)
I don't believe this man cares for the comings or goings of Christmas.

I refuse, for the time being, to talk about Dobby and the questionable judgment involved in introducing children to an adorable house elf who punishes himself by ironing his own hands. I WILL, however, talk about Errol and how I don't care if he looks like an old feather duster and is awful at delivering mail because I love him.
"He carried Errol to a perch just inside the back door and tried to stand him on it, but Errol flopped straight off again so Ron lay him on the draining board instead." (p. 45)
Never change, Errol.

Friday, January 18, 2013

HP and the Sorceror's Readalong 2: Perhaps too many GIFs

The second half of Sorceror's Stone! My thoughts, they are scattered and perhaps not very intelligent. BULLET POINTS.

Chapter 10: Halloween

  • I am SORRY, but this is dirty:
"Too eager to fly again to wait for Wood, Harry mounted . . ." (p. 167)

  • My husband pronounces Seamus "SEE-MUS." Let's all laugh at him good-naturedly.

Chapter 11: Quidditch
  • Jordan's biased Quidditch commentary is my favorite.
  • How . . . did Harry catch the Snitch in his mouth? This is confusing to me.
  • Hagrid really shouldn't be allowed out of his hut when he has a secret.

Chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised

Chapter 13: Nicolas Flamel
  • If for no other reason, I can never, never, never-ever like Malfoy because he was mean to Neville. NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO BE MEAN TO NEVILLE.
  • I'm suspicious of Nicolas Flamel. Would a truly good wizard ever create something like a Sorceror's Stone, knowing how much evil it could cause in the wrong hands? At BEST, I find Nicolas Flamel to be incredibly irresponsible.
  • If you went to all the trouble of getting into those high stands for a Quidditch match and then the game was over in 5 minutes, wouldn't that be kind of disappointing? From a sports fan's perspective?

Chapter 14: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback
  • Seriously, Hagrid . . . just don't even leave your hut if you have a secret.

Chapter 15: The Forbidden Forest
  • Hagrid is in charge of their detention in the Forbidden Forest . . . but isn't it kind of his fault they have detention? Since they were trying to help him get rid of his dragon problem? I'm starting to understand why some people don't like Hagrid.
  • I do, however, ship Ron and Fang.
  • Do we think it's fairly easy to kill a unicorn? Voldemort/Quirrell isn't very strong . . . and unicorns are pretty sturdy. They at least must be good at running away, because horses.
:: Moment of silence for unicorn, who died far too easily ::

Chapter 16: Through the Trapdoor
  • I enjoy this chapter because it's like The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade COMBINED.
  • Also . . . awwwwww, Neville.

Chapter 17: The Man With Two Faces
"Harry breathed in the funny smell that seemed to come from Quirrell's turban." (p. 292)
Um . . . gross. Don't breathe that in, Harry.

Friday, January 11, 2013

HP and the Sorceror's Readalong 1: Sorceror's Stone-Induced Braincation

I'm trying really hard to have thoughts about THEMES and CHARACTERS and OWLS . . . but I'm drawing a total blank. And it's not because I'm not loving Harry Potter. It's because opening this book is like tying my brain to a fence post and letting it float in the warm breeze.

So we read Chapters 1 through 9. I think I remember them.

I know everyone is talking about the Dursleys and how they are terrible humans. It's true. They totally are. I was talking to Alice about this earlier today and thinking this seems to be a theme in children's lit, in particular. The first example that came to mind was Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, where there is, in fact, a child-bride situation. WHAT is our fascination with torturing fictional children?

But as bad as everything about Harry's life at the Dursleys was, my heart of stone didn't melt until this:
Harry got slowly out of bed and started looking for socks. He found a pair under his bed and, after pulling a spider off one of them, put them on. Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept. (p. 19)
NO ONE should be accustomed to spiders. This is a travesty.

And later in that chapter, when Harry has that conversation with the snake, I decided that I prefer Book Snake to Movie Snake. Book Snake is cheekier.

Is it generally acknowledged that the characters in this first book are a little . . . one-dimensional? I mean, I know because of the movies that even the worst characters have some pretty interesting back stories to explain their naughties. And the good ones sometimes turn out not to be quite 100% good. But for now, it's very black and white. Lady Rowling probably did that on purpose didn't she? Fine. Whatever. We'll revisit this later.

NOTE OF SOME IMPORTANCE: When Tika heard that I was borrowing the series for this readalong, she stood on her dining room table and declared, THIS SHALL NOT STAND. And then she immediately mailed me her spare set. I love you, Tikaaaaa! *hugs all seven books*

Saturday, January 5, 2013

READATHON: Miniature Edition

On any given day, nothing in the WORLD sounds better to me than barricading myself in a room with snacks and piles of books. That episode of The Twilight Zone where Burgess Meredith is alone with All The Books? I WANT TO BE HIM.

Yes...we're choosing to ignore the rest of the episode. Correct.

But 24 hours is a long time to commit to anything . . . even if that anything is reading and eating. So Tika proposed a brilliant solution: MINI-READATHON. Eight (or so) delicious hours of reading books and eating foodstuffs that fit the "mini" theme.

I just arrived at my parents' house in Florida last night and didn't have time to shop for mini-snacks, so I'll have to raid the pantry here and see what I can see. I will keep you all posted on my snack-related discoveries, but since you're on pins and needles about it, I can tell you that I'm currently eating some leftover Chinese takeout (miniature corn!). Also, I spotted a bag of marshmallows, and those are going in my mouth later.

Oh yeah . . . and the other part that I guess is kind of important is the books? I packed several in my suitcase and carried at least five onto the plane in my purse, because you never know when you'll need to participate in a readathon (GOOD THING I was prepared). I have no idea how many of the books that I have on-hand fit the "mini" theme, but I will find some convoluted way of justifying whatever I'm in the mood to read. So don't you worry about THAT.

To start off . . .

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
How it fits the theme: Children are miniature humans.

Maus, Vol. I
How it fits the theme: Mice are miniature animals.

The Sparrow
How it fits the theme: The scientists of the Society of Jesus have a miniature understanding of interacting with alien civilizations (i.e., THEY ARE WELL-INTENTIONED BUT IGNORANT AND RUIN EVERYTHING)

See how that works? Easy-squeezy.

Also, I kind of have to get some editing done today, which I GUESS counts as reading but is not what Burgess Meredith had in mind, I'm SURE. Anyway, I might diverge occasionally into the realm of congressional procedure . . . which I think we can all agree still fits the "mini" theme. So we're covered either way.

ALSO, I'll be reading in my parents' "reading room," which, coincidentally, rarely gets read in.

Christmas is alive and well in here.
UPDATE 1 . . . 2PM EST

The scene around noon: Me, happily sipping an overflowing cup of coffee while enthusiastically reading The Sparrow.

The same scene almost 2 hours later: Me, waking up holding a mug of cold coffee, having read a whopping 11 pages in The Sparrow.

(she wasn't really judging me,
because she was too busy sleeping on my face)
Is this jet lag? Am I just super lazy? Either way, more snacks are in order.

And I think it's time to switch to something a little lighter than The Sparrow. Harry Potter, HERE I COME.

UPDATE 2 . . . 3:30PM EST

Since we last talked, I acquired snacks and went on to enjoy moderate success in the Reading Department.

I have consumed mini-bagel chips and liiiiittle pretzel sticks, both submerged in a healthy amount of hummus, obviously. I have also eaten half a bag of marshmallows engineered in a flat rectangular shape so as to be more easily squished between pieces of chocolate and graham cracker.


I also started HP and the Sorcerer's Stone, and hoooooly wizards it's awesome. I don't think I'll be interested in reading anything else for the rest of the day.

I'm expecting a visitor any minute now, but the second half of my mini-readathon will resume soon I hope. *hits PAUSE button*


Oh man . . . I FAIL at readathoning, mini or otherwise. I fell asleep for the first couple of hours and then I missed almost the entire second half. But I PROMISE I have a good excuse, and it involved my sister-in-law and also my best friend, both of whom I haven't seen since last March. So YES, I really did want to hide inside and read all day, but Important Things came up. All that to say, my readathoning buddies are some of the best people I know and Tika is the awesomest for hosting and I am loving Harry Potter. AND LET'S DO THIS AGAIN SOON. Like tomorrow.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Harry Potter Readalong, or IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME

Hi, my name is Meg . . . and I’ve never read the Harry Potter series.

I belong to an exclusive-but-not-in-the-good-way club: people who never quite got around to reading what is arguably the most beloved book series of all time. No particular reason. Just never quite got around to it. And then I did the truly unforgivable and saw all the movie adaptations WITHOUT having read the books. I KNOW.

But we can really blame all this on my childhood. I grew up in kind of a conservative, anti-magic family. And when I say anti-magic, I mean . . . I wasn’t allowed to watch Sabrina, the Teenage Witch because it might give me ideas about dabbling in witchcraft. Because as we all know, nothing is more likely to lure young girls onto the side of the Devil than Melissa Joan Hart’s ability to butter toast without using her hands.

Get thee behind me, Sata--- MAGIC COOKIES!

So when the first Harry Potter came out and speedily grew in popularity, my mom had to read it first and determine whether it was acceptable for an impressionable youth such as myself. The problem was, as soon as she DID approve it, it lost its air of The Forbidden and I didn’t really care about it anymore. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, on the other hand? Watched every single episode . . . multiple times.

Now that I’m an “adult” and not quite as hellbent on loving only the things my parents have specifically advised me against loving, I’m just a girl standing here in front of a stack of Harry Potters, asking them to love me . . . even though I'm OLD.

P.S. Pottermore says I’m a Hufflepuff. Do with that what you will (which is to say, give me cookies and hugs).