Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sad news, Project 50 Redux: July and backvlog

I have some very sad news. My cat, Whiskers, died very suddenly and without apparent cause just before I moved out and came to England. It was the last thing I thought would happen right as I was about to take off on my big adventure, but I appreciated being able to lay her to rest with the friends who had been her family for much longer than I was. I miss her so very much. She was the most beautiful cat who slept next to me (if not on top of my head) every night. I could say something general about the loss of a pet, but I feel that would do an injustice to her memory, so I would just like you all to go hug your pets and tell them that you love them.

I've been lax in putting up my reviews because of moving, my cat dying and not feeling like it, going to England, being without internet, etc etc.

“That Takes Ovaries!:Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts” edited by Rivka Solomon
I found this while browsing the feminist section of the library. I feel like I’m constantly on my quest to figure out what kind of woman I want to be. This book definitely had a lot of ladies to live up to. There were tales of women who stood up to men and boys who rated their bodies. There were stories about ladies who risked their lives for what was right. One of my favorites was about a group of 50 women who raided a porn store. It was told by a woman who had survived incest by her father, who found a magazine with a young girl with a lollipop or something titled “Daddy’s Little Girl.” These ladies tore the place apart and escaped into the night. I cheered for them. A

“Being Single in a Couples’ World” by Xavier Amador and Judith Kiersky
There were parts of this that kind of opened my eyes to some things I’ve been wrestling with about being single, like wishing that I could land some guy that other people thought was a real catch. Except that all the people in the book would give up the pretty decent mates because there might be something better out there and I don’t really get that chance. It also opened my eyes to what bothers me about the “friendly fire” that I get for being nearly 26 and single. For example, I’m leaving for a year in England and at least three people, when they found out, said, “Bring back a man.” You know, in 5 years, I haven’t found one here, so what makes a person think that I’ll spend my time trying to get a lover over there? Grr. Anyways. Friendly fire. Even though the book was kind of helpful, I found the therapists’ retelling kind of annoying and insulting, because of course they ask their clients leading questions because they think they’ve got them all figured out. C+

"Papertowns" by John Green
The biggest criticism I have for this book is that it started out like a Babysitter's Club book...probably a major slam to the author of youtube fame (I heard of John Green through the vlog he does with his brother Hank, "vlogbrothers"). I was nearly ready to put it down, but after he finished pointing out the six or seven major players and best friends and other best friends, the book got much better. It turned into a story of teenage revenge, initiated by apparently unattainable Margo Roth Spiegelman, with apparently nerdy childhood friend Quinton coerced into the role of midnight chauffer. It's poetic, it's mean and at the end of the episode, you're left wondering if you're supposed to be cheering for Margo or squirming. Then the book takes a quick turn into a kind of scavenger hunt as Margo runs away from home, leaving behind clues to her whereabouts. This was the part that drove me to finish the book in a day: I love a good chase. The ending was a little post-modern and ambiguous for my tastes, but, you know, if you're into that kind of thing. It might help to know that one of John Green's favorite books is Catcher in the Rye. B-

"The Edge chronicles #2: Stormchaser" by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
The second in the series introduces the floating academic island of Sanctaphrax, chained to the working class city of Undertown. Twig is just setting out on his adventure with his recently discovered father as a member of the sky pirate's crew when a father/son conflict crops up, one that is brutally unfair to a boy raised in the woods. Before they can really resolve it, they are separated and the story focuses soley on Twig and the remaining crew. I liked the pace of this book a bit better than the first because while there was not a new perilous creature popping up every chapter, the story still did a lot of meaningful "meanwhile back at..." that kept it moving ahead and me very interested in how the stories were going to collide. B+

"The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1" by Michael Scott
I heard about this from someone involved in a youtube collaboration channel. It stood out to me because Nicholas Flamel was mentioned in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but on a quick search, I found a lot more to the myth of Nicholas Flamel. So it was a little strange to read this book and find one of the characters, a 15 year old boy with a twin sister, doing exactly the same thing, looking Nick Flamel up on Google. The book is thick with mythological references, almost stiflingly so, but familiar enough or explained enough that I was satisfied to have nothing but this book to read during three days of bussing back and forth to the Oregon Country Fair. A book of fantasy and magic is top notch reading when you're riding into the country to flit around in the woods with adults in fairy costumes. It sets the stage well for the first of a series. B

"Three Cups of Tea"
This book was not written by Greg Mortenson, which is positive in that it keeps him from tooting his own horn, but was disorienting when I started, thinking I would get a personal account from the man who trekked around Pakistan building schools for mountain villages. Nevertheless, it's an inspiring "get off your butt and do something" kind of story that I fully appreciate. I don't really like thinking of Mortenson, a guy who devoted himself to such a noble cause as a stressed out administrator, but trying to do good in the world is not always easy, and it's a reality check but not a deterrant to a young idealist like myself. There is another book about Mortenson's mission out there, and I would very much like to follow up on this account. A-

"The Edge Chronicles #3: Midnight Over Sanctaphrax" by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
With a brand spanking new crew, Twig sets out to find his father, stuck in the middle of the Mother Storm. They are united for just a few moments, then ripped apart once again. Twig falls conveniently close to Sanctaphrax, is conveniently spotted by the Professor of Darkness and is conveniently spared by the vulturous white ravens. After a brief delay wallowing in madness, Twig pulls himself together for a mission to recover his crew. At this point, Twig turns into an commanding captain, when I think he should still show a little bit of his boyhood meekness. I get a little bit wary of stories in which people refuse to stand down, and this makes others realize that the person deserves their respect. It's a little bit weak, but the overarching story continues to be quite good. B-

And here's the last vlog I made in America. Next: London