The Joys of Small-Town Living

May 26, 2008 at 6:05 pm (Concord, Happy, News articles, Summer)

Each week, excerpts from the police log are printed in the weekly town newspaper. It gives my family great joy every week to read this log and see what crazy, mundane things the police are called about. This week, however, held the single, all-time best one:

[On Saturday, May 17, 2008] At 3:42 p.m., officers responded to a report from a Main Street resident, who said her 22-year-old son would not listen to her or abide by her rules since he came home from college.

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Finally, Something to Do (And More Books – YEY!)

May 26, 2008 at 12:18 am (Books, Family, Summer, Work)

Yesterday was a fabulous day because I actually got to do some work! One of my mom’s co-workers at the library is on vacation all week, and so, knowing that I have been bored stiff with nothing to do, she called me at around 11am Saturday morning to see if I wanted to come in and help – which I absolutely did! I got to work for 2 hours processing books, which essentially meant creating the identifying labels for the sides of the books, stamping the library’s name and the date on the first page, and taping down the plastic-covered book sleeves. After all this, the books are completely ready to be put on the shelf and read! What this means for me is that I get first dibs on all the books in the library, essentially, which couldn’t make me happier! 😀

Thus, at the risk of turning this blog into a running reading list, here is the most recent haul from the new books I processed on Saturday (and if I get permission from my mom’s boss to continue all this week, expect a few more similar lists!)

  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is a book my mom actually pulled for herself, finished reading, and promptly gave it to me, since she knew I would love it. Essentially, a rare book conservator is called in to work on an extremely rare Hebrew book, and traces its history through tiny clues she finds. I’m about 50 pages in and loving it!
  • The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson is an example of me going into dangerous soap-opera territory with a book about a teenager who wakes up from a coma with no memory and has to work to regain her sense of identity. It seems a bit like another trashy YA book, but is actually supposed to be a really interesting exploration of the concept of identity. I’ll let you know which it is.
  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen is another self-discovery book that breaks my rule, but it looks like a nice book without too much drama or self-imposed importance. I’m not sure how to describe it, especially since I haven’t started it yet, so I’ll just let you look at Amazon’s description.
  • The Moneypenny Diaries by Kate Westbrook was a book I, a lifelong James Bond fan, simply could not pass up! There’s not much I can say about it beyond what the title implies to anyone familiar with the 007 series/franchise (and if you’re not – have you been living under a rock?!), but I’ll let you know if it’s worth reading!
  • The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie is “the story of a woman attempting to command her own destiny in a man’s world. It is the story of two cities, unknown to each other, at the height of their powers–the hedonistic Mughal capital, in which the brilliant Akbar the Great wrestles daily with questions of belief, desire, and the treachery of his sons, and the equally sensual city of Florence during the High Renaissance, where Niccolò Machiavelli takes a starring role as he learns, the hard way, about the true brutality of power.” It’s so new, there aren’t even any reviews on Amazon at the time of this writing! I have high hopes for this one, and I’ll let you know if it can live up to my high expectations 😀
  • Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches With Teach For America by Donna Foote is my one non-fiction book this time around. Having had a peripheral interest in Teach for America for a while now, I figured it would be interesting to read about someone who has actually been there and done that. If it’s not written well, though, I may not make it through…

And that’s it for now! Well, now I just have to read them…. Oh darn. 😀

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How To Write a Bestseller

May 24, 2008 at 12:08 am (Books, Rants, Summer)

Today I went to my fantastic local library looking for another stack of books to read, having decimated my previous one. Last time, I was able to find a fantastic group of books from just the first of four bookshelves of new arrivals, so I was quite hopeful. My hopes, however, were dashed quite roundly.

Apparently, in this day and age, if you want a book to be published, you must write about someone discovering the secret past or identity of

  • Him/herself, having had amnesia or something of the like
  • His/her parent/parental figure, who either just died or is in the process of dying
  • His/her ancestor
  • His/her best friend
  • His/her parent’s friend
  • A random acquaintance the protagonist happens to stumble upon in some delightfully odd manner

In order to discover this secret past/identity, the protagonist must discover some innate truth about himself or humanity in general – or both, if the author is really daring!

The result of this dreadful trend is that after reading the inside cover of over a hundred books, I came home with three, only one of which comes close to the above trend, but was chosen in spite of that because of a reason I shall elucidate in a moment. The three books are:

  • Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, which is a debut novel about the Greek gods, alive and kicking, living together in a small flat in London, trying to eke out an existence as their powers wane. Being a sucker for mythology, this of course appealed to me, not to mention it looks like quite an amusing, light-hearted read. As the front cover states, “Being immortal is not all it once was.”
  • Heart of Stone by C. E. Murphy. I almost didn’t pick this one up, since it looks a bit too much like a stereotypical fantasy novel, which I had my fill of during high school, making it quite hard for any fantasy novel to catch my interest enough for me to try it, much less finish it. So what was the tipping point, you ask? Well, the fantasy comes from one of the main characters being, essentially, a living gargoyle. As mentioned, I have read quite a bit of fantasy, and have not come across such a creature before (if you have, please let me know!), and so I figured that if the author was creative enough to come up with the initial idea, then they deserve a reading. I’ll let you know if it was worth it.
  • The Executor: A Comedy of Letters by Michael Kruger (translated by John Hargraves), is the one mentioned above, that ventures close to the self-discovery territory. Essentially, a famous writer dies suddenly, and his best friend and executor (of his will, not his life!) comes to his home to search through his papers and notes to find his magnus opus. I’m still not quite sure if I’ll enjoy this, but, in the interest of full disclosure, what drew me in was the last line on the book flap: “The Executor is a witty, ironic, charming commentary on writers, their books, and their long-suffering friends.”

None of these are very long, so hopefully they will last me through the long weekend. Of course, even once the long weekend is over, I don’t know where I’ll find new books, since the New Book section at the library is all searched-out for another month or so – until they switch out the old new books in favor of newer new books. So if you have any suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed – old or new – please let me know! Thank you!

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Books I Haven’t Read

May 17, 2008 at 3:51 pm (Blogs, Books, School)

Thanks to itinerant thinker

The top 100 or so books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. Bold the books you have read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose

Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984
Angels & Demons
Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

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Comments in Translation

May 12, 2008 at 10:03 pm (Writing)

I came across the following table in the May/June 2004 issue of Poets & Writers magazine. It translates other writers’ comments for when you go to a writing workshop. Quite useful!

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WHAT A WRITER SAYS WHAT A WRITER MEANS

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“I loved the language” English was a good choice

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“This is very ambitious writing” You really aren’t good enough to pull this off

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“The prose is very clear and concise” You wouldn’t know a metaphor if it bit you on the ass

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“I thoroughly enjoyed reading this” It made me feel much better about my own writing

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“This is very unusual and original work” You frighten me a little

.

“This story shares similar themes with your other work” Please stop writing about your relationship with your father

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“It’s very confident writing” You’re completely deluded, aren’t you?

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“This needs to be pushed further” Like off your desk and into the trash

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“I don’t like the title” I didn’t actually read your story

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“I love the title” I didn’t actually read your story

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“This is very polished” Plagiarizing again?

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“There’s not enough at stake here” But I’d sure like to burn your story on one

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“This is the best thing I’ve ever read” Will you sleep with me?

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“This is brilliant” Please?

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Sobering Thought

May 12, 2008 at 9:19 pm (Drinking, Friends, Summer, Uncategorized)

I went back to the library where I used to work today both to say hi and to check out the books with my friend G. One of the women I used to work with, E, has a son, Z, who graduated from high school with G and me and is currently attending Daniel Webster College for some sort of aviation/military thing. Z is going to turn 21 soon, and he was going to go out with some buddies from school, including one guy who just got back from his second tour in Iraq. The thing is, Z’s friend is only 20. Can you imagine? Turning 21 and have friends who are younger than you and have already been to Iraq for extended periods of time fighting – twice!? Turning 21 and still not being able to buy your friend who just got back from 2 tours in Iraq a drink? It makes you feel old and young and useless and whatever all at the same time…

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This Is How It Happened (not a love story)

May 11, 2008 at 9:58 pm (Books, Happy, Summer)

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of going to my local library and checking out 6 books (5 of which are new, and thus due in 2 weeks, so I felt I should limit myself).  I got a nice selection of chick lit, suspense, drama, and inspirational/deep books so that if one bored me, I wouldn’t have to rely on the same type of book to switch to.  And guess what?  I’ve already finished one!

It’s called This Is How It Happened (not a love story) and is written by Jo Barrett.  Essentially, our heroine, Madeline Jane Piatro was recently dumped by her boyfriend of four years, Carlton.  Now she wants revenge.  How many books have you read in which a woman cooks arsenic brownies and ends up poisoning herself because she can’t withstand the scrumptious smell of the homemade chocolate brownies fresh out of the oven?  Seriously, it’s a really fun book; the author has a great style, and it flows really fast (i.e. I read it in about 2 hours flat and didn’t want to put it down).  I highly recommend it if you are looking for a fluffy summer read!

I’ll let you know how the others ones turn out.  For reference (or if you’d like to read them with me), the others are:

  • Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.  True story about a man who has built 55 schools – especially for girls – in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past fifteen years
  • The Theory of Clouds by Stephane Audeguy.  This is “a novel of clouds – both historical and imaginative – how they shape our passions, our storms, our stories”.  Having not started it, I’m afraid I can’t even attempt to describe what else it is about, but it looks really interesting
  • The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig.  This is the fourth book in the series that started with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation – total chick lit historical fiction books that I love!  Spies and love in the Napoleonic era!
  • Ex-Libris by Ross King.  Yet another historical fiction book about finding a long-lost book in “a treacherous game of underworld spies and smugglers, ciphers and forgeries”!  How could I possibly resist?
  • No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay.  This is a suspense/thriller novel about a 14-year old girl who wakes up one day to find her entire family gone without a trace.  Fast-forward 25 years, and the girl is now grown up and married, but still searching for answers.  But, of course, those answers are very dangerous…

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Home!

May 7, 2008 at 10:19 pm (Concord, Family, Friends, Holidays, Study Abroad, Summer, Work)

Wow, it has been forever since I’ve posted here! I guess running multiple blogs drains me… Anyway, to update all my lovely readers:

  • I am home for the summer, and most likely will be here all summer long, except for possibly going down to Baltimore to help my grandparents move into their new (AMAZING!!!) house.
  • I have applied for 2 jobs thus far, and will probably be looking for more tomorrow
  • I have unpacked most of my stuff, but what is still in boxes is far too overwhelming to even think about unpacking, though I know that if I want to stop dancing around boxes and crates every time I attempt to get in or out of bed, I need to find homes for all my stuff
  • My schedule is free for the rest of the summer, until I get a job of course, except for jury duty next week (I’ll let you know how that goes)
  • I still have not heard from my university in France 😦
  • I can’t wait for all my friends to get home from stupid Northern colleges that have longer school years
  • I can’t believe my sister is almost a senior in high school!!!
  • I got 11 hours of sleep last night
  • I’ll try to update more frequently!

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