Sophie Kinsella and the whole girly issue

So I’m starting to believe that it’s not that I’m all grown up and/or have surpassed my girly fase, it’s just that The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was a bad book with a great title. I was wandering through a bookstore (you know, minding my own business, fully aware that I have too many unread books at home) when I bump into a Sophie Kinsella book I still haven’t read.

It was not my fault! It practically jumped off its shelf onto my lap!

And, well, finding an unread Sophie Kinsella book is a hard thing to do…

So I got it.

It was I’ve got your number. And it did not disappoint.

12033455A while ago, a friend had sent me an article comparing Sophie Kinsella books and Nicholas Sparks books, and commenting on how they wrote pretty much the same thing over and over again. They concluded that at least SK frequently throws in very witty, humourous and/or insightful phrases. Not just extremely mellow clichés. And I agree with them.

Yeah, it’s chick lit. Yeah, it’s not going to be life changing. It’s an indulgence, like one of the blurbs say. Something to make you happy and all romantic-y. And that was just what I needed.

The story is all about Poppy and how she’s desperately looking for her emerald engagement ring, which she lost at a hotel event, then loses her phone and fishes out a discarded one in the bin of the hotel – and that phone happens to be from the now ex-PA of some consulting executive. And he lets her keep it as long as she forwards all his emails. You can pretty much guess how the story goes after that. It has some twists, some drama. SK always handles her drama so well, so delicate. So un-cliché-d. I really like that. People underestimate her abilities.

I had a great time reading this book. If you ever come across it, and just want to be distracted, pick it up and you won’t be sorry.

Should I tolerate it as normal male behavior, like when he gets a cold and starts Googling nose cancer symptoms discharge nostrils?

(p.413)

Why my girly fase is most definitely over

I was updating my (sad) book list and I HAD to include “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” by Jennifer E. Smith. Eventhough I didn’t really finish it. I’m like 40 pages to go. So it’s not like I’m… like… trying to cover up having read one book in six months. Noo. None of that. It’s just that I find it relevant to my reading history. And it’s nearly done! And okay, I didn’t want to add just the one book…

But hear me out. This is a book I’d marked in my Goodreads Wishlist several years ago, but never got round to it, because… well, bookstores in my city suck. And then, earlier this year, I was browsing through the “Popular” section and *poof* there it was. And I remembered the cover from Goodreads. So I got it.

And it sucked.

It sucked big time.

the deceitful cover

The cute cover.

As the cover indicates, this is a chick flick. A teen chick flick. Like the ones I used to loooove, and would read in one night and would fall in love with all the characters and gush about to my friends, and lend it to them so we could gush about it unison. So I thought it was a sure thing.

The story is quite simple, actually. Girl gets to airport 4 minutes late and misses her plane, Cute British Guy waits with her and they end up sitting next to each other on the plane and talking and faaaalling in loooove.

Ok. I can handle that. Cute British Guy is in fact adorable, and I had no trouble picturing him next to me on any flight he wanted. But the girl? What was her name? Hadley. GOD, she’s annoying. Think Bella annoying. Plus some, because she is the center of the bloody universe and everything that could possibly happen to her is bad and she hates it. She gets some sense in after a twist in the plot, but just some. Everything is still SO terrible.

Allow me to explain. Her parents got divorced, because her dad went to teach in England and met an assistant (?) and now he’s getting married with her, in London, and she’s going to be a bride’s maid, understandably against her wishes. So she’s kind of going to England forced. And that’s when I start to get annoyed. Ok, the wedding will suck, her dad is asshole (seriously, there’s piling evidence), she has to play nice and show up in photos. So what? She’s in London. Take the damn pictures and go see the city!

I also couldn’t quite relate to her mother, because Hadley keeps trying to talk to her on the phone and she never picks up, attributed to the time difference and that her mom never wakes up early. Her daughter just got on a plane and crossed the Atlantic, she doesn’t care if she got there okay? Or maybe my mom is just overprotective.

Hadley finds out some THINGS that her father and new stepmom are keeping from her (take one guess), and naturally gets upset. She gets upset a LOT. She hasn’t seen her father in like… a year? And she was distracted by her mother (they went on a trip?) for a weekend, so her dad could come to their house and pick up everything he wanted. And then go back to England without saying hi. So let’s say she DOES have reason to be upset. A lot.

But she doesn’t DO anything about it, just pouts and acts like the teenager people always ignore. You’re angry? BE ANGRY! Let it out! Tell your dad what a crappy dad he’s been! Tell your new stepmom you’re not supposed to sleep with married men! Heck, tell her the mistress doesn’t get to wear a white dress to her wedding! Just DO something! Then maybe you’d see the good parts too? Don’t just stand there complaining about everything — in your HEAD. Makes for a very uninteresting read.

And I genuinely thought this was obvious. Everyone must have been annoyed, right? Everyone must have wanted to throw this book out and never see it again. But nooo. According to Goodreads, it’s a 3.79 stars read. I managed to find these two reviews that sort of agree with me. And now that I’ve read them, I see it — it IS dull. All that time in the plane? As slow as if I’d been there, trying to read “On Flight Magazine”, while I had expected… well, love at first sight.

But the thing is— I used to be a veery girly girl. I read a k-zillion chick flicks and I genuinely enjoyed them, no matter how iffy their characters were. And this book? I didn’t even write my name on it. I’m thinking of donating it to the local library. (Which is extreemely difficult, btw, because I’m ubber jealous of my books and only lend them to my trust-worthy, most loved friends. But this one? Not worth standing next to my “Abundance of Katherines”.)

To sum it up — BLEH.

 

Can I get there by candlelight?

There, and back again.

I really don’t know why I was so surprised by “Stardust”. It’s Neil Gaiman. It’s got Neil Gaiman written all over it.

And I love Neil Gaiman, of course I’d love “Stardust”, even if it did take me a while to get the thing going. I love how his stories are never focused on one plot, but instead several intricate, converging ones that sort of complete one another – and then just BLOW MY MIND-, but at first I’m never seem to be hooked enough to compulsively read it. So granted, it took me a couple of weeks.

But once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.

I’d seen the movie and was stunned when I found out it was based on a book by none other than Neil Gaiman himself (who as you can see, I hold in great esteem). The movie manages to transcribe most of the quirkiness of the book, and perhaps even soften some aspects of it that kind of bugged me around the end, BUT it is nowhere near as enticing and just… linguistically seductive as the book. And it’s a pretty good movie.

But I’m assuming you know something of the plot. Actually, at this point, I think it’s almost irrelevant that you know the plot. It’s going to sound weird if I sum it up for you. It’s how it is displayed that’s interesting, as in most good novels. (But if you must know — simpleton boy promises his love-interest the fallen star they’d just seen, in return, she says she’ll give him whatever he desires. To find the star, he must cross the wall his village is named after, into a magical and fantastical world, where the star is actually a slightly glowing young woman with a short temper. There are several people looking for her, for all sorts of reasons. Stuff happens.)

I caved and dog-earned by favourite bits of it, as proof of my enthusiasm.

Firstly, I’d never heard shyness being described this way. It’s just so right.

He was painfully shy, which, as is often the manner of the painfully shy, he overcompensated for by being too loud at the wrong times.

Secondly, I don’t remember this quote, I just found it on Goodreads, but it just sums up what Neil Gaiman books are all about sooo nicely I had to add it.

A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?”

Pointless, really…”Do the stars gaze back?” Now that’s a question.

Do you get it? Why it’s such a fascinating read? Why it never ceases to surprise you? Because never once had I stopped to think about trees and their former life —

“You’re a tree,” said Tristan, putting his thoughts into words.

“I didn’t always used to be a tree,” said the voice in the rustling of the copper beech leaves. “A magician made me a tree.”

“What were you before?” asked Tristan.

“Do you think he likes me?”

“Who?”

“Pan. If you were the Lord of the Forest, you wouldn’t give a job to someone, tell them to give all possible aid and succor, unless you liked them, would you?”

“Well…” said Tristan, but before he had decided on the politic answer, the tree had already said, “A nymph. I was a wood-nymph. But I got persued by a prince, not a nice prince, the other kind, and, well, you’d think a prince, even the wrong kind, would understand about boundaries, wouldn’t you?”

“You would?”

“Exactly what I think. But he didn’t, so I did a bit of invoking while I was running, and -ba-boom!–tree. What do you think?”

“Well,” said Tristan. “I do not know what you were like as a wood-nymph, madam, but you are a magnificent tree.”

The tree made no immediate reply, but her leaves rustled prettily. “I was pretty cute as a nymph, too,” she admitted, coyly.

(pages 186-7)

It’s stuff like that which makes me looove this author. And this book by extention.

I actually can’t find the quote that I really, really loved. It describes Faerie. All my other ones are kind of spoiler-ly.

Did I convince you that this is a very, very good book?

That your brain craves something like this? To go places it’s neeever been before?

Please tell me I did. And then go read it.

What is it about magic?

I know, I know. I’ve neglected this blog for way too long. But now at least I have something to write about. I think.

Yesterday I finished reading “The Magicians’ Guild” by Trudi Canavan, which I’d got from BetterWorldBooks at Tanya‘s suggestion, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

It took me a while to get the courage to start it, to tell you the truth. Though pretty much all my favourite books are set in fantasy worlds, I get quite spooked with covers such as these:

There’s something about half-photoshopped pictures in covers that freaks me out. And as I’ve mentioned, I judge a book by its cover.

But if someone who loves Neil Gaiman as much as I do loved this, it must be good, right? So I picked it up and had a bit of a struggle letting go to study for my pre-midterms. It’s GOOD. The characters are interesting, the story moves along at a quickening pace, and you just can’t wait to read more about this world, this magical society – their buildings, their classes, even their door knobs. Everything is interesting, everything is engaging.

I did take a step back more towards the end of it, though. I had the eerie sensation that this was going to be one of those annoying series with no proper ending ’till the very end at the last book – you’ve read at least one of those, right? But sure enough, it quickly patched things up and though there’s a big hook linking it to the next book (which I’ve already ordered at BWB), the plot of this book was pretty much concluded. Nicely, too.

There were bits that were a bit annoying, particularly whom she chose to trust and distrust, and I wanted to yell at her, but thankfully there’s reason soon enough. There are also bits I didn’t really think matched the character’s previous behaviour – and perhaps that was meant to illustrate personal growth? I don’t know, it still made for pretty witty, fun characters to get to know.

But that was not the thing that I wanted to write about — At the university, a friend came up to me when I was reading this book, looked at the cover and honestly uttered the question “But it’s fiction, it’s fake! How do you bear to read it?”. I was shocked. I’m used to being appalled by their not reading Hitchhikers’ Guide or Harry Potter, and understand that at the moment it is a bit tricky to squeeze in some books not related to our classes, but COME ON.

The most coherent thought I could come up with was “Because it’s FUN”. But that shouldn’t be all of it, should it? There must be a reason for it to be fun. And it’s something that has been tormenting me for days.

Is it about escaping into this other world we know nothing about and discover it bit by bit? I hear that one quite often – stories as a distraction, an escape from reality. And sure, that must be it. But there’s something else too, isn’t there? Something that captures our attention and turns us into little children again.

I think it’s magic.

By reading something someone else wrote we’re giving them the power to construct whatever characters, whatever plots and whatever worlds the author wants. They are masters of the universe for the length of those pages. It feels a bit like magic, doesn’t it? The way twists and fixes spring about. Entire cities created, complex societies described. Creativity flows and we’re drawn to it.

I’ve got this book I got at the airport, it’s called “What are you optimistic about?” and in it there are several little articles by different people saying – you’ve guessed it – what they are optimistic about. One of these is about the world population. The author (whose name I cannot for the life of me find) said he was optimistic about the extra billion people that are expected (and dreaded, for the most part). He says something like “That’s an extra billion creative minds, thinking up solutions”. I’d never heard anyone see it like that.

And I think books can support that view — aren’t they the biggest proof of all the creativity running around?

Through that, I believe reading books somehow gives us power too, in some level. We’re given one of the best presents we could get — hope. That perhaps we’re not as helpless as we’d think. Perhaps all we need is a good idea, a good magician.

What do you think? Was I too high on caffeine and lack of sleep when I thought about this?

And what on earth should I tell No-Fiction Guy?

Nick & Norah

The other day I ended up rewatching this movie called “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”, which is one of those movies set in one crazy night in New York City. I love this movie. Everytime I watch it, I end up rewatching it the following night. Which is why I refrain from it, actually.

Yeah, it’s Cera and that girl from 2Broke Girls. Still good.

Everything just works so well together — the characters are fun, the pace is fast, the set is seductively urban, the soundtrack is friggin’ fantastic, and I always have a great time watching this eventful night. Probably because I’m not really the sort of girl who’d have this kind of night. You know, wander around the city in the early morning with friends (or really new acquaintances) looking for a band/drunk friend.

Looking for Caroline.

Two years ago, when I first watched the movie, I bought the book it was based on (same title, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan) — I’m one of those annoying people who go “BUT THE BOOK IS SO MUCH BETTER!” in the movies, so every time I find a movie that I really like that’s based on a book I assume the book must be awesome.

This is not the case.

Just look at it, so tiny and helpless…

I have fun reading it, because it’s too short to resist, and it’s fast enough to keep you through it, but oh-my, is the movie better. Since I’ve never been there, or hung around NYC types, I don’t know if it’s either the movie or the book that better portrays American city kids, but that’s A LOT of “fuck”s. I mean, there are more “fuck”s in this book than “phony”s in Catcher in the Rye. YEAH.

Every time I read it I wonder if people actually talk like that somewhere.

(Here’s the trailer, if you’re a trailer person.)

SSG review (spoiler-free)

(I never know how to title reviews.)

You know those little praise blurb thingies that all books seem to have (eventhough you´ve never heard of the people doing the praising and secretly wonder if they exist)? On the back of my edition of “Secret Society Girl” it says:

“A warning label should be put on the cover of this book: Get comfortable, because once you pick it up, you won´t be able to put it down.”

–Cara Lockwood, bestselling author of I Do (but I Don´t)

Well, Cara Lockwood, I´d have to agree with you. Most of my Friday was filled with reading this book.

It not only lived up to my expectation of it – easy, fun chick flick set in college – but surpassed it with really interesting and likable characters. But let me start this right.

First, take a good look at this cover, please.

We´ll get back to it later.

In case you haven´t picked this up before: “Secret Society Girl” is the first book of the Ivy League Series, by Diana Peterfreund. It is set in Eli University, an Ivy league fictional university, focusing on junior Amy Haskell, editor of the literary magazine, who´s expecting to be “tapped” into a literary society but instead gets pulled into a more… er… traditional one.

She, herself, is a pretty nice character – hard working, focused, moral compass pointing north-west, lives with Lydia, pre-Law, a bit jealous, but a good friend. But they are not the ones I felt compelled to share with my friends. Nope. I wrote a huge email to another Seth Cohen-loving friend telling her about Brandon Weare, a nerd-y, a quarter Asian, and generally awesome, Good Guy.

Good Guys always get me in books/movies. Can´t help it. Even if they are named Brandon Weare (discussed and agreed – that´s not a name for a Seth Cohen-type character!). Which is why I´ll probably end up reading the rest of the series.

He´s not the only good character around. But there isn´t much shared about the others (sometimes series bug me). There are four other girls: Odile, a former actress/singer and with an answer to everything; Demetria, a feisty activist; Jennifer, a religious computer genious who´s a bit conceived; and Clarissa, the legacy, responsible for some mushy stuff in the end (that I actually enjoyed). And other boys, Malcolm, who´s lovely (I wish I had a Malcolm in my life), and George, the playboy – they are always fun to read about.

There are two cons to this book: 1) It is very clearly written to be a series (it hints at some other plots that aren´t developed), and this very clearly is just an introduction to the characters and the Ivy league secret society club world the author created, meaning there isn´t a reaally strong plot line and the twists aren´t all that great, even if they are surrounded by entertaining elements; and 2) It is clearly targeted at Gossip Girl fans, it´s not just the cover – even if the characters have more depth and display some meaningful human connection, the author isn´t very subtle about the premise of the series. My example?

“Connubial Bliss reports,” he replied. “One of the most important days in a Knight´s Rose & Grave experience. You stand up in front of all your brothers and basically give them a rundown of your sexual experiences to date.”

(page 126)

Whaaat? Am I completely mistaken and this is normal and happens in other groups or is this just an invitation to read the other books and find out about all the characters´ sexual history? Come oon.

But anyway, I can´t tell you what the major plot-line is, because I think it would be kind of spoiler-ly, but what I can tell you is that there are some very articulate characters here, which is kind of new for teeny books, and they manage to make pretty compelling arguments. To the opposition. Who says some pretty revolting stuff. Which made me go YEAH! in my head several times.

I wish I could be in a society like that, if only to try to absorb a little of their wittiness/eloquence.

The biggest plus in the book, the one that overcomes the cons by itself, is the genuine feeling of brotherhood (and sisterhood) that the characters manage to show in a very seductive way. They make you want to be in a secret society and have that kind of relationship, and isn´t making you want to be a part of the story the main reason we read fiction?

So I´m pretty sure I´ll stick through and read the rest.

But about that cover – I was amazed, I noticed the preppy look but I did not notice the pin until I read more of the story. Which is kind of the point they make in the book (“You only notice if you´re looking.”), was just wondering if I was alone there.

Oh, and there´s something else! I even dog-eared it, it bothered me so much. There´s ONE sequence in the book that I reeally didn´t like. And it´s kind of in the beginning, in the initiation thing. If you read it, you´ll know what I´m talking about. And if you´re anything like me, you´ll probably consider putting it down and finding something else. But don´t. If you ignore that section, the book comes up nicely. Promise.

I did have to tell a friend about it when it happened, Thursday,  though. And everytime he bumped into me with the book on the following day he asked me if it had happened yet. He can´t fathom why girls like to read this sort of book, incident or no incident. But that´s another story.

Old friends meet again

I don’t remember ever being so excited about a match, or so heartbroken about a family reunion, or so upset about my super awesome broomstick being taken away.

Last year I started rereading the Harry Potter books for that reason – I’d forgotten. The first three books were read to me more than 10 years ago, the others I read on the beach, as the translations came out and don’t really recall much of them. I spotted this new, beautiful, paperback British edition and started buying them one by one. I got stuck on the third one (allegedly because I could only find it in a different size than the others and it looked so misplaced next to them… I’m picky) but a couple of weeks ago I picked it up on the way to class and ended up reading several chapters. I finished it last weekend, in a frenzy.

Doesn't it look odd next to the others?
Poor thing.

(I’m assuming you all know what happens in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so it’s not like I’ll be spoiling it for you.)

I know it’s cliché, but the movie changes so much of it! Even the general feel of it – from the third movie onwards, the most repeated comment was “it’s gotten much darker”, mainly seen as a good thing. But that’s one of the things I was amazed at when I first started rereading them – it’s really written for kids! Okay, it’s got some harsh lessons and life-threatening plots, but it’s for kids! Like the back cover says, it’s “funny, quirky and imaginative”, and sooo much of that was lost in the movie, I think.

Completely devoid of axe-men

I was specially surprised with Dumbledore, whom I remembered as so serene and that quietly wise kinda character — and then, in the first book, he happily sings a weird Hogwarts song during dinner; in this one, he makes Snape get a Cracker and then puts on Neville’s grandmother’s hat when it appears. He’s fun. And he teaches Harry some lessons during long-ish conversations at the end of the books. On this one, Harry is confused about how he thought he saw his dad and it was really him and how his Patronus takes the form of his dad’s animagus ( A- did you know that? I did not know that!! B- also did not know animagus weren’t born animagi, was amazed. Doesn’t take much to amaze me, ha.) and Dumbledore has a somewhat insightful conversation with him about how the people we love never really go away, and that that night his dad walked in the clearing. Or something. All I know is it was a great chapter and that even though most of it was probably lost in the younger crowd of readers, it’s still a fantastic lesson. And it didn’t sound nearly as mushy as I’m making it sound.

Can’t remember if that was in the movie.

But one thing that wasn’t in there was Professor McGonagall’s bickering with Professor Trelawney, which I found quite amusing. There’s this bit that I want to transcribe (there were 13 people dining, hence the issue of who-got-up-first-will-die thing, btw):

Professor Trelawney behaved almost normally until the very end of Christmas dinner, two hours later. Full to bursting with Christmas dinner and still wearing their cracker hats, Harry and Ron got up first from the table and she shrieked loudly.

‘My dears! Which of you left his seat first? Which?’

‘Dunno,’ said Ron, looking uneasily at Harry.

‘I doubt it will make much difference,’ said Professor McGonagall coldly, ‘unless a mad axe-man is waiting outside the doors to slaughter the first into the Entrance Hall.’

Even Ron laughed. Professor Trelawney looked highly affronted.

‘Coming?’ Harry said to Hermione.

‘No,’ Hermione muttered. ‘I want a quick word with Professor McGonagall.’

‘Probably trying to see if she can take any more classes,’ yawned Ron as they made their way into the Entrance Hall, which was completely devoid of mad axe-men.

(page 249/250)

Isn’t it really ‘fun and quirky’? Makes for perfect late night reading.

Also, was a bit upset on behalf of Sirius for them attributing the Firebolt to McGonagall instead of him in the movie.

I think my favourite bit of the book was Sirius asking Harry to live with him, and how happy he was when he accepted. It felt like something right was finally happening to him. Terribly mean, because obviously I remembered what was/is bound to happen.

Crookshank’s image has forever changed for me too.

And now I’m not sure when I’ll manage to read the next one (I’ve searched my Shelf of Forgotten Books and found the next one, in English, in a weird paperback edition I found lying around a thrift shop, God knows how long ago), but I sure will try to prolong the happy HP feel.

Oh, there’s another quote I want to put here!

Harry is a lot… sassier? Can you say sassier for guys? Mischievous, maybe? Regarding his aunt/uncle/cousin, which I find very therapeutic to read.

‘It’s a letter from my godfather.’

‘Godfather?’ spluttered Uncle Vernon. ‘You haven’t got a godfather!’

‘Yes, I have,’ said Harry brightly. ‘He was my mum and dad’s best friend. He’s a convicted murderer, but he’s broken out of wizard prison and he’s on the run. He likes to keep in touch with me, though … keep up with my news … check I’m happy …’

And grinning broadly at the look of horror on Uncle Vernon’s face, Harry set off toward the station exit, Hedwig rattling along in front of him, for what looked like a much better summer than the last.

(page 468)

 That’s the last page of the book. Isn’t it great? Even with the disappointment of Sirius still being on the run and Harry’s return to the Dursley’s, JKR manages to get us happy by the end of it.

Very, very, very fun read.