Rescue Home for Books

As I’ve said before, I like books. Actual printed books. Preferably previously owned. I like having them on my shelves. I like organizing them so they can have nice neighbors. I like carefully lending them to people I really like and trust, and also love books.

I like proving a good home for all my books (unless they are truly terrible, and then I just find someone willing to take them, sorry, Cum Laude), and sometimes that means re-binding or wrapping them up in those plastic thingies. Particularly paperbacks. Particularly books I am prone to throw into my already-too-big bag and take it with me everywhere (I’m looking at you, HP). Since my mother majored in Languages and has a TON of books, she taught me how to protect them when I was little. Basic stuff. Just cross your fingers some bubbles don’t magically appear somehow, and you’ll be fine.

I had lots of fun doing that as a kid (and still do), but one thing that I’ve kept with me is that she taught me to fold the corners cutting off a triangle and generally making it look weird. Case in point, my poor thrift shop “The Mummy“:

No bubbles!

No bubbles!

Inside corners, mom’s style.

And why is that remotely interesting? Around the same time, I’d ordered another Anne Rice book, also former thrift shop resident, “Memnoch the Devil” (I was going through an Anne Rice fase — as in I’d sit and read the first half of every novel she wrote, then sit it down and never open it again). It was fancier. Its previous owner was thoughtful enough to wrap it himself. And take a look how well it resisted:

A treasure amongst second hand shops: a well-kept book!

A treasure amongst second hand shops: a well-kept book!

See? Yellow-ed, but well-kept. Notice the corners. Squared.

I was so amazed at how well it had been treated that ’till this day, whenever I wrap a book, I do the square corners and congratulate Memnoch‘s previous owner.

His/Her's signature was obstructed by the shop's stamp :( But he/she is remembered.

His/Her’s signature was obstructed by the shop’s stamp :(
But he/she is remembered.

I know it may seem silly to some people. But isn’t it nice to think maybe your book will not only have a second (and third, and fourth) life but a little bit of you (perhaps a habit) will carry through?

If not that, than at least I hope my books will survive time as well as Memnoch. Also, I’ve once catalogued all my books in Before Previous Memnoch’s Owner and After PMO. (Long vacations.)

Today I wraped “Will Grayson , Will Grayson“.

New and shiny.

New and shiny.

Squared corners. Pro.

Squared corners. Pro.

Strangely, this whole paranoia with books’ covers began when I lent one to a friend who I didn’t know was veery carefree about books. It came back with the cover all hurt and dog-eared. I was appalled, tried to conceal just how much from her. I fixed it up with black marker and iron, then sealed it for eternity and ever since have been doing background checks before I lend books to anyone. Hah.

What about you? Any weird habits to protect your books? Or are you a hippie book-owner? (;

Lucky number seven

OK. Let me just start with: I don’t DO new year’s resolutions. I mean, really.

They’re doomed to fail.

January is month of extremely high hopes, whereas the ensuing months are… not energetic enough to keep up. Setting up goals in January is like asking a tiny kid what he wants to be when he grows up, after he’s rocked at kart racing for the first time. Of course he’s going to be a Formula 1 winner.

HOWEVER, after reading Ms Inkeri’s post I’ve decided to write Things I Aspire To For 2014. But I’ll call it LN7 and copy her number seven. But in my defense: I was born on the 7th, the week has 7 days,  7 is a prime number (and I like prime numbers), and according to Chinese medicine, life is divided in 7 year chunks. Tadaaa!

In 2014 it would be very nice to:

1 – Exercise regularly

Which I have. At least for every weekday since January 2nd. I’m the opposite of fit and my classes are all the way up 4 flights of stairs. Gasping for air ain’t attractive.

Also, found peace with dance classes. More specifically, zumba. I hate running around like a hamster and Zumba actually feels more demanding than running track — and it’s loads more fun.

2 – Keeping up with uni

It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s not that I’m not organized. I’m just… poorly motivated to fully dedicate myself to uni. I’ve got two years left, hopefully including an exchange program, and I am going to do my best, and show people what I’m capable of.

And, you know, not drive myself insane when things begin sounding cryptic.

3 – Not feel guilty about which books I’m reading

Ever since I entered college, I’ve been reading very dense books. I mean, seriously. They are from the 1970s. They’ve got loads of equations. They’ve got examples. Usually not fun examples. And even if I didn’t tire my brain out with those stuff, why should anyone feel guilty going to the bookstore and picking up a Sophie Kinsella book, or whatever chick lit I’ve found? It’s still one book more than the average person in my country reads. Per year.

Entertainment is a valid choice. Ignore the judgemental eyes of the hipster salesperson.

4 –  Stay calm. There’s plenty of time.

Well, there might not be. But the things I usually stress about are things not worth stressing about. It’s done. Things will fall where they may. Be zen about it. Try learning to french braid your own hair. Maybe Inkeri can help.

Just don’t fret about all that planning and all that nothingness. About your age. About the years going by. About people. About liiife… just HUSH.

Also, this was the item I’d saved for my reading goals this year. But it’s not worth it. I don’t want to start demanding myself to read. I like reading. Let’s keep it that way. I read about ten books this year, but I also found three new favorite authors (Danny, Jenny, John) – actually, four, if I was entirely honest. I read books that enticed me, that made me laugh, that made me cry, that made me think, but most importantly: that kept me in cozy company. I really loved some of the books I read this year, even found a top favorite. And I’m pretty sure my being extremely picky had something to do with it, so I’ll trust my gut.

Though I probably should consider taking a closer look at the books I currently own, as my bookshelf situation is a growing nightmare. No. More. Bookstores.

5 – Improve my French to B2 level

And I mean B2. I have studied it on and off for 2,5 years, but I feel in no way confident about it. This holiday I have been on Duolingo quite often (you can even check that here). Duolingo is a really, really great memorizing tool for learning new languages. If you are looking into German, French, Spanish or Portuguese I invite you to take a look.

But I still need to do some deeper reading/writing. For that, of course, I’ve bought some books (Le Petit Nicolas, and a book by G. Musso) I’m too scared to read yet, and I’m trying to find a penpal (email or otherwise). Suggestions on either?

6 – Go and get that exchange program

I want to study abroad. I want to learn how other people live. I want to go somewhere cold! And I won’t rest until I do! Hehe. Seriously. On-going procedures. Fingers crossed.

I just need to work on not sabotaging myself.

But I think first and foremost, after this year that’s gone by, I’d like to be able to say that I’ve managed this:

7 – Stay true to myself

I know it’s corny. I really do. But I honestly feel I wasn’t true to myself this year. And that caused me a lot of unnecessary pain. Not to get too dramatic here, but to put it simply: I let people treat me poorly and didn’t stand up for myself. I let myself be carried away and forgot that the one person who knows what makes me happy or not is really me. I thought my sense of self-worth and my values were bigger than whatever petty remark could turn me into, and I was disappointed in myself.

But this year being happy will be a goal, not pleasing others. I am important. What I feel matters.

And that will be my motto for this year. Life’s too short to spend it dreading mornings. And I think that’s the first thing I’ll do: start sleeping early and waking up well rested and looking forward to a brand new day.

Have I mentioned it’s 2h25 in the morning here?

I’ll start tomorrow :P

Otherwise, I pl— No, I won’t plan, I’ll intend to write a little bit. Either here, either privately, try to keep my head in order. But most definitely share fantastic books I’ve come across (maybe even the embarrassing ones), including some from last year which I shamefully neglected to review, and anything nice that comes my way — and hopefully I’ll read about your’s too :)

Happy New Year!

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)

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.)