Archive for September, 2008

Book Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

September 27, 2008 1 comment

Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sophie Kinsella; Fiction

Confessions of a Shopaholic was a surprisingly delightful read. They say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but in this day and age of calculated marketing, it’s not a stretch to assume that a cover that looks like this book’s will be a certain kind of book. On the contrary, Confessions… was a quick but thoroughly enjoyable read, both smarter and better written than others I have read in the so-called “chick-lit” genre.

From the Publisher: Becky Bloomwood has a fabulous flat in London’s trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season’s must-haves. The only trouble is that she can’t actually afford it—not any of it. Her job writing at Successful Savings not only bores her to tears, it doesn’t pay much at all. And lately Becky’s been chased by dismal letters from Visa and the Endwich Bank—letters with large red sums she can’t bear to read—and they’re getting ever harder to ignore

The most surprising part of this book was how much I liked the characters. At first, I was worried that Becky’s constant obsession with shopping and her detailed descriptions of clothing and outfits would become annoying. Instead, Kinsella crafts her character in such a way that she always remains endearing and adorable. I think this is because Becky knows she has a problem, but her issue is that she just can’t find a way to fix her problem. She always finds a way to justify buying a new scarf, or a new notebook…something we all can identify with. I even loved Luke Brandon, the “love interest or is he?” in the book, who could really be a jerk at times. Of course, at this point I’d already seen the movie trailer, and so I kept imagining Hugh Dancy during these scenes, so maybe that’s why I just couldn’t hate him :D.

The book is from the UK and set there as well, so I wasn’t familiar with many of the shopping references, like names of stores or designers.  I also had to keep making mental calculations, converting Becky’s spendings from £’s to dollars. I guess it’s standard to leave money amounts in their original form, and I understand why, but how much things cost really matters in this book, so at times it was a little awkward.

I picked this book up after seeing the trailer for the movie (trailer below), starring Isla Fisher. I think the movie looks really good, although it clearly differs from the book a bit (which I’m totally okay with…i think expecting the film and book to be identical, for any book, is a bit ridiculous). I think the actors are well-suited for their parts, particularly Hugh Dancy as Luke (and I’m not just saying that because he’s incredibly handsome…really…). We’ll have to wait a while to see though…the movie doesn’t come out until February.

But back to the book…there are four more or so in series. Even though I really enjoyed this first offering, I don’t really feel an immediate need to run and get the others. Everything was wrapped up really well here, and I don’t really think one sequel was necessary, letalone four. Reviews I’ve read all say that the first one is the best of the lot, so I don’t think I’m going to miss anything if I don’t read the rest.

Here’s the trailer for the Confession’s film:


Book Review: The Book of Lost Things

September 22, 2008 Leave a comment

The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly; Fiction

For a while, I’ve been in a sort of reading dry-spell…many of the books that I’ve read were either likable but unmemorable, or just disappointing. I was starting to feel like I was just being cynical, and looking for things not to like in every book I picked up. But then I read The Book of Lost Things.

From Barnes & Noble: High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother. He is angry and alone, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness, and as he takes refuge in his imagination, he finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a land that is a strange reflection of his own world, populated by heroes and monsters, and ruled over by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book… The Book of Lost Things.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly is my favorite book that I’ve read so far this year. This is really a book lovers book, and as a book lover myself, I felt that it’s strongest theme was the influence that reading, books, and stories in general can have on your life. As a lifelong avid reader, I’d like to think that the books that I’ve read have shaped how I look at the world. David’s imagination, the world he falls into, and his outlook on things were heavily shaped by the stories he read.

Most, if not all, of the characters that David meets are largely influenced by fairy tales. Some of the influences are more direct and recognizable. In one of the most humorous moments, we meet Snow White, who is nothing like the charming Disney princess, but instead ravenously hungry, unbelievably overweight, bossy, and irritating. Her dwarfs, who call each other “comrade” are actually the ones behind the apple poisoning incident, and talk of “rights and liberties”. There were several characters whose influences were a bit ambiguous to me. In particular, one storyline seemed almost identical to the plot of the movie Penelope, and I was surprised to read in the author’s notes that it was actually based on Beauty and the Beast.

About the author’s notes: I was surprised to find that the last 100 pages or so were the author’s notes about the fairy tales referenced in the novel, as well as the original versions of those stories. It was very interesting to read about the author’s influences and why he made certain choices with his interpretations. I wish more novels would include notes like that, because I found them really interesting to read.

From reading other reader reviews, it seems like this is either a book you love or you hate. I personally loved it. It was very poetic at times, dark and gruesome in the right places, just as traditional fairy tales are. It wasn’t overly preachy with its ideas, which I appreciated. This is a bit of a stretch, but it reminded me a bit of Big Fish, so if you enjoyed the film or book, you might like this one, too.

The VMA’s Really, Really Suck

September 7, 2008 3 comments

OMG. The VMAs are really, really awful. I watched them last year, so I probably shouldn’t have expected that they would be anything else but a train wreck….I thought they really had a lot going for them though. Guess I was wrong.

With hopefully not too much of the show left, some of my thoughts on what’s happening:

  • I tuned it for exactly two reasons: the Jonas Brothers, and the cast of Twilight. It is absolutely TERRIBLE how the Jonas Brothers are being treated at the VMAs right now. All week, MTV used the Jonas Brothers (and almost solely the Jonas Brothers) in promos for the VMAs….obviously to bring in viewers. All night, Host Russell Brand Bland has insulted them and used them as the butt of extremely lewd jokes. So much so that half-way through the show he was obviously forced to (half) apologize to the sullen looking Jonas Brothers…poor boys..only to continue to joke about them for the rest of the evening.
  • The Jonas Brothers performance….I liked it, but there seemed to be something weird going on with the mics halfway through. They also looked extremely nervous. Did anyone else notice that? Love Bug is such a beautiful song, but unfortunately it will probably be lost amongst the truly abysmal but flashier pyro-heavy performances of the night.
  • As for the other reason I tuned it: the Twilight cast (Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and Cam Gigandet) stumbled out from backstage, looking as clueless as every other presenter, and awkwardly trying to figure out how to cram themselves into the narrow aisle they were given. Robert Pattinson was only able to say two words before Russell interupted him…I have no idea why. It was incredibly awkward.

At least they all looked nice?

  • The performances are all over the place. I mean that in every sense of the word. There have been very few performances actually in the venue…on sound stages, at some random club. I imagine it would be incredibly boring to be an audience member…I think I’m probably seeing more by watching it on TV than I would if I was at the show

It just amazes me that an awards show with this much money behind it is, and this many performers involed is such a mess. Would it KILL Mtv to put on a straightforward, rehearsed, and therefore entertaining show? I get the sense that they’re making it up as they go.

Update: Why the HECK did Britney Spears win like…three awards???

Update 2: Well…it’s finally over. Can I have the last 2.5 hours of my life back?? That was just….wow. Bad. Russell Brand…I actually was semi-excited about him hosting. I just can’t believe how completely tasteless and unfunny he was. He ruined the entire show. Note to Mtv…forget having a host next year. What’s the point? It’s not like he was holding the show together or anything. Mad props to Perez Hilton for defending the Jonas Brothers and completely trashing Russell in a post-show interview. Go Perez!

“I think I’ll go to Boston, I think that I’m just tired…”

September 7, 2008 1 comment

How I feel right now.

I am back at school as of Wednesday and it is very unpleasant indeed. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy so early in the semester. Before this year, the first two weeks at least were pretty laid back. I thought I’d be proactive this year and use those two weeks or so to get really ahead. Unfortunately, I’m struggling to just get what’s assigned done.

-I’ve started reading Don Quixote for my literature class, Major European Novels. I have to read thirty chapters by Tuesday, but I’ve been reading for hours and I’ve only read fifteen chapters. I don’t know why I’m reading so slowly. In any case, I’m really enjoying it. It’s so different from what I expected though. My only exposure to Don Quixote has been seeing bits of the ballet…so I was thinking it was about some gallant guy and his adventures. I had no idea that Don Quixote was actually a fifty-year-old man who is either completely mad or the biggest science-fiction/fantasy nerd of all time. Either way, he apparently imagines that he’s a knight, attacks a windmill he thinks is a giant, etc….it’s hilarious, but really not what I expected. Fun fact!: John Lithgow played Don Quixote in a 2000 tv movie. That would’ve seemed like really weird casting before I read the book, but I think it works.

-One of my classes is Artificial Intelligence. The work so far is all programming which is really easy, but the lectures and material is pretty out there. A lot of the things we’re talking about remind me of this awful class I had in high school called Theory of Knowledge. On the first day, the professor continuously called on people—by NAME—no small feat as there are probably 100+ people in that class. He even called out people and said “You didn’t preregister for this class, did you?”

– Intro to EECS II focuses exclusively on Electrical Engineering apparently. All I’m going to say about this class is that I’ve only had one lecture but I already want to crawl under my bed and hide for the rest of the semester.

-Intro to Algorithms: A class that I’m so far understanding and enjoying. The professor does not call on people randomly and there are lots of programming assignments, so I am pretty happy. My TA is also really nice.

Completely unrelated to school, but last week I went to the Hilltop Steakhouse outside of Boston. It was featured on one of those Food Network shows about Best Steakhouses or something…so here’s two pics:

Huge cactus sign outside

Huge cactus sign outside

Biggest steak i've ever eaten..i have an "after" picture, but there's not much left to show

Biggest steak i've ever eaten...there's an "after" picture but there's not much left to show 😀

Why the Midnight Sun leak was a genius move

September 4, 2008 7 comments

Update: You can directly download the Midnight Sun partial draft from Steph. Meyer’s site here.

Although the news is not exacty new, I thought I’d throw my two cents in about the Midnight Sun leak controversy.

For those of you not in the “Twilight” know, Midnight Sun was going to be the fifth book in author Stephenie Meyer‘s wildly popular, vampire-centered “Twilight” series. Although the storyline recently ended with the just-released and unbelievably controversial Breaking Dawn, Midnight Sun would’ve mirrored the events of the first book in the series, except told from the perspective of Edward, the vampire, instead of the main character Bella. This might sound boring to someone who hasn’t read the books, but for fans, it was a much-anticipated treat.

This past week, twelve chapters of Midnight Sun found itself illegally online, allegedly leaked by one of the few people that Stephenie Meyer had given a copy to. Many fans rushed to find and read the leak, while others stayed loyal to Meyer. In the end, though, Stephenie posted an emotional message on her website, including her own link to the twelve chapters, and noting that her sadness over the leak had put Midnight Sun “on hold indefinitely” (on the main page of her site).

Some people have called the leak a marketing scheme, even going as far as accusing Stephenie of being behind the leak herself. I’m not so sure I would go that far, but in this day and age nothing would really surprise me.

In my opinion, though, it was a genius move.

The Midnight Sun leak may have, at least partially, rejuvenated the Twilight franchise in the minds of a faction of embittered Twilight fans reeling over their dislike of Breaking Dawn, myself included (my review). While it can’t heal the wounds caused by the fourth book entirely, Midnight Sun made me almost forget everything I hated about Breaking Dawn, and made me remember everything I loved about the Twilight series in general. It renewed my interest, and I suspect a lot of other fan’s interest (one other at least), something that was desperately needed to ensure the upcoming movie‘s success, or at least it’s likability. There’s nothing worse than a movie adaptation and cynical fans, ready to jump on every minor indiscretion they find in the film, and well-practiced from harping on Breaking Dawn.

I’ve read the released Midnight Sun draft. I guiltily searched for the leaked version, only to realize that Stephenie Meyer had made the draft available on her website, so I read it with a semi-clean conscience. While clearly a rough draft, I loved every minute of it. Hearing things from Edward’s perspective, whose thoughts are both humorous and surprisingly cynical, was so cool. I really like the third and fourth books, New Moon and Eclipse, but I’ve always liked the first book Twilight the best. Midnight Sun let me meet the characters all over again, in a place where I liked them best.

I really hope that Stephenie Meyer decides to continue writing Midnight Sun. I can understand how she feels though, and if I were in her situation, I probably wouldn’t want to finish it either. I’ve read some suggestions that Meyer make the entire thing available for free on her website when it’s finished, but I don’t really think that’s fair to her. As far as Midnight Sun‘s sales go, I don’t think the leak is going to hurt. The leak was a teaser…albeit a really BIG teaser…but it left me wanting more, and I’m willing to pay to get more. I’m sure many people agree with me on that point.

I really haven’t been too happy with Stephenie Meyer recently, but Midnight Sun has made me remember that, Breaking Dawn aside, I really enjoy her books. I wasn’t exactly happy with the way she talked about Breaking Dawn critics, but if I put myself in her position, I’m not sure I would have reacted any differently. Breaking Dawn was her baby (heh…), and although I don’t exactly appreciate some of the comments she’s made, I have to respect her defense of her work and her loyalty to her original ideas. It does at least say something about her, that she stuck with her original plot line, despite probably being well-aware that some people weren’t going to like the direction she took the story. I’m really looking foward to her future work, even if it doesn’t include Midnight Sun.