Ungrateful daughter, fobby parent(s?)

There’s something deeply depressing to stories about immigrants and their American children.  I’ve just finished reading Secondhand World by Katherine Min.  It’s about a Korean American girl named Isadora after the dancer Isadora Duncan.  Isadora also has a Korean name, Myung Hee, that only her father uses.  As an essentially American girl growing up in the pot hazed days of the 70’s in upstate New York she feels she has little in common with her parents.

There are some really truly sad parts, things to do with family and young love, but I won’t spoil that.  What I find depressing about these stories about immigrant families and the distance between generations is that very distance.  Something in me wants to strangle the children who treat their parents so poorly.  I mean, I know that the character is meant to grow as the novel progresses, slowly coming to appreciate their parents or their culture.  But it’s so painful to watch a daughter scorn her parents for their bad English when, as the reader, you know that the parents have worked hard to be where they are, to raise their daughter in America.  And the worst part is that, usually, like in this book, by the time the American daughter appreciates her parents and actually take the time to think about their history, it’s too late.  Gah!  So frustrating!

But, if this is the sort of thing that interests you (and despite the fact that it drives me crazy and makes me sad, it does interest me) then might I suggest a couple other books.  The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (well, I only saw the movie) and The Barbarians are Coming by David Wong Louie (which I actually really hated).

I also enjoyed this book because Isa grows up in upstate New York (where I’m from) and the author actually used to live where I live.  So, there were some familiar places mentioned in the book, and it was fun to imagine my hometown in the 70’s, especially from the perspective of a fellow Asian American.

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So… college?

Because I’m a psychic, I predict that this is going to be a short post in which I will try to cram as much info as possible.

It’s week 8 of school. And it feels so weird that I’m in college and not high school. The whole living where you work and where you learn is odd. But not too odd. It’s a little enjoyable. The official names of the courses I’m taking are Linguistics: Data, Theory, Exp, Introduction to Anthropology, Classical Mythology, and Evolution: Dinosaurs to Darwin. I got pretty lucky what with the not having 8:30 classes thing. My earliest class is at 10:20, and sometimes my first class isn’t until 1:20. It’s all I can do to not sleep the morning away every Tuesday.
I got a job too. I don’t think it really counts, but it’s pleasant. I work at the circulation desk of the nice, big, new, lovely library. Sometimes I work the first shift, from 8 to 10, so the only people who are there are the crazies who get up early to go to the library. That means I can just sit at the desk and do my own homework, or read. Reading is fun.
I also want to make note that I have a lot of Asian friends and that has never happened to me before. Ever. Some of them are international students, so that’s cool, and some of them aren’t, like me, so that’s cool too. They are very awesome people and I love how comfortable we are with each other. I’m pretty sure Annie and Tra My have slept together in Tra My’s bed the last two nights, and there also seems to be a lot of butt slapping and bongo playing amongst us.
Also, I think I’m going to get fat. This food looks horrendously bad for me… even the vegetarian options, which, yes, I do eat sometimes. Not to mention the waffle bars, sundae bars, cupcake bars, bar, bars, bars…

Next topic…  101 in 1001.  I have successfully completed 2 more tasks (it sounds like an accomplishment, but in the whole scheme of things, it isn’t).  Way back when I finished my first goal I also finished another one: 42. Purchase and use a real address book.  I got a cute one from Borders, and I’m actually going to drop everything right now and write my uncle’s new address in it.  Ok, that’s done.  I also did 22. Wish upon a shooting star.  About a month ago I went up to the university cemetery (spooky!) and, because Colgate is in the middle of no where we were able to see lots and lots of stars.  It was a very clear, crisp night and it was probably the second best sky I have ever seen (the first being when I was at Girl Scout camp a long time ago and we couldn’t even find the big dipper there were too many stars).  We saw lots of stars and the milky way was just visible… and, lucky me, we saw two shooting stars as well.  I can’t tell you what I wished for because… well, 1) it won’t come true if I tell and 2) I don’t really remember what I wished for.  It was quite nice.  Here’s the 101in1001 video, and just as a warning, the audio is totally lagging.

Last thing.  I recently read a book, Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross.  (Note: the last time the book was checked out was 10 years ago.  What a lonely book)  Basically, it’s about Pope Joan, a female pope from the 800s who gets away with her strange life by posing as a man.  It was very good, I recommend it (and if you aren’t going to read it, then just read the afterword which explains the case for Joan’s existence).  Point of the story: Pope Joan, the movie is being released this month… but it’s a German movie.  Sad pandas for me.

No, wait, now it’s the last thing.  I had the flu a couple weeks ago, and not of the swine variety.  It sucked.  And it was my own fault because I was too scared to get a flu shot.  But, because we have to be extra safe and stop the spread of disease on campus, I was quarantined.  So, I spent four days with 2 other flu-ridden girls in an empty apartment.  We had to wear surgical masks when dealing with the common folk, and our food was delivered in sad little take-out boxes, and we were just generally very pathetic.  I’m all better now, except that I have a nasty cough that gets annoying really quickly.  Is there a max number of cough drops you should eat in an hour?  I hope not.

I’m done now and obviously not a psychic, this was a longish post.  Have a nice day.

Books I regret reading

Another post based off of a forum topic: Books you’ve regretted reading.

I adore books.  I love to read.  I devour words (they’re tasty).  But sometimes I read books that I kinda sorta maybe dislike totally and completely despise.


1)  The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne- I chose this book because it was short.  That is almost always a horrible reason for choosing a book (and on the other hand, choosing a book only for its massive size is also a bad idea unless you are planning on submitting yourself to some sort of solitary confinment, in which case a big book might help you pass the time).  I don’t really remember the book at all, but the chapter that I remember the most was also the worse one.  The narrator spends the whole chapter trying to wake up the dead man in the chair because he doesn’t realize the dead guy is dead. This is how it basically goes:

Narrator: Wake up man-who-isn’t-moving!
Dead Man:
Narrator: You’re going to miss all your appointments. Your important appointments!
Dead Man:
Narrator: Why aren’t you waking up?  Hey, what’s that big red spot on your chest?
Dead Man:
Narrator: OMG.   Are you dead?


2) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley- Here is my weakness.  Books that explore some meaningful concept or philosophy usually fly right by me.  I read for pleasure and I  get pleasure from the plot, not from the philosophy.  I don’t even remember what this book was dissecting or satirizing, but I did not like it one bit.  Actually, at this point I don’t even remember what I didn’t like about the book!  Obviously, I didn’t find it that memorable.

On a happier note, and still on a book related note: I am currently working on 4 books.  The Anglo Files, The Fiery Cross, The Game, and Paper Towns.  Yay, books!

Jamie Fraser > Edward Cullen

I just finished rereading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  My reasons for reading it again being 1) It’s an excellent book, 2) I sort of forgot what happened, and 3) I still haven’t finished the series, so I figured I should know remind myself how it started, at least.  The book’s a good healthy size, around 800 pages and it took me about a week and a half to read.  That should be a good indication of how much I like it.

standing_stones1Basically, the book begins in Scotland, 1945, where Claire and Frank Randall are on their second honeymoon after being separated by their various obligations during WWII.  Claire time travels to 1743, by way of a circle of standing stones.  From there she is kidnapped by men of the MacKenzie clan who think her an English spy.  It shortly becomes apparent that she is no spy when Captain Jack Randall, an English officer and coincidentally, the great-great-great-something-grandfather of her husband, Frank, demands that the MacKenzies turn her in for questioning.  This puts her in a tight spot, and her only option is to marry James Fraser, a young and capable Scot, but who also happens to be an outlaw with a price on his head.  And then from there Claire and Jamie fall in love.

In essence, Outlander is a historical romance.  Gabaldon writes about 18th century Scotland until your ears leak Scottish accents and crisp Scottish air. And the romance part of it, that’s the best part, or at least the second best part (there’s also the adventure to contend with).

People think Edward Cullen is worth swooning over because he’s cold and a vampire of supernatural strength?  Try Jamie Fraser, for goodness sake.  He’s warm and a Scottish warrior who protects his wife with nothing but his bare, human hands.  He’s more real that Edward, he’s certainly got more depth as a character than Edward.  To me, Edward’s worth is held by a very thin power and if you breath on him too hard he’ll just disintegrate.  Jamie can stand on his own and his presence is as solid as you could ask for from a fictional character.

First excerpt sketch of Claire by Hoang Nguyen for a graphic novel Diana Gabaldon is writing.

First excerpt sketch of Claire by Hoang Nguyen for a graphic novel Diana Gabaldon is writing.

And just because Jamie is just a normal human, it doesn’t make the circumstance of his relationship less amazing.  Here are Jamie and Claire, forced together because of unforeseeable and horrible chances, and they make the best of it.  Perhaps, the dearest part is that Jamie fell in love with Claire the first time he held her when she cried, shortly after being captured by the big burly Scotsmen.  For Claire, the process is slower and tortuous because she still loves her husband from her own time.  The passion the two have for each other, the tender love to care for each other, and the raw desire they have for each other are all so strongly laced in the book.  It’s really fabulous.

On a non-romance note, the book is also really clever.  The plot is very complex (don’t let that scare you away), and that’s really what life is like, it’s not one simple plot, it’s a lot of plots tangled up in a big mess.  The emotions and motives of all the characters are very carefully thought up and incredibly detailed.  Having just finished the book, one part that I remember vividly now, is the aftermath of an ordeal Jamie went through.  His pain is so great and it makes you cry as if he has died.

Great book.  5 stars, 2 thumbs up, however you want it.  Now, I need to reread the second book so that I can start the third one for the first time.  Whew.

Oh by the way, well, you would have realized by now.  NOTHING to do with the Outlander movie that’s came out last summer.

No, this isn’t about Obama. Stop looking at that picture.

HARRY POTTER!…

Lucky me, Santa gave me Harry, A History for Christmas.  Exactly what I asked for… from my mom.  Anyways, I wanted the book because I listen to PotterCast and of course I’ve been hearing about the book since Melissa, one of the hosts, wrote it.  The book is basically about Melissa’s experience with the fandom and she’s been right front and center being the webmistress of, like, the biggest Harry Potter fan site, The Leaky Cauldron.

Melissa on the front of USA Today, keeping company with Obama and McCain. Photo from harryahistory.com

Melissa on the front of USA Today, keeping company with Obama and McCain. Photo from harryahistory.com

The stories and experiences that Melissa writes about are really insightful.  It tells you a lot about what it’s like to be a fan of such a huge series,although I doubt the amount of people who don’t know what it’s like will actually pick it up to find out.  There are a lot of moments in the book where, I could imagine, every fan wished he or she was Melissa.  Lemme think… well, she’s friends with the Jamie Waylett aka Crabbe, she’s held an original copy of Beedle, she’s been on tour with Harry and the Potters, she’s interviewd Laura Mallory (you all know you wish you could at least meet the woman), she’s sat in Dumbledore’s chair, she’s met JK Rowling, she’s interviewed JK Rowling, she’s been inside Jo’s house, she’s just so essential to the community in so many ways.

One of my favorite chapters was when Melissa interviewed Laura Mallory.  I can’t imagine having to talk to the lady who went so far to ban the Harry Potter books from libraries without even reading the book because God told her not too.  She’s so firm in her faith it’s almost frustrating.  I mean, you have to at least try to hear the other side out sometimes.  And I think this is one of those times.  But, I admired how Melissa seems to have handled the encounter and she wrote about it without making Laura Mallory out as a terrible fiend.  I have no idea if I could even manage that much.

The only problem with the book I had was the actual writing.  The style just didn’t sit well with me personally.  Some of the metaphors Melissa uses and the way she explains things and describes events seems confusing to me, or at leasy a little wordy at times.  But, that’s just my opnion and Harry, A History just goes against my general writing preferences.

But, other than that, I would certainly reccommend this book to all Harry Potter fans whether or nor you are an extremely obsessed one or a casual movie-goer.  It really gives you a sense of what you’re contributing to.  And for those people who aren’t into Harry Potter, the book might give you some insight on why we fans are so crazed.

One last thing, there is a website for Harry, A History that has a bunch of fun extra tidbits.  Vault 27 has some extra pieces from Melissa’s interviews that didn’t make it into the book which is worth a visit.

Rereading books

I have this problem.  I read a book and then another book and then another and another and another and then soon enough I forget what the first book was about.  I even forget what happens in books I like.  It’s terrible.  So, if I like a book enough I’ll have to reread it eventually, not just to enjoy it again, but to actually remember how it ended again.  (I also have to reread the Temeraire series before I read the 4th book because I don’t remember how the 3rd book ended…)

Anyways, I just finished rereading The Time Traveler’s Wife again, even though I only just read it a couple months ago.  Because my sister is reading it for the first time the copy of the book has been lying around the house, so I sort of got sucked into it when I picked it up and just started reading it again.

This time, since I just read the book in November, I remembered how the book ended and the essential plot points.  And even though everything was still fresh in my memory it still made me bawl at the end.  Maybe even more than the first time.  Some of the little things that happen and the little things that are said are what make the book amazing and it’s those things that I loved to reread.

This is a plea.  If you still have not read this book, please do.

Some cliché with your literature?

I have already read one book by Eva Ibbotson, that being, A Song for Summer.  It was a little while ago and I can’t really remember the particulars of it, but I do remember that I liked the book.  So, it was for this reason that I bought A Countess Below Stairs. (Although I thought it was A Countess Below Stars, when I got it.  I’m a good reader, obviously. 😉 )

I also happen to not like this cover. It's been over photoshopped.

Now, straight to the point.  I didn’t like it much and I probably wouldn’t recommend it.  The plot is incredibly cliché (humbled aristocrat works as a maid for a terribly dashing young valid, who has a terribly nasty fiancée, maid and man fall in love, bitchy fiancée storms off stage).  And, the very typical plot could have been saved by dynamic characters, but unfortunately the characters in A Countess Below Stairs are pretty flat.  For example…

  1. Anna, the Russian countess who works as a maid for the Earl of Westerholme, is impossibly good.  She has absolutely no flaws, except maybe being too humble.  Seriously, would a countess really be expected to lunge herself enthusiastically at hard and dirty housework?
  2. Muriel, the Earl’s fiancée, on the other hand, is impossibly evil.  There is no instance of kindness, compassion, or even understanding on her part.  She’s truly despicable, which is great for a villianess, but she’s still human.
  3. Rupert, the earl, doesn’t stand as a character.  How could he have been fooled for an instant by Muriel?  How did he fall in love with Anna?  I don’t feel like these questions are ever really answered.  And, he’s very quick to be swayed (first into believing Anna was engaged to Sergei, then that she wasn’t).

Am I being too harsh?  I think I’ll have to read A Song For Summer again so I can put Eva Ibbotson back in my good books.