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Welcome to.. Jurassic Park!

badass morgana
Quick update! Work has been busy, but in a good way. I've finally been shown how to use ePlanner (the computer system through which corporate tells us what displays to put up, and what projects to work on, etc), so I've been merrily zipping around the store, setting up tables and tearing down old displays like a madwoman. It's much more fun than walking around the store in circles, waiting for a customer to decide they need help. I feel much more productive now! It also makes the time fly.

I've been reading Jurassic Park lately, on the recommendation of a coworker. (And I suppose of my dad as well, who's been a Michael Crichton fan for man years.) I've always loved the movie, and it remains one of my favorites to this day, so I was eager to see how the book compared. So far I'm liking it a lot (I think I'm about 3/4 of the way through it - I got the awesome leatherbound edition that we have at B&N now, which contains both Jurassic Park and The Lost World)! The only complaint I really have is that the actions of the Rex leaves something to be desired. He behaves a lot more like a plot device than an animal. He trails Grant and the kids obsessively, and shows up randomly over and over. Any predator with a lick of sense would have moved on to easier prey by now. (I mean, come on. You're a Tyrannosaurus Rex, you've finally escaped your electrified fences.. and you're going to trail behind three measly humans, that are way more trouble than they're worth? The Rex has already proven it can catch and eat other dinosaurs with ease, so why does it bother with Grant & co.?) The raptors I can understand - they're crazy intelligent, and show a penchant for playing with their food. But Crichton tends to emphasize the relative stupidity of the Rex. It's a powerful predator, sure, but much more simplistic than the raptors. I don't know, maybe I'm nit-picking, but I would have really liked to have seen more natural, rational behavior from the Rex.

So I'm hoping to finish Jurassic Park soon, because I got something truly awesome in the mail yesterday, and I want to start it ASAP so I can post a very special review up. However, I'm loathe to break off from a book I haven't finished and start something else, because it almost always means I never return to the first book I was reading, or when I do, I've forgotten all the important little details I read previously.

(Also: Dr. Grant liked kids in the book? WEIRD change. But I suppose I can understand it - the screenwriters probably wanted to give Grant more character development, because so far, for all his awesomeness, he's remained pretty static. Right now basically the only change I can see him undergoing from the start of the book to the end is gaining a bit more respect for dinosaurs - only a bit, though, because he already had a very healthy amount of respect for them - and acquiring some PTSD. I know I would. Therapy for ever. They also made him younger - and less beardy and "barrel-chested" - and made Ellie older, to add romantic interest I suppose. Which also makes sense, in the format of a movie. It's just odd adjusting my perception of these characters, whose movie personas I've grown up accustomed to.)

These little things aside, though, I'm really enjoying it so far. I kind of love Hammond, with his determination and big dreams and crotchy old man-ness when things don't go his way.
badass morgana
Wow! It's been too long since I've updated. Partly because I've been trying to hash out the details of obtaining a domain name (and all the design, etc that follows), and partly because work has kept me omgexhausted lately. But seeing as I have been waylaid by illness the past few days (I had to go home halfway through my shift on Thursday, had yesterday off, and had to call out today), I may as well take this down-time as an opportunity to start catch up on my back-log of book discussion.

I've read a few gems lately - the most recent is one I finished reading just moments ago: Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein.

It was absolutely brilliant, and much more riveting than I expected. Normally it takes me quite a while to get into nonfiction, and even then I tend to slog through it at a snail's pace compared to my fiction reading. This was not the case with Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Within one day, I got nearly halfway through, and just reached the end two days later - and one of those days I spent at work until I went home and spent the rest of the day in a Nyquil coma. I'd say it's definitely a must read for all women interested in gender identities, what it means to be feminine, and modern girlhood. It's a vital read if you have/are having/want a daughter. This book is very thought-provoking, and full of great insights (particularly regarding the Disney Princess-ifying of girlhood). I will definitely be keeping an eye out for any future publications from Orenstein.

I haven't really utilized the highlighting function on my nook before, but while reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter I ended up highlighting a lot. Unfortunately, I just discovered that I should have bookmarked the pages I highlighted on for ease of finding them later, because as far as I know there's no way of doing a search-and-jump to highlights alone. So I'll have to flip through it sometime and pull those highlights as examples of the great facts and observations throughout the book (One off of the top of my head - have you ever noticed that the Disney Princesses, whenever they are presented together on the same product/ad, never look one another in the eye? They always stare vacantly in separate directions, as though utterly unaware of the others' presence. You'll never not notice it now! We have a TON of Disney stuff in the kids' section at B&N, and I checked - it's totally true.), but for now, I need to get some coffee and some Dayquil.

Racist much, Mr. Love Thy Neighbor?

badass morgana
I've let it slide for six books now, Mr. C.S. Lewis. The racism, the sexism - I'm still very displeased that Susan and Lucy were given weapons, then told they couldn't fight because they were giiiiiirls. But I understood that you wrote this in another time, and have been able to let it go.

But these excerpts from The Last Battle are really, really racist.

"Then the dark men came round them in a thick crowd, smelling of garlic and onions, their white eyes flashing dreadfully in their brown faces. They put a rope halter round Jewel's neck. They took the King's sword away and tied his hands behind his back. One of the Calormenes, who had a helmet instead of a turban and seemed to be in command, snatched the gold circlet off Tirian's head and hastily put it away somewhere among his clothes."

I realize there has to be an enemy to combat, but must you lump "them" and the "good Narnians" into such blatant racial groups? The Horse and His Boy introduced the Calormenes to us, and I was pretty uncomfortable with a lot of the racist generalization in that book, and how the hero couldn't really be a Calormene, even though he grew up there. Obviously, since he is the hero, he must be a white Narnian/Archenlandian! The racial lumping continues, but all the worse, in The Last Battle.

"And look on this stone bottle. In this there is a juice which, when we have rubbed it on our hands and faces, will make us brown as Calormenes." ... "After this has hardened on us," he said, "we may wash in water and it will not change. Nothing but oil and ashes will make us white Narnians again."

And so far, The Last Battle is by far the most heavy-handed of Christian allegories. But I knew that coming into it. The one redeeming quality in it so far, is that Jill gets to be awesome by developing super-ninja skills.
badass morgana
So this isn't about books at all, but I like to experiment with cooking, and occasionally like to talk about cooking. So, my mom has this really, really supremely great recipe for super thick and creamy mac and cheese. She always cooks just by eyeballing measurements, but I like measurements, so when I had her teach me how to make it for myself, I measured as we went along and scribbled it all down. And now, I would like to share the recipe with you! Tonight I made it to bring to a potluck at work tomorrow, so I took the opportunity to make a quick photo-tutorial. (Click the photos for a larger view.) Sooo here we go!

Tutorial & recipe under the cut in case you don't care and want to get back to your regular programming of BOOKSBOOKSBOOKS.Collapse )

What.

badass morgana
We get our fair share of weird customers at Barnes & Noble. There's a middle-aged guy who's come in twice while I've been there (that I noticed). I know it was the same guy, because, well.. The first time I checked him out went like this:

ME: Would you like the receipt with you or in the bag?
CUSTOMER: I'll just eat it here.
ME: *blinks for a moment, slowly hands receipt to customer*

The second time, he was buying a book:

ME: Would you like a bag, sir?
CUSTOMER: That's okay, I'll just eat it here.
ME: ... Okay?

Both times he was completely serious. I ... I just don't know. I think of him as the "Eat It Here" Guy now. For the record, I didn't see him eat either the receipt or the book, but who knows what he did once he was out of my line of vision.

Tags:

badass morgana
So, there's a couple of book things from earlier entries that I wanted to finally wrap up properly. I realized just now that I never followed up on the Mortal Instruments trilogy - well, series now - and never gave my final thoughts regarding the entire Hunger Games trilogy. Let's start with the good:

The Hunger Games was just wonderful. A breath of fresh air. A breath of fresh air when you are trapped in a smoke-filled room. This series was so full of ingenuity, suspense, and really well-done plot twists. The first book gets things off to a brilliant start, and the second one follows up just as well. There were times during the second one when I felt a little disappointed, like certain elements were just repeating themselves.. But it ultimately ended up going in a different, but equally awesome direction. The third book was completely different. It's astonished me, really, when I've talked to people about The Hunger Games, and have found that they were disappointed in Mockingjay (the third book) because it was different from the first two. But really, was there anywhere else the third book could go? The second book keys everything up for a rebellion, which ultimately comes to fruition in the third. I would have felt cheated if the third book wasn't as focused on the rebellion as it was. It would have felt like a cop out any other way, like if they'd conveniently found a way to circumvent the full-scale rebellion, or take the Capitol down from the inside, or whatever. Anything less than what it was, and I would have felt cheated and disappointed in the author for not being able to bring it when things needed to be brought. But Suzanne Collins brings it, and doesn't pull any punches. One punch in particular I felt quite keenly, and pretty much bawled over, but again, this is a spoiler-free zone! Ultimately, I really can't express how fantastic this trilogy is, but I hope Collins writes more YA in the future, and I hope the Hunger Games movie can live up to the brilliance of the books. If it is not totally and completely fierce, I will be the first to call shenanigans.

Now for the bad: The Mortal Instruments trilogy-now-series. I know I said before that I love these books like candy. But my candy has turned rancid. The third book, City of Glass, was a major disappointment to me. Everything, and I mean everything, was entirely predictable. There were no surprises, and I spent the majority of the book just feeling really angry at the characters. Not only were things just ridiculous with certain plot points being drawn out way past the time they should have been (and poorly at that), but everything else just felt really flat. I found myself getting really impatient for the book to be over - not because I had to know how it ended (it was easy to see how it would end), but because I wanted to get started reading something else. At the end of the first book (spoilers ho, because I really don't find them worth holding back on for this series) we find out that Jace, Clary's love interest, is actually her brother. Omg, no wai, etc. It was actually a good twist. But then in the second book, things become clear quite quickly that he's going to somehow turn out to not be her brother. And there are actually several moments in that book that are quite along these lines:

PERSON: *dying* Clary! Jace is not your bro--
CLARY: He's not my broom? Well obviously he's not a broom.
PERSON: No, he's not your broth-
CLARY: -brothel? What do brothels have to do with anything?
PERSON: Screw this. *dies*

PERSON: Jace! You and Clary are not rela- *gets stabbed*
JACE: Not relay racers? Not relationship experts? What? Alack! I guess we shall never know!

Which I was able to tolerate in the second book. But throughout the entire third book? It gets really old, really fast, and gets to the point where the characters would have to just plain be complete morons to not figure it out (and to not figure out who her real brother is, and the entire reason for all of it, and all the seeeecrets that are obviously supposed to be shockers when they're revealed, but were signposted so extremely much, you couldn't go two feet down the road before encountering another flashing, neon sign-post). Honestly, a lot of the time I sat there and thought, "Who edited this? Who read it and thought it was okay?" If I were Cassandra Clare's editor, I would have sent the manuscript back to her with a bit "NO" written in block letters on the front page, and told her to start over, and this time write while she was awake.

Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. There were some redeeming qualities, mainly Alex and Magnus Bane, and their relationship. Magnus in particular has all of my love. Alas, they were not enough to save the book for me.

So there you have it. Undying love for The Hunger Games, a big I Am Disappointed In You for The Mortal Instruments.

What's been up, and what will be up.

badass morgana
Hello, fair readers. My apologies for the lack of excitement around these parts lately - not much of any real note has been going on lately. At least nothing I've felt compelled to write about. But there are some new developments in the works now, so I thought I'd share a bit before heading to bed (which I already should have done two hours ago, but whatever).

As to what I've been reading lately, after The Replacement I read Skinned, which was alright I suppose, but a bit too obsessive about being so dismal and deep and I kind of just wanted to smack the main character quite a few times. Honestly, it felt like a watered-down Uglies. Very watered-down. After Skinned, I read Beautiful Creatures, which I just finished. Again, it was alright, and parts of it were really good, but I just wasn't wowed like I was expecting to be. The beginning was really strong, and I loved the richness of the culture. But I just couldn't bring myself to care about the plot - possibly because I couldn't really believe in the relationship that was so very central to the plot. There was a lot of "love-at-first-sight-ness", which tends to immediately sour me to anything. I just didn't see a whole lot of substance to the omgsotrueluv. The last twenty pages or so were rather good, because where a lot of the book felt really unnecessarily stretched out and like it was all going at a snail's pace (and repeating itself over and over like Groundhog Day), I was finally feeling the anxiety of the time limit, and was sort of flipping all the page corners and jiggling my leg as I read. The ending came with a few surprises, but ultimately it was pretty predictable. The most awesome part of the book was the librarian, Marian, and her two libraries. And Macon was also kind of awesome, particularly in one certain scene where he sort of delivered a gentlemanly smack-down to the whole town. When it came down to the book as a whole, though, I gave it a 2 out of 5.

I'm a bit starving for something really good, so it's fortunate that I've got two books waiting for me at Barnes & Noble that I ordered a little while ago - Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle (Anything he writes is gold!), and an annotated collection of Archy and Mehitabel, by Don Marquis, which I learned about a couple of months ago, and have been dying to read more comprehensively ever since. (I've read a few of the individual poems online, enough to know it's right up my alley, but I love annotations, so when I saw the collected works online.. I knew I was destined for it.) So while it sucks to not have anything to read tonight, I don't want to start anything else in my to-read pile, as I'm wanting to start Tamsin next. And the first thing in my to-read stack is the first in a series I'm really hoping to fall in love with, in which case I'll have to read them all in a row. So. Tamsin first.

As to the new developments outside of what I've been reading, both are of the good-karma sorts: One of my mom's friends at the hospital told her she recently saw a chemo patient walk into the cancer care center and ask if they had any hats, but they were out.. So my mom's friend asked my mom if she knew how to knit or crochet, and if she would be interested in making some hats. My mom ran with the idea, and recruited me to help as well. She crochets, while I knit, so we both found patterns and wool we like and have set to work. She's already finished one hat, while mine isn't even halfway there yet, but is coming along. (I'll try to take a picture of the progress soon.) I've got some friends from work who knit/crochet, and in fact, I think we're planning on a knitting party tomorrow night if all goes to plan, so I'm hoping to see if some of them want to participate in the project (which I've taken to pitching as Hats for Hope) as well. Then I'm also planning on seeing if the knitters and crocheters on the BPAL forums might be into helping out and sending hats to the cancer care center. So many BPALers are so very giving and also into crafts, so I'm hoping at least a few may be enthusiastic about it. I'm basically just waiting on my mom getting an address for me to post for them to send the hats to. I would have them just send the hats to me and take them in myself, but I think letting them send hats directly to the hospital gives it a bit more credibility. Also, if any of YOU, darling readers, would like to contribute to the project, let me know and I'll get you the address too! (Or you can just send it to my address if you already have it.) The more the merrier!

The second development: One of the local animal shelters is having an event this weekend, which caused me to look up their website and poke around. I'm planning on attending the event, which is to raise money for the shelter and promote animal health as well (they'll be offering very affordable spaying/neutering, microchipping, etc), but then I got the idea in my head that seeing as my mother doesn't have a job at the moment, she might enjoy volunteering there until something that pays a salary comes along. With some more encouraging, I think she may really go for the idea. But the more I encouraged her, the more it sounded like a good idea to me.. And so I've determined that even if she doesn't decide to volunteer there, I really want to. I've been kind of yearning for a dog lately, but with Merlin as codependent and needy as he is, that will never happen. So I could instead help out all the dogs at the shelter. They need volunteers for pretty much everything, and I could certainly help walk the dogs and get them exercised. It would give me an outlet (not to mention exercise for myself as well) for my wishful thinking, and do some good as well. So hopefully sometime soon we'll go drive to the shelter to take a look at the place, and see about volunteering (on the days I don't work at B&N, that is).

So! Those are the current happenings in my world. What about yours?
badass morgana
So I have recently read two books: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore and The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. I originally intended to do a chapter-by-chapter review of I Am Number Four, but the chapters were pretty short, and I couldn't really think of much to say about it as I went along. (I tried taking notes as I read the first chapter, but all I ended up writing down was "LOL typo on the very first page, who edited this?") I still don't have much to say about it, so I will be brief:

It felt, quite intensely at times, like a Smallville rip-off. Sometimes I just shook my head and said to the pages, "You're trying to be Clark Kent, aren't you?" And I really wasn't feeling the romance. Sarah was a pretty good character at first, and I wanted to like her, but she ended up just being kind of vapid and blank to me. She didn't seem to have very much motivation of her own. I didn't really get why John liked her so much. Just because she was the first person to be decent to him in a long time? Sam did the same thing, but I don't see you getting googly-eyed over him (which frankly would have improved the storyline). Sam was the only character I really genuinely liked. He had more depth than even the main character. Although now that I think about him more, even he was pretty two-dimensional when compared to the depth I normally like in a character. Which just goes to show how flat the rest of the characters were. The story was okay, I suppose. But it all just felt very cliche. I wasn't impressed. (Yet at the same time, if they wrote a sequel from Six's point of view, instead of whiny John's, I might read it. Because Six was kind of badass, and I would totally approve of her and Sam getting together.)

(Just now, while googling to remember the name of a character, I came across this, which made me say, "Oh, HELL no.")

Ultimately, I gave it a 2 out of 5.

The Replacement, on the other hand, got a 4.5 out of 5 from me. The characters had so freaking much more depth, which was a relief to read after I Am Number Four. I loved Mackie, and Emma, and Tate especially. I kept picturing Tate as a slightly younger Marlena from Cloverfield, by the way, and I don't know why. But I was very pleased with how driven each of the main characters were, and impressed with the portrayal of Mackie's deep sense of being other, of being apart from everyone else. He didn't fit into the world of the - well, for reasons they give in the novel, and which I don't want to spoil here, they never actually name the magic folk in the story, but I think it's pretty obvious they're a sort of Fey. I mean, what with the changeling aspect and all. Anyway, Mackie didn't fit in with the Fey, and he certainly didn't fit in with the human world, and that sort of sense of isolation.. Well, it's very similar to depression, and I admired how accurately Yovanoff got that feeling. It sort of rots away at your insides. But I'm not going to go into a schpeal on depression here. I just wanted to note the poignancy with which the author captures Mackie's keen sense of Otherness.

Tate was a wonderful part of the novel, and I loved her badassery, her determination to save her sister, and her easy sense of being a sexual being without it being all she was about. That's rare in teen fiction - usually sexuality is either completely ignored or villainized, and I liked how it was handled here. And she definitely didn't need anyone to save her. She needed Mackie's help, sure, but she didn't sit around waiting for it or meebling weakly over it. She did something about it, and she called him out on being a coward and generally kicked his ass around until he agreed to help her.

The only thing I wasn't so keen on was the kind of vague description of the Fey's motivation, and the vagueness of what they got from the town of Gentry, and what they gave back. There was a lot of focus on that exchange, but also a lot of dancing around it, and I would have liked to see a more solid explanation. At the same time, I did enjoy the usage of something being true because of belief in it.

In conclusion, I would recommend The Replacement, and would not recommend I Am Number Four. If you want good Sci-Fi, go with Uglies by Scott Westerfeld or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Both are extremely excellent series.

Of Mortal Instruments and Fandom Roots

badass morgana
Work has been keeping me very busy lately, but I am hoping to soon be posting more things on here. I have been working my way through the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, and am now on the third (and last so far published) one, City of Glass. I want to dedicate a whole entry to writing up a proper (sort of) review of these books, but for now all I will say is I love them like piles of candy. And I may have at one point started talking to the pages. "Clary Fray, you get your hands off of that poor boy!" "TELL HER OMG TELLLL HERRRR," etc. (I have similarly started talking to the screen while watching True Blood. "Andy Bellefleur, you had better not be doing that V!") I may also regularly read with an odd sort of grimace on my face, as I battle between a few very different reactions to the same situation. I may have to do two separate posts, a spoilery one and a non-spoilery one. I will think more on this later.

(One thing that greatly amused me upon re-reading City of Bones, which I had read before but needed a refresher of before going into the next two, was a barely-there Easter egg somewhere in the earlier chapters. You see, before she was a published author, Cassie Clare was a big-name fanfiction writer. She apparently wrote an epically long Harry Potter fanfic referred to as The Draco Trilogy - het, with hints of slash without ever actually crossing that line - which I have not read, and was only made aware of recently. The fanfic of hers I did know about was the Very Secret Lord of the Rings diaries. They are quite hilarious, and I remember reading them years ago.. Then a couple of months ago, for some reason I googled for them again, and was stunned to realize the name of the author - Cassandra Clare! I double-checked, and confirmed it was the same Cassandra Clare who wrote the Mortal Instruments series. "This," I thought, "is most epic." It turns out her fanfic was a part of what got Cassie published - apparently Holly Black read her fanfic, loved her style of writing, and got her bumped into the publishing world. So, aware of this connection while rereading City of Bones, I caught it this time - a small mention, of a button that Clary (the main character) was given by Simon (her best friend), among other buttons, which reads "Still Not King". This is a direct reference to the Aragorn edition of the Very Secret Diaries, in which in every entry he laments that he is "Still not king." I barked out loud with laughter, considered it for a moment, and then decided it takes balls to make one of your own characters a fan of you. So props, Cassandra Clare. You pulled it off smoothly. And it's a nice nod to her origins, and a cool sort of high-five to the fanfiction community.)

Another thing I'm hoping to do pretty soon is attempt a different sort of review that I haven't done before. It was inspired by reading the Mark Reads Harry Potter blog (which I now avidly follow), and my own long-standing desire to write book reviews. I can never quite seem to do it the traditional way, though, so my new Thing To Attempt is a chapter-by-chapter review. Or so. If the chapters of the intended book end up being short or something, it may be two or three chapters at a time. The book I am currently aiming to do this for, after I finish City of Glass, is I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore. I am very much not into sci-fi, but for an interesting premise, I am willing to give it a shot. (The only two sci-fi series I've really loved so far are Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.) Also, it amuses me that the author's name and bio is in-character, relating to the story.

More on that later, though! I am on the opening shift tomorrow, so I need to get to bed!

Hunger Games, the Afterparty

badass morgana
So I wanted to sit down and write out a full, well thought out review of The Hunger Games, now that I've finished it (in just over a day). But I cannot do that. I am incapable of talking about this book calmly for any length of time, because it is SO FREAKING AWESOME YOU GUYS. Seriously, I'm so glad I waited to read them until all three had come out, because when the bookstore opens today, I am going over there to immediately buy both Catching Fire and Mockingjay. And a keychain with the mockingjay symbol on it. Partly because it looks awesome, and partly because these books are FANTASTIC and I must have merch.

So if you've read The Hunger Games (and for those who haven't, I'm trying my hardest to keep this all spoiler-free), you may be wondering what my verdict is: Team Gale or Team Peeta? My answer is this: When Gale is in a scene, I am all, "Omg Gale you are AWESOME please go about making out with Katniss right NOW." When Peeta is in a scene, I yell at the pages, "Katniss it is so OBVIOUS that he is perfect for you omg it is DESTINY." If Peeta and Gale ever come together in a single scene... I might explode from conflict.

You know, I think the Hunger Games would actually make an extremely awesome TV show. Uh, not in the reality TV genre - that would just be horrifying and terrible. But in the fake reality TV genre, where it's filmed to look like a reality show.. and sort of is, with the characters that is. It would take the whole Team Character thing to a whole other level. And if you made it interactive, where votes could gain certain characters "sponsors" that basically do the same as sponsors in the books do - grant them gifts at key points in the games to help them along. Or something along those lines.

So, yes, I'm going to go get breakfast now, and then it's off to the bookstore! And then I shall be holing myself up away from all contact while I ravenously devour Catching Fire. Disturbances may mean something gets thrown at you. Fair warning.