Monthly Archives: January 2015

Short Stories

I have read over a hundred pages this week, but I didn’t finish a book yesterday.  There are two I’ve been working on this week.  First, I’ve been reading The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald with my boyfriend.  One of the things I miss about college is getting to read a book and discuss it with other people who read the book, plus it’s better with him because I am completely at ease and feel I can voice my opinions and I know I already respect and enjoy his way of thinking.  It’s a win-win, but it’s a slow read.

The other book is a slow read, but for a different reason.  I’m reading Long Story Short, a short stories anthology edited by Marianne Gingher.  More than short, each piece is a “flash fiction.”  Every other page, the reader has to jump into a new story.

I like short stories, but I feel like they should be taken one or two at a time.  Reading a whole book of them is hard.

It’s also making me really miss UNC.  The editor, as well as a few of the writers, are fantastic Creative Writing professors at the University of North Carolina.  I respect their work and especially miss learning from Marianne Gingher, Bland Simpson, and Pam Durban.

So, sorry, short post and rather late in the day, but next Thursday I’ll hopefully have finished TWO books.

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Five Random Thoughts from the week

1. Yesterday, I went suit shopping, because I had a dream that Disney called me saying, “We want to interview you! Can you be on the next plane to Florida?” and I kept thinking, “No, I need until at least tomorrow, because I still don’t have a suit!”  In order to assuage this fear, I went and bought a suit.  Well, I bought a really expensive blazer and a fairly cheap skirt that go really well together.

2. This morning I finally had my first Story Time.  It was fine.  Probably could have gone better.  But it was an edifying experience in this idea: one of the songs I did flopped, and I had thought that if something like that happened, the whole session would be lost.  But it’s really not.  One element not working doesn’t mean the whole thing is a write-off.  And now I know, that’s not a song I should use.

3. Right before I began this post, I had to restart my laptop no less than three times, even though it’s only a few months old. So Public Service Announcement: always back up your work.

4. Maureen Johnson has a book coming out in February.   I wrote the date down in my planner incorrectly, so I thought I was getting the book a month earlier than I am.  Which sucks because I SO need to figure out where Steven went and how they’re gonna work their relationship out and…ARRRGGGGHHH.

5. I LOVE Agent Carter.  I hate the men she works with.  Except Souza.  I’m even angry with Howard and Jarvis for hiding information from her.  But I love her femininity and her ruthlessness in battle and her ability to use people’s sexism against them.  Hopefully, they’ll follow Galavant’s lead and order a second season.  Speaking of Galavant, I haven’t watched since the first episode.  And now that it’s not a one and done thing…I’m not sure I will watch again.  It’s not as exciting to me as Agent Carter is.

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Lost and Found by Andrew Clements

I bought this book because my dad and I LOVED Frindle (if you haven’t read it, you should), so I wondered what another Andrew Clements book would be like.

The situation itself is a fantasy: I’ve never had a twin, but I know there were times growing up I didn’t even want a sister (not any more though, love you girl).  In Lost and Found, Clements explores what might happen if one of the twins gets lost in the system, and two smart and also frustrated kids decide to take advantage.  Instead of correcting the mistake, the boys take turns going to school.  Of course, it doesn’t help because they have to pretend to be each other, no one can tell the difference, and one ends up doing most of the work while the other gets to have all the fun.

The writing is actually very good.  It’s written for a fifth grade reading level, so it’s very clear.  I thought this would make it seem stupid or over-simplified, but it’s a very good balance of style and clarity.  The characters are very well developed.  Mrs. Cardiff, the nurse, is only in a few chapters, but we know enough about her to know what she’s going to do and understand her motivations.  And the reader can always tell which twin is which because their personalities are very distinguished, even when they’re trying to be each other.

The ending is very satisfying as well.  It isn’t entirely predictable and it doesn’t wrap everything up, but it does make it clear that there is a solution for everything.  And since it shows things from both the child and the adult perspectives (though the latter only briefly), it raises the stakes and rounds out the situation nicely.

My most favorite thing about this book: When Mrs. Cardiff defends Mrs. Lane.  Because the principal is very set on blaming someone and Mrs. Cardiff defends her while also placing the concern exactly where it belongs: on the children.

My least favorite thing about this book: Ray did seem a little manipulative of Melissa at first, even using “things he knew about girls” to do it.  That one scene made me roll my eyes and want to smack him.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: Twins, mostly, if only to fulfill a fantasy I’m sure you’ve had for a while now.  And I would recommend a lot of Clements work to elementary and middle school aged kids.  It portrays that age quite realistically, if I’m recalling correctly.

Where I read this book: At PCA.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  After Frindle and before Things Not Seen, both by Clements.

Book Challenge

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Five Ways to Keep Your Librarian Happy

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog (or keeping up with me in some other fashion), you’ll know I’ve spent the last few months working at my local library.  It’s pretty fantastic.  I’m surrounded by books all day, I see whatever new things come in, and I don’t have the temptation to buy them because it’s a LIBRARY and not a book store.

But not every part of my job is the stuff my 5 year-old dreams were made of.  Why? Because…people.

(I feel it’s here I should note that these are MY views and not those of my employer.  Right?)

Anyway, I just wanted to do a quick update on five ways that you, as the valued patrons, can keep your librarians happy.

1. Take care of your books.

Every librarian I know personally LOVES books, because otherwise, why take the job?  So when you bring books back that are damaged or ill-used, we get a bit upset.  You may not be charged for them, but from then on, you’re known as the person who ruined some great piece of literature.

2. Own up to your fines and fees.

I have a lot more respect for the person who damages a book, owns up to it, and actually pays for the item than for people who bring in the book and say “It was this way when I got it” when that is clearly NOT how you got it.  (Of course, there are some instances when the damage is minor and you might have actually gotten it that way, but we usually try to note that.)

3. Don’t shelve the books.

This seems counter-intuitive, but here’s the deal: if you don’t know the exact spot you got the book, don’t put it somewhere else.  Take it to the front desk, say that you decided not to get the book, and let the librarian put it back.  It might seem like you’re creating more work for them, but if you put it in the wrong place, it’s not only extra work but more difficult to find when someone else needs it.

Also, for the love of all that is holy, please please PLEASE do not shelve the books with their pages facing out.  Just…why?

4. Be mindful of library hours.

Don’t try to come into the library an hour early.  If there’s a librarian there, he or she is trying to get the place ready for the day.  And, just like you wouldn’t go into a store five minutes before they’re due to close, don’t go into a library “to browse” right before closing.  If you know what you want, if you’re returning something, if you’re picking up a book on hold, five minutes is fine.  Otherwise, give yourself ample time to explore.  (Likewise, if you’re in the library and have picked a lot of books, give your librarian enough time to check them out before closing.)

5. Let us know what you think.

Like I said before, most librarians are there because they like books.  So if you’ve just read something you thought was amazing, feel free to share!  They might get a new favorite book out of the deal.  Or, if they’d already read it and know something similar, you might get a new book to read too!  It’s a win-win situation really.

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The Rescuers

I apologize that this post is so late in the day.  It took me all day to read the book, BUT it is still Thursday, so it’s time for…BOOK CLUB THURSDAY!

I just finished reading The Rescuers by Margery Sharp.  This book is meant to satisfy the “from my childhood” part of the challenge.  I loved the movie as a kid, and ever since I knew it was based on a book, I wondered how similar they were.  Spoiler alert: the book is a LOT different.  Basically they took the idea of Bernard and Bianca and put them in a similar, although different, rescue attempt.

Still, the book was, for the most part, very adorable.  Each of the main characters has their own strengths and weaknesses, but they also develop well.  I love Miss Bianca (I did in the movie too, of course) and while early on in the book I was concerned that the writer was using her as a stereotype for the “weaker and fairer sex,” by the end I was very happy to see that she was proven to be a strong person (well, mouse) through her wit and charm rather than through physical strength.  Some people focus on making strong female characters physically strong, and I don’t believe that’s necessary.  Also, (MASSIVE SPOILERS) while I completely “shipped” (as in, wanted them to be a couple) Bernard and Miss Bianca in the movie, and even some in the book, this was one of the few books where there is a happy ending but the guy doesn’t get the girl.  I think we need more stories like that.

My most favorite thing about this book: (This is all very spoiler-y.)  When Miss Bianca used her wit to save Bernard and Nils from the cat.

My least favorite thing about this book: Some of the earlier sections, while speaking of Miss Bianca, seemed to make some generalizations about women.  Although the rest of the book showed her to be a strong character, lines like, “women of rank, once their affections are engaged, can be completely reckless of the consequences” seem to contradict this point.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: Honestly, I’d love to read this to my five year old cousin.

Where I read this book: …on Mars.  Yeah.  Mars.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  Between The Lovely Bones and Tobe.  On my NEW bookshelf!

Book Challenge

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My Top 5 Ads

Some of you already know this, but in college I decided that I would like to work in advertising.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  Most importantly, it involves writing.  I specifically want to work as a copywriter in advertising, so, as the name suggests, there is a lot of writing included.  But also, I read a book about 20 ads that changed the world, and it got me thinking about the effect advertising has on our everyday lives.

I wanted to talk about my favorite ads personally and why I love them.  This is my top five.

1. The Old Spice Guy

One of the great things about this ad is how far it went and how interactive it became.  There were videos in which he responded to tweets, there was a site to build your own Old Spice voicemail message, and this past year, he even participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge.  The campaign had legs.

But the reason it was able to go so far was because so many people liked it to begin with.  There are a ton of ads for men’s products that tell them how women will fall all over them, but this is the first (that I’ve seen) that implies that without actually insulting the women.  And it’s funny.

2. Dumb Ways to Die

Have you played this game?  Go play this game.  Now.  Or watch the video.  Catchy song, right?  Gets stuck in your head.

The first time I watched it was because a friend (with no interest in advertising at all) showed it to me thinking it was hilarious.  Then I started playing the game, then I told all my friends to play the game because I wanted to beat their high scores.  So what started as a PSA became a viral hit, all because they used cute characters, a catchy tune, and realized the game potential in it.

3. The Amazon Fire Ad.

There are a lot of “we support gay marriage, so you should buy our product” ads, and…I hate most of them.  The point of an ad is to show your product.  This one does.  It shows the product, the feature that makes it better than their competitors, and why/how you should use it.  It just happens that the guy who ordered one is married to another man.  It’s not the main focus of the ad.  I’ve always liked that about this particular commercial.

4. AT&T Family Plan with Gordon Ramsay

Now, all of this commercials are pretty good, but this is my favorite.  This agency is one that knows how to use a celebrity endorsement well.

5. Little Girl Goes to Disney World.

Okay, this ad STILL makes me tear up and want to go to Disney World.

Part of it is probably the nostalgia of it all, but also it does a great job of capturing the magic of the park and the magnitude of meeting the Head Cheese himself.

(Which is part of why I want a job at Yellow Shoes. My portfolio is at wordsmithkari.weebly.com.)

What are your favorite ads?

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Neil Patrick Harris, Starring…Me!

There are two ways you can read this book: the proper way, or the traditional way.  The traditional way or, “violating this books explicit instructions” is how I decided to do it.

(Similarly, there are two different kinds of people reading this blog: there are those who believe memoirs and autobiographies are the same thing and those who know the difference because they, like me, actually studied it briefly in college.  To the latter type of people saying this doesn’t fulfill the requirement for “memoir,” I say…well, NEIL said it’s a “bizarrely premised memoir.”)

Does the book make sense when read straight from page 1 to 291? Yes.  It certainly makes it feel more like a memoir and less like an autobiography.  Instead of hearing the story of NPH’s life all the way through, it’s more like getting to know him personally, one story at a time, which is how you get to know most of your friends.  We see his personality shine through in the guest-spots from his friends as well as in his own tone when he shows how grateful, how humble, and how good (and sometimes bad) his sense of humor genuinely is.  His love for his craft, as well as for his family is obvious as explains the luck and the work he put in to get to this point.  Plus, occasionally he breaks it up with interviews and recipes.

The format itself was unusual, but it helped the reader see more into Neil’s mind, which is the true purpose of a memoir.  And, metaphysically, it raises all the right questions about fate and who we would be if one tiny thing in our lives had been different.

Besides taking a difficult POV and and an unusual sequencing and making it work, the best thing about Choose Your Own Autobiography with Neil Patrick Harris is that it doesn’t appear to be holding back.  If it is a memoir, the theme is his journey through show business, but mixed in is his sexual self-discovery, his creating a family, and his path to certain friendships that guide his way.  And he doesn’t hold back from any of it.  His sexuality and relationship with David Burtka is by no means the focus of this book, but (as with any married couple) he is a huge part of his life and ingrained in everything else, as his self-discovery is in his young adulthood.  I feel like his showing that he hasn’t always been so open and unafraid is going to be helpful for other kids going through their own self-discovery.  That’s what he says he wants, is to “show by example.”

All in all, the book was genuinely warm and genuinely funny, but also genuinely well written, which is the perfect trifecta of the memoir genre.

My favorite thing about this book:  The magic tricks!  They’re pretty fantastic.

My least favorite thing about this book:  Probably his outing with Harold and Kumar, but that’s just no my humor.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to:  Obviously anyone who is a Neil Patrick Harris fan, but also people who are questioning their identity in ANY sense.

Where I read this book:  Okay, when I added this category, I thought I’d be reading in cool places again, like last year, but now I’m not so sure because every one of these is just “at home” or “at work.” Geez.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf: After From Dead to Worse of the Sookie Stackhouse series and Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.

Book Challenge

(Just in case you’re interested: Neil Patrick says, “It gets better,” “It’s bigger,” and “It’s not just for gays any more.” …but I’m starting to forget what “it” is.)

(Also, if you’re a HIMYM fan who is about as happy with the series finale as I am, that is to say, not a gorram bit, Neil has some encouraging words for you on page 144.  It’s okay to skip to it.  It’s what Neil would want.)

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Let’s Galavant Into the Woods

It’s Agent Carter Day!

I’m not much of a movie watcher.  Lately, I haven’t even been watching any TV shows that I haven’t seen a million times before.  But it seems like everything has come out at once.  Galavant was on this past Sunday, Agent Carter comes on tonight, Parks and Rec’s final seasons starts next Tuesday.  And don’t get me started with what’s playing at the theaters.  I’m still trying to find someone to see Annie with me (any takers?).

Sunday I went to see Into the Woods and last night I sat at home and watched Galavant.

Galavant was…fine.  I’m not in love with it, but I will watch again.  The songs are cute and the actors are talented.  I’m intrigued by the idea of Princess Isabella being a hero even though she’s doing the “wrong” thing, I’m also concerned though.  It’s probable that Galavant is going to fall in love with Isabella, meaning he won’t learn the value of heroism apart from how his loves see him.  There’s definitely a dichotomy of the two main women in the show, which is frustrating.  But right now, there is also that dichotomy with Richard and Galavant, so I’m hoping everyone develops over the course of the show.

Then again, I might have had a hard time falling for Galavant because I was already crazy about Into the Woods.  I saw it Sunday and was openly weeping in the theater.  I immediately (and I do mean immediately) went to Target to purchase the soundtrack.

Things I loved about Into the Woods:

  1. Anna Kendrick as Cinderella.  I love her anyway, but her soprano is beautiful and her acting is fantastic.  She is genuinely gentle and kind, but also strong, especially as she grows over the course of the movie.
  2. The way all of the fairy-tales came together, and each was affected by the other.  Rapunzel’s brother had to break a curse, and he needed Cinderella’s shoe, Jack’s cow (which he gave him the magic beans for), and Red Riding Hood’s cape.  Which brings me to…
  3. I loved her relationship with the Baker and his wife.  It was adorable.
  4. This movie was based on some original Grimms brother levels sh…stuff.  (Gore and spoiler warning)  I was both horrified and amazed when the step-mother cut her daughter’s feet, for instance, and when Rapunzel’s prince was blinded.
  5. Overall, just the messages of the movie were fantastic.  Red Riding Hood learning that nice isn’t always the same as good, Cinderella learning that there’s a third option rather than just a dream or a nightmare and all of them learning, though mostly the baker, that while everything will not always turn out perfect, happy ever after can happen, even if it isn’t how you envisioned it.

Basically, this movie speaks to me about what I’m currently dealing with: growing up.  The Baker’s wife looking for her “and” instead of an “or,” Jack wishing he could live somewhere in the middle, Cinderella not knowing what she wants…it’s all so relatable to me right now.

Maybe that’s why I loved it so much more than Galavant: because Galavant is just another story of women screwing over a hero, and that hero learning to be a hero again.  I don’t fit in that story.  Or maybe I do, but it isn’t about me.  Into the Woods is about me growing up, and it gives me hope I too can have a fairy tale ending.

“So into the woods you go again, you have to every now and then.”

“To mind, to heed, to find, to think, to teach, to join, to go to the Festival!…Into the woods, then out of the woods, and happy ever after!”

(P.S., fun fact: this is the dictionary.com definition of galavant (or gallivant): to wander about, seeking pleasure or diversion; to go about with members of the opposite sex.)

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And Happy New Year! And New Books.

Yay!  First Book Club Thursday of 2015!  Woohoo!

Those of you who have been keeping up know that I intend to complete a book challenge this year.  I talked about it at the end of my December book challenge.

The rules are: I have to tell you about every one of them, they can’t be books I have already read, and I have to choose them from books I already own.  Considering that I own almost 400 books I have yet to read, I think I should be all right (although I am a little worried about finding one set in my hometown as nothing is set in my hometown).

Since today is the start of a new year, I started a new book and checked off the “Book I can finish in a day.”  I was at my friend’s house this morning, bored since she hadn’t woken up yet, so my options were a little limited.  Not that she doesn’t have books, she has books, but it had to be one I owned and most of the options we both have, I’ve already read.  But not all, so I finally settled on a book she had been bugging me to read for a while.

Maybe I’m biased against James Patterson because he doesn’t write most of his books (he can’t! He puts out three a year), but I was not impressed.  The writing was fine, but not magical.  His characterization was spotty.  Jane was a completely different person while Michael was in her life, and it can’t all be contributed to her being happy.  It should have been a more gradual change, but instead it looks like all of her strength came from him.  Her mother was shown to be a harpy and to take everyone else’s side against Jane’s, but (spoiler alert) while she’s dying she says none of that was true.  It felt very out of character.

He made it seem like hunger was a bad thing, showing that Jane stopped eating once she was happy because she “wasn’t hungry.”  It would have been fine if she had stopped eating based on her emotions, but she just said she wasn’t hungry.  Obviously when she didn’t eat, she lost weight, but I hated that she had to do that.  Why can’t a heroine be a little bigger?

Also, I could not get over the weirdness of Michael falling in love with a nine year old and then finding her again and having sex with her years later.  And the story really could have started on page 129, if he had given us the background information as needed instead of as one big chunk in the beginning.

So basically, the first book of 2015 was kind of a dud.  But I read it.  Sarah Dessen says that what you do on New Year’s you’ll do all year, so I read, and now I’m writing.  That’s all I really need to do this year.

My favorite thing about this book:  Probably the scene where she buys her own ring at Tiffany’s.  I love Tiffany’s, and I’ve been wanting to buy my own “right-hand ring” for a while now.  I know that ad she mentioned, and I think it’s great.

My least favorite thing about this book:  The fact that he FELL IN LOVE WITH A NINE YEAR OLD!

Who I would most like to recommend this book to:  …probably no one, honestly.

Where I read this book:  In my best friend’s bedroom, as well as in my own home.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  Between S. Truett Cathy’s autobiography and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I filed it under Gabrielle Charbonnet because I think she deserves more credit.

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