Monthly Archives: August 2015

How to Read

I have been SO busy over these last few weeks.  Moreover, I’ve been really tired.  So I haven’t actually done a whole lot of reading.  I haven’t finished many books for my 2015 Reading Challenge lately.  I still haven’t, but this is my current book recommendation, so I wanted to share.

I’ve been reading How to Read Literature Like a Professor because my sister had to read it for school.  It’s great for English majors who need a refresher/breakdown of the layers of meaning that go into the books they read, or for someone who just enjoys reading but wants a deeper appreciation of it.

Foster takes examples from classic literature, modern literature, and even films/songs in pop culture and breaks them down via symbolism and allusions.  He shows us how to examine the stories that we are fed everyday for their deeper meanings.  And I have a theory.

My two main thoughts: he basically agrees with John Green, who says that books belong to their readers.  He discusses how certain things are symbolic (how almost anything can be symbolic) and that, while the author may have a certain meaning in mind, the reader brings their own learning and life experiences to the story and get out different things based on those backgrounds.  No symbol is cut and dry.

My other thought is based on my recent experience working on my novel.  This book has given me a lot of ideas for how to develop it and probe a little deeper into my story, but the first thing I considered about “things to symbolize”…was something I had unconsciously written into it in the first place.  So while occasionally writers intentionally make a meaning out of something, I think other times it’s possible they write it in accidentally, but choose to leave it in.

My point is that this book is really well written in a conversational tone, the guy knows what he’s talking about, and every example or idea he goes into he backs up with plenty of relevant examples.

Go read it.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Hometown Snapshot

My friend Caroline (from UNC) came to stay with me this weekend.  We had a lot of fun.  At least, I had a lot of fun, and I figure she did also.

She got here Friday night and I made her watch O Brother Where Art Thou, which is an excellent movie.  (“He’s bonafide.”)  Then we slept because it was late and I had to work the next day.

Which I did.  She hung out at the library while I ran around and helped people.  I wore my witchy boots, which came in handy when there was an incident with a roach that would not die when sprayed (it’s dead now).  After work, I took her to R.O.’s.

I’ve been going to R.O.’s my whole life.  It’s a staple in Gaston County, although it has a rival, Black’s.  Basically, if you live in Gaston County, you either eat Black’s or R.O.’s.  R.O.’s is clearly the best, as it has the best burgers, original Cherry-Lemon Sun Drop, and TWO food trucks that make their way around the county.

Then I took her to Will’s (the comic book shop, actually All Things Collectible).  I bought a couple, but the point was really just to show her where I spend a lot of time (usually, though I hadn’t been in a couple months).  When I visited her at school in April, she took me to her comic book store, so I thought I would return the favor.

After a small break, I took her to Freeman’s, which is my regular bar.  I made her try the Guinness wings because I LOVE love love them.  (My friend Jennifer is actually the one who makes them and they are the best.  I did try a salad too and ended up scarfing it down.  It was great.)  Of course, we also each had a pint of Guinness, because she had never tried it before and it’s my favorite thing to drink.

So home it was, where we…watched another movie!  This time it was Penelope.  And then bed.

When we got up, Jennifer brought over Starbucks and we made Caroline watch Descendants with us because, for a movie that came out less than a month ago, we’ve each watched it an astonishing number of times.  We all had Chipotle for lunch, because its the best, and then we went to Tony’s for ice cream.  There is no ice cream better than Tony’s ice cream, I’m entirely convinced of that.

These are things I don’t usually share because they are just a part of the landscape to me.  I grew up on these things.  But places like Freeman’s, Tony’s, and R.O.’s are some of the places that make my hometown special.  So if you ever visit, make sure you stop by.

Personally, I love them all, but I have to say: you’ve never really been to Gaston County if you’ve never tried an R.O.’s burger.

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Red Dragon

I tried SO hard to finish How to Read Literature like a Professor but today just completely got away from me. I did finally finish Red Dragon, so yay.

I’m doing this on mobile though, so I’m going to keep this short.

It’s a really interesting book. We see the story from many perspectives, but only at appropriate points, so that we still feel Will’s frustration, general suspense, and even fear.  The most amazing thing is that we actually feel sympathy for the killer.  Harris waits until the last moment, until the reader feels as though nothing can make them hate the killer any less, and then he reveals his background. Which does actually garner sympathy.  And since we know the killer before the detective, it employs dramatic irony to great effect.

There is also some pretty good imagery in the book. He calls himself the red dragon, which brings on some biblical allusions. A lot of it is focused on the investigator, and how thinking like a killer ruins his own innocence.  There is also a blind woman, who could symbolize justice, as she is really the one who finally stops the killer.

A lot of it though is really disturbing, and yet you have to know how it ends which is a testament to the writer’s skill.

My friend asked if I would recommend the book, and I told her I couldn’t decide. If you like horror stories, it may be for you. Otherwise…

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Go to Pittsburgh, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

This has been a crazy (and busy!) few weeks.  I’m trying very hard to either get a full time job or a freelance career off the ground that functions as a full time job.  (I even have a website, if you were looking to hire someone.)

It’s hard, and I have nothing insightful to say about it, so I thought maybe I could just…tell you guys about my trip to Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago.

Can I do that?

Can I do that?

We drove up (yes, 6 hours there, 7.5 back, and if you aren’t following me on Twitter, you missed out on my #roadtripproblems) so my sister could watch the One Direction concert at Heinz Stadium on Sunday night.  (My mom went with her and has been listening to them NON-STOP ever since.)  We drop up Sunday afternoon, and I spent a little while at the Toonseum and a indie bookstore called “Amazing Books,” where I found, lusted after, and left behind (cries) a first edition of A Little Princess. 

But $200 is a lot of money, so instead we went back to our hotel and then a Mexican restaurant for dinner, before Mom and Allison headed off to their concert.  Meanwhile, Ryan and I decided we were going drinking.

Me and my long hair!

Me and my long hair!

It’s called the Church Brew Works, and I MIGHT get married there.  They made an old church (and it is gorgeous) into a brewery.

Yeah...I took a lot of pics...

Yeah…I took a lot of pics…

So that was great.  Monday, we took a tour of the PNC stadium (one step closer to crossing that off my Bucket List!) and then went to watch the Pirates play the Cubs.  But…it got rained out.  We stayed until midnight waiting through rain delays, until they finally called it.  Of course, that was at two different ends of the day.  In the middle, we went to Primanti Brothers, which is supposed to be pretty famous, and had these really good sandwiches.

We went home Tuesday, but on the way we stopped at the Cathedral of Learning, which is gorgeous and, like my aunt said, looks like something out of Harry Potter.  They have these nationality rooms, where the architecture and decorations are based on different cultures, and the seat designs are based on how they teach.  I even found where the Darlington Library used to be, even though no one in that building knew what I was talking about.

We also traveled up the Duquesne Incline…

Where we saw the gorgeous view at the beginning of this post...

Where we saw the gorgeous view at the beginning of this post…

It was a cool trip.  I got to know Lisa and Ryan a bit better, and they are really cool people.  I got to drink a bit without worrying about how I was getting home, which is always fun.  And most importantly, I got to go somewhere, which is great because I had been feeling so restless.  I still want to see things, but I’m okay for right now.  I don’t feel overwhelmingly stuck, which leads to me feeling at least slightly depressed.

So yeah, they said it would be fun.  They were right.

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Book Club Thursday has been canceled this week. Our wifi is out and someone won’t be out to fix it until tomorrow.

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On Book Club Thursday, I told you all about my reading of The Isle of the Lost.  Friday, we watched the movie Descendants on Disney Channel.  Spoilers follow.

I’m glad that I read the book.  It seemed like the movie jumped immediately into the story, and having that background was very helpful.  There were several things about the character’s backgrounds that weren’t mentioned in the movie but gave a deeper reading.  For instance, if you had only seen the movie, you may have laughed off the initial interaction shown between Carlos and Cruella, but from reading the book we see just how abusive she is to him.  It makes the moment when he stands up to her (and the moment at the end when he mentions how mad their parents will be) even more powerful.

For a musical, it wasn’t very…musical.  There were only a few songs in the movie, and while they were good, catchy songs, they didn’t do anything for the plot.  They showed good characterization, but some of them seemed redundant rather than moving things forward.  But all of the actors have great voices and the lyrics are thoughtful and either beautiful or amusing depending on the moment.  And the only unoriginal song is a hip hop mix of “Be Our Guest” which left THIS Beauty and the Beast fan flailing.

Besides just singing, the actors could definitely act.  Possibly the most impressive, in hindsight, was Mitchell Hope.  He plays the son of Belle and Beast and has a definite “good guy/prince charming” coloring to him.  And yet, his acting choices are subtle and revealing.  About halfway through the movie, he is put under a love spell by Mal.  His infatuation then is over the top and dramatic.  At the end of the date and moving forward, it seems to be more toned down and more sincere.  By the end of the movie, it is revealed that the change occurred when the spell actually wore off, though this was unknown both to Mal and to the audience.

As for the actual story: It’s mostly predictable as well as having a ton of plot holes in regards to just getting to the start of the movie.  And yet, it’s really great too.  It will make you laugh, it will make you cheer as the villains’ kids learn to be good, and it will break your heart in ways you didn’t imagine.  Also, there is a pretty great twist at the end that I did not see coming.  I love that so much focus is put on Evie being talented and intelligent because her whole life her mother has wanted her to be beautiful and she’s learning that’s not all there is in life.  In fact, all of the kids discover they have certain traits they didn’t realize they had and they are stronger and wiser because of it.  Even Audrey learns to be a little bit empathetic and give the villain kids a chance.

All of that being said, there were a few things I did not like.  They probably should have made a bigger deal about the fact that Mal practically roofied Ben, but it’s a Disney show so sex isn’t a thing meaning sex crimes also can’t be a thing.  They still just called Belle’s husband King Beast!  He had a name before he was cursed into being a Beast guys!  And there still isn’t an identity for the camerawoman in the School of Secrets videos.  (I did DVR the Sunday showing that is supposed to reveal “seven secrets,” so maybe it will come out then.  I’ll watch it as soon as I’m home from Pittsburgh.)  Oh, and, at the end, Mal totally should’ve turned into a dragon for a massive showdown against her mother, especially after it was such a big deal in the book that she had some dragon in her.

So yes.  I will be watching the movie again.  I have already purchased the soundtrack.  And it’s cheesy and predictable and occasionally unbelievable, but you know what?  It’s also magical and heartfelt and beautiful.  Because it’s Disney.  What were you expecting?

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