Monthly Archives: August 2010

It makes me feel like a kid again…

My favorite books of all time have got to be the ones I used to read when I was a kid. I taught myself how to read (with some help from my grandmother) at the merry old age of 3 and I haven’t stopped since. The books I read when I was younger are the ones that shaped who I am today and are what helped me to become a lover of literature. I had honestly forgotten about a lot of those jewels until the other day. You may be wondering why I am reminiscing about the days of yore. Well I’ll tell you.

While perusing through Listopia on GoodReads the other day, I saw a list of books entitled “The Ones That Got You Hooked.” It was a list compiled by users of the first book they read that truly got them hooked on reading. And as I went through this list, I came across all my favorite books from the stone age, most of which I had completely forgotten about, but once I saw the cover, it all came flooding back to my memory. I feel like the majority of us forget where we got our start and I’m ashamed to say that I had forgotten the books that brought me to where I am today and the ones that showed me what I want to do in life. What are some of these selections you might ask? Well let’s have a look-see.

  • The Junie B. Jones series: These are basically the books I learned to read on. Junie B. was the 6 year-old rebel that lied secretly in the heart of all of us. Every book was an adventure from The Stupid Smelly Bus to Almost Being a Flower Girl, even to finally becoming a First Grader. This series is all about childhood innocence and the trouble it can get you in and is still one of my favorites to this day.
  • The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series: Ohhh mylanta I loved these books so much and am currently on the hunt for them so I can once again have them in my collection. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was the modern day Mary Poppins/Supernanny. Whenever a parent was having trouble with a rebellious child, they would call up Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Mrs. PW only needed a week with the children and promised to have them cured of their rambunctious ways by the end of the week. She had a remedy for every problem from not wanting to eat vegetables to not wanting to clean a room. These books are hilarious and truly are a gem for any age.
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel: If you haven’t heard of this book, you are missing out. I went through a phase where I read this book at least once every day for like two or three months. I just really loved the story. It was all about perseverance and that steam shovel was pretty sweet.
  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School: This book was uniquely awesome. Wayside School was one twisted establishment. Literally. Everything was completely backwards, from the teachers to the students to the layout of the school itself. Each individual chapter was dedicated to one student in a particular class and gave their “sideways” story. It was definitely a fun read and is another series I am on the hunt for once again.
  • The Berenstein Bears: Do I really need to explain this one? I mean it’s the Berenstein Bears. They were an essential addition to anyone’s book collection.
  • Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator: I may be shunned for saying this, but I liked this book a lot better than The Chocolate Factory. I thought it was a lot more fun to read and provided a more in-depth story. Yes, I worried about things like that when I was young. What can I say? I’m a nerd. But there was actually an adventure in this book and we also got a deeper look into Charlie’s family.
  • The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle: This is one of the books from my childhood that I actually still own. The cover is absolutely falling apart which is a sign to how much I loved it and how often I read it. I mean this story was/is awesome. He’s a super cool old man who can talk to animals! Who doesn’t wish that they could do that? And he had awesome adventures with the animals and went to exotic islands. A quintessential read for any young person with a great imagination.
  • Amelia Bedelia: The maid with the rhyming name who couldn’t do anything right. She was one of my favorite literary characters growing up and I loved reading about his misadventures. I would run and tell my mom whenever Amelia did something backwards and I just remember laughing myself to tears while trying to re-enact the whole scene to her.

These are definitely not the only books that I was obsessed with as a child but they are the ones that I hold most dear and are certainly the ones that helped to ignite my love for reading. Please feel free to share your favorite childhood books with me too!

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“Love means you can never be apart”: How it feels to fall in love with an imaginary friend

Did you have an imaginary friend when you were little? A Drop Dead Fred of sorts? Did you have that guest at your tea party or the giraffe that you played “Jungle” with in the backyard? Or was it a beautiful human being that was there for every tear, every laugh, every special moment of your life? Well a young girl named Jane had such a friend. His name was Michael. And he was her one true love.

This type of story line could only come from a great book. And that book is Sundays at Tiffany’s by James Patterson. If you’re familiar with Patterson, you may be surprised to see that he wrote a romance. James is mostly known for his drama and mystery novels. But when he does romance, he does it well. This book is co-authored by Gabrielle Charbonnet and it is definitely on my Top 10 Favorite Book list.

The story starts off with Jane and Michael on a Sunday afternoon partaking of their normal ritual for that day: Ice cream at the St. Regis Plaza in New York. Michael is an imaginary friend who is randomly assigned to young children, but as part of his fate, he must leave them when they are nine. On Jane’s ninth birthday, after being completely snubbed by her overbearing mother and her cradle robbing father, Michael finally admits to Jane that he has to leave her that very night but promises that she will forget about him. 23 years later, even though Jane has a boyfriend, she still hasn’t forgotten about Michael. She has even written a Broadway production based on her childhood adventures with him, and ironically, her new beau is in the lead role playing Michael.

Jane’s life isn’t exactly peachy. She works for her controlling mother and her boyfriend Hugh is no catch. She spends a lot of time by herself and wavers in and out of sadness and depression. After another stood up date, she is spotted on the street by none other than, Michael. He’s on break in between assignments and he immediately recognizes Jane, even though he has never before seen one of his kids as an adult. They eventually meet up and once they rekindle the friendship they once had, the story takes an even more romantic and gripping turn. I won’t give anymore of the plot away because this is definitely one you need to read on your own and take what you will from how the story ends.

This book is an easy read and is one of those that you can’t really put down. I love Patterson’s writing style. He puts a lot of effort into the detailing of his stories so you feel what the characters feel and you see what they see. I love feeling like I am sitting there at the St. Regis with Jane and Michael eating a chocolate sundae and talking about childhood memories. I also love the way the bok brings me back to my own childhood and makes me think about how we all interacted with an imaginary friend. We all may not have had one, but the idea that we could possibly fall in love with the one person or thing that knew us better than our own parents did at that age is just exciting. It’s all about childhood innocence and how an “imaginary” love can turn into something so pure and true.

I’d definitely rate this one higher than The Notebook on romance but not higher on the cry factor. While I did shed a tear or two, I definitely was not bawling at the end. Which is a good thing. Because I hate it when the pages get wet.

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The Dog Days Are Over

I apologize for the lack of blogature lately. My junior year of college is on the horizon and I am currently in the middle of the busiest work week of the year in my office. I am currently working on a time period piece involving the Great Gatsby and another weekly rec but those may be the last big ones before next week. After next week, my posts may be few and far between and I do apologize. It really depends on how busy I get, since this is going to be a big semester. But I promise you all that I will not leave you hanging in the dark. I will update as often as I can and keep you posted on my literary world. It has been a pleasure-filled summer blogging for you guys and I can’t wait for school breaks 🙂

Happy reading!

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Holy Heathcliff Batman…we’ve got a romance!

Ahh British literature. It’s like an ice cold glass of lemonade on a hot day in the South: it’s utterly refreshing and makes you feel better about your day. Or at least that’s how I see it. And along with British Lit, I’m a huge sucker for star-crossed romance novels. Which is probably why my favorite book in the universe is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, which is what I am recommending to you today.

Wuthering Heights tells the story of Catherine Earnshaw and her family’s “adopted servant” Heathcliff. It’s like a reverse Cinderella story in which the female princess falls in love with the poor servant boy from the stables. However, no star crossed love story flows smoothly. They have quite a tumultuous love story and once Catherine realizes that she cannot marry Heathcliff, she berates him and leaves him out in the cold….literally. She marries Edgar Linton, a man of much higher standing but soon realizes the tragic mistake she has made. This realization leads to imminent disaster and one man’s journey for revenge against the family who made him feel less than noble.

The reason why I love this book so much is simply because of the story. I know there are hundreds of similar plots out there but this one just stands out above the rest. The Bronte sisters were two of the most talented writers of their time and the characteristic I love most about them is their ability to bring passion to the page. While reading this book, you can literally feel the passion and the desire between Heathcliff and Cathy. You can feel the love they have for one another and you feel their pain during their separation. In most books of this genre, you aren’t able to truly “feel” what the characters are feeling, which I feel is quite an important factor in reading. If you aren’t able to share the characters’ emotions, then you aren’t getting the full literary experience. You also aren’t getting your money’s worth. Or you wasted a swipe of the library card.

While there are about a million movie versions of this classic, my all time favorite is the 1970 adaptation starring Timothy Dalton (sigh) as Heathcliff. I believe this version captures the essence of the book better than all the rest. And Dalton embodies the character of Heathcliff and brings the right amount of vigor to the screen. My second favorite is the 1992 adaptation starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche. These are two of my favorite actors and they have such a great chemistry which makes the relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy so much more intense and passionate, which is how it should be.

My favorite quote from the book is spoken by Cathy during a secret conversation with her maid, Nelly. She speaks this when she realizes that she can’t marry Heathcliff, but the fact that she still loves him more than life itself captures her. “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” I mean does that not just make you weak in the knees? Forget Darcy and Cullen. I’m all about some Heathcliff.

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Is this real…or is it fantasy? Our society’s battle between fact and fiction

I’ve never claimed to be a fan of fantasy literature. For some reason, I have always associated the fantasy genre with science-fiction or those novels with the really glossy covers and the silver lettering. I know you know what I’m talking about. But thinking about it lately, it truly is difficult to pinpoint what exactly constitutes fantasy literature. Twilight could definitely be considered fantasy seeing as how it deals with several factors of the supernatural, along with a fantastical romance. And I won’t deny that I’m a fan of that. Alice in Wonderland could also be classified as fantasy. Where in the real world does a hookah smoking caterpillar or a mad hatter who has had too much tea, exist? Wonderland is a fantasy world that can only be found in a dream, which is really what a fantasy is. But how far are we taking these so-called fantasies and how far would we go to make them a reality? Are we delving so far into a fantasy world that we are beginning to lose sight of what’s right in front of us?

Let’s just take the Twilight series for example, since it is a prime one. With the introduction of Edward Cullen into the literary world, the male race no longer stands a chance. I cannot tell you the number of girls I have run into who say they wish their boyfriend was more like Edward. A fictional character has every teenage girl in today’s society completely snowed. What happened to wanting a man to be more like Mr. Darcy? At least that’s a little more reasonable. And I almost fainted when I saw a news story the other day talking about the new way kids these days are choosing to show affection. Kids are BITING each other on the neck and on the arms, just like vampires. What is this world coming to? I’m a huge fan of Stephanie Meyer’s work, but this has gone far enough. I have always believed that reading a book is like taking a journey and becoming one with that book. But when you finish the last page and put the book back on the shelf, that particular journey is over and you move on to another one. Don’t dwell on the past.

I just recently finished reading The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, which is probably one of the most fantastical books I have ever read, aside from journeying through Carroll’s world. This story is the ultimate journey. Not only does the main character delve into a fantasy world within the plot, but the reader rides along with him on Falkor, the luckdragon, through the world of Fantasia. Even though he is hiding in his school’s attic reading, Bastian becomes an integral part of the fight to save Fantasia from being destroyed by the Nothing. The Nothing represents people’s lack of imagination in the real world and seeks to tear apart any idea of fantasy. A friend of mine who also just read the book explained it to me in a way that I had never pictured before. He said that the book goes so much deeper into the imagination than the movie does and relies on the value of hidden dreams in order to bring out someone’s true character. But just like Bastian, our society today, predominantly the younger generation, have ceased to accept the line between fantasy and reality, which gives their relationship with books a whole new meaning. People now rely on books like this to completely take them away from their real world woes. And while that is what a book is meant to do, society has taken too much of a reliance on fantasy and expects their lives to read just like a story. And as much as I wish Bella Swan’s story was my own, I know it’s just not meant to be.

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From Nosferatu to sparkling love triangles: Has the vampire lost its fear factor?

I have always been a huge fan of Gothic literature, especially such dealing with vampires and the occult. No, I’m not constantly brooding in a corner dressed in all black coming up with a list of people to bite. I just find the history and the legends behind vampires absolutely fascinating. The concept of a vampire in itself is just mystical. Just imagine a creature of the night who feeds on the blood of humans. Sleeping in coffins in great big castles in the middle of the day.  I mean come on! That stuff’s just great! But ever since media sensations such as Twilight, and even with food brands such as Count Chocula, the gory and gothic image of the vampire has diminished into nothing more than a glimmer, or in this case, a sparkle.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the Twilight series. It has been a weakness of mine ever since the first book came out. I’m not afraid to admit I’ve dreamt of being loved irrevocably by Edward Cullen. But the hardest thing for me to swallow about these books has been the image they give of vampires. I’m used to reading Bram Stoker’s bloody detailing of snarling beasts, ravaging desire, and dark rituals. I’m accustomed to watching Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman tear through flesh and step out of a creaking coffin once the sun goes down behind their towering castle.

But when Twilight came along, these vampires didn’t even hunt humans. They came out in the daytime and when they were exposed to bright sunlight, they didn’t melt or burst into flames, but rather, they started sparkling like diamonds. They lived in a house made of glass and they drove fast cars. They were your typical rich kids that you envied in high school. And the weirdest thing, they were all romantically involved within their “family.” Granted, none of them were technically related, but still, it was just too strange. I understand that Stephanie Meyer was catering toward a younger audience and that the gothic image of the vampire may not have suited well with most readers or their parents.

But because the Twilight series has been so explosive, the image of the true vampire has been chocked back to the old dusty shelves at the library in that one section where no one goes. You know you’ve seen one. People are no longer reading the original Bram Stoker or Anne Rice novels that depict a much darker creature than the ones portrayed in the media today. Most people don’t know the name Nosferatu anymore and would probably say “bless you” if I ever mentioned it out loud. It makes me sad that centuries worth of both history and folklore have been washed away all because of a pale heartthrob who will love you forever.

People are no longer afraid when they watch a vampire movie. They expect to see him start kissing the leading lady and to whisk her off into the sunset in his shiny new Volvo. I remember not sleeping for weeks after seeing Coppola’s movie version of Dracula. My sister shares my passion for vampire-lore and used to watch this movie all the time. The downside: She’s 11 years older than me so she watched it while babysitting her 7 year old sister. I wouldn’t even go near the VHS because the cover was so scary (oh yes the VHS days…remember those? I feel old now). But once I hit junior high, I was finally able to watch it by myself and was completely immersed in it. Yes, I was still jumpy at parts, but that’s the whole point of a horror film. Vampires are meant to be scary creatures. Even werewolves are meant to strike fear in our hearts, and now people expect the beast to transform into a tall, dark, and handsome with washboard abs. Where’s the fun in that?

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