“Her curiosity was too much for her. She felt almost as if she could hear the books whispering on the other side of the half-open door. They were promising her a thousand unknown stories, a thousand doors into worlds she had never seen before.” -Cornelia Funke, Inkheart
So I’ve noticed I’ve been watching a lot more animation lately. Usually, animation is not something I normally gravitate towards especially animated TV and anime but there are always exceptions (See Voltron: Legendary Defender). I do tend to like animated movies more just because there are studios like Disney and Pixar that are always making really good content but even then I usually they don’t have quite as much emotional impact on me as they seem to on other animated fans but again there are exceptions (See Zootopia). And the ones I’ve seen recently are as expected a hit or miss.
Tangled Before Ever After (TV Movie) & Tangled: The Series
Starring Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi|Disney Channel | Currently 4 episodes released
I’ll admit I was pretty excited but also really hesitant about watching these two. I didn’t know how well the 3D CGI would translate to 2D. The movie animation was absolutely stunning and I was worried the TV show would lose a lot of the feel of the original. But I was totally surprised. At first look, the 2D looks juvenile and a little sloppy but after watching it, it is absolutely stunning in its own way. The background and scenery are so bright and vivid but really detailed at the same time. They look like drawings in a picture book. It also helps that the voice actors for Eugene and Rapunzel are the same as in the movie and they do an equally good job in this one. The TV movie and TV series take place after the events of the 1st movie but before the Tangled short film where Eugene and Rapunzel get married. The first few episodes that have been released follow Rapunzel as she learns how to be a princess after being locked up in a tower. The relationship between Rapunzel and Eugene is just as cute and cheesy but there are worse things to show in a relationship than being cheesy. It is very healthy and respectful and I do like that they are getting separate storylines as they each figure what they want to be. There’s also a new character that’s introduced, Cassandra, who is Rapunzel’s lady-in-waiting and she’s awesome. She’s fearless and adventurous and a great foil for Rapunzel. She has an interesting hate relationship with Eugene which is fun. The storylines aren’t terribly original and I can forgive that because the show is very clearly targeted towards very young children (8-12) but they are refreshing in many ways and just solid storytelling. Fun and easily bingeable. I have a feeling shows based on popular Disney movies are going to continue being a thing in the upcoming years. I am particularly excited for the Big Hero 6 show coming out this Fall (again 2D) and the voice actors for most of the original cast will be the same which is exciting.
Created by Guillermo Del Toro | Season 1: 26 episodes | DNFed: Episode 7 |Netflix
It’s very clear to me from seeing Pacific Rim and now Trollhunters that Guillermo Del Toro has such an imaginative and epic visionary style but I wish he paid as much attention to his stories. The world of the Trollhunters is riddled with interesting trolls and troll lore. The city that the Trolls reside in is beautifully animated (in the same CGI as Tangled) but as beautiful as the animation is, the story is lacking soooo much. It is overly cliche with by-the-book humor and one-note characters. It has the bare bones of an underdog-turned-hero story. Our hero, Jim Lake, is living in the suburbs with his doctor mom. He is kind of the outcast of the school and is bullied by the blonde-haired jock at school. His best friend, Toby, is the fat and lovable sidekick who is obviously fodder for a bunch of fat jokes. And to add on top of this mountain of cliches, he has a crush on one of the girls at school but of course does not think he is good enough for her attentions. But he’s a special snowflake so he finds this jewel and turns out that he is the savior of the trolls. Do you see where this is going? Much like the Kaijus and the Jaegers, the Trolls are extremely well-designed and varied. I really wanted to like this show because it seems like a show that I would like but 7 episodes in, I just couldn’t get past the bland storytelling. I’ve heard it gets less cliche as it goes on with the side characters getting their own development separate from their association with Jim but I don’t have enough patience to stick around.
Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)
Directed by Makoto Shinkai | Based on the manga: Your Name by Makoto Shinkai
This is one of those unfortunate instances where I’m wondering if everyone is watching the same movie as me. I won’t deny that the animation and directing is beyond gorgeous. Much like Hayao Miyazaki’s films, the animation is hyper realistic and detailed especially in its scenery. But the storyline falls so flat for me. I think my biggest problem with the story is the fact that they were trying to insert 3 whole storylines into 1 movie which was too much and each storyline suffered because of it. What I thought I was getting was a body swapping storyline and eventually a romance but then halfway through, that sort of changed and went into more fantastical explanations for why this was happening that felt contrived. And to be honest, I didn’t really need to know why the body swapping was happening. And because of this deviance in plot, the characters never get past the stage of typical high school teens. In fact the things that happen when Mitsuha and Taki switch bodies are completely forgotten the next time they go back to their own bodies which makes me wonder how the fuck they could fall in love. And the parts where the relationship is being developed is filmed in a montage which is just annoying. This might just be me, however, I don’t like “they are bound by fate” storylines but I still felt like these storylines were not integrated well enough and felt like they were totally separate storylines. And then that random plot point at the end??
And at the end, I just didn’t care about these characters and I was just bored. There are two reviews that explain my thoughts in a more well-written manner, however be warned they both contain spoilers.
Probably no one is going to analyze a YA contemporary series as much as I do but I have a lot to say so let’s pour out my bookish feelings out. MAJOR SPOILERS
I should start off by saying that these two books are two of my favorite YA contemporary books of all time which is not a statement I give lightly. I obviously do not rate YAC the same as I would a modern classic or a hard scifi novel but but I’m still harsh. I find that a lot of fluffy and feel-good YA contemporary like The Boy Next Door, Meant to Be, and Anna and the French Kiss are a) just not memorable, b) unrealistic c) sickly sweet or d) fluffy and cute but unsatisfying.
I can’t pinpoint exactly what makes these two so different from the others. However I do think one of the reasons is its emphasis on family. I love the family dynamics between Lara Jean and her sisters. True to form, she has a different relationship between the one with her older sister Margot and her younger sister Kitty. She looks up to Margot as a role model and has a sort of sibling rivalry with Kitty. I like that Han takes the time to develop Margot and Kitty as people who are integral to Lara Jean’s life. Most YA contemporaries color their families only as side props that have cliche roles only meant to provide some sense of multi dimensionality to the main character but they’re either just really quirky or don’t have enough of a presence for them to really register. They’re also very important to Lara Jean’s development. As we move on into the second book, we see how her sisters have moved on with their lives. Margot has settled into Scotland; Kitty has new friends and we see how resistant Lara Jean is to change; she is comfortable with the way things are and even when the people around her are growing, she doesn’t want to move away from her comfort zone in her sheltered life. I love seeing the pains but also the joys of having two sisters. From borrowing your older sister’s clothes to making up after a fight.
It’s hard to strike that perfect balance of being unrealistic and realistic at the same time in YAC. Because fluffy YAC should be feel-good but at the same time, it shouldn’t abandon all sense of logic. I like the first romances and endearing friendships and that sense of adventure and uninhibited fun. But I kind of don’t want to hear about how you’re getting grounded by your parents And I think it’s even harder with a book like To All the Boys because Lara Jean lives a relatively privileged life and her problems probably feel very trivial and mundane to a lot of people. But maybe it’s the fact that she’s worried about whether she can make enough cupcakes for her sister party the next day and that triviality that makes it feel-good. In some ways, her life is unrealistic but it’s the little details of realism that pop through (the fact that and evens everything out. I like that we can actually see her doing things at home.
Peter Kavinsky and Lara Jean are an interesting pair and one of my favorite aspects of these books. On paper, they are very much a cliche. And not just a cliche but probably one of the oldest cliches in romcoms and YACs. More Disney Channel movie, that sickly sweet, eye roll worthy trope that no one can really take seriously. Even its wish-fulfillment quality is marred by its cringey dialogue. Peter is the popular guy at school, he plays lacrosse, everyone really likes him etc. etc. and while Lara Jean is not necessarily the outcast at school, she definitely doesn’t have the same type of presence that Peter has. She’s really into vintage clothes, baking and being a homebody basically. But together I cannot help but love their dynamic. And I think most of that credit belongs to Han’s writing of dialogue. It’s snappy and fun but feels natural and graceful at the same time like something that could actually come out of a teen’s mouth. I loved their banter and their past. It doesn’t feel cringeworthy because Peter is actually a really sweet guy who is oh-so-different than the other popular jocks around him (see Hilary Duff’s Cinderella) but the fact that they both have very realistic flaws that are not even obvious at the start is just written really well. Most of the people who wrote good reviews for the 1st book really liked Peter but then totally did a 360 and ended up supporting John Ambrose in the second book because he was really nice and sweet. And I get it. Peter is honestly kind of a dick in the second book and I felt really betrayed by him sometimes especially the part when he admits that he knew Genevieve sent that video of him and Lara Jean in the hot tub but didn’t tell her out of loyalty to Genevieve. He is loyal to a fault and much like Lara Jean goes back to what he is comfortable with which was Genevieve in this case. He’s also kind of insecure at the same time but hides it behind his I-don’t-care facade. In fact, most of the second book, he acts like he couldn’t give a fuck about what Lara Jean does but then ends up getting really anxious when she appears to be moving on without him.
And much like when he told Lara Jean his mom made those fruitcake cookies when in reality he was the one that made them. He’s constantly trying to impress Lara Jean (again with the poem he “wrote” lol) but he’s also trying to hide it as if he doesn’t really want to get too attached.
In some ways, I think Lara Jean and John Ambrose would have worked really well together and if Kitty actually hadn’t sent those letters,
they might have found their way to each other considering that Peter and Lara Jean weren’t even talking to each other or were even in the same social circles (“So much of love is chance”). But I like that in the second book, we really got to test the boundaries of their relationship to see if they can make that chance work and whether they would even work together. And even in the second book, a lot of the side characters are extremely surprised when they realize that Lara Jean is with Peter (“because he’s not your type”); I thought it was interesting how maybe people had all these preconceptions about how innocent and simple Lara Jean was when there was a lot more to her than that. A lot of YA contemporaries focus on how they’ll get together but they never focus on the aftermath of getting together because YA contemporaries rarely have sequels.
Most of the negative reviews criticize this book for having a protagonist with such a young voice. Lara Jean is 16 but sounds like she’s about 14 or even younger according to the reviews. And to me, that was actually a refreshing change. Not every 16 year old matures at the same rate. In Lara Jean’s case, it kind of makes sense that she would be so naive in a way. She’s been relatively sheltered her entire life, taking tips and advice mostly from her sisters or her one friend Chris. Although I have to admit I kind of laughed when Lara Jean found out Peter cheated; her reaction was hilarious. It’s funny because in Korean dramas if she acted this way, it would be totally fine. I think it kind of speaks to the age that Americans are expected to reach “maturity”. I guess I forgive Lara Jean because she’s in high school but probably not if she was like 30. Or if there is a sense of immaturity, there also has to be a sense of maturity or growth. I really enjoy reading Lara Jean’s development, I think she’s become a little more worldly and sure of what she wants and knows about the world.
You know I actually didn’t mind the love triangle in these books because it was really about who Lara Jean would end up with that was my main concern. My concern was what she would get out of both of these boys. Obviously, John is great and near perfect to what Lara Jean wants out of a boyfriend and yet she chooses Peter again. And the love triangle is all about Lara Jean, she has to choose between the ideal version of what she wants versus trying her hand at a real relationship with a real person with flaws. I think Jenny Han also does such a great job with writing how someone like Lara Jean would act and not explaining to us how she would act or making her this very self-aware person that is going to tell you how they are changing. She changes slowly. She is hung up on comparing herself to Genevieve until the 2nd book. I think one scene that really shows this is the part when Lara Jean wants to play assassins because everyone thinks she is not the type of person to win because she’s so gullible but that just makes her want to play more to prove that she can win. It pretty much sums up who Lara Jean is.
Anyways, my favorite scenes from these books:
Halloween when Lara Jean dresses up as Cho Chang (because otherwise she is just an anime character) and Peter was Spiderman. So damn cute.
Any scenes with Lara Jean and Stormy when Stormy is giving out advice to Lara Jean and it’s just cute.
That scene in the hot tub. Not just because it was cute but because this was Lara Jean finally owning up to what she wants.
Whenever Lara Jean bakes anything or spends time together with her whole family.
I’m excited to see how this series will conclude because when we left off Lara Jean and Peter, they were finally going to go all in and I’m excited to see Lara Jean make decisions about where she wants to go after high school.
This post probably made less than zero sense (I hope my discussion posts can improve over time) but if you have any thoughts on anything I just wrote or about the series in general, don’t hesitate to comment as always. And as always, all the gifs and photosets were found on Tumblr.
March was long but in this case that means I got to read more! It was a busy month as well and weirdly enough I read more when I’m busy. I think it’s because reading relaxes but then again if I’m too stressed so it’s a weird balance. I did, however, DNF a couple of books (3). So in total I read 7 books, 2 short stories, and 1 graphic novel.
So the books first:
The Ever Never Handbook by Soman Chainani
The Ever Never Handbook is a companion book to The School for Good and Evil trilogy. This is like the equivalent to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to the Harry Potter series. It’s just a little bonus to the original books: how to survive going to this magical school, the course catalog, pictures of the cool creatures that reside there, school fashion and all that. I was kind of confused reading this book because there are excerpts of the characters sending letters and transcripts of characters talking to each other and they mention events that have not happened. So, at first, I thought cool, it’s a bit of an epilogue except the events that are happening are kind of depressing. One of the letters included is even “cut off” so you don’t know what happens after so that was rude. And then I look on Goodreads and found out there was gonna be a fourth book…(just as I was beginning to applaud myself for finishing one series in my life). But after reading the handbook, I realize I’m nostalgic for Sophie’s and Agatha’s world and want to go back to it again so at the end of the day, I’m happy there’s a 4th book but we’ll see.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
I had high hopes for this modern Pride and Prejudice retelling but alas, it was pretty disappointing. However, I do like the wry and tongue in cheek writing as well as the fast-paced nature of the book. It’s the sort of book I could finish in one sitting if I wanted to. It also made me nostalgic for P&P retellings so I immediately went and rewatched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries afterwards and I had a lot of feelings so, in true Carolyn-fashion, I rant about them here.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
I was excited for this one ever since I first heard about it because it’s written like a fairy tale and it revolves around Russian mythology. Vasya’s family worships the house spirits but when her mother dies and a priest tries to convert everyone to a religion of one god, the village starts to erupt in chaos and only Vasya’s magical powers can help. The writing is atmospheric and promises mysteries and magic at every turn. However, because it was written like a fairy tale, the secondary characters, including the stepmother, the priest, and Vasya’s father all came out to be pretty cliche. Also, the pacing was so off. Plotlines were brought up and then dropped until the second half of the book where one plotline was followed till the end. I really liked the fantastical elements such as the blending of Russian mythological creatures. I also found the author’s note to be sort of problematic; you can take creative liberties with a story but alternating Russian words because it’s not aesthetically pleasing is a different story. It could have been better but it wasn’t necessarily bad. I’ll definitely be looking out for Arden’s future works.
Human Acts by Han Kang
In short, Han Kang has cemented herself as an auto-read author for me. My mini review here.
Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard
I just burnt bread this afternoon so you can tell how much of a cook I am but I checked this out because I love Korean food. Vietnamese food is great but there is something so communal and aesthetically pleasing about Korean food, not to mention the variety in color and type of food. What’s great about this cookbook is that there’s such a variety of recipes but each is prefaced by a little history or tidbit about the food and information about the different ingredients themselves. There’s also interviews with chefs who cook with Korean food, celebrities who love Korean food, and restaurant owners who cook a fusion of Korean and some culture of food. The photos are also really well-made and there’s even full page spreads of Koreatown and the Korean eating experience. I’m not making any of these recipes except for the one that was basically an improved version of how to make your shin ramyun (instant noodles) better but it really made me crave Korean food. Someone get me bibimbap and patbingsu asap.
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
This book has an amazing premise. A space ship is on its way to Aurora, its inhabitants hopeful in being its first colonizers. At the beginning of the book, the ship is on its 150th year in space and there’s still more years to go before they can even reach Aurora. Our main character, Freya, is the daughter of the ship’s chief engineer, Devi. The story sort of follows Freya as she learns to become a leader but it also follows the the ship’s apparently sentient perspective as it details the accounts of the journey. I’m really impressed with Robinson’s knowledge of biology, microbiology, population biology and physics. He does do a lot of infodumping but being the science major that I am, it was all so interesting especially when he explained the mechanics of the ship and its many biomes, how these inhabitants lived in the biomes. As can be expected, this novel is hard science fiction so do not read this if you’re not interested in any of the things I’ve mentioned above. Because it’s hard science fiction, the characters fall to the wayside but he does ask some interesting questions and gives twists to these questions that surprised me. Were we really meant to go beyond Earth given the limitations of our bodies? What happens, after generations of preparation and hope, when your destination is not everything you expected?And how do you fix the mistakes that the people who originally came on the ship didn’t forsee? Why should the generations after be forced to deal with the consequences when they might not have wanted any part of this crusade in the first place? After all, they were ultimately human, greatly ambitious but also inevitably fallible. It’s quite heavy in its scope and size and I found myself forgiving its flaws just because it was so fascinating.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before & PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han (reread)
Every once in a while, a very special YA contemporary will come into my life that just does it right. This is one of those series. It’s cute and fluffy to the highest degree but while most YA contemporaries of that nature are at highest 3 stars for me, these two always leave me feeling not just happy but satisfied. I’m planning on doing a reread discussion for these two or a review of the entire trilogy when the third and final book comes out in May! The days cannot go by faster…
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
Is it betterto have beenloved, or to love?
This is the essential question of Madeleine Thien’s historical novel that alternates between the present where Li-Ling and Ai-Ming piece together the story of their fathers and the past where we find out their grandparent’s and parent’s lives during the Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong. As the Revolution grows more and more oppressive, we begin to see how her father and his family try to reconcile their personal passions and to an extent their inner selves and the constant danger of being arrested for being a counter-revolutionary. I really liked the undercurrent of music–particularly the violin and piano–throughout the book, a symbol of private desire. And I really liked reading about this struggle to maintain your identity when your very safety depends on your rejection of it. I also learned a lot about the Revolution in China during the 50’s and 60’s and how the aftereffects of that time period extended all the way to the 80’s and 90’s. I think the characters jumped a little too much from one motivation to another with no buildup in between. The pacing was also abrupt and jumps from one perspective to another with little sense of cohesion. But despite that, definitely worth a read.
Blonde Date (Ivy Years #2.5) by Sarina Bowen
Blonde Date is a NA romance novella that’s a part of Bowen’s NA series but you don’t have to read the previous books to understand this one. It’s about a girl named Katie who is in a sorority and she needs a date to go with her to a party because she has just broken up with her asshole of a boyfriend (for reasons that will be revealed throughout the story). She gets set up with Andy who is a sweet and genuine beta male (can we please have more of these in romance novels?). Diversity in romance is a problem in general but that’s a different story. I really liked that Katie, who would normally be the antagonist in a NA story is instead the protagonist. The dialogue was pretty cliche but it didn’t bother me too much. Blissfully unproblematic, cute, and enjoyable, highly recommended for a lazy afternoon read. I wish there was a full length book on Katie and Andy.
A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-min Prasad
Helena Yuanhi makes a living out of 3D printing realistic looking meat. She gets a huge gig printing out steaks for a wedding and she hopes that this gig can give her enough to run away and escape from her past. She enlists the help of Lily whose spontaneous personality serves as the perfect foil to the more quiet and reserved Helen. This short story was so great, It has a slight satirical undertone and it’s quite comedic and just plain enjoyable. I liked the two main characters and their budding friendship and all the mechanics behind the 3D printing. Highly recommended and you can even read it for free here.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Through the Woods is a collection of horror-ish short stories in graphic novel format. The problem with this was it ended way too soon just when the story was starting to get interested. You know that scene in a horror movie where someone hears a lot of banging or whatever behind a door and they’re just about to open the door. The stories end right when the person is about to open the door which was kind of frustrating. I feel like if she prolonged one or two of these stories, I would have been so much more creeped out and invested. I particularly liked the story about the two brothers who go into the woods and only one of them comes back alive but then the next day, the dead comes back again as if nothing happened.
Crosstalk by Connie Willis
I got about 1/2 of the way through and it had me feeling really claustrophobic which I guess is kind of the point. It’s set in the near future where you can get a surgery that will help you better see your partner’s thoughts. This, in theory, will lead to a happier relationship. It’s a light sci-fi novel with a romcom storyline. I appreciated the numerous references to other social media but at the same time, I felt like they were being referenced by someone who doesn’t really use them. I also thought this could have been about 200 pages shorter since the scenes kept being dragged out with interruptions from one of her annoyingly endearing family members and it just got to be too much. The heroine is a protagonist straight out of Legally Blonde, smart but has ditzy and truly naive moments, and talks like she always has everything under control when she really doesn’t. I wish she had more agency in this book. I just didn’t care ultimately.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
There’s nothing technically wrong with this book. It just felt a little too safe for me and I guess I had higher hopes for a book that was longlisted for the National Book Award. It has a great historical setting (right after the American Civil War) but the storyline just felt too saccharine for me especially for a literary fiction novel that’s trying to be more nuanced.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie Mclemore
I know this book is well loved in the book community and I really wanted to like this one because it explores themes of being transgender, being in a relationship with a transgender person and what it means to truly expose yourself. One of the main character is Pakistani which I never see in a YA book. I also really wanted to like this book because I really like magical realism but the writing felt a little too flowery and nothing was being said. And while the writing was pretty beautiful, the storyline felt like it was going nowhere. I understand coming of age doesn’t technically have a plot but I felt like Mclemore was trying to achieve another plot besides the coming of age and it just didn’t work for me.
And that’s my March reading! Let me know what you read in March, what your favorites were or if you’ve read any of these and what your thoughts were. =)
I wasn’t satisfied after I read Eligible and I knew a little of why I was so dissatisfied with Eligible as a Pride and Prejudice retelling.
But it made me nostalgic for other P&P retellings, my favorite of which is the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. So I rewatched it and it only made the problems with Eligible that much more glaring.
And while I think Eligible does some interesting things to the timeless tale, I think ultimately it fails to create a modern context that is proportional to the events of the original Pride and Prejudice. Major Spoilers for both below.
So my first biggest problem with Eligible was how major events were translated to the modern day. Most of them just seemed forced. The biggest one, of course, would be Lydia’s elopement with Ham in Vegas where it was also revealed that Ham is a transgender male. My first problem with that is the way that Ham is revealed to be transgender. It was revealed at the very end of a chapter and written in a way that was very obviously meant to be there for shock factor which is not impressive. Using a person’s identity as a shock factor makes it less about the person in question and more about the reader’s and the other characters’ reactions to the person, using the person as a plot device for another character’s emotional angst, in this case, Mrs. Bennett. In LBD, Lydia’s significant event was the sex tape with George Wickham. I thought this event was really interesting and works so well for the modern day because in the original, Lydia eloping was a huge deal in Austen’s time period, more so because of the blow it would have on Lydia’s reputation as a woman of chastity and serves to emphasize what a money grabbing asshole Wickham was. Eloping now just doesn’t have the same connotation. The fact that Lydia eloped with a transgender person also has nothing to do with her sexual reputation. It feels as if Sittenfeld wanted to throw something out there that felt big but instead ended up feeling anticlimactic because it honestly didn’t change the story that much. This also felt true to me because we really barely got to see Lydia and Ham throughout the book and therefore, we barely got to really know them as characters. In LBD, the sex tape felt like a shocking blow because we’ve gotten to know Lydia and her struggles and so we feel sympathy and pain for her. But the storyline also serves dual purposes to reveal the extent of Elizabeth’s ignorance and dismissal of Lydia as a “slut” and “party” girl. In Eligible, it affects no one except Mrs. Bennet’s acceptance of trans people. Unfortunately, that also makes Darcy’s grand gesture feel not-so-grand. In Eligible, he only is prepared to try and persuade Mrs. Bennet of accepting Ham by saying it is a disorder which in and of itself is a little problematic but in LBD it feels more grand, since I mean he did buy out the whole company for Lizzie (swoon). Darcy’s grand gesture should be a gesture of sacrifice because up until this point we have only known Darcy to look down upon Elizabeth’s family and status but by doing this, he truly shows how much of his status and wealth he is willing to give up for Elizabeth which is what makes it so swoon worthy. The other big event that I felt LBD did better was Collins’ proposal. In Eligible, he’s not really a cousin but he still proposes to her. I really liked the twist that LBD brought to the Collins storyline because it just fits with the modern storyline and still feels relevant to who Lizzie and Charlotte are as characters. Admittedly though, the characters in Eligible are a lot older (late 30’s) so it feels more right that Charlotte would accept a marriage proposal from Collins.
But it still didn’t make as much sense in Eligible because we barely got to know Charlotte as Charlotte. In LBD, we understand why she would take Collins’s job offer, because she is practical and in a financial situation that doesn’t allow her to explore other options but we also understand why Elizabeth wouldn’t want Charlotte to settle for this job when she knows Charlotte has a lot of potential. It fits because in the modern age, we are always at odds with the jobs we accept and we always wonder whether we are just settling or if there was something else we were always meant to do. And, of course, like Charlotte, we often times have family obligations and financial crises that prevent us from pursuing the job that we would have wanted and take the jobs that are offered to us. At least, in my experience, we are less worried about abrupt marriage proposals from people we barely know. If a modern P&P retelling intends to show an audience how the original source material the themes and concepts of social class and social stigma can still translate to the modern day, it is better, to me, if the events themselves were not just inserted into the story but with different names. By making it socially relevant, we can see how P&P has withstood the test of time. Not as major, but the part when Lizzie walked to the hospital instead of getting a ride because apparently there are no ubers yet was kind of dumb to be honest and it felt like something forced to obviously reference to the original Pride and Prejudice and could not have stood on its own without the original source material.
The other problem I had with Eligible was the extent that the characters were explored. Even though the book was long enough to do so, I still felt as though the essence of these characters weren’t explored enough. It’s hard to recapture what is so charismatic and well-loved about Elizabeth Bennet even after all these years later. I did like how in Eligible, we see that Elizabeth is an older heroine (I think 38?) and I thought it was interesting how Sittenfeld interpreted the modern day “spinster” age. In terms of personality, however, I felt as though Elizabeth was just a combination of some of Jane Austen’s Elizabeth’s traits but didn’t develop a personality of her own so she was only a shadow of the original Elizabeth Bennett. I think something that was explored well, however, was her relationship with Jasper Wick (Wickham) who she’s been in a pseudo relationship for some 2 decades. Readers see he is basically an asshole with only semi good intentions but Lizzie doesn’t see that until way later in the book and thought that was really fitting how blinded Lizzie is sometimes. But in terms of her relationships with the other side characters like Lydia and Mrs. Bennet, we can only take them at face value. Mrs. Bennet is just as crazy and narrow-minded about getting her daughters married. In LBD, Mrs. Bennet is exactly the same so we think because everything we know about her is through Lizzie’s perspective. But as you move along through the series, you begin to question whether Mrs. Bennet is really as crazy as Lizzie makes her out to be. And this is such a good case of using the unreliable narrator as Lizzie should be. She is loyal and witty but also very, as you can guess, proud and judgmental. She’s often wrong about the right people and even wrong about the wrong people as well. We constantly see Jane and Charlotte telling her to be nice and pretty much everyone else knows that Darcy likes her way before Lizzie will admit it to herself.
Darcy, on the other hand, is ok in Eligible. As you might expect, he is offhand and aloof and perfectly enjoyable. In Eligible, he is a doctor, in LBD he is the owner of Pemberley Digital, in the original, I believe he is a wealthy landowner, you can see which interpretation I prefer. In LBD, we are constantly reminded that Darcy “always takes care of the people he loves” but of course, to Lizzie, he is anything but. In Eligible, we see that he is mostly misunderstood. But I like that in LBD, he serves as the perfect foil for Lizzie. Lizzie thinks she is nothing like Darcy but we can see that there are a lot of similarities. They both like to think they take care of their family and friends by meddling in their affairs; they are very proud people and are quick to make judgments about people and are hesitant to give second chances. There’s a certain level of truth to everyone’s perspective in LBD. Yes, Darcy was wrong for essentially breaking up Jane’s and Bing’s relationship but Bing was also wrong for listening to Caroline so blindly. In Eligible, I felt as though there was less nuance and I didn’t particularly care if they got together or not, there is less of a foil, less of a pull and push.
In terms of style, they’re both consumable in very short formats. While Eligible has extremely short chapters (some only a paragraph long), LBD consists of 100 episodes, some only 3 minutes long. Because of this format, they’re both very easy and fast to consume. I really love that I couldn’t stop reading or watching either of them. I had to know what happened even though I obviously already knew what was going to happen. I think it’s vital to a retelling that even when you know the story by heart, you still read reincarnations as if this story hasn’t been done before. With Eligible, I was almost just waiting for the events to occur because I think it wasn’t enough for me to only be attached to the characters. In LBD, the vlog format allows me to really know Lizzie as a person and her struggles with being a graduate student etc. etc. However, with Eligible, it seems as though all the set up was used so the relevant plot points (ie Jane and Lizzie’s past relationships and working as a magazine editor for Mascara) could work instead of really building a character. And because of that, I never got a real sense of her deep relationship with her sisters (except maybe Jane) and especially her parents. In the vlog format, I suppose having her mannerisms portrayed on screen is pretty helpful to gauging what she’s like as a person. We know that she likes to hide under the guise of other people’s problems. She employs costume theater so we can get a gauge on what her perception of other people is. Sometimes you do have to suspend your disbelief with the whole who-is-watching these vlogs and there is so much personal information going out in these vlogs that no sane person would probably reveal on camera nowadays but it didn’t bother me too much. I also liked the vlog format because much like the book, other people (like Darcy and Wickham) aren’t revealed until much later in the series so it kind of builds up that anticipation.The important thing is I understand Lizzie’s limited perspective.
And half the fun of reading retellings is finding all the Easter eggs. I really liked reading about both. I read Eligible eagerly anticipating the events that I knew were going to happen. I liked how in LBD, Mary is their cousin and Kitty is actually a kitty, that was cute. I also liked how Bingley was translated as Bing Lee. I liked that Pemberley was the name of Darcy’s manor in Eligible and in LBD, it was the name of Darcy’s company. Just to name a few.
But, overall, I really think LBD’s retelling of P&P was a lot more successful than Eligible’s. Let me know if you’ve watched LBD or read Eligible and if you thought it was a successful retelling. Do you like modern P&P retellings? If so, do you have a favorite, I would love to know because I’ll never get tired of P&P.
Loot Crate is a monthly subscription service that specializes in goodies for gamers and geeks. They put together a project where fans can talk about their dream crate or what they’d like if they could design their own box. This is a dreamcrate so everything is fair game but I decided to make it more realistic because it would be nice if nice things were affordable. So I decided to revolve my box around the theme of Wonder. I was thinking about Wonder Woman and how much I love the concept of wonder: of being excited about the world, of exploration and discovery and learning new things. I mean it is kind of what drew me to the character in the first place, how despite how much of the degradation and rot that she saw in the world through her long, immortal life, I still liked that she still found something in it worth saving. So here is what I would like in my box.
So of course to celebrate Wonder Woman and in the spirit of previous Lootcrate boxes, I obviously want the box to be decorated as Themyscira. I love the this concept of Paradise and the lush nature of the island.
I love art prints to hang up so I chose gorgeous watercolor print. It would be nice if it came with the frame too. I just think it would look awesome on any desk or wall.
But I also really enjoyed the Vintage pop art design on Etsy where a print of Wonder Woman is placed on a piece of newspaper page. Again, it would look really good framed.
Moving on from Wonder Woman, what better represents the theme of wonder than the Star Trek franchise?
“Space… The final frontier… These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: To explore strange new worlds… To seek out new life; new civilisations… To boldly go where no one has gone before!”
I love this concept of exploration and discovery and the idea of camaraderie over conquest. I would love a decal of the USS Enterprise and the logo.
Speaking of new worlds, some of the best games I’ve played have dealt directly with this concept. I’ve never seen a plush before in a Lootcrate and honestly is there anything better than a Pokemon plush?? I like the pokeball plush a lot.
And moving back to the old school, I’ve always loved the fusion of Final Fantasy and Disney characters exploring different worlds in the Disney canon in Kingdom Hearts.
What better merch for Kingdom hearts than a keychain of Sora’s keyblade like this one.
I wanted to put in something from a not-so-big fandom even though the fandom is actually kind of big. Like Star Trek, Voltron: Legendary Defender deals with the idea of exploring new worlds in space but also this overarcing theme of an ensemble doing things together. As I’m watching the show, I also notice how much the characters learn a little bit from each culture and planet they visit.
Also stickers because why not.
or even a shirt because that’s how much I love this show.
I also noticed that Lootcrate likes to include posters in their crate. Since my theme is all about Wonder, I thought a poster of Summoner’s Rift from League of Legends would be really fitting. LoL is not just about the strategy and tactics, it’s also about the awesome graphic and art design especially of the landscape itself. A decent-sized poster would probably help with strategizing as well.
So that is my Dreamcrate! Please feel free to post up your own Dreamcrate post. You have 100% creative license because it is a Dreamcrate obviously. Lootcrate will be highlighting some Dreamcrates throughout their social accounts.
I might be grasping at straws here by compiling all these books under the same theme but I think it works. All of these are relatively short books, no more than 304 pages and quick reads. They were all informative about some specific historical event and culture and by writing about violence, war, and family, the authors were able to see how these affect a person’s identity and sense of self. Enjoy! =) Let me know if you’ve read any of these, your thoughts or if you’re planning on reading them.
Thank you to Copper Canyon Press for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
Poetry is not my forte and still isn’t but I still like it and I think through this collection, I’ve discovered 2 really important secrets to help me appreciate it more and I think they actually just might help those who just can’t seem to get into poetry too. So,
Read the poetry aloud.
I realize this is really weird and will probably make you seem crazy. But just think of it like spoken poetry. I think orating it out loud just emphasizes each word and makes you see how each word fits together in the whole scheme of the poem. All strangeness aside, it’s actually quite cathartic.
2. Don’t try to understand it (at first).
The first time you go through this collection, don’t try to find meaning underneath each statement. In fact, I think poetry is less about meaning sometimes than the overall structure and phrasing of the words and the word choice in general. It won’t make sense but at the same time it’s really fascinating how the poet constructs the piece. How he can relate two such unrelated things and have it somehow work.
With those in mind, you’ll have a really good time with this poetry collection. This collection is all about how family shapes your identity, how your identity is an extension of your mother’s and your father’s. About finding your identity through culture, through sexuality, and ultimately through self.
Now here is your father inside
He also touches on the Vietnam War and Vietnam written with a fusion of Vietnamese and English in some of them such as in “Aubade with Burning City”, a piece that follows the evacuation of refugees from Vietnam while a Christmas song is playing on the radio. Others are more about love bordering on the erotic; in fact he writes an “Ode to Masturbation” at one point and it was quite poignant (lol).The great thing about Ocean’s poetry is that he doesn’t technically have a defining structure like Emily Dickinson and her dashes. He will try out many different structures. One of the poems is written entirely in footnote, others more prose poetry. And hidden in these poems are gems of poignancy that are really beautiful. It almost feels as though this poetry collection is helping him find himself. It’s particularly displayed in one of my favorite pieces of this collection, “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong”, which sounds like a piece written to himself. And maybe it is.
I’m so excited to have finally read an Ocean Vuong work and I’m definitely going to check out his future works.
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
Goodreads | 85 pages | Nonfiction, Memoir
If you’re going to read this memoir, I highly recommend the audiobook. Trevor Noah himself narrates it and his humorous and conversational voice really shines through.I honestly think this is one of the best, if not the best, entertainment celebrity memoirs I have ever read. This is true because first and foremost, Trevor Noah can actually write without sacrificing his humorous witticisms. Sometimes the conversational voices that celebrities use in their books sort of undermine the writing process in general because it is clear that the story was not meant to be a book, more better for a video or a podcast. But Trevor Noah’s story just works so well as a book. The opening of every chapter is followed with a little history lesson or framing device about South Africa which sets up his story in a relevant way. But the memoir, for the most part, revolves around his childhood in South Africa where he was quite literally “born a crime”. Born
to a Swiss father and an African mother during the time of apartheid Trevor was obviously illegal and he talks about how he spent a lot of his childhood hiding, sometimes when he and his mother were walking down the street, and police were roaming the street, she would push him away and pretend not to know him for safety’s sake. It’s very clear throughout how much his mother means to him. How his deeply religious mother, a force of nature who eschewed tradition and propriety, shaped his open perspective of the world. In spite of the poor community he lived and the fact that he grew up very poor (his mother would park at red traffic lights to save gas), Trevor reminisces that he never felt trapped or limited to the ghetto because his mother always reminded him that the community he lived in was not all that the world had to offer him. He knows he was one of the lucky ones however.
People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.
You really feel as though you knew his mother and by extension, Trevor as so much of his personality is shaped by her. Noah also discusses his struggle to belong in a certain community because of his race. He didn’t quite belong with the “whites”, not quite the “blacks”, and not even the “mixed” raced kids because they would think he would act like either a black or a white. The discussion of race was effortlessly integrated probably he has had to live by these race rules his entire life. But putting those aside, Trevor gets into some crazy shit mostly because he admits to being a troublemaker as a child.
All of this is told with the usual Trevor Noah humor very on par with his humor as host of the Daily Show. But he never tries too hard to cater to a certain audience or sounds too self-deprecating as sometimes celebrity memoirs will do and most importantly, he never writes as though he is wondering why he is even writing a book. Trevor Noah lets the audience know that this story is important to him and is important in general. Informative, sincere, and humorous, I highly, highly recommend.
I think I liked Human Acts even more than The Vegetarian and I think readers who didn’t like the Vegetarian should still give this a shot because it is definitely not as bizarre or surreal as The Vegetarian. It definitely leans more towards the gritty and brutal
tone. Written by several different perspectives within a 3 decade span, Human Acts tells a fictionalized story behind the very true student uprisings in Korea in 1980. Han Kang really delves into the concept of the body, how you can be separated from your body. How after torture, you can even be disgusted by your body. Is the body separate from the person’s soul? To answer she eve writes one chapter from the perspective of a corpse which honestly I wouldn’t want any other author to write.
When they threw a straw sack over the body of the man at the very top, the tower of bodies was transformed into the corpse of some enormous, fantastical beast, its dozens of legs splayed out beneath it.
It works because there is something about Han Kang’s writing that is so visceral, that requires an equally visceral and immediate reaction. Her writing is so penetratingly vivid and poetic. I usually hate describing writing as poetic because it is overused now but it’s definitely true for Han Kang because I looked at the back flap and what do you know, she started her writing career as a poet so hence poetic writing which really helps the imagery of this book. Because of this, however, it can also become confusing because there is a lot of section breaks and it was sometimes difficult to discern how the subsequent perspectives were related to the previous ones but that’s a minor quibble. She also touches on the concept of nationality, the feeling of belonging to a nation but at the same time in disbelief at how your nation can ultimately betray you. This is explored by following these characters through the aftermath of the uprisings and how these acts of violence have scarring effects on a person and their memory. This book would definitely benefit from a reread to see how everything ties together. But, in all, such a brilliant book and one that already cements Han Kang as an exceptionally accomplished writer.
2017 is going by so damn quickly, it is insane. Well at least faster than 2016. Also, thankfully, going a little better than 2016. Not by spades but I guess enough to make to make me a little more grateful. Both New Years have passed by, Lunar New Year being normal as usual. I always thought Lunar New Year was something really special but ultimately if you think about it, slightly ridiculous, the traditions of red envelopes and food and relatives telling you you’re going to have a great year.
My family has a tradition. Before 12am, you walk outside of your house and then at 12 you reenter and poof you’ll have a good year. That’s also, of course, if you don’t take out the trash, cut your hair for a week, etc etc. I did the first one this year and everything still felt exactly the same when I stepped into the house.I get wrapped up in tradition and superstition as much as the next person fully realizing no matter the amount of luck baiting and tradition will change anything or be indicative of a good year. I think maybe if I do all of these things, I’ll have an amazing year but only if I do them all right. Maybe I’m just lucky this year. And the next but then never again. I could get a phone call the next day telling me my friend had just died (please don’t do that to me life) even if I did all those things to ensure I would have a good year. Most of the time, you don’t even notice the changes until you’ve stopped and looked back.
But life goes on..what have I been doing? Well, I’m currently taking a medical terminology class which is actually really helpful in real world situations and also in my new job as a medical scribe, it’s been pretty helpful.
My favorite shoes these past two months are these boots.
I realized too late that they really scrunch my feet but I bear the pain because they’re so cute :3 I’ve also been loving the Maybelline Mauve lipstick which is kind of perfect for both casual and more dressy war. It’s the perfect deep color if you apply a lot of it.
For some reason I went on some kind of ice cream binge these past months, probably because I’ve been having a lot of anxiety so I just swallow my feelings in sweets.
I love the jamoca ice cream from Baskin Robbins. I have never had coffee ice cream that good unless it was from Haagen Daz lol.
I also freaking love the Mocha Almond Fudge from Thrifty ice cream basically the best ice cream brand ever. My friend (Hi!) introduced me to Rolled Creamery which was amazing. I got the Matcha Oreo one and it was amazing. It tasted so authentic and not too sweet but sweet enough to satisfy my sweet cravings.
And of course, music! I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff. First of all, I’ve been listening to the awesome, amazing Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo soundtrack. It’s not an exaggeration when I say I pretty much loved this entire album and have been listening to it on repeat. It is so good.
Taeyeon came out with a new album recently and my soul ascends to heaven whenever she hits a high note. It’s almost cathartic. My favorite songs off the new album are Fine and Time Lapse. Also the music video for Fine is a work of art.
Not so great of a music video is Big Sean’s Bounce Back; it kinda makes me want to roll my eyes but what can I say I love this song.
And jumping off of that, I loved the entire Insecure Season 1 soundtrack. I seriously wanted to write down every song that came on until I realized that was dumb and I could just listen to the entire list on Spotify.
And my list would not be complete without some songs on the radio because I’m basic. My two favorite songs of recent being: I Don’t Want to Live Forever by Taylor Swift and Zayn. I don’t know how a shitty movie like 50 Shades got to have such an awesome soundtrack but there you go.
And of course Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. The music video is also super cute.
I am sorry if this post doesn’t make much sense. I didn’t really feel like editing it so there you have it. I just wanted to reflect a little on how my year was going so far.