Friday, February 26, 2010

Book #53 - Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare

I don't know if it's my own romantic nature or just my general need for a happy ending that made this play not my favorite. I enjoyed the comedic banter but I was so put off by how it concluded that it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

For a long time Love's Labour's Lost was not considered one of the Bard's best plays. I can kind of see why given the nature of the material and how it finally wraps up.

In short, the story is of three scholarly men who are told by their king that in order to be in his court, they need to swear off all distractions and focus only on their studies. The men are not happy to swear off their vices, the largest of these of course being women, but they agree to it and give the sworn oath to the King.

Enter the Princess and her ladies in waiting. They arrive and basically wreak havoc on the men's plans causing them to strut about writing really bad poetry, making declarations of love and generally being asses. There are no donkey head metaphors or dream sequences here only snappy repartee and the women pretty much treating the men like the children they are.

Now I'm fully on board with the notion that women don't need men in order to live a full and complete life. I pretty much live every day by that philosophy. I enjoyed the characters, especially the Princess who had some of the best lines in the play, and I'm almost positive that she was a bit of an homage to Queen Elizabeth I herself.

While I didn't love this play, I definitely enjoyed it, but I doubt it's one I'll be quoting or getting tattooed anywhere. I am glad I had the chance to read and learn from it though, let's hope I can impress my professor with my interpretation of it.

Next up is Richard III...eek!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book #52 - Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

I absolutely loved this play. I think I read it some time in the early 90s but I didn't remember it explicitly but I do remember the one thing I liked about it.

Beatrice. I love a feisty intelligent female lead. It's good to see that even in the 16th century that Shakespeare could appreciate one as well.

The story takes place on the estate of a man named Leonato where he is hosting a solstice or party or other such fete that people did for kicks back in those days. Leonato has a sweet, meek, naive, and mild mannered daughter named Hero, and a his feisty sharp tongued niece named Beatrice. During the festivities, a messenger announces that Don Pedro is coming to visit bringing with him his fellow soldiers, Claudio, Benedick, and his half brother Don John.

Basically chaos ensues, lovers meet, break up, make up, and then there's some truly villainous behavior behind the scenes that keeps it all going. The dialogue is incredibly witty and the characters are all varied and unique and extremely entertaining. Since I had to write a paper for this book that included a character analysis, I rented the movie written and directed by Kenneth Branaugh (Gilderoy Lockhart for you
Harry Potter fans)who in case you didn't know is kind of the reigning Shakespeare go to guy. He's written and directed at least 4 or 5 of the plays and has an incredible grasp of the language. Emma Thompson (whom I adore) stars as Beatrice and she is phenomenal in the role...exactly what I pictured while reading which is always a bonus. There's also a really young pre-Underworld Kate Beckinsale, Keanu Reeves, Robert Sean Leonard (from Swing Kids and Dead Poet's Society) and Denzel Washington to round out the cast.

I'm so glad I'm taking this Shakespeare class! It's been fun getting to delve into the plays once again. Of course I say that now as we are in the comedies, by the time we get to the tragedies I'll be singing a much different tune I'm sure!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book #51 - Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane


I am a big chicken when it comes to mystery and suspense novels. I am always afraid of what will happen once I turn off the lights after reading them. In an effort to live more outside my box in 2010, I chose this as my book club selection for February and am hosting a bunch of chicks talking about it soon. I was slightly worried to read
Shutter Island after seeing the trailer for the movie which premiered this last weekend. I knew that I would want to see the movie because even though it looks semi scary, it has one very important element that insures that I will see it eventually.

Leonardo DiCaprio. I would pay money to watch him read the back of a cereal box. He's such a great actor that I'm sure he'd have an accent and some angsty torment regarding said cereal.

I've only read one of Dennis Lehane's other books, Mystic River, and I absolutely loved it so I figured that I would love this one as well. Shutter Island is a thrill ride for sure. It takes a lot of twists and turns and you don't know what's real or what's imaginary. While the book is a thriller, it's not scary or gory at all, in fact it reads just like a movie.

As a page turner this novel is amazing. It messes with your mind from the very first paragraph. As the layers of the plot unfold, the reader is taken on a suspense filled journey of intrigue and well you know, suspense. I admit that because of my well documented word nerdiness I figured out a lot of the puzzle before it was revealed, but this book was such a fun read, I couldn't wait to see how everything played out. I can't wait to see the movie!

Speaking of Dennis Lehane, you might remember that a few weeks ago I mentioned a giveaway on my friend Heather's blog for a signed copy of his new book,
The Given Day. It may please you to know, that I won! Heather recently mailed the book to me along with a sweet note on pink (of course) paper! Thanks Heather! So far Lehane is two for two with me, let's see if he can make it a hat trick!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book #50 - Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers


Ask and you shall receive. My book sensei, otherwise known as Jessica took pity on me and all my complaining about not winning this book as a giveaway on her blog and I got this in the mail just over a week ago. :-) Again I'll say, read her blog, she just did a revamp and changed the name, it's still awesome. Seriously.

I've never read Courtney Summers before. While I enjoy YA as a genre with all the other hundreds of book I need to read I don't get to partake in YA books as often as I'd like. I am so glad that Jessica reviewed this story on her blog, I might never even have heard of it otherwise and it struck such a huge chord with me.

Regina Afton used to be part of the most popular, most feared group of girls in the school. The Fearsome Fivesome. When Regina confides to another of the Fivesome about a heinous happening between her and her best friend and queen bee Anna's boyfriend, she finds herself ousted as Anna's bestie and head henchgirl and put at the top of the "let's make her life miserable just because we can" list. Immediately Regina finds herself the brunt of pranks, physical violence, cyber bullying, and other horrible deeds that get worse by the day making her the most hated girl in school.

This story is one big throbbing open wound. Summers' writing is so raw, honest, and emotional, I could not put it down and read it in one sitting. Regina is not really a likable character, but she's honest. She understands the immense irony of the situation and despite her dealings with her former clique, she doesn't just take their abuse, and fights back...hard. She attempts to atone for her sins, but wonders if she should even be forgiven considering the horrible things she did. I found myself admiring her even while knowing that if she were in my high school class I would have simultaneously hated and envied her.

There were aspects of this book that are just plain uncomfortable and hard to read. I found myself verbally interjecting with a few "oh no she didn'ts" while I was reading some of the more vile things the popular girls did to Regina. This book reminds me a lot of what I went through as a teen in high school. Girls are so cruel and far more vindictive at this age then you can imagine. I'm glad Courtney Summers is writing books like this, it makes me want to
write stories with that reach this level of truth. I can't wait to go back and read her other novel, Cracked Up to Be. Brilliant.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Celebrate Good Times...Come ON!!


My blog is a year old! Can you believe it? Neither can I! Do you know the best part of having a birthday? Presents! Not for me though, for you! To celebrate this momentous blog-o-versary, I thought maybe I should pay forward my good giveaway karma and host one of my own!

I've been on the receiving end of such generosity this year, both with unexpected gifts from friends and just general goodwill that I have received here on the blog that I am full of the warm and fuzzies which bring out my generous nature.

So hmmm, what to give? The traditional first anniversary gift is paper so I thought a book and some cold hard cash (in the form of a gift card) would be appropriate. I wrestled back and forth (and back and forth) over this and decided that I will give away ONE newly purchased copy of any of book I've reviewed here on the blog which you can find here, and ONE $25 Visa or Amex gift card so that you can also buy a book (or three) of your choosing. Or groceries, or gas, or new lipgloss. Whatever.

A new book plus $25? All for reading the rambles of some random woman on the Intenet? Sounds good right? I thought so too. :-)

RULES:

You also must be a blog follower and live in the US or Canada to win.

I'm going to keep it super simple and say just leave a comment in this post to enter and I'll randomly select someone on 3/1/2010 at midnight PST. You can also blog or tweet for extra entries just add an extra comment with the URL so I'll know. Also note which of my previously reviewed books you'd like a copy of in your comment.

Good Luck!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Friday Five

#1. Do a 14 day sugar detox (no sweets, soda, HFC), #11. Track all eating and exercise for a month, #2. Find and join a weight loss and fitness program

Is it a cop out that all of these go together? Well too bad it's my blog and I make the rules! While you're adjusting to how sick I am with my own power, let me just say that what a difference nearly 3 weeks of being on track makes! I have had no sugar, junk or takeout food since February 1st! You have no idea how hard a step this was for me to take. I have had such a bad romance with sugar and all kinds of sweet treats that I was really afraid that I would never be able to just stop eating them cold turkey. I realized once I really started doing this how little food I was eating every day, and that what I was eating was plain not good for me. I am proud of the fact that once I hit 14 days, I decided to keep on going for the rest of the month. I've been tracking every day and added a tracker on my sidebar so you all can see what I've been eating. Feel free to judge as well, I'm open to all suggestions since now I'm super focused on eating more protein and as cleanly as possible.
I'm so glad I decided to stop being afraid of SparkPeople (it seemed very intense to me when I first joined 2 years ago) and get on board with the daily calorie and exercise tracking as well as all of the community support. I'm doing so well that I actually could update #12 Lose 50-100 pounds because I am down 12 so far!!! Please promise you'll still love me when I'm skinny and married to a billionaire. (Hey it could happen...at least 1 out of 2)


#93. Get 200 followers on Twitter

I love Twitter. Nothing feeds my tendency towards attention whore-dom quite like spilling my inner thoughts in 140 characters or less. I've been tweeting since 2008 (pre-Ashton) and I now have over 2500 tweets. I am following over 300 people, and I have around 169 followers. It's staying around that number due to spammers and people I will delete at random, but I would love to just get to 200. Hopefully as my blog readership grows, so will my Twitter following. In the end it really doesn't matter how many people follow me, I'll still be tweeting on a regular basis. I've received so many awesome things because of Twitter including TWO signed by the author novels. One was
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which I read and reviewed last year, and the second was the best and by far the highlight of my Twitter career, the last Jessica Darling book Perfect Fifths, by the fabulous Megan McCafferty. There's a whole story that goes along with it which includes the phrase #lassodicking but really it just lead to her sending me and a bunch of my friends signed copies of the book. Again, I love Twitter.

#67. Take my mother to dinner (just the two of us)

My mother and I have always been close. She was a single mom and she raised myself and my two siblings all on her own and worked incredibly hard to create a life for us that was better than the one she had. She raised us around a lot of diversity and I grew up with the notion that there was something more and better out there in the world to be experienced and I know I have her to thank for that. I feel badly that the hustle and bustle of life keeps me from spending as much time with my mom as I'd like which is why I wanted to make time to spend with her in my 101 list.

When I saw via Goldstar that tickets for The Color Purple was playing at the Pantages Theater for half off the normal price, I jumped at the chance to get them. Since the show started at 8, I decided to make a full night of it by taking my mom to Magnolia, a restaurant in Hollywood that I think I first heard about on The Hills, but really decided that I wanted to go there when I read it on Wan's blog. I was so excited to finally try it out for myself. Now my mother tends to be a fan of the chain restaurant. In fact, growing up a night out at the Sizzler was a big deal in our family, only reserved for special occasions like a good report card or tax refund time. Nothing says loving like an all you can salad bar. Am I right?

Magnolia was fun. I wish that it wasn't so dark inside but I think that's more to do with ambiance or something. We were also so close to the people next us I almost asked to share the woman's fries because I've missed fries these last few weeks. My mom had the lobster ravioli which she declared to be very tasty even though she side-eyed the portion size. I had the organic vegetable platter which was blackened sesame seed tofu, brussel sprouts, carrots, spinach, and mashed potatoes. It was delicious...even the brussel sprouts. We also had a pomegranate mojito which received yet another mom side-eye because it wasn't red and it was full of mint leaves, I informed her to stop thinking with her Chili's brain and experience something different. She claimed to like it but I have my doubts.

We walked over to the Pantages after dinner and I wish I could explain how awesome the show was. I'm not the biggest fan of Fantasia, I was more of a Jennifer Hudson fan during Idol but I think she was born to play Celie. The Color Purple by Alice Walker is one of my favorite books ever, and the movie directed by Steven Spielberg is probably my favorite movie of all time. What that movie represents for my family and what the book was for me made this such a special experience. I didn't cry, though I almost did at the end when Celie sang her final song with the last words being, I'm beautiful, and I'm here. The words really resonated with me for some reason, probably lots of reasons but I loved it. Absolutely loved it. I bought a t-shirt and a magnet which are my Broadway show traditions. I have ones from Wicked, Legally Blonde, and now The Color Purple which are 3 out of the 4 shows I've seen.


My mom is telling anyone who will stop and listen about the show and the "high falutin'" restaurant I took her to, so I know she had a good time. She had never been to a Broadway show before, I'm grateful that with all that she has given me, that her first musical theater experience was something that I could finally give back to her.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Simply Beloved

My grandmother's birthday is February 14th.

She died in December 1993. I was 14.

I went to her grave today for the first time in 17 years. Her death hit me like it was yesterday and I cried like a baby. Her gravestone says "Beloved Mother" because really she was truly the matriarch of our family.

She was amazing. She raised five kids all on her own and never took anyone's crap. The most valuable lesson she taught me was to never let people rent space in my head for free. I have never forgotten it.

I don't have any pictures of her that are digital, she left this world before the Internet became mainstream. I sometimes feel like she only exists in my memory. There are albums of photos in my mother's house, but I hate having to see those to remind myself what she looked like. I associate her with the smell of White Shoulders and the nail polish color she would always wear, Texas Chili, or whenever I hear the theme from Star Trek: The Next Generation since that was her favorite show. I think she had a little crush on Captain Piccard.

She called me "T." I called her "Mama" because she didn't play that "Grandma" crap. There were Saturdays were I would spend all day with her. We would have Malt-O-Meal and Sunny Delight for breakfast in the morning, and take trips to the mall so we could get Orange Julius. Then we would watch
Golden Girls at night.

She taught me how to cook. She was my confidant, disciplinarian, and friend who was there when my mother was working to provide for us.

She never forgot a birthday. She worked for a major aerospace company and would always bring us brown wrapped packages from the company store. Even if my mother didn't have the money for a party or even a gift, I always knew I was getting a brown wrapped package on my birthday.

Her purse always smelled like Extra gum and garlic because she was always chewing gum and she was superstitious and would keep garlic in her purse for luck. She would also never split a pole with you, she'd always make you walk around to her side.

I hope she's looking down at me full of pride at the woman I've become. I hope she is proud of the mother that I am, because she was the best example I could ever learn from. Whenever I have any self doubt I remember that I come from a long line of strong, smart, hardworking, beautiful single women who did it on their own even though it wasn't easy and I buck up because I know even in heaven, she's got my back.

I miss her so much. Happy Birthday Mama.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm beautiful, it's true

Shut my mouth and call me speechless. One of my favorite bloggers has given me, yes me the Beautiful Blogger award!















I am not sure what this all means in the grand scheme of things but given my insane need for approval and slight case of attention whoreitis, I couldn't be happier!

The Rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated me for this award.
2. Copy the award & place it on my blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated me for this award.
4. Share 7 interesting things about myself.
5. Nominate 7 bloggers.

My Nominator:
Huge thanks goes to the fabulous Feminist Gold Digger for nominating me. She says that I'm one her favorite new blogs [preens] and that I in fact "crack her shizz up." (Now she didn't exactly say 'shizz' but I'm trying to keep it clean since I'm someone's mother)

I love FGD for so many reasons, two of the main ones being her crazy ridiculous shoe collection which fills me with both awe and envy and her off the cuff, tell it like it is humor that always keeps me in stitches. Big hugs and smooches laced with a little Xanax to you FGD! xoxo

Seven Things About Me (because I really hate talking about myself)


1. Sometimes, I speak in movie quotes.

2. My brother stabbed me in the face with a pencil when I was 6 and I still have the scar. ( He's not a serial killer now or anything so don't be worried.)

3. I like peanut butter and banana sandwiches with a little honey

4. When I feel really depressed (like really) I lay on my floor and listen to "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion and I sing along complete with overly dramatic Celine-esque hand motions.

5. I have an addiction to all things stationery related.

6. I am normally perfectly content in my single girl independent life, until I have to take out the garbage. Then I wish I was back in the 50s and all I had to do was worry about dinner parties. Then I think if I was in the the 50s, I'd totally be the maid doing all the cooking and cleaning for said dinner party while some privileged chick got all the credit. So it's back to the gratitude for being single and independent in this century even if I have to haul my own trash.

7. I never think people like me. I know I'm super likable , but I always think that secretly people are just patronizing me and harboring a plot to toss pig's blood on me. 7.5 I also watch too much TV.


Seven Blogs Worthy of Such an Award:

Angie Eats Peace - This girl is a machine. Such an inspiration to me for both vegetarian lifestyle and overall fitness. She ran her first marathon a year ago and hasn't stopped yet. Love her.

Confessions of the Pink Obsessed
- Amber is awesome. I'm not even saying that for alliteration purposes. If she weren't already taken, I'd marry her myself. Between fabulous travels, delicious home cooked gourmet meals, and adorable clothes that she makes herself, you'll probably want to marry her too. Oh and she loves pink. Need I say more?

What the Blog? - Sometimes I just need to laugh. Enter Jenny, the self professed comic relief. Her Project 365 is my daily dose of giggles and some of her more heartfelt and personal posts make me bawl. Then she does something like wrap a scarf/sweater contraption around herself and I'm in giggles once again.

See Heather Write
- For an undisciplined writer like myself, Heather's blog provides good guidance and advice. In addition to a lot of really funny anecdotes and some awesome giveaways, her blog is such a great resource and provides me with both inspiration and motivation which when it comes to my writing I most definitely need.

Delicious Ambiguity - Ashley doesn't blog often, but I love her Note to Self. Sometimes I feel like she should title them "Note to Tameka" because they almost always relate to something I'm going through at the time. She was also the first regular reader to Because Perfection is Boring and I have not forgotten that. :-)

Lovely Little Shelf
- I love this book blog so much! Not only is the logo adorable, but Jacki reviews such a wide range of books that my TBR pile has become out of control! She also started Flashback Fridays which gives me the chance to reminisce about all that reading I did as a youngster.

Wan Life to Live - One of my favorite blogs ever. I've read Wan's blog for what feels like decades but it's probably only been a year or two. She is hysterically funny and full of fun stories and awesome pics. Just don't read her blog on an empty stomach, some of her posts are pure food porn, especially if you're way into bacon (not like me) or baked goods (totally like me).




Flashback Friday


Flashback Fridays were started by the fabulous Jacki at the equally fabulous book blog, Lovely Little Shelf to showcase books that we loved from our childhoods. This is my first time participating and luckily a good friend reminded me of a book from childhood that I absolutely loved.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

From Amazon:
The Newberry Medal-winning story of a 12-year old girl who lives alone on a Pacific island after she leaps from a rescue ship. Isolated on the island for eighteen years, Karana forages for food, builds weapons to fight predators, clothes herself in a cormorant feathered skirt, and finds strength and peace in her seclusion.

I remember everyday after lunch my 4th grade teacher would read to us. When she started on Island of the Blue Dolphins I was instantly captivated by this tale of a young girl struggling to survive all on her own. Some of the things Karana did such as tame a wild dog to be her companion, create all of her clothes and jewelry from bird feathers, rocks and abalone sounded so primitive and unlike anything I had ever experienced. I remember thinking of what I would do if I got stuck on an island. I admitted to myself that I would probably have been eaten by the wild dogs since even as a 9 year old, I knew that me and nature were not exactly friends.

Apparently this is based on a true story from the 19th century, and this book has been around since the 1960s. I think it is definitely a classic and it helped to keep me using my imagination which still plays a huge part of my life today.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Book #49 - The Help by Kathryn Stockett


I received this book as a 30th birthday gift from a very dear friend. She told me someone told her how good it was and she wanted me to read it before she did. I am mortified that it took me 5 months to finally read this amazing story. Shame on me.

The Help is a story of friendship, growth, and trust set in the backdrop of 1960s Mississippi. Aibilene is an older black maid who has spent her life raising other people's children and has her current job working for a woman who has absolutely no connection to her own daughter. Minny is another black maid who has been fired from positions several times for "mouthing off." Skeeter is a recent college grad who has unfortunately returned home without a husband, and is forcibly immersed in the society life in Jackson, when her biggest dream is to be a writer. These three women are brought together when Skeeter decides to write an anonymous book telling the stories of black maids working for white families in Jackson.

I love so many things about this book. The characters are rich, the plot and dialogue are riveting and the scenery is painted so richly, I felt as if I were sitting on the porch in the Mississippi heat right along with them.

The narratives are split between the three characters with the chapters in Minny and Aibilene's point of view using the dialect similar to that used in The Color Purple. The stories told in the book of the experience of being 'the help' are not all horrible, but they aren't exactly moonlight and roses either. Mississippi was a hotbed of activity during the 60s with the assassination of Medger Evers, Jim Crow laws, the fight for integration all of it is in the pages of this book and part of me felt like I was living it too. I felt the fear these women felt. The fear of discovery, the fear to hope too much that what they were doing would actually be the cause of change.

I
recently reread and reviewed To Kill a Mockingbird and mentioned that it remains one of my favorite books ever. I think that The Help makes an awesome companion book to Mockingbird because it explores a side that rarely gets talked about. I never would have thought that an author could so seamlessly weave a story about this subject together without making it preachy or predictable. All of the characters jump off the page and even though I didn't cry, this book provoked an emotion in me I'm not likely to forget anytime soon.

I love books that make me think. I love books that make me emotional. I love books that make me appreciative of what I have.

I loved this book.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday

Today is the SuperBowl. Two teams are playing. One of them has a guy who went to USC and dates Kim Kardashian and the other has the guy who married Kendra "Girls Next Door" Wilkinson.

That's about the extent of my knowledge.

I will not eat my body weight in chips and salsa. (6 days and no sugar thank you very much)

Just in case I get bored, I'm bringing a book.

Whoo hoo! Go...whomever is playing!

I hope the commercials don't suck.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's been 3 days...

and I miss you terribly.



This separation isn't permanent, it's just what I need right now.


Please know that it is not you, and most definitely me.



Hopefully the next time you see me, I'll look like this:




Then we can be together once again.

Au revoir mon cherie