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Archive for September, 2010

Quick Note

September 30, 2010 4 comments

Sorry for my absence this week, my lovely readers!  I seem to have been struck by the flu early and spent most of the week delirious with fever.  I’m back at work today, but you probably shouldn’t expect any in-depth posts until next week, as I have a lot of catching up to do at work and with grad school homework.  Thanks for hanging in there with me in the meantime!

Categories: Just for fun

Friday Fun! (Welcome, Thanks, and Ramblings)

September 24, 2010 6 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  I want to pay a special welcome and hello to my new subscribers acquired over the course of BBAW.  I know personally the overwhelming number of new blogs I was exposed to myself, so I’m honored you found me interesting and unique enough to stick around.  I want to let you know that this has been an off couple of weeks for me on the blog as things are a bit rough personally right now.  Normally my posts are a bit better written (at least I think so), and a bit more frequent, so, sorry about that.  Thanks for hanging in there!  I also want to say thanks to my friends who’ve been there for me the last couple of weeks in various ways.  If you guys happen to be reading this, I want you to know that you rock.

Fall weather has finally come to Boston, and I am so grateful.  With fall you get cool weather but no nasty storms to deal with.  It’s the best of both situations.  I have yet to go apple picking, but I did have cider for the first time of the season last night.  (Ok, ok, hard cider, but it still counts).  Grad school continues to be evil and suck the life from me.  I can’t wait until I can be just a librarian instead of a librarian and a grad student.    Tomorrow I’ll be volunteering at a local food event with my friends Nina and E.  Hopefully, it’ll be nice weather.

Next week should see an uptake in the number of reviews.  I’m currently about half-way through The Dark Tower, and it’s such a chunkster, I plan on reading a short, quick read after it.  I also plan on having some me time on Sunday, which besides exercising and cleaning my apartment will most likely include curling up on the couch with my kitty and watching a movie.  I know.  I am so exciting.  In any case. Reviews.  You will have them next week.

Happy weekends everybody!

The Evolution of My Wishlist

September 23, 2010 10 comments

Before LibraryThing, book blogs, and PaperBackSwap entered my life, I didn’t really have a book wishlist.  Oh if I had gotten into a series I’d keep my eye open for the release of the next one or if a friend recommended a book to me I’d put it on hold in the library, but that was about it.  Back then I’d generally go browse the library or a bookstore and just grab whatever looked interesting and that was that.  My reading was much more hit or miss back then.  I’d periodically find a book I really enjoyed, but most of the time it was average or “yuck, this sucks, but I don’t have anything else to read right now, so there you go.”  This meant that, believe it or not, I’d been an avid reader for years, but didn’t really have a firm grasp on what type of books I enjoy.  I’d read anything I could get my hands on just for the sake of reading, because that’s how it was when I was a kid.  We were poor, and so I had to make do with whatever books I could get my hands on.  This mentality had firmly carried itself over into my adulthood.

Then I started recording what I read on LibraryThing, blogging my own reviews, and discovered book blogs.  I created a wishlist in LibraryThing and started adding pretty much any book that sounded even mildly entertaining to it.  I then added them to my PaperBackSwap wishlist until I hit the limit (which is in the hundreds).  I couldn’t believe how many books I wanted to read! I then had the phenomenon of a tbr pile of books I own, not books I’d checked out from the library.  I was sitting looking at them this week, and it struck me.  There are as many books in my tbr pile as I’ve read so far this year, and I could think of at least a few on my wishlist that I wanted to read more than a few of the ones in my tbr pile.  Then something someone pointed out to me a couple of months ago rang through my brain.  They pointed out that reading is my hobby, and I shouldn’t feel bad for spending money or time on something I enjoy so much.  Well, why have I been spending time and money on books that I don’t want to read as much as other ones?  Why have I felt obligated to?  Because I might like it?  Reading is my hobby; it’s not my job.  It’s not homework.  Why have I felt this obligation to branch out into types of books I don’t tend to like just because others have liked them?  I’m not saying I shouldn’t ever branch out.  That’d get dull.  But if you saw my tbr pile and my wishlist, you’d realize that I was branching out about 50% of the time.  That’s a bit too much in my opinion.  20 to 25% is more like it.

I can’t do anything about the books I already have.  I acquired them, so I’m going to read them, but I could do something about my wishlist.  So I went into my PaperBackSwap wishlist and ruthlessly went through, eliminating books that I’d tossed on there without much thought.  What’s left is books I genuinely want to read, and yes, a couple of them are branching out of my norm.  They stayed because they sounded genuinely intriguing, not because they sounded mildly interesting.  I can only read so many books a year.  Why spend time on 0nes that don’t grip me?  That don’t affect my perception of the world?  Life’s too short.  I should enjoy every second of it I get to spend reading for fun.

Movie Review: Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy (2010)

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Images of Donna Sadowsky with Faith.Summary:
This documentary follows the adoption of Fang Sui Yong, an 8 year old Chinese girl, by the Sadowsky’s, a Jewish family from Long Island.  The filmmaker seeks to highlight the particular issues faced when adopting older children internationally.

Review:
This is one of those films that shows how difficult life can be, and that sometimes there is no good choice.  There’s only the iffy choice that’s a bit better than the alternative.  Sui Yong (who now goes by “Faith,” so I”ll call her that for the rest of the review) didn’t want to leave China.  She was quite happy living with her foster family, and had never seen a white person before.  This is all the film tells us at first, so you immediately wonder, why can’t Faith stay with the foster family?  It turns out that foster families can’t adopt the children they’re caring for in China, and it is unlikely Faith would have stayed with them for her whole childhood.  Additionally, Faith is special needs with a club foot and dropped wrists.  Her foster parents state that she would face great difficulty in China, being treated as an outcast.  Her foster parents want her to be adopted.  They see that her future in China is very bleak.

That doesn’t mean that her transition to the US went perfectly, of course.  The culture shock Faith faces is severe, even if just looking at going from hearing Mandarin and Cantonese to hearing English all the time.  Donna Sadowsky is obviously a tough love type mom, believing that being firm will be the fastest way to help Faith acclimate.  Personally I believe she was a bit too tough.  Some of the learning could have been made into a bit more of a game.  More understanding could have been shown for her special needs.  But I only saw a brief film of two years of the time they spent together.  It’s almost impossible to tell Faith’s personality from that much film.  Maybe they tried taking it a bit easier on her, and she slacked off too much.  Maybe the doctors told them Faith could do certain things that it turned out she couldn’t.  It’s hard to tell.

An interesting element of the film is the fact that the filmmaker, a one-woman team, speaks Mandarin, and so translates sometimes for the family.  This of course means that she has a direct impact on the story she’s documenting.  It’s quite interesting to watch and to consider how much documenting a story impacts it.

Overall, this is a very interesting documentary.  Many people are hesitant to adopt older children.  This film shows that it can be done, as well as the great need for families for older and special needs children internationally.  It brings up interesting questions regarding international and transracial adoption, as well as demonstrating how quickly the American consumer culture impacts children.  I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in international adoption or the issues related to it.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: PBS website

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

September 21, 2010 8 comments

Spaceships.Summary:
Humanity survived the second Bugger invasion by pure luck.  Now they’re determined to be prepared for a third invasion and actively train children in Battle School, seeking the child who could be the commander to save humanity.  They think Ender, with his ability to perceive and understand null gravity spaces, just might be that commander, but Ender isn’t so sure.

Review:
Card has created a rich, complex, entirely believable future where individual sacrifice is vital to the survival of the human species.  This goal makes the adults’ treatment of the children in Battle School justifiable and allows Card to create a story where children are simultaneously treated as adults and misled by them.  Adults will recognize the feeling of being pawns to those in control of society.  Children and young adults will appreciate that the children characters are treated as adults in smaller bodies.  It’s a fun narrative set-up.

The world-building is excellent.  The complex scenes of the Battle School, Battle Room, and videogames the children play are all so clearly drawn that the reader truly feels as if she is there.  Readers who also enjoy videogames will particularly enjoy the multiple videogame sequences in which the narrative action switches focus to the videogame.  This isn’t just for fun, either.  It’s an important feature that comes to play later in the book.    In fact, it’s really nice to see videogaming being featured in a future as something important to society and not just recreational.  It’s a logical choice to make in scifi too, as the military is moving increasingly toward using weapons that are manned by soldiers behind the lines with videogame-like controls.

These fantastic scenes are all set against a well-thought-out human society reaction to multiple alien invasions.  In spite of the threat of a third invasion, there is still violent nationalism brewing under the surface.  Politicians must worry about their image.  Dissenting voices can be heard on the internet.  The teachers of the Battle School must worry about the retributions for their actions, even as they make the choices that will hopefully save humanity.  The people in this future are still people.  They act in the sometimes stupid and sometimes brilliant ways people act.  They don’t miraculously become super-human in the face of an alien threat.  I really enjoyed this narrative choice, as I get really sick of the super-human trope often found in scifi.

The ending….I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make up my mind on how I feel about the ending.  I definitely didn’t guess it ahead of time, which is a nice change, but I can’t decide how I feel about it.  The fact is, I liked part of it, and I didn’t like another part of it.  I think I may have found the ultimate message a bit too idealistic, and Ender too gullible.

*spoiler warning*
Here’s the thing.  The Bugger queen claims that the Buggers didn’t know that humans were sentient creatures, and Ender believes her, but I call bullshit.  Humans and Buggers built cities that were similar enough so that humans could live in Bugger buildings.  In spite of being drastically different from an evolutionary stand-point, it’s still obvious that humans were sentient enough to build cities and spaceships.  That should have been a warning sign.  So ultimately, I view the queen larva and message to Ender as a last-ditch effort to come back from the brink of extinction and beat humanity, and Ender fell for it.  Of course I don’t want to argue for the extinction of an entire species.  I’m a vegetarian.  I’m pretty much against the killing of species of any kind, but the fact remains that the Buggers attacked humans twice.  What were they supposed to do?  Sit back and let themselves get wiped out?  I’m not one of these nutters who says don’t kill the polar bear attacking you, and in this case, the polar bear had already attacked twice.  I like the message of a possible peaceful coexistence, but I don’t think it was very realistic in that world, and I was left feeling that Ender didn’t really learn anything from his experience. 
*
end spoilers*

Overall, however, Card has achieved near perfection in telling a unique, scifi story.  The world is entrancing and draws the reader in, and the reader is left with multiple philosophical questions to ponder long after finishing reading the book.  It is a book I definitely plan on re-reading, and I highly recommend it to scifi and videogaming fans.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

Buy It

BBAW: Future Treasures

September 17, 2010 7 comments

Treasure chest opening.Although it’s officially the end of BBAW, my participation is definitely going to extend by at least a few days.  Since I was sick and generally having a crappy week, I didn’t get to go visit other blogs to the extent that I wanted to, and that’s at least half the fun of BBAW!  So I plan on doing that over the next few days.  Expect to have belated visits from me on your blogs, folks.

Today’s theme is to share what we enjoyed about BBAW and future goals for our blog.  I have to say, what I’ve enjoyed the most is just how nice everyone has been!  Everywhere I’ve gone for BBAW–my own blog and others–everyone is just so supportive and nice and excited.  It made me so pleased to be part of this mish-mash, loosely tied community.  Whether or not you all like reading the same books I like or the books I can’t stand, it is abundantly evident that we all love reading, and we love books.  We love reading fiction and nonfiction.  About vampires and about spirituality.  We love reading paperbacks, hardbacks, and electronic copies.  But what ties it all together is that we love reading, and we love talking about the stories we’ve read and the things we’ve learned.  It’s so nice to find a social place online to share one of my favorite hobbies with other people, and although I was viscerally aware of the community of book bloggers, participating in BBAW really revealed it to me for the first time.

As for my future goals for my blog, I want to keep the posts flowing at a nice, consistent rate.  I hope to eventually find another weekly feature in addition to Friday Fun that works for me.  So far, nothing else I’ve tried has garnered enough thoughts from me to warrant a weekly posting or it’s been too much work to do every week.  Additionally, I know it may be hard to believe, but I haven’t been able to afford to do a giveaway yet.  Hey, I’m a broke student.  So, I hope to do my first giveaway in the next year.  I’m planning on doing one through the Book Depository so it can be open to my international readers as well!  That’s pretty much it.  Stay consistent and personable.  Find a good second weekly theme.  Do a giveaway.

I hope you all had as much fun as I did participating in BBAW!

BBAW: Forgotten Treasure

September 16, 2010 13 comments

Partially open treasure chest.Sorry to have missed yesterday’s topic!  I’ve been ill this week, which unfortunately meant only the pre-scheduled posts made it through…until today that is!  Today’s BBAW theme is to highlight a book that we wish would get more attention/would be more well-known.

It was honestly kind of difficult for me to pick just one book.  I’d say around 1/3 to 1/4 of my reading is random obscure scifi/dystopian novels that I wish would get more attention.  Actually, I wish dystopias would get more attention in general.  I think they’re such an excellent way to explore issues and philosophically think about possible outcomes to modern decisions.  In fact, I think the world would be a better place in general if everyone would just stop and seriously think before making decisions….but that’s another topic for another blog post.

Artistic depiction of a person laying in a pool.In any case, there’s a book that I read this year that I’ve certainly never heard mentioned before anywhere–Robert Silverberg’s The World Inside (review).  I knew I loved it, so it made it to the Wolfy Recommends page, but I had no idea how much it would stick with me.  I can’t tell you how many times since I read it that I’ve gone back in my head to that world to ponder all the implications.

The World Inside is relatively short.  In fact, you could almost call it a novella, and it is easily read in one sitting.  That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain a full story, however.  The World Inside examines the issues of pro-life versus pro-choice and overpopulation by looking at a future in which most of the world is vehemently pro-life, and the impact that the massive population has had on the world, society, culture, and individuals.  Silverberg imagines a future in which the world can handle a massive population via “urbmons”–incredibly high-rise buildings that contain the equivalent of entire nations.  Stacking people up on top of each other like this makes it possible to devote most of the rest of the world to food production.  Silverberg therefore is able to fully develop both the culture within the urbmons and the culture that produces the food.

Whether Silverberg is for ever-increasing population or not is deliciously unclear.  His future is a world where all privacy is absent.  Where diversion from the norm is unacceptable.  Offenders get only one chance then they are “sent down the chute” aka given capital punishment.  It is a world where all life is welcomed, yes, but at what cost?  The solutions to overpopulation he presents are ones that make sense, but he also clearly shows the costs on the individual.  Life as a whole is valued so much that the individual is discounted.  On the other hand, he uses the farming culture to show how always choosing the individual over the whole could also be perceived as unfair or barbaric.

This book is an intriguing, eye-opening read.  It is nearly impossible to put down once you pick it up, and I believe it would do wonders to opening true dialogue between the opposing viewpoints on world population/overpopulation.  No matter what your viewpoint is on the issue, it will do wonders to expand your mind and make you think.  That’s why I love dystopian literature, and that’s why The World Inside is an excellent taste of the genre.  Plus, its length makes it easily accessible to those who might be nervous about trying dystopian lit for the first time.  I highly recommend it, and I hope to start seeing buzzing about it in the book blogging community.

Buy It

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