An Extended About Me

I feel kind of anonymous on this blog. This isn’t a personal blog, so that’s okay. But I’m going to do a personal post anyway.

I’m from Colorado. It’s not that cold. It does not snow as much as people think it does. It is really windy. Like Chicago-style Sunday. Without the deep-dish crust and 600 calories of cheese.

I graduated from high school in 2008 and moved to San Diego for college. No I’m not tan. I will never be tan. I will die of skin cancer before I tan. And I’m not a fan of dying. I have an extensive bucket list to take care of first.

I have a horse. His name is Escobar. I did not name him- really, how cool do you think I am? Here’s his picture:

Cute, huh? He’s a Hannoverian. Which is just a big German breed of horse. He does not jump. He is, in fact, terrified of jumps. He is terrified of most things, actually. We do dressage. Here’s another picture of me riding him in a show:

Go to YouTube and type in ‘Dressage’. Then type in ‘Dressage Freestyle’. Watch lots and lots of horse videos.

I live with my roommate and her cat and her rabbit. The cat pulls her hair out. Yeah, we don’t know either. Neurotic, I guess. The rabbit is pretty bitchin’ though. Like if there was a constant between the cat and the horse and the rabbit (size notwithstanding), the rabbit would totally kill it. He’s way too brave for being like four pounds.

I also like long walks on the beach. No, but seriously. As long as it’s warm out. Yes, I am from Colorado. Yes, I think it is cold in San Diego in the winter. Yes I’m serious- why do you think I moved?

I study Literature-Writing and am working on a minor in Film Studies. Pretty much I read, write, and watch movies. Sweet deal. I learn vicariously through other people. I studied French for somewhere around nine years- I can read and write fluently. Speaking is, ahem, a separate matter entirely. We’ll call it functional. That seems appropriate.

I make crafts in my spare time and I sell things on-line through Etsy. I’m also a good cook. Not a good baker. Chocolate chip cookies are so difficult for me to make. Yeah, I don’t know either.

I like music, but I can’t sing. Once upon a time, I played the viola. I like dancing, but I can’t dance. See obsession with chick-flick dance films (Bring It On, I’m looking at you). I like the ocean and stuff, but I don’t swim very well. I like photography, but I wouldn’t consider myself good at it.

What am I good at? Loving people.

Feel free to ask me more questions. I’ll probably answer them. Probably.

Oh and follow me on Instagr.am: @feelingfoxy7

Author Spotlight: Fyodor Dostoevsky

I have a big soft spot for Russian literature. My first foray was with Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. What I remember most about the novel is how difficult it was for my then fifteen year old self to get through. I hated the novel much more than I loved it. But when I was done, I was struck by the beauty and elegance of the novel. The themes were so sweeping and universal. My next Dostoevsky novel was Crime and Punishment which, while retaining the same beauty and universality of theme, I enjoyed reading so much more. My final Dostoevsky was The Brothers Karamazov. That one I read primarily on a flight to Paris and the exhaustion of the flight probably killed that book for me. Nonetheless, I still consider Dostoevsky one of my favorite authors, though I confess I haven’t attempted to reread any of them, they still loom large in my memory.

I think what I like most about Dostoesvky is the care and attention he takes with his characters. He builds up his microcosms of Russian society so delicately that at times it seems like he’s describing the goings-ons of a real family, rather than an imaginary one. The most stirring complexity of the work is the names. As a non-Russian reader, the names and shifts in names get confusing. And I’m not saying I know enough about patronymics to speak to this, but the care that he takes sorting out the names of every character is admirable. I mean in all honesty, if you’re writing a 600 page book, are you really going to bother figuring out all the different nicknames certain characters use for a given character? I wouldn’t. Given name, family name, nickname, done.

He is also deft with the symbolism. Especially in The Idiot which you need only to look at the cover to know is rampant with Christ references. But the symbolism is always subtle and provides the reader with so much to unpack upon contemplation. Crime and Punishment, probably the best known of his work, needs no real introduction from me except to say that there’s a reason it frequently finds its way onto High School Reading Lists (you know, the non-compulsory kind, since I’m pretty sure this book has long occupied a spot on the Banned-Book list): Crime and Punishment is fairly easy to read and even easier to turn into the subject of an essay.

Whenever someone asks what my favorite books are, a Dostoevsky inevitably springs directly to the forefront of my mind. Like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky was one of the greatest authors of his age. And like Tolstoy, he is one amazing author worth reading.

Book Blogger Thoughts:

Crime and Punishment at Eli Bendersky

The Idiot at Books Without Any Pictures

The Brothers Karamazov at Boomers and Books

Why Writing is Like Making Cake Pops (Time-Consuming, Irritating, and Rewarding)

Confession: I’ve never actually made a cakepop. I love them, but the intensity of the recipe coupled with other people’s horror stories keeps me from actually sitting down to make some. However, I do spend a lot of time writing and it has occurred to me that the two are similar.

The Cake Pop Novel (serves 1)

Prep Time: As Long as It Takes

1) Add theme to characters, plot, and dialogue. Mix until well blended.

2) Bake your cake to a fragrant, golden brown. Let cool. You may be tempted to eat it right away. Don’t.

3) Crumble the cake into a bowl. (That’s right. I said destroy your story, kill your babies, and mangle up the first draft of your masterpiece)

4) Mix in a generous amount of frosting, until thoroughly combined. Add more frosting as necessary. (The sickly sweet taste of revision, revision, revision)

5) Roll mixture into 1″ balls, place on cookie sheet, and refrigerate overnight. (Cool your heels for awhile. Write something else. Go for a walk. Go save orphans in Africa.)

6) Insert the tip of your lollipop stick into each cakeball and roll in the melted chocolate (Now you’re ready to put the finishing coat on your novel.)

7) Cover the chocolate covered ball with sprinkles before the chocolate hardens (Send your manuscript off into the world before you think too much about it)

8) Prepare for the cake pops to fall apart, get squished, dry out, or otherwise not make it to their destination. Repeats steps 1-7. (Your novel will be rejected. A billion times. Rinse and repeat.)

9) When you finally produce some perfect cake pops, share them with your friends and watch their eyes light up with joy. Eat one yourself. You deserve it.

***Here’s an actual cake pop recipe: Cake Pops with Colorful Sprinkles. As for the novel, well, you’ll have to figure that one out on your own. ***

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The masterpiece of one of the greatest American writers of all time. East of Eden is an epic tale of good vs. evil with many biblical references and parallels. The story is ultimately that of good’s triumph over evil and the human will’s ability to make that happen.

Whenever I recommend this book, I sell it as a Steinbeck book for people who don’t like Steinbeck. The writing in this book bares little resemblance to the writing found in Of Mice and Men or even Grapes of Wrath. This is one of my all-time favorite novels, but I don’t consider myself a Steinbeck fan by any means.

This novel clocks in at just over six hundred pages. And when I read it in high school (for an extracurricular, mind you) I read it in about a day because I found it absolutely fascinating. His good characters are really good and the evil ones are really, really bad. Cathy is terrifying-plain and simple. And where Steinbeck draws shades of grey, our heart breaks.

I love the concept of retelling the Cain and Abel story for a modern age. Silanis comes alive under Steinbeck’s careful direction, the whole town unfolding as the story races to its inevitable conclusion. He manages a large cast of characters with ease, fleshing them out individually so that they linger in our minds long after we’ve turned the last page. Plot, character, and theme are given equal attention. Some criticism I read on this book was that Steinbeck was a little too heavy-handed with his moral deliverance. I would disagree. There is enough else going on in the novel that the moral musings do not stick out nor overshadow the rest of the text. In my opinion, the explicit statement of the morality of East of Eden serves more as a place to ground you in the story, one that stretches over decades and many square miles. Where we get lost in the beauty of Salinas, California, we find our anchor in the questions of good and evil, free will or predestination, sin or virtue.

In many ways, this is more than a novel. It’s a moral compass by which we may conduct our lives. In the immortal words of Lee, “But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.” It’s a simple concept, but one by which all the world lies open. We have a choice to use our lives for good or ill.

 

Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker

A dreary castle, blood-thirsty vampires, open graves at midnight, and other gothic touches fill this chilling tale about a young Englishman’s confrontation with the evil Count Dracula. A horror romance as deathless as any vampire, the blood-curdling tale still continues to hold readers spellbound a century later.

Speaking of vampires, it’s about time I gave a nod to one of the most famous novels of the genre, the masterful work of Bram Stoker.

On a side note, there’s a Dracula ballet. It’s pretty damn awesome and has everything you could want in a ballet- dancing, music, skimpy outfits, death, and vampires. It was after seeing this performance somewhere circa 2007 that I finally took the book off my to-read shelf and dove in.

I really enjoy this book, but as a disclaimer, the people I’ve recommended this to have a hard time getting through it. What that says, I don’t know.

The novel is told in a series of letters and journals by some of the main characters of the novel. It opens with Jonathon Harker’s experience as a guest at Dracula’s castle. Soon after, Dracula makes the crossing to England and the real meat of the story begins. Lest you be worried, Van Helsing is a prominent character in the novel.

Perhaps the mere fact the book was penned in 1897 turns readers off. The language is dated, but it’s not like we’re talking Middle English here. Anyone who enjoys the works of Ann Radcliffe, the Bronte sisters, and Jane Austen will not find the language disconcerting at all.

The plot is interesting and it’s nice to finally put the pieces together of where much of the vampire lore stems from. While not the true father of the genre, Stoker’s novel nonetheless has greatly influenced the canon of books and films that came after it, much of them paying homage to this work. One need only look to the film, Van Helsing to see the range of Stoker’s influence.

I do think the book takes a little while to get into your system-much like the slow process of turning into an undead vampire. I remember when I read this book that I sound down with it during my three hour block break from my high school class and by then, I was hooked. And if nothing else, I am a firm believer in experiencing formative works in literature, no matter how dry they might be. If you consider yourself a great reader, writer, or student of literature, reading the classics is a requirement.

Quarterly Reads

It’s back to school for me and I finally finished getting all of my books (minus one).

They are:

Pyschiatry and the Cinema by Glen O. and Krin Gabbard

The Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

On Dreams by Sigmund Freud

The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud

S/Z by Roland Barthes

Spellbound a screenplay for the Hitchcock movie of the same name (being the pale blue book buried under all the others)

Literary Theory: A Very Short Intro (not pictured)

 

The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin

An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl—and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

Vampire apocalypse. I sort of imagine this book was a hard sell. Yes it’s about vampires and vampires are a hot-ticket item right now (also, a subject that makes publishers want to scratch their eyes out), but if it’s not vampire sex, it’s a no-go. Luckily for us, someone decided to stick their neck out on this non-sexy vampire book that is -wait for it- a whooping 800 pages long. And every page is delicious.

    

I read this book last December while camping in the desert of Joshua Tree. A few days later, I went home to Colorado. The funny thing is, the two main settings of this book are Colorado and the stretch of land by Joshua Tree. Alright, personal amusement over.

This is a really excellent book. It’s poetic, sad, scary, hopeful, funny, and above all, just a damn good read. Cronin expertly navigates multiple story lines, points of view, and a cadre of characters to rival War and Peace. Every page, every word is gripping. I wouldn’t recommend reading this book while camping in a desert in winter with just you and the boyfriend the only people around for miles. It definitely scared the bejeezus out of me. I do recommend staying up late under a nice thick layer of blankets to read it though. I couldn’t leave this book alone and I swear my eyes were going to fall out of my head. And really, how could you not love a book that opens with:

Before she became the Girl from Nowhere — the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years— she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.

That’s the kind of opening you kick yourself for not coming up with first. The kind of opening that sticks word for word in your mind over a year later.

I was excited for this book ever since I saw a pre-review for it in People Magazine. And I wasn’t disappointed. The Twelve comes out later this year and I couldn’t be more excited. You bet I’m starting it the day it comes out.

One more thing: the film version is being directed by Ridley Scott. We all remember Blade Runner. Get ready.

End of Year Survey

I lifted this survey from Jillian at A Room of One’s Own . Even though I haven’t been a book blogger for long, I figured I could do this anyway 🙂

2011 in Review:

How many books read in 2011?

  • 50

Fiction/Non-Fiction?

  • 47 fiction /3 non-fiction

Male/Female authors?

  •  34 male /16 female

Oldest book read?

  • House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

Newest book read?

  • Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (November 8th, 2011)

Longest book read?

  • Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (860 pgs)

Shortest book read?

  • Kaddish for an Unborn Child by Imre Kertesz (128 pgs)

Any in translation?

  • L’Ile Mysterieuse by Jules Verne (read en francais)
  • Blindness by Jose Saramago
  • Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
  • Kaddish for an Unborn Child by Imre Kertesz
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Best book read in 2011?

Most disappointing book in 2011?

  • Seven Deadly Wonders by Matthew Reilly

Most beautifully written book read in 2011?

Toss-up.

  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?

  • Madeline is Sleeping– Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is a former professor of mine and whenever I read her books (Ms. Hempel Chronicles), I’m surprised at how irreverent they are. Sarah and her writing kind of occupy different ends of the spectrum. I’m constantly surprised now and again by the things I find in her writing.

Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Book that had the greatest impact on me in 2011?

Book that had a scene in it that had me reeling?

Book I most anticipated in 2011?

  • The Gates by John Connolly

Most memorable character in 2011?

  • Tyrion Lannister from A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

How many re-reads in 2011?

  •  None

Book I read in 2011 I’d be most likely to reread in 2012?

Book I recommended to people most in 2011?

Favorite new authors I discovered in 2011?

  • Aimee Bender
  • Richard Russo

Most books read by one author this year?

Favorite cover of a book I read in 2011?

Favorite passage/quote from a book I read in 2011?

Did I complete any reading challenges or goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year?

Book I can’t believe I waited until 2011 to finally read?

  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Goodreads Goal 2011

As of today, I met my Goodreads goal of reading 50 books in 2011. I have starred the ones I read for class.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Gates by John Connolly

*The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Blindness by Jose Saramago

*Inglorious Basterds: A Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino

*Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally

How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead by Ariel Gore

*Kaddish for an Unborn Child by Imre Kertesz

*Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi

Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates

l’Ile Mysterieuse (The Mysterious Island) by Jules Verne (read in French)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The Undiscovered Island by Darrell Kastin

Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

The Lying Game by Sara Shephard

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Sun, Stone, and Shadows edited by Jorge F. Hernandez

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

Seven Deadly Wonders by Matthew Reilly

Twisted by Sara Shephard

Grub by Elise Blackwell

References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot and Other Plays by Jose Rivera

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

*Ubik by Philip K. Dick

*Nueromancer by William Gibson

*Timescape by Gregory Benford

*The Practical Writer: From Inspiration to Publication by Mary Gannon

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

*Adulthood Rites by Octavia E. Butler

*Watchmen by Alan Moore

Luke and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

*Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Altar of Bones by Philip Carter

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Tesla: Man out of Time by Margaret Cheney

The Leftovers by Tom Perrota

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Madeline is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

The Infernals by John Connolly

Straight Man by Richard Russo

Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Cold Vengeance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

This is a truly beautiful book. I have much to say about it, but perhaps it would be best to let the book speak for itself. Anything I might have to say is insufferably insipid besides the beauty of a passage like this.

Do you know what a summer rain is?

To start with, pure beauty striking the summer sky, awe-filled respect absconding with your heart, a feeling of insignificance at the very heart of the sublimee, so fragile and swollen with the majesty of things, trapped, ravished, amazed by the bounty of the world.

And then, you pace up and down a corridor and suddenly enter a room full of light. Another dimension, a certainty just given birth. The body is no longer a prison, your spirit roams the clouds, you possess the power of water, happy days are in store, in this new birth.

Just as teardrops, when they are large and round and compassioante, can leave a long strand washed clean of discord, the summer rain as it washes away the motionless dust can bring to a person’s soul something like endless breathing.

This is the way a summer rain can take hold in you-like a new heart, beating in time with another’s.

Author Spotlight: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

In my opinion, these guys have a lock on the thriller genre. And for good reason. In a genre that counts among its authors, Dan Brown, Jack DuBrul, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Greg Bear, Iris Johansen, James Rollins, Raymond Khoury, David Lynn Goleman, William Gibson, and a bunch more, these guys really only have competition from Michael Cricton, who’s probably the undisputed God of this genre. Let’s talk about the fact that this is a convoluted and ambiguous subset of fiction. I think that most of the books one could term “thriller” also have their fingers in a separate genre. According to Amazon, my interests are apparently in “action & adventure fiction”, “science-fiction adventure”, “mystery & thriller”, “suspense thrillers” (really, Amazon?) and “techno thrillers”. Makes sense, yeah? Good, moving on.

I suppose you could say I’m a Preston and Child Completist. To-date, I’ve read (including solo efforts):

-Relic

-Reliquary

-The Cabinet of Curiosities

-Still Life with Crows

-Brimstone

-Dance of Death

-The Wheel of Darkness

-The Book of the Dead

-Cemetery Dance

-Fever Dream

-Thunderhead

-Tyrannosaur Canyon

-Blasphemy

-Riptide

-Mount Dragon

-The Ice Limit

-Impact

-The Monster of Florence (non-fiction)

-The Codex

-Death Match

-Utopia

-Deep Storm

-Terminal Freeze

-I’m currently in the midst of reading Cold Vengeance.

About the only thing I haven’t read yet is Douglas Preston’s non-fiction and the “Gideon” books.

So what is it about these guys? These are thriller novels, not literary fiction. With the exception of the Pendergast series, the characters aren’t deep. But the writing is tight and quick, propelling you to an insane conclusion, one that you can’t reason out from page one. There isn’t any lag-time in these novels. You don’t even have a chance to get bored. Much as you don’t have a chance to stop reading the book. Sure, if you’re hardcore against these novels, I suppose you won’t enjoy them. They do require suspension of belief. But it’s not really a hard-sell. But I’m not convincing people who hate these types of novels to give them a shot. I’m explaining why these guys are at the top of their game and why their novels are absolutely top-notch. I started with Relic. That would be my suggestion to anyone looking to break into the series. The Pendergast set is what made them famous and for good reason. I read the series in order though, in the midst of waiting for the new releases (I’d estimate I started these books in the winter of 2006), I read their other stuff. The Preston solo efforts are a bit stronger than the Child projects, but they are all nonetheless quite good. Out of all of these, I probably liked The Codex the least.

These guys are masters of plot. They can spin subplots and subtext like woven wool. To read one of these novels is to embark on a ride you didn’t know existed. With the passing of Michael Crichton (whose later works were certainly less brilliant and whose career included some unfortunate missteps) this pair is the worthy successor to such a dynasty. They rarely write anything that isn’t excellent (though I haven’t heard good things about the Gideon series, though apparently Hollywood is trying to turn it into a movie, so go figure) and whenever I get my hands on another of their novels, I always start it next. Case in point: I got Cold Vengeance for Christmas and I started it on the 26th, right after finishing The Fellowship of the Ring.

Book Blogger Thoughts:

Cold Venegance at A Walrus Darkly

Relic at Ryder Islington

Riptide at Cher Cabula’s Mindbox

Thunderhead at Jandy’s Reading Room

Impact at The Book Smugglers

What Santa Brought Me…

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Cold Vengeance by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Blood Music by Greg Bear

Dictionary