Friday, May 30, 2008
I'm off to Grinnell this morning for my 5th year reunion. In fact I'm blogging this yesterday. But here's a poem looking back at the 6 years since graduation.
6 years since graduation
5 new jobs
4 new places to live
3 new blogs
2 new grad programs started
1 "new" car
2 jobs left in despair
3 Thanksgivings hosted
4 trips overseas
5 hamsters buried in various backyards
6 pairs of jeans
6 trips for Christmas
5 Rosh Hashannahs
4 non-work email addresses
3 trips to the hospital
1 love standing next to me
2 gained siblings
4 Major League Baseball games
5 wedding anniversaries
6 years since graduation
Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
So, here's the last batch!
She's So Money Cherry Cheva
Laugh out loud funny. Maya is a straight-A student who spends her nights working in her family's Thai restaurant in what I'm thinking is Ann Arbor. One glorious weekend, her parents go to DC and leaves her in charge of the restaurant. At the end of the night, 2 horrible mean women are complete b----- and don't understand the difference between vegan and vegetarian, but want to be snotty about it. After having to be nice to such people, Maya and her brother decide to skip cleanup. Of course the horrible ladies complain and the health inspector comes and slaps them with a $10,000 fine.
Maya can never tell her parents and knows they can't afford it. They're going to lose the restaurant... unless... unless Maya can raise $10,000 in 6 weeks. There's stripping, prostitution, or taking Camden up on his offer. Camden--super hot, super rich, super jerk Camden wants to pay Maya to do his homework for him. If she does Camden's, and some of his friend's homework... she just might do it.
Of course, then it turns into a huge ring that requires hiring help. And there's that pesky kissing thing that Camden keeps doing...
I loved Maya's comebacks to Camden's ickyness. And I loved the horrible, horrible customers that started this whole chain of events--it's no secret that my years in Ann Arbor were fairly miserable. A large part of it was working customer service in a town that is so filled with self-important a-holes. I mean, there are a lot of really lovely people in Ann Arbor, but... at the same time, I know live in DC, the capital of self-important a-holes, but a lot of that type in DC have a reason to be self-important and where I heard "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!" all the time in Ann Arbor, not so much in DC. Really. Anyway, the horrible customers were spot-on. I think those ladies used to shop at the co-op.
Anyway, She's so Money is hysterical and you should read it. I couldn't put it down.
Seeing Emily Joyce Lee Wang
This is a prose novel about Emily, a high school student who falls in love with the new boy, the new boy who has a thing for Asian girls and wants her to be his geisha but he thinks he's racially sensitive. Emily has to be nice to her parents' friends' son, Alex, even though he has an accent and sticks out like a sore thumb. Emily is an artist and has to paint a mural with Alex. Emily wishes her mother would stop trying to own the art Emily creates...
There is a lot going on beneath the surface of these poems. It's not a funny book, but a true one.
Also, I like the paperback cover (the green one with the tube of lipstick) MUCH better than the hardcover cover. Such a huge difference and they seem like such different books, but I think both covers work for the story that's inside, but the paperback cover will entice more people to read that story.
Girls for Breakfast David Yoo
Ok, I had a hard time telling if this book, or the forthcoming Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before was the Fusion Story. Given that Stop Me... isn't out yet, I read Girls for Breakfast.
Yay for a funny boy book. It starts out when Nick Park is nine and first discovers girls. After this, girls become his whole life. But, girls don't seem to like him. Is he a total loser? Or is being the only Asian guy in town a draw back? Or is it because he's the ultimate banana? Too Asian for the white chicks, and too white for the Asian ones?
As we follow Nick from age 9 until high school graduation, we start to form our own ideas about why he's so unpopular with the ladies he loves (well, lusts after) so much.
It's funny and true. To the point where I wanted to smack Nick upside the head for being such a... teenaged boy. So annoying. But in a way that makes him a real character.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
To welcome you back from your holiday weekend, I bring you Biblio Files first ever author interview!
Kim Flores wrote the wonderful Gamma Glamma, which I reviewed for the last issue of The Edge of the Forest.
But here's the interview!
Were you a total science geek in school?
In school, I wouldn’t say I was a geek but I was a hybrid of sorts because I was in band, I twirled knives, worked on the annual staff and student council. I hung out with smart geeks and the “beautiful people”. I was a challenge to label.
What I did like about school was that it was the ultimate science experiment. Every day something was changing (your clothes, haircuts, your friends and your dramas) You had to constantly adapt and try new things and face fears in order to not only thrive but survive. I call it “the most wonderful horrible time of my life”.
I ate all the jelly beans you sent and while my tongue turned cool colors, my skin is still so white it glows in the dark. What did I do wrong?
Oh, you probably didn’t eat enough so I’m sending you a ten-pound box next time. But do you really want to lose that glorious white glow in the dark skin? Who doesn’t like things that glow in the dark?
And with mad skills like that, your crush would love you even more because you would have the ability to find seats at the movie theaters when the lights were dim.
You totally named Luz's crush, Swen after your guy. Confess.
Yes it’s true. Swen is named after my crush Mike. Mike is like Swen in a tons of ways. He does wear white shirts, wear old skool Addidas and he is a very gifted writer. And not to mention, he’s so cute and manly that I tell him that I think he’s “man-some”!
They say write what you know and so, I did. It was funny because as I was writing, I totally began crushing on the make-believe Swen. And then when I would see my real one, I would actually feel guilty like I was two timing. Strange, I know.
Also another behind the book look is that Luz’s dog Shortie is named after one of my three dogs. Both Shorties are infamous for their silent, deadly farts. I love my dog and he’s amazing but his “silent killers” not so much.
Luz is Latina, but it's not a major issue in the book. In a lot of YA lit, being non-white is a major plot point. Why is that?
Being another ethnicity like Latino, African American, Native American, Asian or even from Mars can give a unique perspective because sometimes you do get treated different (for better or for worse) due to the color of you skin.
It’s not a major issue in this book because this is how I grew up. Yes, I dealt with some discrimination issues but in the high school I grew up in, we had a nice mix of black, white and brown and we weren’t segregated as friends. In fact, we were more concerned about what we were going to wear to the dance or what we were going to do on the weekend than anything else.
I attribute this because I grew up in a big city and the fact that everyone’s parents were extremely active in PTA.
All stories ethnic or not have their place, but for me I would love to continue writing stories where the color of the characters’ skin doesn’t matter because the audience is more interested about the characters’ life experiences.
To me, that would show that as a human race we have truly begun to evolve beyond color. And wouldn’t that rocking?
Texas gets a bad rap outside of Texas. Tell us why Texas is actually awesome. (I married a Texan, so I know this is true.)
Texas is a character in itself. Some love it. Some hate it. But Texas can never be overlooked because, well.... we’re crazy. And not in the gun-toting kind of way, I must say.
We’re crazy because we say, “Hi, hello, or howdy” to everyone we meet. We thrive on being the best (that said that goes for our football teams, pageants, shopping, cars, hamburgers and everything else.)
Texas is also crazy for it’s kindness.
I was born and raised here and even though I’ve worked other places, I will always have a place here because I’ve never met anyone as generous as folks here.
The outpouring of kindness that I have witnessed over the years in Texas is jaw-dropping amazing - like helping to care for families when they’ve lost their house to fire or unemployment to the little things like giving directions, opening a doors or finding homes for stray pets.
It’s really easy to take all this kindness for granted when you travel to another state or country and you DON’T experience it. That’s when you are the most grateful.
If I had to make a state motto it would be “We’re crazy but we’re kind.“
What's your new book, American Twirl, about?
American Twirl is very different from Gamma Glamma in that it deals with more challenging issues. But like Gamma Glamma it’s all about the decisions you make and the outcomes of those decisions - especially long term.
It takes place in Mt. Pleasant Texas which is an hour and half outside Dallas. There is a fifteen year old girl named Blaze and she’s about to start her freshman year. She used to be a twirler along with her older sister but quit right before her mom died.
Her mom was a twirling teacher. Their dad drives a truck and has left the daughters to fend for themselves with a few hundred dollars. This is the first time Blaze is going to be with her sister Belinda in school since elementary. The sisters don’t get along because Belinda still twirls and Blaze hangs out with a group of misfits from a school called Metro. She was sent there after setting a football field on fire. Thus the name “Blaze.” Her real name is Francine. And she is a cutter.
This book comes from many of my own experiences of being a twirler, having an older sister who was a twirler (And my mom was too). And being a cutter.
I wanted to write about a cutting because it’s still a really foreign thing to many people. Most people can understand eating disorders and substance abuse but cutting is still considered pretty unusual and can be a bi-product of other traumatic events or conditions.
I wanted to put cutting in a new context since it’s often portrayed very over the top in movies and books. So, I just brought my own “normal” experience of it.
But it’s ultimately for anyone’s who been on the outside and burning on the inside. American Twirl is a humorous story of pain, passion and having the courage to face fire in order to ignite your life.
You were a twirler in school. Every time I try to twirl a baton, I end up hitting myself in the head. Any tips?
How about wearing a helmet? Just kidding. Twirling or like anything else you feel passionate about takes patience and lots of practice and staying in the moment.
If you are worried about what happened to you in the past, or what might happen to you in the future, you totally miss the present moment. And when you take your attention away from that, that’s when you get knocked in the head by a baton or another one of life’s unpleasant surprises to remind you to stay present in the present.
What else are you working on?
I love this question because I really want to say things like I’m working on a nap, fitting into a smaller size of pants, begging “Swen” that we really need one more dog and these are all true but here’s what else is shaking.
My other half Mike Swenson and I are about to pitch three shows to Nickelodeon. One is an animated show and the other two are girl buddy comedies that are live action shows. This takes a lot of time because it’s not just coming up with cool show ideas but it’s also doing research of what types of shows are being produced and created AROUND THE WORLD so that you are not pitching a show that is already being done or is currently on the air.
It’s a lot of work but it’s an amazing opportunity to get to present to these folks.
After that I already have plans for my next three novels.
Back in film world, Mike and I are also helping my father finish a documentary called Hispanics in the 1950’s. It’s an interesting look at growing up in the 1950’s in South Texas.
We are also working on our websites. In addition to kimflores.com, we will have a separate site to showcase our commercial work.
And then, finally, I hope to be able to work on my Needy Babies toy line. Whew!
Where’s that nap?
Your film, Vocessitas/Little Voices won an American Latino Media Arts Award. Tell us about it!
Vocessitas/Little Voices was a film that Mike and I wrote, produced, co-directed, and edited ourselves. It was an intense labor of love. It was one of the hardest things we had to do.
The story was about a woman who was raped but unsuccessfully tries to deal with it by herself and it’s only when she becomes involved with a pen pal girl from Guatemala she sponsors through a church program that she actually begins to find help.
We were honored to be nominated for the ALMA award and we were really excited when we won. We were in the audience with Jennifer Lopez when she was just starting out and winning awards for the movie Selena. Tyra Banks was also sitting in front of us and she looked amazing (and still does).
I was also really excited to see Rita Moreno who is a Latina that I looked up to all my life, especially when she was on the Electric Company.
It was a very special night and that experience also helped open many doors for Mike and myself after that.
How is making movies different than writing? (And, inversely, how is it similar?)
I’ll start with how writing for books and writing for movies are the same. It’s the same because you are creating a story that you hope that people will enjoy spending time with.
I like writing novels because it’s only me that I’m dealing with (at least at that moment) and I feel the same is true when writing a screenplay unless I am writing with a partner.
When your book is done and sold it goes through an edit process and you more than likely will work with an editor and proofreader. After going through other hands your story may change slightly or could change a lot depending on the editor.
In filmmaking, it’s the same process. Especially in independent filmmaking. You can write the grandest of visions but if you don’t have the time or money you will have to rewrite to make things work. And you story may evolve as well.
How making movies is different from just sitting and writing by yourself with your stinky dogs is that you are dealing with anywhere from 20 to 50 other people (stinky or not) when making a movie.
You have to have enormous amounts of energy and organization skills because everything you have written then becomes interpreted by the director of photography - the cameraman who shoots your story. In your mind’s eye, you may have seen your character in a close up shot with a solid tear when she is left alone when you originally wrote the script. But your cameraman might see it differently and have an extreme wide shot of your character in giant room standing in a corner to convey the same idea.
But you don’t just have to communicate your vision (and your story) with the cinematographer, you have to be able to communicate this vision to the gaffer (the one who lights the set), the art department, the hair and make up folks, wardrobe, sound, the script supervisor, the music supervisor and the editor.
You get to used to working 12 hours a day minimum on a film set. This endurance helps when you want to become a writer and have to sit and write all day long.
Both writing for novel and screenplays and making movies aren’t for the weak of heart. And you have to have extremely thick skin. My skin has grown so thick over the years maybe that’s why I have to wear bigger pants! Thank God for stretchy yoga pants!
Little Willow already asked about your favorite books. What are your favorite movies?
I can’t even begin to tell you but here’s a few.
Willy Wonka, Imitation of Life, Amelie, City of Lost Children, Delicatessen, Mean Girls, Roll Bounce, Little Miss Sunshine. Napoleon Dynamite, Pulp Fiction, Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life. I love lots of foreign films and anything that has Will Farrell or Jack Black.
What are your top 10 songs?
I don’t really have a top ten because like my life, my songs evolve. But here are some that have been theme songs to my life.
1) I Will Survive (My daily motto)
2) The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow. (I sang this in the 8th grade. Now that I recall, I actually sang the song called Maybe from Annie but I really wanted to sing The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow. My family sang it for years after that to remind me of my shortcomings in life. Love them. My family not my shortcomings.)
3) At Last by Etta James (We played this on our iPhone when Mike and I eloped on a beach)
4) We are Family (My family’s motto)
5) I Love New York by Madonna (NYC is my favorite city outside Texas)
6) Lose yourself by Eminem (This is a good running song)
7) Mama Used to Say (This is a song I used to dance to when I was little)
8) Theme to Twighlight Zone and Night Gallery (Both still freak me out)
9) All pop, rap, dance and soundtrack songs that I forgot to mention due to low blood sugar.
10) Theme song to Sponge Bob Squarepants. (I love that show)
I know you draw, but do you do other crafts?
I like to paint and design toys and clothes. I love making gift baskets for my friends and I love surprising people with hand created notes or my photography.
I have a new sewing machine that I need to break in because I bought it over a year ago!
You have 3 rescue dogs. I can't shut up about my rescue dog, so I'm guessing you love to talk about yours. Tell us all about them!
I love dogs. I love animals in general but I LOVE dogs. I’ve had two of my of my dogs Shortie and Rabbit for ten years. We had another dog that we had for eleven years named Pud who we got when he was anywhere from 5-8 years old from the SPCA of Dallas. We had to put him down in September and he was probably close to 100 years old in dog years. That was the hardest thing we ever had to do but also the most compassionate thing we had to do because of Pud was in extreme pain and was beyond medicine or treatment because of his age.
Shortie is a black and white rat terrier and he’s Mr. Personality and needs tons of attention. We found him a day before an important shoot in our alley when we lived in a warehouse downtown. Rabbit is a Poodle-Terrier and was found on another shoot. It took Mike and our make-up artist friend Kalen Hoyle three hours just to shave off all the nasty matted hair Rabbit had. Mike named him Rabbit because he used to hop when he was walked on a leash.
Our newest member came from the internet. We had 3 shoots back to back and then Mike and I were going to be gone for 3 weeks and then I saw this dog online. Mike thought I was crazy for even looking. Something told me to look at the SPCA site and I’m glad I did. The local SPCA had just rescued 100 dogs from a puppy mill then a week later at another location they had rescued another 250 animals. The conditions were awful to say the least. Our dog had been locked in a crate for 3 years (he is only 3). He didn’t know what grass was or what petting was. The folks at the SPCA said that he would need special help.
We brought him home and he didn’t know what to do. Then we had to leave him for three weeks. We had my friend stay at our house and work with him. Because of the two other dogs our dog (who we called Nelson after Nelson Mandela), started to feel much more at home. We have been nicknaming him Waggles because that’s all he does)
Waggles brings us so much joy along with our other boys, maybe I’ll write a book just for him.
Adopt a dog from the SPCA. Change their lives. And change your own. I promise!
Thanks so much for stopping by!!
Friday, May 23, 2008
So, head on over and sign up to play along! It looks like lots of fun.
The challenge is going to benefit Reading is Fundamental, a great organization that gives books to low-income children. In order for RiF to benefit, some of the readers are asking for sponsorship.
This is where you come in, because I would like some sponsors. You can promise me a lump sum (as in, if you do this, I'll give you $20) or you can pledge to give based on how I do, so you'll give me $1 for every hour I read (probably 15-20-- I have to work on the 28th) or for every book I read, or for every page I read... if you want to wait until after the 48 Hour Challenge to see how much I read because you commit, go on ahead. After the challenge, you can donate directly on the RiF's webpage or send the money to me and I'll donate it for you.
I will, myself, will donate 3 cents for every hour I read, for every book I read, and for every page I read. (Based on last year's 48 hour showing, that's going to be $50-$75) I've also donated 10 Bookmooch points to be used a prizes for readers.
Anyway, if you're willing to sponsor me (and every little bit helps! There is no amount too small) please leave a comment below or email me at kidsilkhaze at yahoo dot com.
Thank you so much.
*Edited to reflect the fact I don't know how many time zones are in the US. D'oh
I'm still stuck on weddings. Forgive me. Here's a picture of my sister from her reception, also taken by Terry Dawson.
But, it's Poetry Friday! Yay! Today I'm bringing you 2 sonnets by Pablo Naruda. The first is the one that was supposed to be read at Abbey's wedding but there was a snafu, and so the second is the one that was actually read. But first, do you know what my favorite Simpsons line ever is? It's the episode where Bart sells his soul and he can't laugh at "Itchy and Scratchy" anymore.
Bart: I know that's funny, but I'm just not laughing.
Lisa: Hmm. Pablo Neruda said: "Laughter is the language of the soul."
Bart: I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda.
The deadpan delivery of that last line is just hysterical. Also! Only 13 days left to vote in the sidebar for what to read for MotherReader's 48 Hour Challenge. I'm going to start gathering the books on Tuesday, so make your voice count!
don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
And now you’re mine. Rest with your dream in my dream.
Love and pain and work should all sleep, now.
The night turns on its invisible wheels,
and you are pure beside me as a sleeping ember.
No one else, Love, will sleep in my dreams. You will go,
we will go together, over the waters of time.
No one else will travel through the shadows with me,
only you, evergreen, ever sun, ever moon.
Your hands have already opened their delicate fists
and let their soft drifting signs drop away;
your eyes closed like two gray wings, and I move
after, following the folding water you carry, that carries
me away. The night, the world, the wind spin out their destiny.
Without you, I am your dream, only that, and that is all.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
These reviews are a little lame though, because I really liked these books. So, it's all THIS BOOK ROCKED! YAY! But seriously, you should read them. The books, not the reviews (well, hopefully you'll read the reviews but... you know what I mean...)
My space bar is squeaky...
Good Enough Paula Yoo
Patti tries to be the Perfect Korean Daughter (PKD). She gets straight As, is active in her youth group, and is an amazing violinist-- her hook to get into HARVARDYALEPRINCETON. But then she meets Ben, aka Cute Trumpet Guy at her auditions for All-State Orchestra. Maybe there's more to life than being the PKD? Is there a way she can please her parents and still do what she wants?
I love this book. I couldn't put it down and the super-short chapters didn't help. I love how Patti described her relationship with music. I love the inclusions of all of Patti's mom's Spam recipes (but not enough to actually try one.) And I really, really loved the ending. More about that here, full of spoilery action.
Girl Overboard Justina Chen Headley
Syrah Cheng seems to have the perfect life-- her dad's one of the richest men in America and whatever she wants is hers.
Except... her parents are never home. Her older (half)siblings hate her. She wants to be a pro-snowboarder but she busted her knee on a fall that should have killed her 6 months ago and her best friend's new girlfriend has put a complete embargo on their friendship.
Oh yes, and her nanny is moving to California and her family is moving to Hong Kong.
There is no snow in Hong Kong.
But... then she meets Lillian, the daughter of her father's new VP, who treats her like a normal person. Then she meets Lillian's sister, who's dying of cancer. Syrah is frustrated at having all the money and connections and the world and being unable to help... but maybe she can help after all.
This is a great book about finding your talents and your family in unexpected places. Syrah is a great character that I would love to be friends with, and not just for her recording studio. I also really like that instead of keeping a standard diary, Syrah draws her entires manga-style.
The Fold An Na
I was a little wary of this one. I was rather underwhelmed by Wait for Me. But I liked this. Before I talk about why though, I'm going to blather a bit. Sorry.
Online Videos by Veoh.com
This song was getting a lot of airplay in Nanjing in 2000. It's unbelievably catchy, but the lyrics touch on something-- I'm not your style... he only likes double-eyelid girls, but with my single eyelid I can't be picky...almond-shaped eyes almond-shaped eyes...
Joyce's family owes her aunt, Gomo, a lot. She's the one who sponsored them so they could move to the US from Korea. But... Gomo can be more than a little over-bearing. When she wins the lottery, she gives everyone a present to make their lives easier, but it's not necessarily what everyone wants. Joyce's gift is a plastic surgery operation to give her eyelids a double-fold. If Joyce can have the "good" eyes, she'll be more pretty, like her perfect older sister, Helen. But... it's someone taking a knife to your eye and Joyce doesn't have a high pain tolerance.
Joyce is not the world's most likable character, but she is very, very real and believable. I like all the consideration she puts into her decision to accept or decline Gomo's present. Even more than her decision about the surgery, this was more a story of Helen and Joyce's relationship. I saw the end revelation coming and wasn't entirely sure it was necessary, but the tension in that relationship kept me enthralled.
An excellent choice.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Other musical things you wouldn't think work, but totally do:
Anyway, by this time you're thinking "Jennie, this isn't a music blog. It's a book blog. Get on with it already..."
So, we have a Fusion Story today. But this Fusion Story is a sequel, so I had to read the first book first. Yes, I'm anal. SHUT UP! I'm a librarian, I'm supposed to be! It's what they pay me for.
The Year of the Dog Grace Lin
This story starts and ends with Chinese New Year. This year is the Year of the Dog, which is the year that Grace was born in, so it's supposed to be a lucky year. It's also supposed to be the year where she discovers what her gift is, but she's having a hard time of it! Maybe a new friend, Melody, can help Grace discover her gifts, or at least be a good partner for adventure along the way.
Very episodic in plot, this book draws heavily from Lin's life, so it's extremely realistic and covers day-to-day life perfectly. It's so heavily drawn from Lin's life that it turns out that Melody is really Alvina of Blue Rose Girls (where Lin also blogs!)
Lin's illustrations are sprinkled throughout, as are special side stories from Chinese tradition, family stories, and stories of what happened to Grace before The Year of the Dog. Very fun and a great recommendation for 3rd graders.
The Year of the Rat Grace Lin
This is actually the Fusion Story. It takes place a few years after The Year of the Dog, once again starting with Chinese New Year. The Year of the Rat is a year of change and this year brings a big one-- Melody is moving to California!
Grace knows she wants to be an author and illustrator when she grows up, but she hears that being an artist is a "cold door" and that she might starve! If being an artist is a "cold door" should she try and find something else to do?
Then a new Chinese family who just moved to the US from China move into Melody's old house. Their son, Dun-Wei is Grace's age and everyone thinks they should go together, just because they're both Chinese! Grace doesn't want to be stuck with the new kid "Dumb Way" but if she sticks up for him when the other kids tease him, she might be stuck...
If you liked the first one, you'll love this one. It's longer and Grace handles some bigger issues that face all kids. I especially "liked" (that's really not the word I'm looking for) how the kids changed "Dun-Wei" into "Dumb Way" mainly because of this conversation:
Mark (my boyfriend at the time): What's your name in Chinese Class?
Me: Wei Rong [Wei being one of the 3 Kingdoms and Rong meaning hibiscus flower]
Mark: Wait, your name is WAY WRONG?
Let's just say Way Wrong stuck. But it was a good dodge in Chinese class when I got called on and completely botched the answer "Dui bu qi. Wei Rong is WAY WRONG. Can you call on someone else? Xie Xie"
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I read this book and refused to put it down because it is the most widely read book in Mainland China since Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung... which you might know as a little, red book... by Chairman Mao... that everyone waved about like mad during the Cultural Revolution...
So... Chen Zhen is a Beijing student sent to the grasslands of Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution. He is obsessed with Mongolian culture, especially their reverence for wolves. He decides to raise a wolf cub in order to learn from it. Throughout the course of 1 year, we travel with the nomadic herders as they move across the grasslands and face the destruction of their land and way of life by farming Han Chinese.
(The Han are the majority ethnic group in mainland China.)
What I liked about this book: The sense of daily life as they move across the grasslands and the struggle between the traditional ways and what the government thinks is best-- a struggle that is still being experienced in many areas of China. Also, it was refreshing to read about people who embraced being sent into the countryside. Chen Zhen and his classmates miss Beijing, sure, but they make the best of the situation they're in and try to learn from the peasants and blend into the community's daily life.
What I didn't like: Chen Zhen's obsession always teeters on the land of infantilizing Mongolian culture. Also, as much as he reveres Mongolian culture, he totally doesn't get it. Raising a wolf cub is amazingly offensive but he just... doesn't care, even when he's chastised by elders he deeply respects. He retains a lot of Han chauvinism while being pissed off about the same quality in other characters. I wanted to smack him. Also, the book whacks you upside the head with the point ALL THE TIME. Really, it reads like this
"Hey! Did you know that Mongolians are totally awesome!"
"I know! They do A, B, C!"
"I know! And X, Y, Z! They're awesome!"
"Did you know that wolves are totally awesome, too?!"
"No! They're a key part of the balanced grassland ecosystem! Plus, all that stuff we just talked about on why the Mongolians are cool? They totally learned that from the wolves!"
"Wow! Wolves rock!"
"I know! Plus, they do L, M, N, O, and P! Wolves are awesome!"
"But we Han Chinese totally suck! We don't understand any of this!"
"Yeah, we keep messing everything up! We do suck!"
"We totally suck!"
over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again...
Seriously. Characters never have real conversations. They only time they talk is to discuss the topics I mentioned above. 98% of the dialogue is just a vehicle for Jiang to educate his readership about why Mongolians and wolves rock and the Han Chinese totally suck.
but... I had it out on the reference desk so I could check it back in and a 10 year old really really really wanted to read it. I told her it was an adult book, that she was welcome to it. So she checked it out. I wonder how she's faring? It wasn't on of my regulars, so I don't know if I'll get a chance to ask her about it...
Sunday, May 18, 2008
And my flowers and herbs are loving the rain. The cilantro bush is threatening to eat my house it's gotten so huge. My peonies are blooming and they're lovely. My favorite flower. So I've been doing indoor things-- like reading and napping and occasionally watching TV. Today I baked-- Devil's Food cupcakes with a mocha butter cream frosting. (Recipe in How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food)
Anyway, some books...
First Daughter: White House Rules Mitali Perkins
This is one of the Fusion Stories that I'm reading my way through this month.
This one picks up with Sparrow and her family moving into the White House. Her mom needs to find a domestic cause to champion. Her cousin is sensitive to the grand income divide between the two of them and looking for a way to help support herself. And Bobby isn't calling-- because his parents think his sick grandfather won't approve of him dating someone who's biological parents were probably Muslim. To top it off, one of her commenters on her blog has called Sparrow rich and privileged and pointed out she wouldn't be able to "make it" in the real world. Sparrow isn't sure how to respond-- the criticism has more than a ring of truth.
If you liked First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, you're sure to enjoy Sparrow's continuing adventures. Perkins manages to tackle some big issues while still having a fun book. The issues don't get in the way of a light-hearted story, but she still manages to do justice to them.
My complaints are minor--it's always hard to read fiction that's set in the place you live when large parts of the scenery are realistic but still, well... fiction. And Perkins choses the issues she wants to tackle-- such as racism, underfunded schools, and the Hindu/Muslim divide. She doesn't tackle other things-- I find it hard to believe that every member of the junior class in a DC public school could pass a background security check to be let into the residence of the White House. On the other hand, Sparrow is determined enough she might have pulled a few strings with the Secret Service.
Throughout it all, Sparrow remains assured, focused and determined, while at the same time being likeable and seems like a real girl that I'd like to hang out with. (Especially if she can get her cousin to make me some of those cookies!)
Superstar Babes Narinder Dhami
Ok, so... this isn't out in the US yet. BUT! Amber, Jazz, and Geena (of Bindi Babes fame) are back! (Also, you can buy it here with free world wide shipping! I buy from the Book Depository all the time when I can't wait for British books to come across the pond-- sometimes it's even cheaper than the American version will be! Fast delivery, too-- I highly recommend them!)
The girls have been bickering a lot lately and Amber decides it's because they need a project. Coppergate's new building has several rooms named after companies that donated large amounts of money--why not name the library after their mum? The sisters all over it, except it means raising 10,000 pounds. In 6 weeks. Nothing the Dhillon sisters can't handle, right?
Of course, there are other things going on as well. Their spoiled cousin Baby has moved in. Auntie and Uncle Jai seem to be having marital issues and they JUST got married! Plus, Dad's never home anymore and Geena has a secret. About a boy. But what is it?
Can Amber solve all these problems and raise the money in time? Maybe it will all happen when she gets her most brilliant stroke of genius-- a real live Big Brother-type reality show, right in Coppergate, staring her family. What could go wrong?
This series deserves a higher readership. Every time I have a 5th/6th grade girl come in looking for a "funny" book, this is what I hand them. We need more funny for girls. These books hasve fashion, big plans, friendship, girls making their own way in the world, and a healthy dose of literary slapstick. The latest installment doesn't disappoint and continues the wacky and endearing adventures of the Dhillon Sisters.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Calder Game Blue Balliet
In this follow up to Chasing Vermeer and Wright 3 the kids are focusing on Alexander Calder, who is who Calder just happens to be named after.
Calder and his dad also go off to England while his dad's at a conference. There, they stay in this quaint little English village where there's something a little sinister going on. An anonymous American has donated an Alexander Calder statue to the town. They don't like change. They don't like outsiders.
One day, the statue goes missing. As does Calder.
Calder's dad realizes he doesn't really know in-depth what his son was up to these days, so he has Petra and Tommy fly out to help look...
I was pretty disappointed. I loved the earlier books but... Really, the whole closed off English village thing? It was very Hot Fuzz, but without being a spoof of itself.
Also, the townspeople didn't like the Chicago kids because they were American. But not one mentioned that Calder is part Asian Indian, Petra is partially Middle Eastern and Tommy is half Hispanic. Had the townspeople been shunning of outsiders, the fact that they were non-white outsiders (especially, I think, Calder's Asian Indian heritage) would have come up. In a really nasty way. But, it didn't.
This book was really scary and I liked that, but the explanation and the end were... weak. When I read the end I was like, wait... we spent all the time and energy and tension to work up to... that? Really?
It contains all of the awesome elements of the previous books, but doesn't pull the mystery off with the same skill as the others.
Homefront Doris Gwaltney
Sara recommended this one to me yonks ago. Yesterday I read it in one sitting.
Margaret Ann lives on a farm with her family in Virginia. Due to the fighting in Europe, her estranged aunt, Mary Lee and daughter Courtney are coming to live with them. Courtney is beautiful and smart and everyone loves her. But she's also stuck up and smug. At least to Margaret Ann. Of course Bobby Holland likes Courtney better. Of course Courtney now gets to sit next to Daddy at dinner.
But then, things get worse after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Her sister Elizabeth drops out of college to marry Tommy Gray before he enlists. Margaret Ann's older brother enlists. All the young men in her life are off to war.
I loved this book. I love how the chapters are named after where Margaret Ann is sleeping. In the beginning, she shares a room with her grandmother and is really excited to move into Elizabeth's room when she goes off to college. Then, less than a month in her own room, Aunt Mary Lee and Courtney move in, so she's back with grandma. When Johnny enlists, he lets Margaret Ann have his room, which makes her feel like he enlisted just so she could have her own room.
Margaret Ann doesn't cut Courtney a lot of slack and blames her for a lot of things that aren't her fault. At the same time, Courtney isn't completely innocent and I completely recognize Margaret Ann's feelings that everyone thinks Courtney is perfect. Both characters were flawed, but in that way that makes them really real. Also, I liked how realistic the inevitable thawing in their relationship was. A great recommendation. Thanks Sara!
Also, do you know how weird it is to be in your late 20s? IT'S WEIRD. Not in a bad way, but in the sense that Dan's birthday was on Wednesday and I couldn't decide if I should get him Grand Theft Auto IV or curtains. He wanted both equally. RockStar games made the decision for me when it decided our PlayStation2 is unworthy and so we don't have a way to play GTA. Oooo curtains...
Also, I'm going to pretend I was tagged for the 5 things about me meme. Enough people tagged "who ever wants to play" so, um, yeah.
The rules of the meme get posted at the beginning. Each person answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the blogger then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.
Living in England, working as a marketing assistant at The Bridgewater Hall. Dan was in grad school. We lived with a bunch of his friends (who became my friends) in a house with 6 people, 5 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and 1 phone line. By this time, I was preparing to move back home in June to live with my parents before heading out to Michigan in the fall for grad school. I miss Manchester every time I smell curry on a rainy day.
What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?
- Review a ton of books.
- Get ready for the Summer Reading promotional school visit on Tuesday morning.
- Add my new books to LibraryThing.
- Walk the puppy dog.
- Clean the guest room.
- any type of berry
- Cheese curds
- Goldfish crackers
- Gummy bears
- Pay off my student loans. And Dan's. And my sister's.
- Pay off the mortgage.
- Make sure my retirement was covered. (And Dan's)
- Give my parents enough money that they could retire early.
- Spend the rest of my life exploring the book stores and coffee shops of the world.
- I'm mean.
- I don't work out.
- I'm really messy.
- I have a hard time sticking to my budget.
- I do things at the last minute.
- Appleton, WI
- Grinnell, IA
- Nanjing, China
- Manchester, England
- Ann Arbor, MI
- Travel agent at a call center--night shift
- Air-show food stand manager (we sold tacos and hot dogs)
- Knitting teacher
- Theater Department costume shop stitcher
- Illegal English teacher (in that I taught illegally, not that my English was illegal)
Has no one tagged you yet? Are you feeling totally left out like I was? Then this one is for you!!!
Yesterday, I was at home, and it was rainy, rainy, rainy, so I curled up with some tea and good books.
I'm super-behind in my blogging. I've blogged 85 books this year, and I should be up to 100. PLUS, I have 45 books that I've read and haven't blogged about.
But before we begin, Life Sucks and Confessions of a Serial Kisser are now out. I reviewed both of them here.
And, now, some books.
Dream Factory Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler
I wasn't at all surprised when Cinderella gave me the finger.
The basic premise is that the characters at Disney World have gone on strike and so Disney has hired a bunch of high school students as scabs.
The story is told in the alternating voices of Ella (who plays Cinderella) and Luke (who plays Dale, as in Chip and Dale). Along the way we find out how hard it is to walk around all day with a giant head on and that Princesses don't eat, so even though Ella hosts 7 meals a day (including the Princess breakfast, Cinderella's tea and her wedding banquet) she's starving by the time she gets off work.
While the first few chapters are hysterical, we quickly dive in Luke and Ella's angsty back-stories. Plus, it's obvious they totally are into each other, but Luke is dating perfect (but not for Luke) Cassie and so Ella starts dating Mark, who plays Prince Charming and buys the whole Disney schtick.
There's nothing overly surprising plot-wise and I figured out what Luke's middle name was really early on, but it was still a sweet story that teens will get into. A nice fluffy read.
Model Spy (The Specialists) Shannon Greenland
Oooooo... I just ate this one right up and can't wait to read the next ones in the series.
Kelly James has been set-up. She's only 16, but a senior in college. To impress her really nice and really cute RA David, she hacks through 9 out of 18 levels of the government's main computer system. Hours later, she's arrested. She's then given a choice-- go to juvie, or become a government spy. She chooses the spy option and then discovers that David asked her to hack the system just to prove that she could do it so that she could be recruited.
She's not overly pleased.
Her first mission is to rescue David's father who's being sold to the highest bidder. In order to do so, she has to go undercover as a model. Kelly may look like a model, but she lacks all coordination and social skills.
This book was super-fun and exciting. I loved it. I'm sure all the techno babble was completely made up, but I don't care. I like the socially awkward smart, yet hot girl. The plot kept moving and I couldn't put it down. I can't wait for the rest of the books in the series.A good bet for those who like The Squad: Perfect Cover, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You or CHERUB.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Boundless the steppe, like a seascape,
ants rustle, and the feather-grass sighs,
mosquitoes go whining through space.
The hayricks line up with the clouds,
volcano after volcano, they fade.
Grown silent, damp, the boundless steppe,
you drift, you’re buffeted, you sway.
The mist overtakes us, washes, a sea,
and burrs are clinging to stockings, today
it’s lovely to tramp the steppe’s shore,
you drift, you’re buffeted, you sway.
Is that a rick in the mist? Who knows?
Is that one ours? Yes, it’s found.
There! Yes, that’s it all right, though.
The rick, and the mist, and the steppe all round.
And the Milky Way slants towards
like a path that cattle have stamped on.
Go past the houses, you’ll lose your breath,
on every side, broad, broad horizons.
Shadowy midnight stands by the way,
strewn with stars, that touch every verst,
and you can’t cross it, beyond the fence,
without trampling the universe.
When did the stars sweep down so low,
midnight sink so deep in tall grass,
and drenched muslin, afraid, aglow,
long for a dénouement at last?
Let the steppe judge, and night decide.
When, if not in the Beginning,
did Mosquitoes whine, Ants ride,
and Burrs go clinging to stockings?
Close them, my darling! Or go blind!
The whole steppe’s as before the Fall:
All, drowned in peace, like a parachute,
like a heaving vision, All.
Take a look at the newest member of my family! Will's the young guy in the tux, you know, the one standing next to the bride. Not that he hasn't been a defacto member of the family for years, but, you know. It's all official and everything now.
Plus, how awesome does my sister look? And how beautiful of a place did they pick to get married? On a lake! In the mountains. As much as I loved Iowa, and as much as I love DC, it's really obvious why Abbey never left Asheville after she graduated from college. I mean, DO YOU SEE THE MOUNTAINS?!
I cried throughout the whole thing, but the wedding was wonderful and the reception (also on the lake) was awesome and involved a lot of really tasty barbecue.
Also, I need to give credit to Terry Dawson for taking the photo. I blatantly stole it off his Flickr page because that's the kind of girl I am.
AND! Yesterday I finished another semester of grad school. I have 2 months off before I start up again with YA lit. I graduate in December, assuming I haven't failed anything.
AND! In even bigger news, you know I work full time, right? And am in school half-time? You know how I totally jacked my back a few months ago? Well, I've been in physical therapy since then. It eats about 6 hours of my week because appointments and the fact that my therapist is on the opposite side of the metro area. I got news today that Friday's appointment is my LAST ONE.
So, now I have all this free time! For reading and blogging! (Sorry Dan-- I mean cleaning the guest bedroom.)
Actually, I'm just happy because until mid-July, the only things I have going on in my life are work and well, living my life. Yay!
Reviews coming soon, I promise.
PS-- Vote in my sidebar for what I should read during the 48 hour challenge in a few weeks!
Monday, May 12, 2008
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Check out the list at Fusion Stories.
I thought this was an awesome idea, so to join the party, I'm reading all the fusion stories this month, substituting earlier works if the highlighted story isn't published yet.
But, first I'm going to ramble on about myself for a while, because it's my blog! I can do what I want!
Mainly, the wedding I went to this weekend was wonderfully fun AND I got to meet some other kidlit dorks, including someone who knows David Levithan. And Rachel Cohn! My geeky heart just about died! My response was "Can I touch you?!" Initially, he thought I was being a bitch, when really, I was in total AWE!
And now I'm off to North Carolina for my sister's wedding!
Also, I want to give a shout-out to Lauren. She's my new-ish coworker and she is awesome. I don't think I've mentioned that yet. But who else would randomly burst into song with you on the reference desk? Especially when said song is a medley of the Simpson's musical version of Street Car Named Desire?
You can always depend on the kindness of strangers!
To buck up your spirits and shield you from dangers!
Now here's a tip from Blanche you won't regret:
A stranger's just a friend you haven't met.
You haven't met!
That's what too much story time can do to a person!
Also, here's a video I've been watching a lot of lately:
Because do you know what's better than a Kate Pierson muppet? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Also, how awesome is it when you look like a total moody rock star while rocking out on a banjo?!
Anyway, some reviews!
Good Luck, Ivy Lisa Yee
I haven't read an American Girl book in years. Like, not since I was the targeted reading age and read all of the Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly books. Yes, only those three, because BACK IN MY DAY there only were three. Initially, there were only 3 books for 3 dolls! Yes, I was a recipient of the original Pleasant Company catalog.
Anyway, Yee's book took me right back there. And it was weird at the same time, because after reading Yee's other work (by which I mean the hysterical Millicent Min, Girl Genius) this has a very different voice. This... reads like an American Girl book, which it should. I think writing like that, in someone else's corporate voice must be very hard, but Yee's awesome at it. (Ok, I've drafted my share of press releases in hoity toity British English in the proper corporate voice. I know it's hard.)
Anyway, the book. Ivy Ling is not feeling lucky. Her best friend, Julie (who is actually the American Girl) has moved across town. Her parents are really busy and can't help Ivy with her Chinese school project. Plus, they've been eating take-away Chinese food from her grandparent's Chinese resteraunt. And Ivy's grandparents heard her complaining.
But that's not the worst of it. The big inter-city gymnastics tournament is coming up. Ivy needs to compete in the all events, but she fell off the balance beam last time and is having a hard time getting her routine right again. As if that weren't bad enough, the big Ling family reunion is coming up. On the same day as the gymnastics meet.
Ivy can't go to both, and her parents are making her decide, only they have different ideas about which one is more important.
Whatever will Ivy do?!
I loved the "American Girl" ness of it. Also, in the background material, there are some awesome pictures of Lisa Yee in the 70s.
I had forgotten how many appearance details American Girl books put in. As a kid I really liked that, but it's a little jarring to me as an adult.
Minn and Jake Janet S. Wong
This is not really a fusion story. Minn and Jake's Almost Terrible Summer is a Fusion Story, but it doesn't come out until August, so I have to wait for it. So, I read the one that came before it instead. But, as far as the reader knows, this one doesn't have any Asian-Americans in it, because the fact that Jake is 1/4 Korean comes out in the next book and causes some tension when Minn wonders why Jake didn't tell her. At least, that's what the various blurbs I've read tell me.
Anyway, in this book (a prose novel)
Minn is feeling very empty,
and very tall,
and very odd,
and very pigtailed,
and very lizardy,
and very much alone.
Because her best friend laughed at her with another girl. She ends up being paired with the new kid,Jake, who's afraid of lizards. Catching lizards is the only thing kids do in Santa Brunella. So, Minn is going to teach Jake how to catch lizards. But there are accidents and mean kids and other grade-school stuff to endure.
Very well told. Minn and Jake, as well as the rest of the kids, are authentic, and their trials and tribulations are small, as they are for most kids, but aren't trivialized, which is refreshing.
And now for some non-Fusion Stories, because who knows when I'll get to blog again?
Thumbelina: Tiny Runaway Bride Barbara Ensor
This is a retelling of Thumbelina, in the sense of straight-up retelling it with a few variations, not recasting it, a la Shannon Hale or Gail Carson Levine.
Except the ending is different. But the narrator warns us. I'm quoting from an ARC here, so it might not be 100% accurate (but I hope it is, because it's the very matter-of-fact voice that the narrator and Thumbelina use throughout)
Now you know exactly what happened and can write a book report, if you need to do that, or count this as part of your summer reading list. Nobody will mind or think any less of you if you just close the book and DO NOT READ ANOTHER WORD.
But, to tell you the truth, there is something more. If you felt there was something forced about that ending, you were right."
And that's why I loved the book. That, and the wonderful illustrations that were made by cutting out black construction paper. A nice retelling of a fairy tale that gives Thumbelina back her spunk without detracting from Anderson's original.
Clementine's Letter Sara Pennypaker
Just when Clementine and her 3rd grade teacher have figured each other out, Mr. D'Matz is going to go off and go to Egypt IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SCHOOL YEAR! And the new teacher has new rules that Clementine can't guess.
If you liked the others, you'll like this. I'm seriously starting to worry about Margaret though. That girl's going to need therapy sooner rather than later. I do like how well Clementine handles her, though.
In the paint section, hundreds of little paint tubes, all neat and new, sat on the shelf. Margaret threw her hands up and backed away, as if the tubes of paint were just waiting to burst all over her clean clothes. Margaret doesn't even liket o look at things that might get her dirty.
"Quick, run over to the paper aisle!" I told her. "Just keep staring at all those nice clean stacks of paper!"
I also like how the trip to the Chinese grocery store yields a whole new host of vegetable names for her brother. Bamboo shoot, scallion, daikon radish...