Readers unite!

20 10 2011

I am so incredibly excited.

Why, you ask?

Because we’ve started a book club on Facebook!!

Okay, I suppose you need me to back it up just a little bit. Here’s the backstory:

At the beginning of the year (January/ February), I read the HUNGER GAMES trilogy – which I loved, of course. As the year progressed, I went on to read a lot of other books – and I mean a lot – but kept wondering how the film adaptation of the first book would turn out. I wasn’t all too happy to see who they cast for some of the parts, since they didn’t fit the descriptions in the book (don’t you just hate it when they choose someone who doesn’t even have the right hair colour?), but when I saw some pictures from the work-in-progress on IMDB, I started to think that perhaps they could pull it off. It’s amazing what a dye job, haircut and make-up can do…

Anyway, back to my story. I shared a link to the IMDB page with photos on my Facebook, and then a friend that went to university with me started chatting to me about the series and books in general. From that point on (probably at the start of September) we’ve been sharing and recommending books we enjoyed. She told me about the CHAOS WALKING trilogy, which I enjoyed just as much as the HUNGER GAMES (didn’t really like the ending, though), so I told her about the MAZE RUNNER trilogy – the final book came out a few days ago, making my timing for reading them perfect 🙂

You’ll note that all the aforementioned trilogies are dystopian novels (see my blog entry about it here), yet do not despair: we’ve shared other recommendations, as well. If you’re into light reads that include mystery and baking, you can try the Hannah Swensen Mysteries series by Joanne Fluke. If you still want a bit of mystery/ a ‘detective story’ and bring in the newspaper industry – and cats, don’t forget cats! – you can turn your attention to The Cat Who… series. My friend, Ms. Booklover, has introduced me to the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – a cross between detective stories and wizards. To quote Wikipedia (and yes, I am going to do it, even though it isn’t always a reliable source), the series is pretty much “Dirty Harry Potter”… get it? Dirty Harry + Harry Potter (a hard-core detective and plenty of wizardry)? Ah, forget it.

Okay, one  more recommendation, then I’ll shut my trap. If any of you liked THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, I’d give THE WASP FACTORY by Iain M. Banks a read. It’s odd, interesting, destructive… Not everyone’s cup of tea. I won’t take offense if you read a few pages and then discard it. As long as you’re reading and engaging with the wonderful world of words, it makes me extremely happy. I’ve always have a great fondness for books, which is why I am glad to be sharing the experience with others… and to be able to do that. Not a lot of people have or make time for reading; others simply say that they don’t like to read *tsk-tsk* Where would we be without literacy? Without imagination, some form of escape?

If you love to read, feel free to post books you enjoyed in the comments section (which should be at the bottom of this blog entry). You can also share books you have started – perhaps a few times – and just cannot seem to finish/ get ‘into’. I’m always looking for new books to read…

Yip, pretty excited about sharing book recommendations with friends. Pretty darn much.

Readers unite!!! 😀

[PS: Do I even have to say that I recommend each and every work by the literary master writer Stephen King? No, I didn’t think so.]

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Dystopian delight

26 09 2011

 

Warning: this will most likely end up being a lengthy blog entry.

I have come to the realization that I take infinite joy in reading dystopian novel(la)s.

[Or should that be ‘novel(la)s that explore a dystopian society/ state/ world’?]

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR by George Orwell; THE LONG WALK and THE RUNNING MAN by Richard Bachman (actually Stephen King); the HUNGER GAMES trilogy by Suzanne Collins; the CHAOS WALKING trilogy by Patrick Ness; THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner… the list goes on and on.

‘Joy’ in the opening sentence of this blog entry – quick, go read it again, since I’ve probably distracted you with the list of book titles! – seems to be an ironic word to choose, since people who live in said societies rarely know joy, living in the awful future times and circumstances as they do…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, what is this Dystopia I speak of, you ask?

You probably all know the word ‘Utopia’, which refers to an ideal world or kind of paradise. Greek: eu (good) + topos (place). Compare this to the Greek dys, meaning “bad”/ “ill”, and you’ll see that Dystopia is the complete opposite of Utopia. In fact, I’ve read that it is regarded as “the evil twin” of Utopia.

In a dystopian setting, you usually deal with a society that lives within a social control system – a system under which they are oppressed, controlled, and living in fear of saying a word of protest against the corrupt ruling government. There is great suffering, pessimism and uniformity – the people of those times being manipulated to serve the purposes of those in power, often becoming indistinct through strict presiding regulations. Bubbling far below the surface, there is talk of a revolt, or rising up against the oppressors and building a new society.

Brutality is implemented for amusement; survival a daily hope. Friends are pitted against each other, sometimes having to take sides to ‘ensure’ their continued existing – more of the disturbing sort of amusement that those in power revel in. What could be better than spinning fine threads of false hope, then tangling everyone up in the web of deceit and resulting difficult choices?

Take THE HUNGER GAMES, for example: where the Capitol selects two young people (one male, one female) in each District to compete in what can be seen as ‘the most dangerous game’ – an arena where your survival depends on being the last person not killed. How do you kill other innocent people? How do you kill someone from your own district?? How do you keep from being killed, yourself, having to depend on your own skills to procure food, water, weapons? And all this while the entire world watches your every move, sees every killing, every hardship… and are glad that it isn’t them in there.

Because that’s how the government works: keeping you in captivating horror, making you believe that this is how the world should be and that you are powerless to stop them. The social norms set in these times might be disturbing and cruel, yet the people have been brainwashed to believe that it should be so.

Of course, propaganda also comes into play, making people believe that the government/ state is just, that things are how they should be, that they are being taken care of and that all rules must be obeyed without question…

Queue the hero/ heroin of the story to take a stand, to not give in, to survive and rise up and renew hope for a better world and sometimes even unwillingly rally others to join in the fight.

All of that said, why would anyone enjoy reading these types of books?

Is it because we want to see good triumph over evil? Do we take pleasure in seeing those misusing power get their comeuppance? Are we glad that at least we do not live in such extremely oppressive times? Or is it because we can feel a spark of ‘recognition’ in what is being written – that we can, to a certain degree, relate to what is said?

These novels are set in the future for a reason: they look at social trends we are currently living in, then take them to the extreme, thus serving as a sort of warning by showing us the ‘what would happen if’ situations (i.e. the horrifying consequences and ramifications that today’s world and technologies could have on the future – always with the worst case scenario depictions…)

These books want us to be voyeuristic, to see what could happen to society by injecting bits of the familiar and building it up to uncomfortable proportions. You know how they say familiarity breeds contempt? That’s pretty much what’s happening here.

I could probably make this blog entry run on forever if I start talking about how wonderful I think the HUNGER GAMES trilogy is, how scary it would be to take part THE LONG WALK (mental breakdown practically assured), how I wish things could have turned out differently at the end of the CHAOS WALKING trilogy… but that can wait for another day. I think I’ve loaded your minds with enough noise… errr, ‘information’ to make you not want to think about society and our own corrupt governments (fat chance of that) for quite some time.

But I hope I’ve also interested you in these types of novel(la)s. If I can get more people reading, it will be reward enough for me 🙂

Oh, and did I mention how these types of novels often have an ending where issues are unresolved or you don’t feel satisfied with how things turned out/ are left unexplained/ just don’t ‘feel’ right to you?

Yeah, that’s always lots of fun.





R&R in retrospect

20 09 2011

Hullo again, dearest blog readers

I hope all of you have been just dandy – I’m ‘back’ after having a four-day weekend (which I optimistically have called a mini ‘vacation’… spent at the apartment) and I am not looking forward to going back to work.

Why?
Because I spent a good part of my time off thinking about work… and, yesterday,  my own stupidity… because apparently I didn’t fill in a courier form correctly (gonna’ blame it on the migraine I had on Friday) and processes at work have been delayed because of it. Aren’t I just going to feel like what the cat covered up in the litter box when I have to report to my manager…

So much for no worries.

In retrospect, I cannot really say that I feel rested after this extended period of repose. I feel tired. My headaches are worse. I feel listless… I was actually bored yesterday and today… blah, blah, et cetera.

But hey – that’s life.

I’m sure these few days have done me some good, otherwise I would have been working straight through until the end of December without having a breather (not that two leave days really count as being away from work for a sufficient amount of time so as to actually feel a bit more relaxed and less worried, but oh well). I saw my parents, I read a few books, I baked, I cleaned, I took lots of pictures of Smudgy… what more could a girl want? It’s like I said in my last blog post: “As long as I’m able to stay in bed if I want to, read a lot, and be with my Significant Other (and Smudgy!!), my time off from work will be worth it.”

Here are a few pictures showcasing my period of R&R. At least I got in a lot of sleep!

On Saturday, my Significant Other and I bought some materials at Spiro's so we could make a mosaic. I think it turned out pretty well.

Then we spent the evening watching X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

On Sunday we went to see my parents, had a late lunch at Mugg&Bean, and then I had some 'chill time' with Smudgy -- my S.O. spent the evening playing games

Lunch at Caffé Rossini on Monday; I had pastrami & avo on rye

Isn't she cute?? Smudgy spent most of her time with me while I was reading... she was lying around, sleeping

My S.O. and I played some good ol' video games 🙂

Monday at midnight (thus technically Tuesday): Smudgy in her new favourite spot -- the cooler bag!

Tuesday lunch at Pete's Diner - I had bacon, egg & cheese on rye. Not the best sandwich I've ever had.

To stave off boredom (if only for a short while), I baked a carrot cake. Nothing fancy, but it tastes nice

To bring my mini vacation to a (bitter)sweet ending, I bought us some mini cheesecakes for tonight. The choc chip one is for my S.O., of course 😉

I also took the time to read the CHAOS WALKING trilogy by Patrick Ness. They're quite lengthy, but thoroughly enjoyable! If you liked THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, you're sure to like these books!