Friday, August 31, 2012

norwegian wood (the movie)

After finishing Norwegian Wood the other day, I watched the movie adaptation, which came out in 2010. It wasn't fantastic, but if you've read the book, it's worth a watch.

There's some great imagery and the setting is gorgeous, especially when we go to Naoko's sanitarium in the country. It made me want to visit Japan so I could go for walks in the snow and hike through the mountains and windy, green pastures. It also made me like Midori a bit more. Her character isn't explored as fully as it is in the book, so I didn't have as much room to dislike her. Plus the girl who plays her is beautiful. Oh and Toru's pretty cute too :)

Anyway, for anyone not planning to watch the movie or anyone considering watching, I thought I'd share some stills.

Although the plot was a little weak, the photography was lovely.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

norwegian wood

I wasn't thrilled with this book, but I am thrilled that I've finally been introduced to Haruki Murakami and I'm excited to read another book by him soon. Especially because (from what I've heard), Norwegian Wood is far more "normal" than all his other books. That strangeness is very appealing.

I did enjoy this book though. It's about a young man in college in Tokyo in the late 1960s, early 1970s. He happens to reunite with a high school acquaintance one day, Naoko, who was the girlfriend of his best friend in high school. That friend committed suicide when they were all 17 and ever since, Naoko and Toru (the narrator) haven't talked. Both are greatly affected by his death. But they're reunited now and they go on lots of walks and enjoy each other's company and start to fall in love. But Naoko has a lot of psychological problems and after a breakdown, she goes to a sanatarium in the mountains to get better. Toru writes to her and visits her, but he also meets a girl named Midori at school who is the opposite of beautiful, troubled Naoko. Midori is vibrant, open, sexual, and talkative.

I haven't read anything set in Japan that I can think of, so I really enjoyed that aspect of it. Reading about the landscape around the sanatarium, the tininess of Toru's dorm, the food, the school, the youth and how they acted. It's written very well, of course, and it's easy to get pulled into the characters and setting. At first I found Toru too passive and strange, but I really began to like him and understand him more as it went on. I also liked Naoko, troubled as she was. It was Midori who bothered me. She was selfish, too perverse, and insensitive to Toru's relationship status. If it weren't for her, I think I would have given the book 4 stars instead of 3.

But I can't wait to read another book by Murakami! 1Q84 scares me still, but I think I'll try The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle next.

TITLE: Norwegian Wood
AUTHOR: Haruki Murakami
DATE READ: 28 August 2012
VERDICT: 3.5/5 stars.

Have you ever read anything by Haruki Murakami? I'd love some recommendations!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

my first blog birthday!

About one year ago, I wrote my first blog post.

And exactly one year ago today, I was on my way to Greece!

I didn't realize it was my blog birthday several days ago and I also forgot about TTT yesterday. Obviously, I'm having an off week!

But I'm so pleased to have started this blog and I haven't a doubt I'll continue it for another year. I started it for my travels abroad, but I'm continuing it for me, and I can't wait to see what the next year will bring. I hope you'll stick around and enjoy it with me :)



Thursday, August 23, 2012

nonfiction lessons #2- writing down the bones

I read this book very slowly, but I think it's best that way. It's meant to be savored and the chapters are so short (2-4 pages), it's easy to stop whenever you feel like it. Goldberg has a lot of nice thoughts/recommendations regarding writing, but she also approaches writing in a different kind of way. She's a Buddhist and often mentions zen practice and spiritual leaders. I'm not into that sort of thing, so I'd just disregard it. She also seems to write a lot of nonfiction- journals, reflections, memories, etc.- which I'm not so interested in. 

But generally, I really enjoyed the book, reading little bits of it each night. They got me in the mood to write and made me think about "the craft" in a different kind of way. Pretty good, but not exactly my thing.


1. “Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not.  You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run. It’ll never happen, especially if you’re out of shape and avoiding it. But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. You just do it. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want it to stop. That’s how writing is, too. Once you’re deep into it, you wonder what took you so long to finally settle down at the desk. Through practice you actually do get better. You learn to trust your deep self more and not give in to your voice that wants to avoid writing” (Goldberg 11).
2. Expect nothing great of yourself. Just write, get your hand moving. Feel free and allow your mind and hand to roam. Do this for practice before you sit down to write your story or your novel.
3. If you don’t know what to write, don’t get distracted, but write down everything going through your head, even mean thoughts about yourself, or just rambling about how you don’t know what to say.
* * * * *
I'd heard a lot about Writing Down the Bones so I'm glad I was able to finally sit down and read it. I'm hoping to snag its sister book (in my mind) Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott soon. They're the two books I'd always stumble across when looking for books about writing. Hopefully it'll be more my style!

TITLE: Writing Down the Bones
AUTHOR: Natalie Goldberg
DATE READ: 23 August 2012
VERDICT: 3/5 stars

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

the little prince

I have vague memories of watching a movie version of The Little Prince in 7th grade and reading bits of it in French class (in French, naturellement). But I'm so glad that I decided to read it again (and in English this time!). 

It's a lovely, timeless story about a man whose plane crashes in the desert. There, he meets a wise boy from a far away and very tiny planet. No matter what your age, you can enjoy this simple story. It's about what's important life and how, too often, grown-ups forget the important things for money, power, vanity, personal pleasure, and seriousness. The book shows the beauty of a childish mind- free, creative, curious, and determined- the sort of mind everyone should aspire to have, I think.

TITLE: The Little Prince
AUTHOR: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
PUBLICATION DATE: 1 January 1943
DATE READ: 20 August 2012
VERDICT: 4/5 stars.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ttt: favorite books in my blog's lifespan

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is top ten favorite books in my blog's lifespan. I've only been posting book reviews since January, so my choices are a bit limited, but here are my faves.

Top Ten Favorite Books in My Blog's Lifespan

* In order of their appearance on the blog . . .

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Of course.

2. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. A funny, inventive book for all ages.

3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Magical and interesting.

4. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell. Sad but beautiful.

5. The Séance by John Harwood. An intriguing, mysterious start (I didn't care for the end so much)

6. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. An incredibly interesting guy makes for a great book.

7. The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Dark and absorbing.

8. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. Funny and charming, perfect audio book.

9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Clever and silly.

10. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. A fun, crazy thriller.

gone girl

After they both lose their jobs, married couple Nick and Amy Dunne move back to his Missouri hometown from New York. It is there that, on their fifth anniversary, Amy is discovered missing. 

The narrative switches back and forth between Nick in the days after his wife's disappearance and Amy's diary (which begins when they first met in NYC). Information about the couple and clues relating to Amy's disappearance are revealed bit by bit, often twisting around readers' suspicions or their opinions of the characters. Who are very unlikeable, by the way. If you need to relate to main characters in order to like a book, this probably isn't the book for you. It's also not a book to take too seriously. Not in a funny way (ha!), but more like a fun, crazy, quick-moving thriller of a beach read. From the very start, it will have you questioning the plot, on the edge of your seat: Is Amy dead or alive? Is Nick involved? Did Amy run away? What was their marriage like? Sometimes it got a little too crazy for me (at the end especially), but I really enjoyed it overall.

TITLE: Gone Girl
AUTHOR: Gillian Flynn
DATE READ: 18 August 2012
VERDICT: 4/5 stars.

Friday, August 17, 2012

the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy

Fun, clever, zany, quick. About Earth, the galaxy, planets in the galaxy, aliens, mice, and a guidebook called "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Adams is clearly a brilliant comic and the book reads that way. The plot is pretty crazy, but in Adams's adept hands, it's made natural and very funny. The jokes are never forced, and the crazy ideas about space and Earth are laid down in a relaxed, easygoing way (if that makes sense). I really just mean he's great at handling comedy and absurdity. 

I thoroughly enjoyed it. And if you like these quotes, I bet you would too: 

“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”
“Why, what did she tell you?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

"Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the Universe than we do now."

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't.”

“This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.”

“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”

“In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.”

“What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"
"Ask a glass of water!”

“So the hours are pretty good then?' he resumed.
The Vogon stared down at him as sluggish thoughts moiled around in the murky depths.
Yeah,' he said, 'but now you come to mention it, most of the actual minutes are pretty lousy.”

TITLE: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
AUTHOR: Douglas Adams
PUBLICATION DATE: 12 October 1979
DATE READ: 13 August 2012
VERDICT: 4/5 stars.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ttt: posts that give the best picture of me

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is top ten posts that give the best picture of you. With book blogging, a lot of bloggers stick to book reviews or news or whatever, so I'm really excited for this week! My favorite blogs are the ones where you feel you know the blogger a bit. Not too much (like health bloggers that post every meal, mommy bloggers that post tons of pictures of their children, etc.), but just enough. I can't wait to see what my favorite book bloggers have posted for this week's TTT!

Top Ten Posts That Give the Best Picture of Me

Trying to keep my eyes open in the bright sunlight of Nafplion, Greece.

I began this blog when I studied abroad for a semester in Greece last fall. It was called Renee in Greece then and was basically just a way for me to share my experience with family and friends back home. Here are a few posts from during and after my trip that will give you a glimpse into my life and personality:

1. Santorini (when my mom and I took a weekend trip to Greece's most popular island and stumbled upon a literary festival!)

2. Things I Missed About Home (a post I wrote right after coming home, thinking about what I'd missed from America while in Europe)

3. Things I Miss About Aigina (a post I wrote right after coming home, about everything I was already missing about Greece and the island Aigina, where I lived)

Since I don't have any pictures of me writing, here's a picture of some books I like.

I've been writing stories since I was a kid and recently graduated with a degree in Writing. Sometimes I mention the novel I'm working on, submissions to literary magazines, or general goals. Here are a few posts about that:

4. My First Submissions (in which I talk about submitting a short story to literary magazines for the first time. I still haven't heard anything back, by the way, but I've got my fingers crossed!)

5. The Big Plan (in which I post about getting my novel's plot on track and show the huge bulletin board on which I detailed all the details)

6. Neil Gaiman's Commencement Speech (just a very inspiring speech for anyone with creative goals, and a speech that has really stuck with me).

My loot from a recent booksale.

Books are obviously important to me and the reason why I write this blog. So here are some personal posts on the subject:

7. Bookish Resolutions (a list of things I'd like to improve on regarding my reading habits)

8. Review of Moby Dick (a brutal review of one of the last books I read for school)

9. My All Time Favorite Book Characters (no explanation needed)

10. A Book Sale (in which I admit I almost never buy books!)

11. Characters That Remind Me of Me (clearly, this was a good choice for the topic)

My New Year's Resolution List for 2012.

I try to sometimes share other interests of mine beyond reading and writing. Here are a few of those posts:

12. New Year's Resolutions (my goals for this year)

13. Downton Abbey (I'm already excited for Season 3!)

14. Pins and Things I (Pinterest is probably my favorite website ever, which is why I love sharing my favorite pins . . .)

15. Pins and Things II (. . . and do it often)

I couldn't narrow it down, so 15 it is! I hope you learned something new about me and I can't wait to learn more about you too :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

gatsby's on the run!

In a strange move, it seems the new Great Gatsby movie has been pushed back to summer 2013. Although the article is vague in its explanation, it looks like the studio just wanted to reach the biggest audience possible. I can't picture The Great Gatsby as a summer blockbuster, but I guess that's the idea. 

In any case, it's very unfortunate for all us Fitzgerald fans eagerly anticipating the Christmas Day release. We'll just have to wait a little longer.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

i love 2012

It's been a good year for reading so far. How do I know this? Goodreads told me:

You know you're reading a lot when social media sites are telling you to increase your yearly reading goal :)

So here's my updated goal:

45 books! Last year (when my goal was 20 and I managed 24) this would have seemed impossible, but it's been a good year for reading. I'm learning to skim a bit when books are boring (a difficult but worthwhile skill for me) and that prevents me from wasting precious time on so-so books. And in respect to the authors, I only do it when the situation is dire. I'm also sticking firmly to reading only books I want to read, and not giving in to the books I feel I ought to read.

Here are a few of the books I'm considering to fill the 8 spots I need to make it to 45:

Writing Down the Bones (which I just started)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Gone Girl
The Fault in Our Stars
Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Norwegian Wood
The Angel's Game
Life of Pi
Cloud Atlas
The Tipping Point

Do you have a reading goal this year? 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

the blind assassin

Just after WWII ends, Laura Chase drives a car off a bridge and dies. This is how the story begins and ends. The book is told in 5 different ways, switching between them throughout:

1. Iris Chase Griffen (Laura's older sister) narrating her daily life as an old woman: the weather, her struggles to walk around town, trips to the donut shop, her bitterness toward people, her regrets, etc.

2. Iris telling the story of her and Laura's upbringing. They come from a privileged family (their father owned a button company), but their childhood is tainted by their mother's death and their father's disinterest. A period of excitement comes when they meet a radical, Alex Thomas, but he quickly leaves the picture. Later, Iris gets married to the businessman/politician Richard Griffen, but their marriage is not a happy one.

3. Newspaper clippings from local Canadian papers (in and near Toronto) about the sisters and their relatives: marriage announcements, obituaries, society pages, general news stories, etc.

4. The story-within-a-story, The Blind Assassin. Laura becomes a famous novelist after her death when her book The Blind Assassin is published. The main part of the story revolves around two lovers, a wealthy woman and a man constantly on the run, who are having a secret affair. The man writes cheap sci-fi books which brings us to the last section . . . 

5. The story-within-a-story-within-a-story (whew!): a sci-fi story told orally by the man to his lover in the novel The Blind Assassin. The story involves the title character, a blind assassin on a far-off planet of strange people who sacrifice young girls after chopping out their tongues.

It sounds more complicated than it is. Atwood manages all of the sections well so that you're never confused or left hanging. I really admire her talent for writing- both her technique/style and the way she is able to cleanly pull together such an intricate plot outline. However, I did find myself bored. A lot. I read "The Handmaid's Tale" a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so I guess I was expecting something similar. But "The Blind Assassin" is much slower moving. I'll admit that as I was nearing the end, I skimmed a little. It got tiring to listen to old Iris talk about the weather and the plants and the old town. The book has a really slow start, and it does pick up a little, but if you're looking for quick plot movement or a character study or something, you're not going to find it here. We move at a snail's pace in almost all of the sections. And nothing particularly interesting is happening either, though that could be attributed to the narrator Iris's lack of emotion or self-reflection in key moments.

I wouldn't say the ending saves it, but it helped greatly. It's one of those endings that make you rethink everything you've just read. I reread the first few pages after finishing it, and they felt so much more meaningful then. But a good ending and smart plotting cannot erase my great boredom throughout this book. I had to really push myself through it. 

TITLE: The Blind Assassin
AUTHOR: Margaret Atwood
PUBLICATION DATE: 2 September 2000
DATE READ: 2 August 2012
VERDICT: 2.5/5 stars. I liked it, but it was a struggle.
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