January 13–Oops I’m Back

Well, hello again Internet. Sorry I’ve been away.

I almost missed this post as well, but I’ll make it quick and actually post something coherent tomorrow. Although if I want to do a post of Sherlock Series 3 I’m not sure how sane of a post it will be.

Anyways, I am now back in my beloved Boston! Today, my first full day back after moving in yesterday morning, was glorious. I was able to sleep in and finish the second episode of Sherlock, after falling asleep before doing so last night. I also went for my first run in too long this morning–not my best, by any means, but it felt good to be back out there. I can tell that, even though I took a two month break, I definitely needed it. I actually really enjoyed it–being on the Esplanade, pushing myself, and getting lost in my thoughts, which I dreaded after the half-marathon in November.

More (actually interesting material?) tomorrow.

 

January 7-Winter Break Blues

Warning: The following post contains admittedly many first-world problems. My (not so) sincere apologies.

The glorious view of Boston from my dorm's study lounge.

The glorious view of Boston from my dorm’s study lounge.

I miss school. I miss school a lot.

Now, it’s not that I don’t like my small hometown. If everyone has to be from somewhere, this a pretty damn good place to call home. That being said, I miss Boston. I love being a walk away from anything–be it a friend’s apartment, a coffee shop, or the movies. I revel in setting my own schedule, my own pace without having to coordinate with others on when I can get the car and when I have to be back by.

I love being able to grab dinner with friends at the last minute. I love hosting Friends marathons with my roommate. I love meeting up to see the latest Doctor Who or just to catch up over coffee.

Yes, I’m even that person that loves going for a run on the Esplanade when it’s above freezing temperatures and stopping to take endless panorama photos of the city. Sometimes I just get the urge to throw on shoes, replay an old Jack Johnson album or Nerdist podcast, and just walk down Beacon Street to the Common (again, when it’s above freezing).

I love my hometown and my family, but I miss the personal freedom that living at school affords me.

And I sure as hell miss Boston.

Listened to while writing this post: AM–Arctic Monkeys

January 6-Weekend Round Up

Well, I missed Friday. I forgot to post three days in. Way to go, Jen. I see you, 2014.

And now as we near 10 p.m. on Monday night, here’s a recap of my ever-so-exciting weekend.

Friday–Sub-zero temperatures meant a cozy night in with Ms. Mitchell in an attempt to finish Gone With the Wind before returning to school.

Saturday–more of the same. Craving a run outside, but I am a wimp about running in extreme cold.

Sunday–actual happenings! I ventured out with Megan to go shopping Salem. In addition to three books from a used book store we found, the most perfect pair of boots that there calling my name. My debit card is still smoking.

Then, after acquiring sufficient mint chocolate chip ice-cream, we ventured to her house to watch the first new Sherlock episode (my thoughts to come later) and Downton Abbey.

All in all, a sleepy weekend that has left me craving Boston and school.

January 2–Melanie v. Helen

Maybe I’ve been stuck in my parents’ house for too long, but I’ve begun to make a seemingly bizarre comparison between one of my favorite movies and the book I’m currently reading.

Say what you will, I freaking love Bridesmaids. I think Kristen Wiig is brilliant, never mind the other amazing cast including Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy.

bridesmaids

But I digress.

For those of you who haven’t had the privilege to see it, Kristen Wiig’s character, Annie, is her best friend’s maid of honor who is going through a rough patch, to say the very least.

Enter Helen, the bride’s newer friend who is also a member of the bridal party.

Helen is perfect. She has a rich husband and stepchildren, always looks amazing, and plans wonderful events. She solves every problem that Annie creates with ease and a smile on her face. Case in point: she throws a bridal shower at which the favors are puppies. PUPPY FAVORS

To put it simply, Helen is so freaking perfect that Annie hates her—as does most of the obvious.

Here’s where I might lose you, but stay with me. I’m currently reading Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind for the first time. I’ve seen the movie in full once or twice, certain scenes or portions about a million whenever it’s on AMC, but am only now tackling the 1,037 page epic.

gonewiththewind

And I can’t help but compare Melanie (Hamilton) Wilkes…with Helen.

Scarlett despises Melanie because she has Ashley, the one man–the one anything—she wants and can’t have. She also can’t stand her perfection, which endears her to everyone else.

Now, Melanie does not face the back lash from readers or the audience that Helen does, but at times she does seem a little too saint-like to be real. That’s the one of many major differences between the two. Also, I definitely question the sincerity of Helen’s perfection.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Am I just going stir crazy? Maybe. But I would love to know if anyone else draws bizarre connections between radically different works.

January 1-New Year’s Resolutions

With the coming of the new year, I—like most—can’t help but dwell on the past year and think about things I would like to accomplish in the next 365 days.

Yes, I too would like to lose weight—particularly before heading to the beach and wearing skirts in the warmer months. Is it too soon to be dreaming about summer? I would love to be that person who commits herself to a rigorous exercise program and diet, but then again I would like to be best friends with Jennifer Lawrence so we’ll see.

Then there are the goals I think of as “cleansing” or “perfecting.” You know, those goals you strive for in order to become that one friend you have who seems to have their life together in such perfection that you almost want to hate them, but can’t because she’s so freaking nice. I want to read 50 novels next year—and not just bargain romantic comedies I picked up in the used section, but hard cover, 1,000 page classics that will make others notice when I reference them. I want to do yoga every week and find that inner peace people tell me is real, but which I have yet to find. I want volunteer at a local food pantry, animal shelter, elementary school—really I’d just like to solve all the world’s problems.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have hopes for better relationships in 2014 (or, you know, an actual relationship), but let’s not dwell that one.

In any case, I’ve been giving it my New Year’s Resolutions serious thought. I don’t want standard, run-of-the-mill goals that I hear over and over to the point where I feel obliged to list them. So here are my ten, realistic resolutions, goals that I think will really benefit me and make me happy.

  1. Travel internationally (I’m looking at you, London)
  2. Save money next semester and summer to stay in Boston over the summer and study abroad in the fall
  3. Go out more on the weekends (hopefully this does not clash too horribly with 2)
  4. Get outside my comfort zone (gulp)
  5. Sign up for another race and train for it (another half marathon, perhaps?)
  6. Answer texts/emails in a timely manner
  7. Be in what is considered my healthy weight range
  8. Exercise at least three times per week
  9. Spend less time on Facebook—I would also include Twitter and Buzzfeed, but let’s be realistic

And the big one:

  1. Write on this blog five times per week, at least 100 words per post

Here’s to 2014, whatever it may bring with it

Summer Must Reads!

In honor of the first day of summer, here’s my list of five of my favorite summer reads:

 

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

When my aunt first recommended this book to me last summer, I had a feeling that it would meet her rave review and Zafón did not disappoint. Set in WWII Madrid, young Daniel enters the Cemetery of Forgotten Books with his father, an antiquarian bookseller, and discovers a novel by Julian Carax. Enthralled with the book, he attempts to find more of Carax’s works, only to discover that someone is destroying every existing copy, making his a rare and sought after work. Zafón weaves an intricate story filled with a unique story fascinating characters that’s perfect for beach trips and afternoons in a hammock.

 

2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Bought for $1 at a library used book sale, this book proved to be the ultimate bargain of the summer. While it takes time to adjust to the epistolary style, the novel contains the charming correspondence of Juliet, a London writer, and Dawsey Adams, a resident of Guernsey Island off the coast of England. Also set in 1945, the story begins with Adams’s letter to Juliet following the purchase of her book, and follows the blossoming friendship. This short read is perfect to bring on any summer getaway.

3.Bossypants by Tina Fey

As an avid fan of Ms. Fey, I snatched up this book as soon as it was published. Memoirs aren’t typically my cup of tea, but this is a must read for both 30 Rock diehards and casual viewers alike. Highlights of Tina’s past include scenes from local theater troops as a teenager, late night shifts at the Evanston YMCA after college, and memories of the SNL years. This book is the perfect pick-me-up for anyone in need of an escape from the heat.

4.This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I adore Fitzgerald all year round, but something about the roaring ‘20s and the freedom of summer break seem to go hand-in-hand. I first read this last year while on a canoe trip in Northern Maine and the vivid imagery of life at prep school, Princeton, and finally New York City for Amory Blaine provided the perfect contrast to the quiet wildlife. The partially autobiographical work details Amory’s life starting as a spoiled youth to his post-university life in NYC. Any fan of Gatsby will fall for Blaine in no time at all.

5. My Ántonia by Willa Cather

If you’re like me and spent much of your childhood reading as much Laura Ingalls Wilder, Willa Cather is the author for you. I originally read this novel for high school English class and knew I discovered a new favorite. A woman of the West herself, Cather details the life of Ántonia, a pioneer and Bohemian immigrant, through the eyes of Jim Burden, fellow newcomer to Nebraska. Readers easily watch the characters’ lives unfolding amidst breathtaking views of the Midwest.

Whether it’s on the beach or curled up near the AC, happy reading!

 

 

Mockingjay–Suzanne Collins

“My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12.

I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me.

Peeta was taken prisoner. He is thought to be dead.

Most likely he is dead. It is probably best if he is dead…”

Suzanne Collins concludes her breathtaking series with the third installment, Mockingjay. While the novel has received much criticism from fans since its release in 2010, I thought the book fit the trilogy in that it remained true to its characters and the spirited, at times chaotic tone that defines the series as a whole.

I stumbled upon this series rather accidentally. I caught a glimpse of the cover of the series’ first novel, The Hunger Games, every time I went into a bookstore. With its recent popularity, topping book-selling charts nationwide, and a film version arriving next month, it proved hard to ignore. I finally decided to pick up a copy, a bit weary of what the book jacket offered. After rave reviews from my roommate, I delved into the world of Katniss Everdeen: a decision that calls for no regret.

Set in the future, Katniss Everdeen resides in District 12 of Panem, located in what we know as North America. One of many repressed and starving citizens, Katniss finds herself in the midst of an annual, nationwide tradition called The Hunger Games. Each of the twelve districts of Panem must send a young boy and girl tribute to a fight to the death competition, unable to rid themselves of such reoccurring horrors because of the Capital’s overbearing hand.

Fast forward about two years in the future, and Katniss is no longer the young woman readers met at the start of the series.

*The rest of the post contains mild spoilers

Katniss is now living in District 13, the area once thought to be destroyed by the Capitol. She is still recovering from injuries sustained in the last Hunger Games. She is living with the anger that she was rescued, rather than Peeta, whose condition is unknown, but not hopeful. She is, on top of everything else, facing the role of leading a nationwide rebellion she unintentionally sparked with her determination at the end of the first Games.

I thought Suzanne Collins wrote a well-suited ending to such an exciting series. With any series that ends with a different setting than the one it first began with, readers are apt to be more critical or even disappointed. However, I think Collins provided a fitting setting of District 13 and the war-torn capitol, with the same belligerent creatures and individuals that readers came across in the Games.

It was refreshing to finally see Gale consistently throughout the novel. He remained a figure in Katniss’ memory for the majority of the first two novels, with only brief scenes in which readers could judge him without the taint of Katniss’ bias. Without this insight, I don’t think readers would ever be satisfied with the end result of the Katniss-Peeta-Gale love triangle that spanned the entire series.

Most importantly, I believe that Collins stayed true to Katniss’ character, to whom readers grew so attached. The first two novels illustrated such an independent young woman who courageously battled her way through several obstacles, in the Games and her personal life in District 12. Katniss remained indecisive at times and may not have reacted to certain situations the way readers would have preferred, yet remained the Katniss the protagonist grew to be.

Despite the major criticism I’ve heard, I think Suzanne Collins did a fine job in finishing off such a brilliant series. While more graphic than my typical read, it was refreshing to read a truly original story, albeit with some more common plotlines—see love triangle. I may not have been the happiest of endings readers dreamed of, but when presented with a society as violent and militaristic as Panem, one can’t expect a Disney perfect final chapter to Katniss’ journey.

Hopefully I didn’t give too much away to those who haven’t read or finished it yet! Also, I’d love any suggestions on books to read and review in the near future!

Until then,

Jen

Tour de Nerdfighting: First Stop Wellesley

In case it wasn’t clear on Tuesday, I love the Vlogbrothers.

Who are they, you might ask?

Well, Vlogbrothers is the video blog of John and Hank Green, started back in 2007. While both made of awesome, John is an author of numerous Young Adult novels and Hank started the website, EcoGeek.org, along with many other pursuits, such as VidCon, DFTBA Records, and 2-D glasses. The original challenge was for the two brothers to avoid any text-based communication for the entire year and instead correspond through these videos—as well as on the phone and in person.

Little did they expect a community, Nerdfighteria, to spring up on the Internet. Hundreds of thousands of people, myself included, watch their now twice weekly videos, along with spinoff YouTube channels such as HankGames, SciShow, and CrashCourse. The original Vlogbrothers channel currently has over 600,000 subscribers and over 20 million views since its inception.

Hence, when John released his new novel, The Fault in Our Stars, and announced he would be going on tour with Hank, I knew I had to go. At what other event could I meet the two men behind the greatest YouTube channel, one of them being one of my favorite author, and meet hundreds of fellow nerds?

To my knowledge, not too many other occurrences pack this much awesome into such a short amount of time.

So, on January 10, my best friend Megan(who provided all of the lovely photos below!) and I went to Wellesley, MA and got to do just that. Because I was just a little bit overeager, we got to the town about five hours early, but were able eat a good lunch and check out their awesome bookstore, Wellesley Books, before heading over to the event at the local middle school.

We arrived around 4, meaning only about ten or fifteen people got there before us. Luckily we met some friendly people in line, some driving over eight hours round trip, just to be there. Because we were so early, we saw John and Hank arrive in their custom tour van, although they were quite busy getting ready. John looked quite nervous, which I can’t especially blame him for considering that there would be hundreds of us and only one of him on stage, sometimes accompanied by Hank.

Finally the doors opened, welcoming us from the cold! As soon as we got our copies of the book, signed by both John and Hank ahead of time, we grabbed seats as close as we could and proceeded to wait for just a little while longer until the show finally started.

John started the show by reading one of my favorites parts in the book, the second chapter where readers and Hazel alike get to discover the magic that is Augustus Waters. The show continued with Hank performing many of his best songs, including “DFTBA,” “Accio Deathly Hallows,” and “Shake-a-Booty.” Then came the question and answer sessions, and many more fantastic segments.

After the show ended, it was one last waiting game, until I got to meet John and Hank face-to-face. I had been agonizing for weeks in advance what I would say upon finally meeting the two who usually brighten my Tuesday and Friday afternoons. Of course, I only got a minute tops, with the rest of the crowd waiting. Still, as the line crept forward I still hoped I would be able to find the right thing to say.

As I finally approached the table, still unsure of what I was about to say, John’s agent assured him that he was going at a good pace to get everyone’s books signed. He smiled at me and said “Yeah, we’re doing great, right?” For some reason, I realized at that point he was just a normal guy who happened to be an amazing writer, but a normal guy nonetheless and that whatever I said, it wouldn’t make him hate me or anything. Relaxed, I asked John about Let it Snow, a book written by him, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle, that I read every Christmas, and he told me how much fun it was to write and how that project was one where the writing was just a joy. Crisis of saying the wrong thing: averted.

At the time, Hank was wearing a clever shirt that read “My muggle friends just don’t understand.” As for myself, my shirt had “Muggle” loudly displayed on the front, so I apologized for my apparent ignorance.

As much as I would like to impart on you how awesome the event was, I’m finding myself unable to find just the right words to do so. It was an excellent night overall and one that I certainly won’t forget for a long time to come. If you haven’t already read John’s book, I strongly encourage you do so (and buy it here, for instance). Or check out their videos here every Tuesday and Friday.

Until then,

Jen

PS–Next week will not, sadly, include the Vlogbrothers, but instead the final book in the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins!

The Fault in Our Stars–John Green

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

-William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

The Fault in Our Stars, the latest novel by John Green, is an astounding novel that makes readers, as Green said in a recent YouTube video, “feel all of the things.”

After much anticipation from avid readers and members of Nerdfighteria, the online community that sprouted in reaction to John and brother Hank’s video blog, “Vlogbrothers,” TFiOS did not disappoint, as shown in the book’s current first place standing on the New York Times’ Best Seller List.

If you’re like me, you may at first be a bit weary of the novel’s inherently tragic premise—although, unlike me, you probably haven’t vowed to read anything Mr. Green publishes out of adoration for the man.

TFiOS gives a glimpse into the life of Hazel, a teen living with a rare form of cancer. Forced by her well-meaning parents to attend a support group, she meets Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor with only a prosthetic leg to show for his childhood battles.

A short summary, I know, but rest assured the remainder of the novel contains such pleasures as the eccentric Peter van Houten, the wonderful spring landscape of Amsterdam, and Green’s humor to counterbalance his honest account of such a heartbreaking disease.

In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I loved all of John Green’s novels, including Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns, and keep coming back for more. His style, as displayed in each of his books, is consistently hilarious with witty remarks and clever observations on the seemingly monotonous details of everyday life at all the right moments. At the same time, his writing can be hauntingly beautiful and eye opening, with tragic elements and very human emotions seeping off the pages from each one of his characters.

As Rachel Syme wrote in an article posted online for nprbooks on January 17, “Green writes books for young adults, but his voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization. He writes for youth, rather than to them, and the difference is palpable. He doesn’t dumb anything down. His language is complex, his syntax adult.”

A prime example of Green’s humor, one of my favorite quotes from the entire novel is part of Hazel’s narration on page 137.

“Mom insisted that we eat breakfast with Dad, although I had a moral opposition to eating before dawn on the grounds that I was not a nineteenth-century Russian peasant fortifying myself for a day in the fields.”

The cast of characters and their clever dialogue is just another aspect that makes readers love TFiOS. Describing her feelings for Augustus on page 31, Hazel admits that “I liked the way his story ended with someone else. I liked his voice. I liked that he took existentially fraught free throws. I liked that he was a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment the Department of Having a Voice that Made my Skin Feel More Like Skin.” Indeed, Gus’ charm and wit shine through, even in the novel’s darkest moments.

And then, there’s Hazel. Hazel Grace Lancaster is many things: sixteen, witty, insightful, intelligent, and quite ill. But there’s one thing that Hazel is not: defined by her disease. If you want a novel filled with self-loathing and preoccupation with how the heroine is restricted by her physical well being, I can’t say you will find that here.

However, if you’re looking for a book with a strong female lead, who, despite her illness, defends her beliefs and opinions, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re a healthy college freshman or a fellow cancer patient, Hazel is entirely relatable—who doesn’t indulge in Tyra Banks’ hour of narcissism, cleverly disguised in America’s Next Top Model, every so often?

Between the humor, honesty, tragedy, array of characters, and John Green’s unique writing style, The Fault in Our Stars is truly a masterpiece that deserves a space on everyone’s book shelf, whether you consider yourself to be a young adult or not.

I could go on for several pages more, but I’ll spare you the time and what will ultimately become fan girl squealing.

I’m sure my account of this work has not done it the justice it deserves—not by a long shot. There aren’t too many fantastic novels in this world that captivate readers in its beauty while and weeks after reading it.

John Green, thank you for writing such a wonderful book—your work never fails to impress me and the levels of world suck can only decrease with the publication of books like this one.

If you haven’t read it yet, get your hands on a copy ASAP! You never know—you might be able to find one of the few signed copies left in stores.

Until then,

Jen

 

P.S.- Here’s a link to John’s video about The Fault in Our Stars! http://dft.ba/-1EeN

Nerdy Introductions

Whether you’re a friend, an Internet wanderer brought here by chance, or you hit this page accidentally, meaning to read about the travel blog with alluring photos next door, welcome.

To be perfectly honest, I never imagined myself to be the “blogging type.” And you know exactly what I’m talking about. Yes, you staring intently at the screen just now. A blogger, at least to me, is someone who is not afraid to share his or her opinions with the world through the written word. A person who, in all honesty, may not have the most original thoughts in the universe, yet feels compelled to share them with anyone who will listen, if only to make them feel better about themselves.

Confession time, dear readers: I am not that person. No, on regular week days, I am not the Hermione of the class with her hand brushing the ceiling, eagerly waiting to be called on. Not to say I am the kid who perplexes everyone in the lecture hall, as he shows up day in and day out, but cannot manage consciousness past the first few slides of the day’s presentation.

Like everyone else, I have my opinions, but have never really vocalized them in a truly outgoing fashion.

Yet, here I am, marching on in my word count with that blinking line on my right, challenging me to continue on typing.

I think I should establish one thing before we get any further: I love books.

I love books from libraries, with the dog eared pages that make you wonder how another patron could have possibly left Elizabeth Bennet in the midst of a conversation with none other than Mr. Darcy. I love books from used bookstores that, despite a stain from a cup of coffee here and there, have stories beyond the typed words their pages offer up, of the journey they once took with a reader and how they came to part with the original recipient. At the same time, I love brand new books, with their fresh smell and the crack of the binding as you reach the abrupt twist in the plot. I love opening the box with Amazon’s knowing smile, freshly arrived at the dorm’s mail room or my own front door.

My affection for the printed word is no new flame. As a toddler I would spread out all my books, demanding the nearest adult read them all to me. Or, when that didn’t work, would flip through the pages and make up my own stories to match the illustrations. I’m not quite sure how this started, as neither of my parents are exactly bibliophiles, but so it goes.

So, when I decided to join the masses and enter the blogging world, it only made sense that I talk about the one thing I truly love. Besides my dog, of course, because, although I love him dearly, he is not the world’s most exciting creature.

I’ll throw in my two cents’ worth for whatever book I’ve most recently finished, without major spoilers. Maybe some adventures around the city will make it in here, but only if they’re deemed sufficiently nerdy.

Until then,

Jen