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Archive for May, 2009

Issues

I’m trying to do a couple of posts with links and pictures and whatnot, but whenever I click the link in WordPress to insert something, Mozilla crashes and shuts down. I can’t use IE since it is far too slow on my computer, so I’m going to just try again tomorrow, but is anyone else having this issue?

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I have decided that I want a job at F.A.O. Schwartz in New York.

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Yippee!!!

My Kindle has finally been shipped!  From Kentucky!  So it should be here before the weekend (knock on wood!)!  And huzzah for package tracking!

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SweetnessTitle: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Author: Alan Bradley
ISBN: 0385342308
Publisher: Bantam Dell
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5

From the back cover:

In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison.  It is the summer of 1950–and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home.  A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak.  Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.  For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in ernest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t.  Quite the contrary.  This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

An enthralling mystery, a piercing depiction of class and society, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a masterfully told tale of deceptions–and a rich literary delight.

I was in Costco the other day with my mother, and, as is my wont, I wandered over to the book section.  I don’t generally find anything of interest there, as most of the books on display are either gift books or best-sellers that I am already tired of hearing about.  This little book, however, caught my eye with its bright green cover and quirky title.  The description on the back cover was enough to induce me to open the book and actually start reading it right then and there – an increasingly rare move for me, as I usually make note of the title and look it up later at my library.  I ended up purchasing it and devouring it upon my return home.  I finished it that night.

Flavia de Luce, the heroine of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, has a very strong and engaging voice.  She isn’t too perfect to turn the reader off, nor is she so quirky that she becomes tiresome.  Her interactions with her sisters are enough to prove that she is still a child, given to petty disagreements and revenge.  In fact, most of the characters are well drawn.  My main complaints about character development surround Flavia’s two sisters, Ophelia (Feely) and Daphne.  For most of the book, they are quite one-dimensional, with Daphne being the stereotypical bookworm, content to keep to herself and her books, while Ophelia is the teenager obsessed with boys and her looks.  Granted, Flavia needs a foil for her own character, but these could have been fleshed out further, especially when you see how well the author has done with Flavia herself.  Fortunately, Alan Bradley finally gives the sisters a bit of life at the end of the book, which gives me hope for the next ones in the series.

The plot itself was an interesting one, albeit a little stretched and contrived at points.  The book is really driven more by the characters than the plot itself, which is not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion.  Indeed, Flavia would have it no other way!  I found myself surprisingly enjoying Flavia’s discussion of chemicals and elements as she investigates the murder.  I hated chemistry in high school, but I found myself wishing I had paid more attention and that I had had more of a passion for it then.  The book is never hindered by these musings, though I never quite understood what she was talking about.  There were, however, times that I felt I knew more about what was going on than Flavia, though I shan’t say any more than that for fear of spoiling something.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves a good mystery – or a good book in general!  Having read so many mysteries over the years,  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie was a refreshing read.  It is quite delightful, and I will definitely be reading it time and again in the future – and anxiously awaiting the next book in the series, next year!

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… with flowers in my hair!

My sister gave me this song from a Scottish musician, Sandi Thom:

The video isn’t that great, and I think the soundtrack is off sometimes, but I just love the song!  It’s not something I would normally listen to, but for some reason, I find it really catchy.

I tried to find some of her other music, but apparently some of her other videos on YouTube are “not available in [my] country.”  Seriously?  Also, iTunes has basically nothing for her.  Oh, it’ll return with a few search results, but if you actually try to click on any of them, it will also tell you that it is unavailable.  Conspiracy!

Well, not really.  But still.  It’s bad form to have search results and then not have them available.  If they’re not available – don’t show them in the search results!

But, back to my happy place.  Sandi Thom is awesome!  And she needs to come to America and make her music available!  Please?

Also, I love that her first album is titled “Smile… It Confuses People”

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EEEEEEEEE!!!

I can’t believe I forgot to metion this in my last post about how wonderful this summer is: I finally decided to buy a Kindle!!!  I have beent thinking/dreaming about doing this ever since I first read about it.  My mother almost got me the first-gen one for Christmas last year, but when I told her about the uber-long wait for them, she decided against it.  And then they came out with the new one.  And I think I have visited the site about once a day for the past month, falling more in love with it each time.

And then came the summer.  And I realized I have a lovely research grant.  And an hourly job.  And no bills to pay.  And therefore no reason not to get one!

So I took the plunge just yesterday.

And have not stopped checking my email to see if it has shipped yet.  Even though they say it won’t be until next week.  A girl can dream, right?

I. Am. So. Freaking. Excited!

And, for the record, I never squee like this.  Ever.

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Have I mentioned that I love the summer time?  I love the warm/hot weather, the sunshine, the ability to sleep in – you know, all the fabulous things that everyone loves about summer.  This summer is especially spectacular because I get to do what I love all summer: research and advising!  I’ve only been doing it for about a half a week right now, but let me tell you: this is the life! I am really enjoying my first official book of my summer research and and having so many fantastic ideas!  I also just started advising a group of about 50 incoming freshmen via email, and I love love love getting actual emails in my inbox and responding to them with my oh-so-vast knowledge!  Full disclosure: I am totally grinning like the Cheshire Cat as I write this, because it makes me so freaking happy to be doing this ALL summer!

Anyway, as some of you may know, my research this summer is on diaries, which has made me reflect on my own motivations and intentions with this blog.  And it really makes me excited and passionate about journaling my life!  I have also realized some of the limitations I have placed on myself concerning this blog, specifically, simply trying too hard to make this blog fit into some strange idea in my mind of what a blog should be when I know that there isn’t any should.  There just is.  So I’m going to try to take the blinders and the shakles off and be free.

I created this blog to express myself freely, but I haven’t been doing that.  And you know what?  That’s the worst thing that can happen, in my opinion.  So I’m going to stop making promises; I’m going to enjoy this summer; I’m going to blog about whatever I want to blog without worrying about whether or not it “fits”.  This is me.

:Insert cheesy quotation here:

Muah!

~ Undine

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A mere two weeks ago, right at the beginning of finals week, I was searching for something to while away the time between (:cough: use as procrastination tools for :/cough:) my four take-home finals, so I turned to my lovely roomie for help.  She responds with a link.  To a Harry Potter fanfiction story.  An addiction of hers which I have midly mocked her for for the three years I have know her.  Until now.

See, I was so desperate, I actually read it.

And – *looks around furtively* – I liked it!

I have read two long stories (of over 70 chapters each!) and a couple of short, one-shot pieces.  And they were fabulous!  I enjoyed the writing greatly, as well as the story lines.  One of them is still unfinished, and I am anxiously awaiting the next chapter! I have given myself a crash course in fanfic vocabulary (mostly thanks to Wikipedia!) and can now understand most of the author’s notes (or A/N) at the beginning of each chapter.

If someone a few weeks ago had told me that I would be spending the majority of my time reading fanfic, I would have laughed in his/her face!

So, I feel I should warn you, dear readers, that I might be posting some links to/reviews of some of my new favorite fanfics.

Starting now:

The first fanfic I ever read, as given to me by my fabulous roomie, is called The Student in Question by Jan McNeville.  It is quite long (71 chapters) and has some original characters (OC) as some of the main characters, but the writing is well done, and the author has a great sense of humor!  The storyline is strong, and the humor is funny without being overbearing.  The main pairing from the Harry Potter canon is Hermione and Snape, which is my roomie’s favorite pairing.  I wasn’t too sure about that, but, having read a few along these lines, I now agree with her that it works really well – at least in some writer’s hands.  If someone is looking to an introduction to fanfic, I would recommend this, but then again, it is quite long.  I happen to really like long stories, as I feel it really gives you a chance to get to know the characters, but I know not everyone is like that.  Also, there is a sequel, but I didn’t like it nearly as much.

The second one the I HIGHLY recommend is Phantom of Hogwarts by Good_Witch.  Quick warning before you go any further: this one is very mature, with some very explicit scenes, which is why you need to register to read it.  I wasn’t sure how I’d like those scenes, but they are very tastefully written and work well with the story.  But back to the story: the concept, as you may have guessed from the title, is that Hogwarts is putting on a production of Phantom of the Opera, and of course, all the main characters are cast in the main roles.  This is also a Hermione/Snape pairing (it’s posted on a site completely dedicated to this pairing, actually).

The writing is not as good at the beginning, and I almost stopped reading it, particularly because I didn’t like the use of the first person, but my roomie urged me to keep reading, so I did, fortunately.  The first person scenes stop a few chapters in, and the writing grows stronger as the author becomes more confident and more entrenched in the story.  This is also quite long (77 long chapters and counting!), but well worth it!  I stayed up far later than I should have (3am… on multiple nights…) reading this one.  And now I can’t wait for the final chapter(s) to be posted!

So that, dear friends, is my brief overview of my introduction to HP fanfic.  If you’re a fan, let me know, so we can share favorite stories and whatnot!

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