Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Sister's Keeper: Designer Babies & the Right to Choose

The craze over "designer babies" has created quit a stir in the scientific world. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the term, "designer babies" are genetically modified embryos, which are free from disease and imperfections. These embryos are created by doctors and parents, taking the most wanted qualities from both parents and implementing them into an embryo. Parents are able to choose the sex, hair colour, eye colour, height, etc. of their child, impregnate the female using IVF and nine months later, the perfect human being is born. Scary, isn't it?
Sometimes this so-called "gene therapy" is necessary in order to reduce the risk of genetic illnesses that a child can contract through both biological parents. But the case of Anna Fitzgerald, a thirteen year old "designer baby", is different.

Anna is the main character in Jody Picoult's novel "My Sister's Keeper". In short, after Anna's older sister, Kate, was diagnosed with leukemia in toddlerhood, and her younger brother Jesse was not a genetic match for a bone marrow transplant, the Fitzgerald's thought they were going to watch their daughter die. That is...until they came across gene therapy. Through the elimination process, Sara Fitzgerald was implanted with a genetically modified embryo, a child created unnaturally that would be the perfect match for Kate's blood type, bone marrow type, etc. This child is Anna, who was given life in order to be a living organ supply for her sister. Whenever Kate needs blood, Anna is poked with a needle. When Kate needed bone marrow, Anna was sent into surgery without hesitation. Well, now Kate needs a kidney, and if she doesn't, she will die.

The book begins with Anna as the narrator, she is requesting the right to deny surgery in order to remove one of her kidneys, which would be given to her sister. Anna is fighting for rights to her own body, she wants to be emancipated from her parents. Throughout the novel, although Anna narrates most of the chapters (each chapter is narrated by a different character with a different viewpoint), she never discusses WHY she wants the freedom to choose whether or not to give her sister something, a kidney or whatever it is, that could save her life. The reader doesn't find out until the end that Anna is fighting for her right to choose because her sister doesn't want the kidney. Kate is tired of fighting leukemia, and knows that her parents wouldn't allow her to die without a fight. In the end, Anna is doing what her sister requested, she's not going to save her life because Kate doesn't want to be saved.

I have to tell you, the end of this book is the saddest sequence of events I've ever read. I finished this book on the train home from Toronto. I had just say goodbye to my boyfriend for the next 2 and a half months and I wasn't crying because I left him (sorry hunny), I was crying because of the ending of this book. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will say this- the bond between siblings is unbreakable. I know that I would do anything for my sister, but I'm not sure if I would have the courage to watch her willingly lose a battle to cancer like Anna would. For a thirteen year old, she knows much more about herself than most people learn in a lifetime.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bella's Choice in Eclipse: It's a little harder than you think.

Book #3, Eclipse, offers something to the reader that the first two books did not; you have to choose a side. Are you on "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob"? I'm sure you've seen the t-shirts being sold at different stores in the mall, but which one do you pick? Here are a few pros and cons in order to familiarize yourself with each side

Join the Vamps:

- Edward is super hot! Actually, he may be extremely good looking, but his body temperature will not leave you burning up. All vampires have skin that is stone cold, but they are pretty delicious eye-candy.

- Edward's English is impeccable. Born in the early 20th century, Edward has been able to pretty much master the English language. Not only is he easy on the eyes, but his sentences will melt you into a puddle of mush. Maybe it's just the Engligh major in me...

- Vamps take pretty awesome trips- including Italy by the way. They also drive pretty sweet cars- porshe anyone? Living the life of a Cullen has its definite advantages in the material world.

- The love story. Need I say more?

You might want to stay away if...

- as we see in New Moon, sometimes it's hard to stay a vegetarian vamp all the time, especially when you are still new to temptation and how to control your cravings. At the beginning of New Moon, Bella gets a paper cut and the youngest, most inexperienced Cullen, Jasper, has a fit when he smells the blood. Feeling that life is unsafe for Bella, the Cullen's decide to move and they take Edward with him...OH NO I've said too much!

- you DO NOT want to piss off the Volturi. The Volturi are described as the leaders of the vamps, they are the equivalent of the Italian Mob. It's not easy getting on their good side and if you get on their bad side, be-friggin-ware.

- be prepared to engage in war with other vamps, especially those like Victoria. To sum up, Victoria is introduced in Twilight, where her lover, James, tries to kill Bella. Edward retaliates and kills James before James kills Bella. Now Victoria is looking for revenge and wants to kill Edwards lover just as Edward has killed her lover. Also, beware of newborn vamps, those who don't quite know how to be discreet in a world full of fresh meat. The war scene between Victoria and Edward in Eclipse is pretty intense and is a highly recommended read.

Looking for fun in the forest? Join the werewolves for a howling good time:

- Werewolves have an average body temperature of well over 100 degrees. They are also warm, plus they have beating hearts unlike vampires. You could say that werewolves are definitely more human than vampires because they still breathe, they still eat and sleep and do much of the same things as humans do.

- You could be imprinted- legends say that each werewolf has one soul mate, and once a werewolf sees his/her soul mate, they are bonded for eternity. Imprinting can happen at any time, with anyone. Quil, for example, is one of the werewolves in the series. He's imprinted with a girl named Claire. The only problem with this relationship (non-sexual) is that Quil is approximately 16 years old and Claire is about 2 years old. This creates quite a problem now, but, since werewolves don't age, Embry has to wait until Claire reaches his approximate age in order to start a romantic relationship with her.

- The main purpose of the pack is to keep those who are good, regardless of demographics, safe. Werewolves will protect the innocent, it is in their nature to take care of the safety of others.

- The importance of family is a major priority for werewolves. Not only do they keep strangers safe, but their families and the pack are the most important people to them. The pack sticks together.

Stay away when things get heated...

- at the beginning of phasing, werewolves sometimes have trouble controlling their ability to turn from human to werewolf. There are people who have learned the hard way in the series, where, for example, Sam (the pack's Alpha) phased while is girlfriend was standing too close, which resulted in her entire right side to be permanently scared in what appears to be giant scratch.

- the Alpha is the leader at all times. Sam's job is to give direction, give orders and keep the pack united. If he says you fight, then you fight, regardless of whether you think it's right or not. This type of authority can sometimes create problems among pack members, but obeying the Alpha comes before disagreement.

So which side would you choose? I guess it doesn't really affect your life, since vampires and werewolves are supposed to be mythical creatures. But use your imagination and put yourself in Bella Swan's shoes...what would you do? We all know she has already picked Edward, but is it the right choice? Through reading the books, we know that she truly does love Jacob, and it seems as though as some points she seems torn between which side of her heart she should follow.

I really can't say for certain that Bella has made the right choice. Can you?
Pictures courtesy of

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! The Smoking Gun uncovers James Frey as a liar AND Oprah is not impressed.

After writing my post on A Million Little Pieces, I came across a few websites recommended to me by a good friend, which state that James Frey is a fake, a phony...James Frey elaborated excessively on his life story in order to become a best-selling author AND made Oprah Winfrey look really, really bad. This shocking information came forth by The Smoking Gun, where this article told Frey's readers the truth about his book.

The act of lying is bad enough on its own, but when lying is coupled with sympathy-seeking and money-making, then we've got a BIG problem. Oprah's Book Club 2005 chose A Million Little Pieces as one of four books of the year. Oprah raved non-stop about this book and James Frey. She publicly admitted that she cried when she read parts of the story and feels both sympathy and triumph for James Frey. When she debuted the book on her talkshow in 2005, she stated that, she "couldn't put [it] down...a gut-wrenching memoir that is raw and it's so real...After turning the last page...You want to meet the man who lived to tell this tale." Little did she know that James Frey would be uncovered as a liar only a short year later.

In my opinion, Frey's justification in fabricating his life story to sell books is because:
1) he knew it would make him money
2) he was looking for his "15 minutes of fame" by gaining the sympathy of a nation

After the truth of his book was publicly stated, James Frey was scrutinized as being a liar. Frey performed an unethical act when he allowed this book to be published as a true story and knew it was fake. I still stand by the recommendation to read this book because it can be used as a teaching tool for non-alcoholic-non-drug-user-non-criminals. I read this book because I wanted to learn something, and you should do the same. Enter a world of misery and count your blessings at the end of this book and forget about James the end, he's just a liar with a lot of money.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Addiction For Dummies: A Million Little Pieces teaches the average person about the horrors of 'I need it'.

James Frey spent 6 weeks in rehab, where he battled his addiction to both alcohol and crack. His recollection of his attempt to get clean is the most raw, unsugar-coated, "take-me-as-I-am" piece of the writing I have ever read. A Million Little Pieces allowed me to enter a world that I had no idea existed, especially in this type of severity. I have no experience with addiction and abuse, nor can I fully comprehend the intense need of something rather than simply wanting it.

This book begins with James' awakening on a plane with no recollection of how he got there. His mouth tastes like blood, he has holes where teeth used to be, he smells like vomit and urine. He is 23 years old. His parents take him to rehab, where his first few days are pure hell. He has an extremely difficult time at the beginning, both emotionally and physically, where his body is adjusting to functioning without drugs or alcohol. He is often sick to his stomach and has trouble keeping his temper in check. Throughout the book, James has ups and downs, where following the rules is difficult but making friends seems to ease his tension. He meets men from all different walks of life...dealers, judges, athletes & average-joe addicts. James even meets a woman, Lilly, who is an addict and prostitute, and falls in love with her. James leaves rehab as a free, sober adult and has been clean for nine years.

James speaks in the first-person, but there are no paragraphs discussing anything except his thoughts and reactions. The reader is never allowed to leave James' mind. I think using this form of writing style compliments the content and goal of the book. James' personal struggle is being used as a form of therapy in this book and I think the directness and openness conveyed through this writing style suits the goal that James has set for himself. Here is an example from the book, pages 43-44

Hi, Mom.
I hear her call my Father. My Father picks up the phone.
Hi, James.

Hi, Dad.
How are you?
All right.
How is it there?
It's fine.
What's happened so far?
I'm being detoxed and that sucks, and yesterday I moved down to the Unit and that's been fine.
Are you feeling like it's helping?
I don't know.
I hear my Mom take a deep breath.
Anything we can do?
I hear my Mom break down.
I listen to her cry.
I gotta go, Dad.
You're gonna be okay, James. Just keep it up.
I listen to her cry.
I gotta go.
If you need anything, call us.
We love you.

Based on the content and subject matter, I would never read this book again. I think the reader really only has to read it once to get the full picture of James' struggle. The content is heavy and sometimes very draining on the reader, so one time is definitely enough.

I recommend reading this book because although the average person reads and hears about addiction, we really have no idea what it does to people and their families. This book allows non-addicts to feel the pain of needing something so badly that life just cannot continue unless that need is fulfilled. I cannot empathize with James, but I can certianly sympathize with him. I, along with other readers, congratulate him on his success.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow": Read it to the kids before bed.

Do you ever have trouble sleeping? Read Washington Irving's, "The Legend of Sleep Hollow" and you'll be out like a light in about 4 sentences. I read this short story for my American Gothic class, but I was already familiar with the legend from the movie, "Sleepy Hollow".
In 1999, Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" was the talk of my seventh grade class. Christina Ricci was super popular from previous films such as "Casper"(1995) and "The Adams Family"(1991) and Johnny Depp was just starting to come into my fantasies as a twelve year old kid. I definitely snuck into this movie with my five dollar weekly allowance.

10 years later, while sitting in American Gothic and reading the syllabus, I got so flustered when I saw that we would be reading the actual legend, the story of where it all began. Even without Depp, I was still anticipating the legend because it's part of the American gothic genre and its probably "dirty-your-pants" scary.

Well SUPRISE! the short story was terrible! It wasn't scary, it didn't make me jump, or cringe, or sleep with one eye open. In fact, it had the opposite did the same thing that warm milk had me sleeping like a baby. First of all, Ichabod Crane is such a little social weasel, trying to win the heart of Katrina Van Tassel so he can have a piece of her family fortune. He's described as scrawny, awkward and a social outcast. The Ichabod in the film had much more dignity and definitely more sex appeal. In the short story, Katrina Van Tassel is described as an overweight sow who is a spoiled brat and loves to indulge herself in the finer things in life. Yet, in the movie, Katrina is voluptuous, sexy and mysterious. Second, the setting of the short story isn't described as being horrifyingly dark and mysterious in the short story. It simply states that people from Sleepy Hollow are isolated from others and the women love to gossip. The film captures the essence of Gothic Literature perfectly, where every scene is dark, forests are creepy and everyone is as pale as vampires.

This past weekend "Sleepy Hollow" was on TV and, believe it or not, I had to pull out my old Barbie night light from seventh grade just so I could get a little shut-eye.
Check out the film's trailer at
Photos courtesy of

Friday, February 27, 2009

Team Edward: Twilight Series' Second Book, New Moon, doesn't create the same emotional response as the others.

The Twilight series has officially taken over my life. I cannot believe how many times this story crosses my mind in a day. And I have to admit, I actually put off studying and reading for school just so that I can read the series. I truly didn't understand the power of this series until I cracked open Twilight. From then on, I could not get the story out of my head and I have now become an addict.

I have finished reading the second book in the series, New Moon. To me, this books seems to be the transition piece between the first and third books. In the beginning, Bella Swan learns the dangers of being mortal while in the presence of vampires (even though they are vegetarians). Her journey throughout the book is intense, after the Cullen family leaves to protect their identity and Bella's life. She rides a rollercoaster of emotions and finds comfort in a young Native American teenager. Things are going smoothly until, all of a sudden, Bella comes to the conclusion that Jacob Black is a werewolf. Now, werewolves and vampires don't exactly get along, in fact, the history between both mythical monsters is quite terrifying.

While this second book is filled with suspense and awe-struck moments, it didn't have the same effect on me as Twlight or Eclipse, which is the third book I am currently reading. Like I stated earlier, it just doesn't resonate the same emotional response as the others. The book is definitely necessary in order for the reader to move ahead in the series, but it just doesn't compare in emotional arousal to the first and third books. Perhaps the emotional arousal is pretty much non-existent because Edward is missing from a majority of New Moon. Ahhhh, the twelve-year-old girl in me has a human desire to have Edward around...this is quite embarassing but also very true. Bella just isn't herself with him...he's the peanut-buttered side to her PBJ sandwich, he's the salt to her salt-and-pepper shaker set. You can't have one around without the other. Luckily, Edward is back at the end of New Moon, so we shall have to see what happens from this point. Keep reading for the rest of the posts on this awesome series!
Photos courtesy of

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"She don't have to do that shit - She's the Queen's daughter": Partying wasn't safe then, and it isn't safe now.

"The Queen's Daughter" does not have a negative connotation as a nickname, in fact, most people would probably think nothing of a nickname like this. But, for Melissa McCormick, this nickname holds much more meaning than it does for anyone else. She has lived through an experience that every young woman fears...being kinapped and raped in a country that you don't call home. And this happened one a cold winter night in 1976 in Detroit, Michigan, where Melissa McCormick's life changed forever. The content of this short narrative is probably the most heavy and horrifically frightening experience that I've ever read about.

Melissa grew up in the 70's in Windsor, Ontario, with a life much like any teenager. Looking for a fun night out with some girlfriends, she crossed the short distance over to Detroit. Dressed for a night on the town, Melissa and her friends enjoyed bar-hopping and having a great time. Once it was time to leave, Melissa left her friends and began driving back home alone. A flat tire on a busy highway forced her to pull over. With no cellphone and no company, Melissa had no choice but to flag down another driver. A man pulled over to offer his assistance, and while in conversation, Melissa noticed two more cars pull over. A group of African American youth surrounded and beat Melissa's helper and pointed a gun into her back. She reluctantly got into their car and was driven to an unidentifiable house. There, she was raped numerous times by countless men.
Melissa's kidnappers gave her the nickname, "The Queen's Daughter", after she had been gang-raped.
"Apparently the other thing my assailants knew about Canada was that it had a reigning Queen, therefore I was probably the Queen's daughter. I believe that the presumption that I was royalty saved me from having to perform oral sex and God knows what else. Throughout the rest of my ordeal, I was referred to as "The Queen's Daughter" (47-48).

Ms. McCormick's strengh and perseverance allowed her to challenge her captive, nicknamed "Clever Joe", by treating him with respect and acting interested in his life. She asked him questions about his life and learned of common interests that they both shared. Through this civil interaction, Melissa was set free. After endless questioning and police reports, Melissa made it back to Windsor...alive.
Ms. McCormick was able to indentify her kidnappers and most plead guilty to their rape charges.

I had the honour of listening to Ms. McCormick speak about her experience, since she is now a motivational speaker. Her strength was mesmerizing as she explained, in detail, what happened to her that night. Ms. McCormick has been able to rise above this unthinkable act and prove that it does not define who she is. I gained a lot of respect for her, especially because of the strength she showed and with work she has done to turn this negative experience into something positive in order to help others.
I urge you to read this book because, for all Windsorites, it hits much closer to home than you realize. I think a lot of Windsor's youth have a fascination with Detroit nightlife and most spend their 21st birthdays in downtown Detroit. Although this event took place 30 years ago, it still happens to many young people, especially women. It will open your eyes to a world that is, literally, just a stone's throw away from home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thank goodness for beach-read books: Shopaholic series accompanies the sun quite nicely!

Greetings from the beach! I think it is appropriate to have a post about the greatest beach-read since this week is Spring Break for University of Windsor students and I am on vacation. Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series is the perfect way to pass the time in the sand and sunshine. This series has everything a good beach-read book should have; humour, wit, and most of all a no-thinking-necessary storyline. I enjoy reading this series, beginning with "Confessions of a Shopaholic" because, quite frankly, they are a nice change from reading literature and theory. Sometimes it's just plain enjoyable to read a book, word-for-word, without having to consider the hidden messages behind what is being said. Any English major would probably agree, plus, who wants to read AND think while on vacation?

I also saw the movie "Confessions of a Shopaholic" on Friday February 13th, which was opening night, and it did not disappoint. Since the book is easy to read, it would make sense that the movie would be the same. Isla Fisher, playing Rebecca Bloomwood, is the perfect actress for the role. She is funny, charming and easy to fall in love with. Her crazy notions of spending money and bargaining with herself makes this movie a ton of fun to watch. This movie definitely falls into the "chick-flick" category, but who cares? I saw it with my girlfriends on Valentines Eve and we had a blast. All in all, a great vacation book series and a hit at the box office!

Use Your Imagination: Twilight film is Hardwicke's viewpoint, not yours.

The movie, Twilight, was released in November 2008. The vampire craze was everywhere, but mostly in the minds of teenage girls across the globe. I have to admit that even though I'm past teenage years and believing in the fairytales of true love, I was anxious at the theatre when I purchased my ticket, bounced into the auditorium and fell head over heels for Edward Cullen all over again.
There have been many critics and Twilight lovers alike that have criticized this movie for lacking a good story line and being a terrible portrayal of the book. But, keep in mind that this movie was created FROM the book, it wasn't a storyline on its own.

Books will always give the audience more information, more emotion, and definitely more imaginatory theory to play around with. They have the ability to create a much more personal experience for the reader than a movie can because each character on every page is seen through the readers eyes. When we watch a film without reading a book, we are viewing the imagination of the director, it is their view of the story that brings everything to life. With books, this is much different, where each individual can be their own director and imagine a beautiful, mysterious vampire in their own way.

Critics of the Twilight film have no justification when criticizing the book as lacking anything because readers of the book understand what is happening. Readers are also able to pick up on cues that perhaps a non-reader would not pick up on. For instance, in the Twilight movie, Edward sees Bella for the first time and the look on his face is a cross between, "This girls scares the hell out of me" and "I think I need a bathroom break". What non-readers don't understand is that Edward is actually lusting over Bella's scent and is trying to control himself before he sucks her blood. Now, without reading the book, how would the audience know this? My point here is that the audience doesn't know, but every single Twilight reader sitting in that theatre knows exactly what is going on. So what's the lesson of my ranting? Read the book before you watch the makes the experience much more enjoyable.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Watch your neck! Twilight's vampires are not your typical blood-suckers.

Have you jumped aboard the Twilight train? I know that this story about a vampire in love with a mortal has been beaten to death, chewed and spit out, so I'm going to take a fresh and different perspective that hopefully even non-readers will enjoy. So bare with me, faithful reader, and stick your neck wayyyyy out in order to be bitten by the vampire bug!

Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight Series, depicts vampires in a less stereotypical and dramatic form than what centuries of tales have taught us to believe. The notion of the vampire, those mythical nocturnal beings that thirst for mortal blood, has been around for as long as death has been knocking on our doors. Fear of the unknown and also of the unexplainable has been a common issue for centuries. I mean, our ancestors burnt so-called witches in fear that they would put evil spells on us or brainwash common-folk into devil worship. Was any of this true? Hmmm...probably not, but the fear that it COULD be true is what scares us. I mean, anything is possible, especially things we cannot explain. Twilight's vampires, the Cullen family, are anything but fearful. The Cullen's are able to work and go to school in daylight, and although they live in a city where rain is definitely more common than sunshine, they are still walking among the living. How, you might ask, are they able to do this without piercing every mortal neck in sight? Teaching themselves to resist human blood, all Cullen family members are vegetarians....they feast on only animal blood.

The most common characteristics of a vampire are wide-spread and I'm sure you can clearly visualize one...jet black hair, translucent skin, and pearly whites (with a sharp, glossy finish, of course!). You've learned this common form of the vampire as a child, especially around October 31st. Old folklore tales describe vampires as the "non-dead", but the Cullen family are anything but corpse-looking. All members are described as being beautiful, with creamy white skin and delicate facial features. They walk with grace and are soft-spoken. I'd say they're just plain old perfection...minus the whole blood-sucking thing, but I'm willing to overlook that.

Stephenie Meyer allows her talented mind to run wild in this first book of four in the series. Looking at the bigger picture, this book is really about impossible love between a vampire and a teenager. Sounds corny, right? I thought so too, until I started reading. This book has a way of sucking you in (haha, get it?) and leaves you begging for more at the end. I think the reason why this story holds so much power is because it plays on our notions of fear. Could vampires really be living amongst us? Highly unlikely, but definitely not impossible.
I am currently in the process of reading the second book, New Moon, so stick around for a post about that one too!

Mortals beware...Happy Reading!
Photos courtesy of

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Elizabeth Gilbert succeeds not only as a writer but as a person too.

Elizabeth Gilbert has been a success in the written world not just for her creativity and natural ability to write but because of her charasmatic and overall enjoyable personality. Since "Eat, Pray, Love" is the only piece I have read from Ms. Gilbert, this will be the topic of my post as I educate you, the reader, on my fascination and somewhat obsession with Elizabeth Gilbert and this book.

The book is written in much the same way as a conversation; Elizabeth speaks, and then reader reacts. Now, I know this happens in all forms of writing because when we read anything from a newspaper ad to an American Gothic literary work we are engaging in dialogue with the author. But somehow, someway, Elizabeh Gilbert has her own unique style when it comes to engaging in this coversation of language use and ideas. And I think a lot of her success in allowing the reader to engage comes from the trust that is established within the first 20 or so pages of the novel. From the very beginning, Ms. Gilbert is honest with her reader, which is hard for any human being to do, especially to complete strangers. She quite literally opens her emotional self to manipulation and vulnerability as she weeps on her bathroom floor. This brutal honesty allows the reader to feel sincere empathy and an overall emotional connection with Ms. Gilbert. And after finishing the book, like many readers, I often wondered about what Ms. Gilbert's life was like after her journey...did everything work out in the end? I was able to find a Frequently Asked Questions section on her website, where her answers are as honest as always. Again she is establishing a relationship with her reader and keeps this relationship moving forward. I have yet to read another novel where the author has such a personal and honest effect on me and connection with me as Ms. Gilbert does. Once the reader moves past the first few chapters, the trust is established and the story is able to successfully move forward.

Ms. Gilbert also shows strength, freedom and fearlessness at the end of her journey, which she was missing at the beginning of this novel. At the end of this novel, I felt as though I had just ran a marathon with Elizabeth, which sounds incredibly cheesy and almost ridiculous but I don't know how else to describe it. The reader has the opportunity and honour to share in the journey of one human being's search and eventual success at finding the meaning of life...who wouldn't want that for themselves? I know I do, yet I'm almost positive I wouldn't want the entire literary world watching me. Ms. Gilbert is fearless, or at least this is what I understand her to be because she is not afraid to publicly admit her failings and, more importantly, her successes.

Elizabeth Gilbert's fun-loving, independent and "try-anything-once" personality is definitely a key ingredient to the success of this novel. The New York Times published an article on just this idea, where Jennifer Egan admits, "If a more likable writer than Gilbert is currently in print, I haven't found him or her. And I don't mean this as consolation prize, along the lines of: but she's really, really nice. I mean that Gilbert's prose is fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible, and makes the reader only too glad to join the posse of friends and devotees who have the pleasure of listening in." I could not have said it better myself.
Borders Book Club also did a feature with Elizabeth Gilbert, where she stressed that although this book is about self-discovery, it doesn't mean that to discover yourself you need to follow the exact journey that she did. It's more about finding yourself than traveling to exotic locations, which I also think a lot of people may misinterpret when reading this book. Ms. Gilbert sets the record straight at

All in all, this book & this author are success stories in the literary world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Eat, Pray, Love: Too much stress on Western femininity for Elizabeth Gilbert

"Eat, Pray, Love" was written by Elizabeth Gilbert, a seemingly normal woman struggling against Western femininity stereotypes and hiding secrets of another life behind closed doors. I feel as though this book was written for more of a selfish reason than to simply make money. For this reason, I have more respect for Elizabeth Gilbert not only as an excellent writer but as a woman as well. Her journey into the unknown is what attracted me to this book because I think as Westerners, we are sometimes afraid of venturing into misunderstood territory. Ms. Gilbert teaches her audience that there is no need to fear the unknown because it may just save your life.

This book begins with Elizabeth lying on her bathroom floor during an emotional breakdown. She is trying to stifle her sobs because her husband is sleeping in the next room. This shows Ms. Gilbert's passive and fearful character at the beginning of her year-long journey. She has come to the realization that she doesn't want everything a young Westernized woman should want; she doesn't want to be married anymore and she doesn't want children. Her battle between the stereotypical American female and a woman going against all that is "right" in Western society is beautifully conveyed in the first few chapters of this book. Ms. Gilbert opens herself up to her audience in a very vulnerable way with her writing, but I think this works to her advantage because it creates a more personal relationship between writer and reader.

Ms. Gilbert decides to leave the Western world behind...her divorce, her job, her family. Realizing that she has not lost herself, but has never actually found who she truly is, she decides to travel to three countries to find the true meaning of being an individual. The title of this book, "Eat, Pray, Love" depicts the three goals of Ms. Gilbert. First, she travels to Italy, where her indulgences are fulfilled not only in the beauty of the country but in the passion of food and culture. Next, she travels to India, where she admitting herself into a spiritual rehabilitation, where the event of attaining true spirtuality is not something that happens easily. She is taught how to meditate and to look inside herself to find happiness. Finally, in Indonesia, Ms. Gilbert learns to live a simple life, which is definitely not something she was taught at home. She also learns to appreciate life and she starts relationships with people who live in the exact opposite way as Western society does. These relationships allow her to see a fresher perspective on her life.

Elizabeth Gilbert's view on life is drastically changed at the end of this book. She learns how to live in such a way that allows her to love herself without giving in to Western ideals of what a woman should be and how a woman should act. There is most definitely an underlying feminist tone that speaks to all genders, all ages and those from all walks of life. Personally, this book forced me to look past the stereotypical young female woman and we have all come to know and sometimes hate. I think the expectation of young Canadian/American women is too harsh and too outdated. We are still often viewed as trophies and baby breeding machines. This stereotype traps us, as women, because to stray anywhere from the ordinary is not always accepted. This is not to say that the progression that feminism has accomplished is not enough. In fact, I believe that we are speaking with voices that are stronger and louder today than at any other time in history because of the accomplishments of our bra-burning, raw-voiced ancestors. But, is it enough? Apparently Ms. Gilbert doesn't think so, and it is through this book that she stands up for refusing to be just another stereotype.
The ability to not lose sight of yourself in a society of stereotype is truly remarkable, especially on this wild, sometimes fearful rollercoaster ride of life.

Happy reading & Enjoy exploring!
Photos courtesy of

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Too fast, too confusing, terrible acting: Da Vinci Code film does not do Dan Brown's novel any good

The Da Vinci Code was released in theaters in May 2006. It had great hopes of being a hit at the boxoffice, especially with Tom Hanks playing the character of Robert Langdon, the seemingly sexy and highly intelligent Professor in Religious Symbolism. I saw the movie in theaters with my family, all being "non-readers" of the book. Now, I really don't understand how anyone who didn't read the book actually understood the movie. In my opinion, everything about this movie was bad. Check out the New York Times' article on the movie...I guess I'm not the only one who was disappointed!
Tom Hanks' performance was not what it usually is...I mean, we're talking about a legend in film. He didn't fulfill his role as Mr. Langdon because, in my opinion, his character wasn't explored enough in the film. This was done much better in the novel. Audrey Tautou, the actress playing Sophie Neveu, the female protagonist of the novel also did a mediocre job at fulfilling her role in this movie. I imagine Sophie to be a much stronger character than what Ms. Tautou portrayed. In the film, she seemed very dependent and sometimes a little spacey.
The story moved so fast I could barely keep up with what was happening in front of me. Scenes were moving so quickly and I feel like the other characters, besides Langdon and Neveu, were not given enough time to allow the audience to understand them. While reading the book, I sometimes had trouble keeping up with characters and their roles, and I assume that the movie did no better job at aiding the audience in keeping everyone straight, especially for "non-readers".
The one good thing I found while watching this movie was the scenery in which these characters were acting in. The beauty of the European background caught my attention way more than the characters and sometimes even the story line. To me, this movie did not give credit to the intensity of the plot and lacked in showing its audience exactly what Dan Brown theorizes.
"Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown is supposed to be the "what happened first", the story before The Da Vinci Code. I have no yet read this book, but I've heard that it is even better than The Da Vinci Code. The movie is set to be released in May 2009...but I'm a little afraid. Will this movie actually do the novel justice? Or will it just be another disappointment to me and many other avid readers? Check out the Angels and Demons movie trailor at and compare it with The Da Vinci Code trailor . I think the latter trailor is much better and I would rather see that movie, but what do you think?

Photo courtesy of

Sunday, January 25, 2009

No Judgment Appreciated: My religious struggle after reading "The DaVinci Code"

Persuasion. Influence. Possiblity. Could one theory about Catholicism really hold enough possible truth to make even the most devout believers question their faith?

This is not a post about bashing religion, nor is it a persuasion piece, but rather it is my story about the power of this theory on my life. Controversial? Absolutely. I have no intentions to start a debate about this book and this theory...simply read this post without judgment, I need to get some things off of my chest.

Born and raised as a Roman Catholic, my beliefs about religion have been moderate...I've never read the bible in its entirety but I can recite the 10 Commandments and pray for good things to come.

I picked up The DaVinci Code a few years ago from a friend. Also a Catholic, she suggested I read this book. I admit, I was ready to put it down after reading the first few chapters when I wasn't able to "get into it". The story didn't really interest me, and in all honesty, it actually seemed pretty boring. "Keep reading", she said. Reluctantly I took her advice, and she was right. The controversial theory didn't start until later in the book, and the ideas put forth by Dan Brown shocked me. I had quite a few open-mouth-eyes-wide moments, especially about the theorized secret of Jesus & Mary Magdalene...could it be true? I didn't know, and to this day I cannot rule out the possibility'll find out if you read. But it did get me thinking, perhaps challenging my faith. Gosh, this is so terrible to say but if I'm going to write this post truthfully, then here it is, out in the open. This book made me challenge my faith after reading it. It was hard for me to accept my beliefs and continue practicing my faith. I went as far as discussing these ideas with a priest because my curiosity and confusion had taken over my ability to rely solely on belief. After having a quite heated but respectful discussion with him, I still wasn't satisfied.

I can't say for sure as which moment I came back to my faith, but it was a long time after reading this book. Today, I have a clearer picture of what I believe and why...although I cannot say for certain that I am right. Nor can I say that my beliefs are the same as they were before I read this book. It has taught me to look at all possiblities in every aspect of my, relationships, etc. I have grown more aware of my beliefs by challenging them, which has lifted the religious veil off of my eyes. I no longer simply follow Catholicism because I was raised to, I now believe because I have challenged everything I knew to be true and chosen the beliefs that work for me.

I urge you to read this book because of the effects it will have on your life, regardless of your beliefs. True, this book is quite controversial, and it should definitely be read with a "reader beware" sticker. But Dan Brown's ability to create a story from a theory such as this is astounding. He uses the power of a secret and the intelligence of riddle & rhyme to keep the pages turning. The plot is genius, in my opinion, and it allowed me to enter the secret of the code along with the characters. Never has a book had such an effect on me, enough to question my life and my religion.

But remember, this is just a theory...but the ideas will send chills up your spine and get you to think..maybe not about the ideas presented but about your life in all aspects. Check out these books reviews to see if this is right for you:

Picture compliments from:

Happy (and cautious) Reading!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Wicked Witch lives on...on Broadway, that is!

I got the chance to see the musical, Wicked, when it came to Lansing, Michigan in July 2008 (thanks, Victor!) This story was so wonderfully written, it didn't surprise me that it would someday become as popular as it has. There had to be some way for these characters to come to life, in some place other than on the yellow brick road. And I think that broadway was, and still is, the perfect way to do so.

I can remember sitting anxiously in my seat, with a enlarged map of OZ in front of me. There were times when I forgot that I wasn't a part of the story, that I was living in my own "Kansas"...I was still at home yet somehow part of the tale too. The energy that filled the auditorium was electric and had the entire audience entranced.
If you ever have the opportunity to see this show, jump on your broomstick as fast as you can because this show is definitely worth leaving home for.

For ticket sales and future productions, visit
Check out these videos of "One Short Day" and "Popular", two of my favourite songs from the musical...enjoy! Both videos are courtesy of
I have also read "Son of a Witch" and "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister", both from Gregory Maguire. Although I was not able to attach myself to these stories as much as Wicked, they were still enjoyable and very entertaining.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"I'll get you, my pretty"...The untold version of "The Wizard of Oz"

While on a student exchange in Italy during the summer of 2007, in between day trips to Rome and barely scratching the surface of my ancestry, I fell in love with the works of novelist Gregory Maguire. For those readers who are unfamiliar with this name, perhaps it would interest you more to know that he is the author of "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West". As the title suggests, this novel allows the reader to see the world of Oz from the side of the protagonist, the woman with the pea-green skin and cackling laugh.

Growing up watching "The Wizard of Oz", I had the same prejudices against the Witch of the West as most people do; she's out to get sweet, innocent Dorothy because of the ruby slippers and makes her journey back to Kansas as difficult as possible. Yet, until I read this book, I never bothered to question why Elphaba (the Wicked Witch's first name) wanted those ruby slippers so badly. To make a long, although humoursly entertaining story short, Elphaba is looking for acceptance and is deeply misunderstood. The novel has everything a good book should have...the war between love and hate, the lessons learned from a friendship turned bitter, the issues of politics in a descriminating and harsh society, and the truth that whatever ugliness and imperfections we carry, there is always a chance to live life instead of fear it.

Before you crack the spine of "Wicked" though, let me warn you, you will never be able to watch "The Wizard of Oz" with the same mind as you did in your childhood, Gregory Maguire makes sure of that.

I highly recommend reading "Wicked" because it forced me to not simply notice my own and other people's imperfections, but to give credit to those who succeed in a largely imperfect world. This book also gave a voice to the feminist in me, because if a woman like the Wicked Witch of the West can hold as much power over others with her simple presence and stand up alone for her beliefs, then there is definite hope for the rest of us.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What turns my pages?

Constantly blackening the tip of my nose with ink...novels, journal articles, textbooks (of course). I'm not the type to be picky-and-choosy about genres, which is something that I believe works to my advantage. Throughout the next 11 weeks, and hopefully far beyond that, I will try to use my wisdom of novels to help you become more familiar with the freedom of genres, great authors, etc.
Have you ever loved a novel, every aspect of it...characters, plot, climax and suspense? Have you ever been super excited to find out that those characters will be made into 'real people', where you'll finally be able to see 'so-and-so' or 'what's-his-face' in the exact replication of the person you can clearly see in your imagination? Paying the 10+ dollars, standing in line for 1+ hours to finally see that masterpiece of pages become a box office smash, only to leave with 100% disappointment and vowing to NEVER watch another movie created from a book. I've been there, done that, and quite frankly, bought the t-shirt.
Over the next 11 weeks, I will be blogging about a novel I've read in a particular genre, reviewing the book, discussing the author and giving my viewpoints about 'extras' that often accompany novels, especially in film.