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!
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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!
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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!
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