Friday, August 31, 2012

Snapshot Book Review: 50 Shades of Gray

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am truly embarrassed for anyone who liked this book. I am also embarrassed for anyone I see reading it in public. And I am most embarrassed to know that my father (who lent me his copy) will be reading this book. In the same way you don't want to think about your parents having sex, you don't want to think about your parents reading about sex. Even terribly repetitive, completely unrealistic sex.

Rather than trying to explain how much I hated this book--which would involve me going off on a linguistic rant about poor writing style; elementary word choice; flat, static, completely unbelievable characters; and the most predictable plot line of any romance, ever--I think I will merely offer some of the lines that made me want to rip my eyeballs out of their sockets. As an English major, avid reader, and merely literate person, I am horrified that these phrases are making this author and publisher money:

--My heartbeat has picked up, and my medulla oblongata has neglected to fire any synapses to make me breathe. Pretty sexy stuff, with the medulla oblongata getting all frazzled. I wonder if even half of her readers even know where that organ is in the body....

--Boy he's angry. He grabs my hand and leads me back into the apartment and straight into my bedroom . . . no passing go. Since when does BDSM involve playing Monopoly? Actually the scene might have actually been more interesting if they had played Monopoly.

--Holy Moses, he's all mine to play with, and suddenly it's Christmas.At least she stuck to biblical references in this sentence, although I can't for the life of me determine why she's thinking about Moses and Christmas when she usually is thinking "f*ck* and "holy crap."

--F*ck, this is sexier than the toothbrush. Sorry, but brushing your teeth with a guy's toothbrush is not sexy. It just isn't.

Have Marco call me, it's shit or bust time. No CEO of any company would ever say this. After all, wouldn't "shit" and "bust" be more like companion, not opposites?

--"Ana, baby!" he cries, and it's a wild invocation, stirring and touching the depths of my soul. Realistically speaking, you have to touch something to stir it. And I don't think this is a very wild invocation, seeing as he's already said it at least 20 times in the first 3/4 of the book.

Another thing that drove me completely bonkers as I slogged through the book: in writing 101, probably back in high school or even junior high, you learn that most lines of dialogue do not need to be qualified with anything other than the simple word "said". If you have constructed the scene well and your reader has a sense of the characters, you should draw more attention to what they're saying and less to how they say it. The reader will understand how the character is saying their line, because the reader should already know how that character feels. James, however, insists on qualifying every instance of speech in the entire book. Her characters murmur, hiss, shout, cry, blaze, beam, and--the most common of all--whisper their dialogue. Never can they just talk.

I could go on and on, but I'll finish this up by saying that if I ever meet Anastasia's subconscious or inner goddess, I'll probably strangle it death. Only then would I venture to read the next book in this trilogy, because only then could I be assured neither would show up to torment me again with their trite, cheesy selves.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bucket List (but not mine!)

You can find the strangest things inside of library books. Old receipts, ticket stubs, string, hair ties . . . and apparently bucket lists!

I found this written on the back of a crumpled blue post-it note, inside of The Marriage Plot (by Jeffrey Eugenides). Not sure if there's any correlation between the type of person who would write a bucket list on a post-it and the type of person who would read that book, but based on some of these items, we can at least assume that the book is written at a pre-college reading level!

Bucket List

  • Go to Atlantic City w/Megan (when we are 18) and gamble away some of my money
  • Study Abroad:  Germany, Deutschland, Espana
  • Learn to drive
  • Buy a car
  • Visit a tea farm in India
  • Take some zumba classes (feel comfortable, quit if suck)
  • Speak Spanish conversationally
  • Climb up mountain w/Megan
  • Find a long-term lover
    • must be clean
    • knows when to be quiet
    • likes coffee or at least makes me coffee
  • Make brownies from scratch
  • Visit redwoods
  • Bike around perimeter of Manhattan

I'm proud to say that I have run the perimeter of Manhattan, seen redwoods, made brownies from scratch (several times!), studied abroad, been to Las Vegas (forget Atlantic City), learned to drive, and found a long-term lover who at least knows when to be quiet . . . and does happen to like coffee, even if I don't. It makes me feel accomplished to be able to check so many things off of a bucket list, even if it's not mine!

What are some of the items on your bucket list?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fascinating Facts From "The Lunch Hour"

On a guided tour of the NY Public Library's latest exhibit "The Lunch Hour," I learned the following fascinating facts:
  • Pastrami was originally made of goose! (Now it's beef.)
  • My favorite luncheon slang term: smear one, burn it = toasted cheese sandwich.
  • In 1917, 21% of schoolchildren (K-8) were found to be malnourished. In 2011, 20.7% of schoolchildren were found to be obese.
  • The term "power lunch" first appeared in Esquire in 1979, referring to the Grill Room of the Four Seasons restaurant in NYC.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Pittsburgh Triathlon 2012 - Results

This was more than a race; this was an entire weekend event. Here was the schedule of events, in the order that they happened.

7:00pm Friday: Took the train to Madison, NJ to meet J___. (Note: The entire reason I chose to do this race is because my coworker and fellow running friend J___ came to me earlier this year saying that he wanted to try competing in a triathlon. Offhanded, I suggested the Pittsburgh Triathlon, saying that if he drove, I'd do it with him. To my great surprise, he agreed, and what's more, he wanted to compete in the International/Olympic distance race, not the Sprint distance. This suited me just fine, although I was a little concerned for him, as he did not even own a bike at this point, and had only recently begun swimming laps at his local Y....)

10:00pm Friday: Departed Madison with our bikes secured--handy-man style, using plywood, bungee cords, duct tape, and bubble wrap--to the back of J___'s car.

4:00am Saturday: Arrived at my parents' house in Pittsburgh, with our bikes--fortunately--still in tow.

10:30am Saturday: Drove down to the startingarea to pick up race materials. Inspected the mud pit that would be our transition area the next day, took a preparatory walk through the transition from swim to bike, and listened to a "beginner briefing."

2:00pm Saturday: Stifled my complaints as we left Heinz Stadium (J___ wanted to buy a Terrible Towel, which is a desire I fully support) and drove up to Mount Washington where my dad could give J___ a more complete Pittsburgh Tour.

4:00pm Saturday: Arrived back home. Collapsed on an inflatable mattress in my sister's old bedroom for an hour nap.

6:30pm Saturday: E___ and her husband and child, K___ and her boyfriend, P___ (a guy I met a few weekends ago at Brighton Beach), J___, my parents, my sister, my cousin K___, and I sat down to a delicious pre-race meal of rice, salmon, and broccoli. And, of course, plenty of water.

8:00pm Saturday: M___ arrived, just in time for dessert: homemade chocolate chip cookies, compliments of my wonderful mom.

10:30pm Saturday: My things have been packed and laid at the foot of the air mattress. Bedtime.

4:30am Sunday: In the car and off to the race start!

6:45/6:50/6:55am Sunday: P___ starts/J___ starts/I start. I pass both on the swim.

7:18am Sunday: I un-rack my bike alongside the girl who will eventually go on to place 2nd overall.

8am-ish Sunday: The man who will go on to win the entire race zooms past me wearing a speedo and an aero helmet. I'm still on my first lap of the bike; he is finishing his second.

8:48am Sunday: Starting the run, and finally starting to pass people who blew by me on the bike.

9:30am Sunday: Run past screaming fans (i.e. my parents) and cross the finish line!

10:45am Sunday: Stand on a podium for the first time since I was about 12 years old.

4:00pm Sunday: Back in the car for our 7-hour ride back to NJ. Ready to hash out the entire race with J___, who also had success. He completed the race and did not place last in his age group!

Race stats and results:

Swim1.5 ~1

Finish Time2:35:40
Overall Rank129/358
Gender Rank16/94
Age Group Rank (F25-29)2/22

Race SectionTime
J___ and me, proudly displaying our medals

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Snapshot Book Review: Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary RoadRevolutionary Road by Richard Yates
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A review by Rachel Wilch said it best: "My hunch is that this book might have really resonated for the dissatisfied housewives/businessmen who read it when it was originally published in 1961. To me, however, Revolutionary Road felt gratuitously dysfunctional and full of charaters who kept claiming they needed to "find themselves", but in fact needed to find some good therapists and a general sense of decency towards their children, their friends, and one another."

As a book about dissatisfaction with the status quo and a longing for times past, about questioning the self and the life one has chosen and is actively choosing, this book does succeed. However, in terms of providing a compelling plot, a cast of characters who are dynamic (which is crucial to any book which is not plot-driven), or even just prettily written prose, Yates fails to deliver.

Bottom line: I'd rather have seen the movie, if just to see DiCaprio play the character Frank.

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