Monday, December 26, 2011

The Best Kind of Christmas Presents


Here's my gift for you: 

This year for Christmas I asked my parents to order me the books I've always wanted that aren't stocked at my local bookstore. Combine that with the books I bought at Goodwill over the last week and the couple I've already bought since I've been home, I have these two awesome stacks of books to bring back to school:


An Off Year by Claire Zulkey
What It's About: a girl who takes a gap year between high school and university
Why I Wanted It: I'm very interested in any and all books about university. New Adult is going to happen, damn it! 

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King
What It's About: a girl who's best friend dies
Why I Wanted It: good reviews and good writing

Hooked by Catherine Greenman
What It's About: teen pregnancy
Why I Wanted It: I always find pregnancy to be an interesting teen issue; I also think this story will be a little different since it deals with characters entering university. 

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
What It's About: all the in the moment decisions people make and how that affects us.
Why I Wanted It: Gladwell's The Tipping Point and Outliers were both fascinating. 

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
What It's About: a girl's decision to wear a hijab
Why I Wanted It: it has a unique, controversial premise. Plus, the book starts with a major Friends reference--I simply couldn't resist. 

L. A. Candy by Lauren Conrad
What It's About:...something about hollywood. Does it really matter?
Why I Wanted It: I read an excerpt from it in Teen Vogue when it came out, and always wanted to try it. Something different. Light reading. A different perspective. Hopefully. You never know. 

Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson 
What It's About: a girl's summer on a ship
Why I Wanted It: I enjoyed Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, as well as Johnson's story in Let It Snow

Play Me by Laura Ruby
What It's About: a guy who films reality tv
Why I Wanted It: I love books about reality tv, and this book puts a different spin on it, telling the story from the director's perspective rather than the star's perspective. 


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
What It's About: boring British stuff...something about Mr. Rochester...I don't know...Mia referenced it a bunch in one of the Princess Diaries books I think...
Why I Wanted It:...I didn't. It's book I have to read for my British lit class next semester. Kill me now. 

Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart
What It's About: a girl who spies on boys
Why I Wanted It: I just finished the Ruby Oliver series and really enjoyed it. And the premise sounded fun. 

The End of Education by Neil Postman
What It's About: the education system in the US
Why I Wanted It: I'm going to be a teacher!

The Half Life of Planets by Emily Franklin and Brandon Halpin
What It's About: a romance between a girl and a boy with Asperger's syndrome
Why I Wanted It: good writing and an interesting premise. 

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande 
What It's About: a battle between evolution and creationism! Yay! And hopefully some romance! 
Why I Wanted It: I loved Brande's Fat Cat, and I think this could be a really interesting exploration of beliefs and science vs. God. 

Pledged by Alexandra Robbins
What It's About: sororities
Why I Wanted It: I liked Robbin's Overachievers, and, since watching Greek, I've become fascinated with Greek life. 

Quarterlife Crisis by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner
What It's About: life in your twenties.
Why I Wanted It: I'm about to enter my twenties. And it looked interesting anyhow. 

I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusack
What It's About: A cab driver? A robbery?
Why I Wanted It: AMAZING reviews, including John Green's endorsement (very valuable). And it seems like a different kind of book. 

I Love You Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
What It's About: a guy who confesses his love for a girl he barely knows at graduation. 
Why I Wanted It: it seemed funny. 

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
What It's About: two guys who have the same name. 
Why I Wanted It: I am in a little bit of a John Green phase (read: complete obsession. Vlogbrothers. Nerdfighters. Scoodilypoopers. I've finished Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and even Let It Snow. Now I just need to finish off his back catalogue, and I'll be ready for The Fault in Our Stars in January) and I like and respect David Levithan's writing. I think these two together has the potential to be AMAZING. 

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
What It's About: See title.
Why I Wanted It: good reviews, good writing, interesting structure. Not a terribly original premise, but I can get past that. 

Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales
What It's About: high school drama
Why I Wanted It: I really, really liked Sales's Past Perfect. I don't really want to read about high school drama right now, but I think this might be worth it. 

Isn't that the best Christmas ever?

P. S. I took those photos with my new iPhone, another awesome part of Christmas (but not as good as the books of course :) 

Friday, December 23, 2011

TV Review: Being Erica

You may not have heard of this show. It's a little Canadian show produced by the CBC. It's set in Toronto and stars an all Canadian cast. So, I'll excuse you if you haven't seen it yet. But I won't forgive you if you don't see it soon. 

The basic premise is that Erica sees a therapist, Dr. Tom, who uses time travel to take her back to her regrets and make them right. Now, I hate any combination of science fiction or fantasy. So I really shouldn't like a show that centres around time travel. But somehow, I love it. The fourth season aired while I was at school, so I've spent the last week catching up. And boy, was it good. 

The first thing I have to say is that the show is very well planned. In the first two seasons, Erica was a patient. In the third, she was in group therapy. In the fourth and final season she is ready to give back, training to become a doctor (therapist) herself. Unlike the vast majority of shows, Being Erica actually allows its characters to move forward. Erica Strange has a clear character arc that is logical, well developed, and meaningful. She doesn't remain stagnant, and, as a result, the show is never boring. I think the fourth season is the best, because it really explores the different challenges Erica faces in becoming a doctor. And because the show is so well planned, nothing is rushed. When Erica becomes a doctor-in-training, it feels earned; when she finally becomes an actual doctor, you know she's ready. In a TV landscape where so many shows fear change or risk of any kind and seem absolutely allergic to good plotting, Being Erica shines. 

I also really like how the show handles the time travel element. The show doesn't allow the time travel to take over; the focus is always on Erica's character. Every episode features some type of time travel, but there's no hard and fast rule that it has to be 50% or 60% of the episode. If the plot demands it, time travel can dominate 70% of the episode. If the plot doesn't need it, time travel is only used in snippets, occupying 30% to 40%. The show was also quite creative with its use of time travel. Erica and Dr. Tom when back in time and forward in time. Erica relived days until she could figure out how to do them right. Erica went to other people's pasts. Erica controlled time. Erica got a free day that would be erased. In short, the show has fun with time travel, and changing and reshaping it; it always keeps things interesting. 

Being Erica uses time travel to ask big philosophical questions. It explores regret and destiny and death and moral issues. That makes the show fascinating. It also uses time travel to create some very interesting plot twists; that makes the show intriguing. In particular, I think it really helps the romance. In the first two seasons Erica dated Ethan, her best friend who wasn't involved in time travel. That was fine, though a little boring. It was then that the show realized that Erica had to be with someone who was a time traveller. As a result, we got Kai. Kai was from the future and he met Erica when back on a long regret. When that regret was over he went back to the future, and present day Kai forgot all about Erica. But future Kai never did. He kept coming back for her, and slowly they developed into something more. But, in between this, Erica developed a relationship with Adam, a time traveler from her present. In the fourth season she had to choose between the two, and it was a love triangle more delicious than any I have seen in a long, long time

This wasn't Bella/Edward/Jacob, where it was completely obvious she was never going to choose Jacob. This wasn't Joey/Dawson/Pacey, where there was no right choice. This was a legitimate, complicated love triangle. And Erica and Kai were a more real tale of forbidden love than most love stories, because their relationship actually wasn't possible. They lived in different time periods; they literally could not live together. So even though they loved each other, they couldn't be together. And so Erica ended up with Adam. Which was good. I mean, I loved Kai, but I understand. Adam was not only possible, but Adam was the right person for who Erica wanted to be. If she chose Kai, she would only be denying herself, choosing the immature dream. By choosing Adam she choose the reality, the real guy who challenged her and made her take the essential risks. As a romantic, I always loved Kai more. But as a viewer, I understand that Adam was right choice; I love that the romance was complex enough and well developed enough to get me to that point. 

Most of all, I love the characters. That's always what it comes down to. For the longest time I hated Julianne, Erica's friend/business partner. She's a ridiculous character. But after four seasons, I love her. I can't help but adore her little quirks. I also like Brent and Jenny and Adam, and, of course, Kai. I love the romance between Sam and Lenin. And I just love the relationship between Erica and Dr. Tom. It's not at all romantic; instead, it's sweet and loving and just so caring. They have a well developed relationship throughout the series; in particular, they have great scenes in the series finale. Like Julianne, Dr. Tom was often a character that bothered me, with his endless quotes and preaching. But by the end, he too grew on me. They all did. 

They all deserve credit (from left): Reagan Pasternak (Julianne), Adam Fergus (Adam), Erin Karpluk (Erica!), Morgan Kelly (Brent), Joanna Douglas (Sam), and Michael Riley (Dr. Tom)

Being Erica has faults. I was never nearly as interested in episodes that focused on characters other than Erica, say Dr. Tom or Adam or Julianne. The first two seasons weren't as strong as the last two. But I'm just glad I got to see such a great Toronto show; it did my city proud. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Going Home

I have my last exam in forty minutes. That means I'm going home today.

Most of me is excited. Ecstatic. Last night, I couldn't fall asleep because I was so excited. Kind of like that feeling you get on Christmas Eve. You're so excited for the next day to come that you desperately want to sleep, but you're excitement keeps you awake. I was jumping around my room. I felt like a little kid. In that way, it's nice that I've been away so long. Now it means so much more going back.

I want to open them so badly! Why can't it be Christmas yet?!?

But going back also means bad things. Scary things. And that's why there's a part of me that's not excited. There's a significant part of me that's nervous. And I know I haven't been blogging and I suck for that, but I was hoping you'd give me a few minutes of your time to talk about my nervousness. In exchange, I promise book and tv posts next week. Deal?

Right now I feel like I'm in a weird interstitial space. Like I'm not fully emotionally committed to my life at university, but I've moved past being fully engaged with my life in Toronto. If that makes sense.

I have friends here. My life is here now. My present, my foreseeable future. That makes it feel like I don't fully belong at home. Like I don't fully know how to be that person who I was last year. I feel like I've forgotten how to be a best friend, a daughter, a student. I feel like I've changed and everybody back home is going to expect me to be the same. And I'm not sure if I know how to go back like that. I don't know if I'll remember how to respond the right way and how to be who they want me to be. I don't know. I'm confused.

At the same time, I don't feel like I'm fully in this university world. The people I'm closest to, the people I care most about--family, friends, teachers--are all in Toronto. My loyalty still lies to Toronto. I still call Toronto home. I have a lot of friends here and I really like them. I like my courses. I like my future. But my past is still such a part of my life. I may not see those people everyday, but I think about them. I know they're there, supporting me. I remember that when things are hard here. The Toronto people may not be a physical part of my everyday life, but they're still an essential emotional part.

As a result, I feel like I'm caught between two worlds, not fully fitting into either of them. That makes me scared to go. And I'm sure it will make me scared to come back in January. And it scares me that I don't have anywhere where I'm fully comfortable. My life is split right now. No matter where I am, there's something missing. When I'm here, I miss home. When I'm home, I'm sure I'll miss it here. It bothers me that there's nowhere that's complete.

I feel divided. Scared. Nervous. Absolutely out of my head excited. So many emotions. It's overwhelming.

And that's me right now. Thanks for reading. I promise, I promise, I promise, to get back to more regular blogging. And I promise to mention something pop culture-y very soon.


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