Monday, April 29, 2013

Great Gatsby Readalong Chapters 1-4

gatsby readalong button

Becky from One Literature Nut is hosting a readalong of The Great Gatsby before the movie starts. You can still join in if you like! I got kind of a late start because I was waiting for the audiobook from the library, but I finished the book this weekend and am ready to catch up.

Discussion Questions from Becky:

  • What role(s) do you see for the setting in the novel? Do you like this setting, and does it affect the way you read the story? I don't live on the East Coast so I have no opinion about the Hamptons--I mean, East and West Egg. The Eggs?--but I did notice that the Egg Gatsby lives on is the less fashionable one. He can't do anything right.
  • Since Nick is the narrator in this story, do you think it's possible he might be setting us up to like or dislike certain characters? Do you trust his retelling? I don't think Nick likes anyone in this book, including himself. I'm not sure he knows what "liking people" means. He just does things because it's expected, not because he likes or dislikes it.
  • What do you think of Tom, Daisy, and Myrtle? Tom's obviously an ass hole. Daisy thinks she's clever but only because she's around Tom too much, and Myrtle's just desperate.
  • What else stood out to you in these opening chapters? I kind of hate Nick. Everyone in this book is so conventional, they need someone to save them from themselves. And speaking of our savior...
  • What do you think of Gatsby's absence from his own parties? I think it's a metaphor for his life. The parties and the whole Great Gatsby persona are kind of hollow because they don't have anything to do with him, they're just a trap lure Daisy. He's not present in his own life just like he's not present at his parties.
  • Is Gatsby a character you feel sympathy or cynicism towards? I definitely sympathize with Gatsby--he's the only character in the entire book who has ANY imagination--but dang dude, take a pill and chillax. He's actually an awesome person, but he's trying so hard to be someone else and he's so awkward and desperate.
  • Are we supposed to feel for Daisy as Jordan does, and if she really wanted to meet up with Gatsby again, wouldn't she already have done it? I honestly don't feel anything for Daisy. She's hardly even a character, just a symbol. Eighty percent of what she does makes no sense.
  • Is there anything else that stood out to you or you questioned? I loved the scene in the library where the guy was like, "Real books, with pages and everything!" The moment when Gatsby and Nick first met also kind of made me hate Nick, because it seems like they could be friends and then Nick gets all Judgey McJudge and is like, "What a poseur." You're a poseur Nick! I don't see you being awesome.

Stay tuned next week when we discuss chapters 5-6, which hopefully I won't have completely forgotten by then.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Readathon Wrap-Up

drunk lolcat

The Readathon is over, which means it's now time to reflect on what we have read after we have read it.

So after my mid-event Readathon update, I read about fifty pages in Mission to Paris before I decided to watch Doctor Who, and things kind of went downhill from there because I feel the need to watch every episode of Doctor Who multiple times in case I miss something. And then we had dinner, and then my mom was like "Look at these funny YouTube videos I found," and then I was like, "Let's watch Django Unchained"—completely unaware that it's nearly three freaking hours long—and then I decided to watch Da Vinci's Demons (really good show, by the way), and basically it was around three in the morning before I started listening to The Three Musketeers, passed out at some point, and now I have to find my place in that audiobook again.

But, overall it was a pretty successful Readathon. I did finish The Great Gatsby, at least. Usually I spend the Readathon doing minichallenges and commenting more than reading, but this time I actually got some reading in, so that was nice.

Food consumed: breakfast casserole, a banana, crackers with hummus and capers (that was my lunch, sad), miso soup and sushi, champagne, martinis (too many martinis, I'm blaming everything on Django), and lots of water.

End of event questions:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Right now. I'm feeling pretty daunted right about now.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
All the books I read this time would be great choices. If you're into reading chunksters for the Readathon, The Three Musketeers feels like a really fast read even though it's long. Loooong long looong.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Hm, I really liked the minichallenges with pictures. More instagram/photo challenges would be cool.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
It seemed like everything went perfectly.

5. How many books did you read?
One ish.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
The Great Gatsby, Mission to Paris, The Three Musketeers

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
I honestly enjoyed all of them.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
Doctor Who. Haha. Kidding but kind of not.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I was not a cheerleader.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I'll definitely participate again!

How did your Readathon/Saturday go?

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Readathon Mid-Event Update

great gatsby cover

The Readathon continues! I finished my work stuff about an hour ago and then started back on The Great Gatsby and finished it. Yay! Oy, the ending is the worst part of that book. I did not need to go to Gatsby's funeral, thanks though F. Scott.

breakfast casserole
A slice of breakfast casserole.

Anyway... food! For the Readathon I prepared a breakfast casserole made out of eggs, ham, bread, cheese, and chopped chives. It turned out really yummy and was super-easy to make. If you're thinking about something to make for fall's Readathon I would definitely recommend it. You can view the recipe at Full Fork Ahead.

And now it's time for the mid-event survey:

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
No, not really. I feel fine but my neck's stiff. :p

2) What have you finished reading?
Just The Great Gatsby so far.

3) What is your favorite read so far?
Uh The Great Gatsby I guess? That's kind of my only choice.

4) What about your favorite snacks?
The breakfast casserole! Actually that's all I've had except for a banana.

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!
Nope, I haven't had a chance to visit any blogs yet. Maybe later tonight.

How's your Readathon/Saturday going?

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Readathon Starting Post

dewey's readathon button

Good morning! I know things have been radio silent around here for a bit, but I'm back to participate in Dewey's Readathon. What is Dewey's Readathon? I'm glad you asked! It's kind of like the Superbowl for bibliophiles.

I have some work-y things to do today, but for the most part I'm planning on taking it easy and finishing all the books I'm in the middle of right now, which are:

  • The Great Gatsby--Is Gatsby Jesus?
  • Mission to Paris--Hollywood star becomes Allied spy.
  • The Three Musketeers--Buckles and swashing.
  • A non-fiction book about Jane Austen whose title is escaping me right now.

Anyway, the peeps at Dewey also have an introduction questionnaire. So here it is!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Colorado, USA

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Idk, Gatsby I guess. I'm already reading all of them, so.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
I made a special breakfast casserole for the Readathon, so I'm looking forward to that.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
My favorite coffee mug has a kitty cat and the word "mystery" on it.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I'll probably read outside more this Readathon and spend less time online than I have in previous years.

Want to join in the Readathon? There's still time! Go to to find out more.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Movie Review: COMPLIANCE

Originally released: 2012
Starring: Ann Dowd, Dreama Walker, and Pat Healy
Directed by: Craig Zobel
Based on: the strip-search prank scam in Mount Washington, Kentucky

Review by the lovely Bridget of Books as Portable Pieces of Thoughts


A very busy fast food joint, somewhere in one of the unnamed towns of the USA. The manager, a middle-aged woman called Sandra, is having a really bad day: due to a screw-up by her underlings, almost $1,500 worth of bacon has been ruined, and she is now conscious of needing some extra effort to please her bosses. All of a sudden she gets a call from a cool, authoritative man who identifies himself as Officer Daniels; he claims one of her employees, a pretty twenty-something blonde called Becky working on the till, has stolen some money from a customer's bag.

Very distressed and very busy, Sandra more or less meekly comply with every request of that man, although they are just talking on the phone. Afer all he wants her to avoid the worst - an unnecessary delay and scandal, tarnishing the reputation of the whole joint and herself as an efficient manager. First she search Becky's bag, then she strip-searches the girl and keeps her almost naked in the back office, under the 'surveillance' of several men. Becky is to be isolated and effectively imprisoned and helpless until the squad car arrives. The results of Sandra's decisions are disastrous. Soon most of the staff are involved in demeaning, humiliating and compromising activities. How will it end?

compliance film still

My impressions:

This chilling film, written and directed by Craig Zobel, is based closely on the true story of a serial phone-prankster sociopath in the US who, for a decade, got away with a bizarre repeated hoax. His daring escalated and in 2004 he brought off his masterstroke of insidious evil. The con trick was a very sadistic demonstration of the weakness and suggestibility of human nature, more devastating than anything in the well-known Stanford and Milgram experiments (testing individuals' response to authority in the 60s of 20th century) because real lives were wrecked.

From different optical illusions like Escher’s impossible labyrinths to unsolicited emails from rich and generous African officials who offer us a fortune for a very small favour, common sense has us hard-wired to reject the implausible. We should be able to do it in our best interest. Unfortunately sometimes we fail. Believe me, it is a movie which will drive a cruel punch to your gut far more effectively than any thriller or slasher because it will make you ask yourself: what would I do in such a situation? It is a cold, hard, shrewd film: satire with a drop of cyanide. The set and decorations match that : filth and grease set the scene for human sliminess.

That doesn't look good.

What Compliance shows, however, is how very important it is that "Officer Daniels" targets a fast food chain. A fast food joint is a place to lower your guard as well as your standards. Here is where the real degradation can flourish because a chain is always conscious of a menacing corporate authority somewhere above them: branch managers, regional managers, people who might only reveal themselves as a voice on the phone. Obedience and badly suppressed fear are the order of the day, especially on the unthinkable subject of hurting your milking cow, a customer. Relinquishing your free will and simply going with the flow is part of the process for all concerned. So when some brazen authority figure on the phone knocks everyone with some new situation, submitting is the natural way to react. Your inner voice might nag you, suggesting that something is very wrong and yet at any time, in any period, when people supposedly in authority tell us what to do – more often than not we do it. Without thinking about the consequences. Without thinking at all.

One weakness of this low-budget film is that the characters — though realistically acted — are a bit too shallow and generic. It’s also a mistake, in my opinion, to keep cutting away to the prankster but without showing his inner self. I WANTED to know what made him tick and my questions weren't answered - not really. I also have to say it seemed to me that Zobel didn’t sell the idea, just the outrage: The more indignities and violations Becky endured at the hands of people who were supposed to be her friends and co-workers, the more it felt like a hollow provocation. As things went from bad to horrible, I got the urge to walk into that back room where Becky was being interrogated and start yelling, “What’s wrong with you people? Are you a bunch of puppets? Switch on your brains! Take a moment and call somebody, like the actual freaking police!”

Final verdict:

A competently crafted film, telling a very chilly story - undoubtedly one of the toughest sits of the movie year 2012. Still sometimes it is good to be reminded how we are programmed to do things that go against our natural instincts as long as we believe we have the law on our side.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Spy Books with Spies


So you've watched Casino Royale three hundred times and can recite whole portions of The Bourne Identity from memory (that's, like, your superpower). You even sat through all five hours of Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy. Okay, that was more for the man candy, and you might have spent most of it tweeting, but anyway. The point is, you can't get enough of sophisticated spies, but you're so desperate for something new you're considering watching Knight and Day; and yeah, you could read (or reread) the actual James Bond novels, but you're hoping for something slightly less misogynistic. Fortunately for you: sexy spies with a love story thrown in? We got that.

Note that this list isn't of spy novels as per literary fiction--if you love John Le Carré, more power to you, but I prefer my spy stories to be as divorced from reality as possible. The way God, or at least Ian Fleming, intended.

black ice cover

Black Ice by Anne Stuart--Chloe is scraping by as a translator in Paris (shades of Charade!) when she's offered a job in the French countryside. Only the job turns out to be for a group of arms dealers. Fortunately for Chloe, there's a spy among them--Bastien Toussaint, who's not sure what Chloe's game is, but is willing to protect her from the baddies until he finds out. This book is the first in a series about an organization of spies who travel the world. All of the novels are unputdownable with just the right mix of thriller and romance. NO ONE writes bad boy heroes like Anne Stuart.

crazy hot cover

Crazy Hot by Tara Janzen--Quinn used to be the black sheep of his small town, until he left to join the military. Now he's part of a special ops team that operates under the cover of a specialty car shop, and his first mission involves working with Regan, the poor little rich girl who broke his heart. Fast cars, kick ass men, and wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance? TOTALLY THERE. I also love this book because it takes place in my home state (Colorado); Regan is super-smart and doesn't take any crap from anyone; and it really is a hot book. Also: first in a series, again. All of the installments with high entertainment value.

riddle of the sands cover

The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers--Okay, so the guys are more hugable than hot in this one, and the romance is kind of incidental, but I do recommend Riddle of the Sands for anyone who loves spy stories. Curruthers is a suit at the Foreign Office who is desperate for a vacation, so he accepts an invitation from a random acquaintance, Davies, to go sailing on his yacht. In the Baltic Sea. In September. When he arrives, it's to find out that Davies only invited him because he thinks a German spy tried to kill him, and now he needs help figuring out what the spy was trying to hide. This is a great book. I absolutely love Carruthers, who is sarcastic and hilarious, and the story is surprisingly tense and 100% believable. Childers really knew what of he wrote. Winston Churchill even used Riddle of the Sands as a blueprint for British operations in the Baltic during WWII.

my brother michael cover

My Bother Michael by Mary Stewart--Camilla is sitting in a cafe in Athens, bemoaning how boring her life is and how nothing ever happens, when something happens! (Note I have attempted this tactic myself on several occasions and it NEVER WORKS.) A stranger presses a key into her hand and begs her to take a car to a man named Simon in Delphi. It's a matter of life and death! Well, what's a girl to do? Camilla hops in the car and drives that sucker down to Delphi, where she gets involved with the mysterious Simon and all the non-boring car chases, shoot-outs, and cloak-and-dagger craziness that is his life.

What are some of your favorite spy novels?

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Phantom Versus Erik

i am the night

Nymeth had a post a few weeks ago asking if there were any books you love that make you feel like you were part of a secret club with other people who love that book. At the time I drew a bland, but later I realized I kind of feel that way about The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.

For one thing, only people who've read the book know who Erik is. For another, I believe that Erik is one of the best characters in literature, but the qualities that make him fascinating never translate to the musical or film adaptations.

The first difference between Erik and "the Phantom" can be seen in their names. Erik is a specific person, a genius who invented ventriloquism, designed a sultan's palace, and entertained a sadistic princess. The Phantom is an idea, a terror that shadows the Opera's rafters and subterranean labyrinths.

The Phantom is clever, mischievous, and threatening. Erik is a psychopathic and terrifying.

Erik also inspires ALL THE FEELS. Pity and admiration, love, fascination, disgust, and horror. The Phantom, while fascinating, doesn't engender the same reaction. I mean, I feel sorry for the poor guy, but it's kind of his own fault.

When it comes to the Phantom and Christine... it's sad, but was she really going to live beneath the Paris Opera with him? No. With Erik, it's more complex. Yeah, he's kind of a psycho and unattractive; but he also clearly loves Christine, putting her happiness above his own. In the end, Erik is a hero while the Phantom is a figure of tragedy.

Do you know Erik?

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