Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Just When I Thought I’d Gotten Over Young Adult Books

I was first introduced to the Skinjacker trilogy when the first novel, ‘Everlost’ was a reading option for my Sophomore high school final project. The storyline sounded absolutely breathtaking. The book follows two children, Nick and Allie, who get into a car accident one day and end up lost in this world between life and death. The three books in the series follow the aspirations of them, as well as those of several other characters along the way. Each character has something that defines them and entwines them with this story.

Nick represents the child who has died, forgets himself in this world of limbo, and works to discover that his real purpose is helping greensouls (newly dead children) to make their way off into the “light at the end of the tunnel”, or the metaphorical afterlife. In the meantime, he transforms into a sort of ‘chocolate ogre’ after he forgets his original appearance. Everything that a person wears on himself transfers into this world of Everlost, and because Nick had a smudge of chocolate on his face upon dying, this insignificant feature eventually took him over and turned him into a beast. For Nick especially, it was interesting to watch how manipulations has a strong impact on him throughout this series, yet up the end, he stayed true to himself thanks to Allie.

Allie is a rather complex character; she is a very independent person who sticks up for her beliefs when attacked. Allie seeks to befriend the beast known as the McGill, who other Everlost children have grown to fear. What is great about Allie is that she transcends all omens or rumors thrown at her about how spooky and scary a place Everlost is. In a Beauty and The Beast Story, the two of them fall in love with one another over time and the McGill transforms back into his original  human state as Mikey McGill and sticks close to Allie for the rest of the trilogy. What is unique about Allie is her possession of the rare power of skinjacking, which is when an Everlost soul can jump into the lives of the living world. This power comes to be very useful in her victory in book three. She discovers that those who can skinjack aren’t really dead, but actually in a coma. Knowing this, she forms the deep wish to make things right before going back and possessing her own body again, returning to her old life. Of course, you may ask why would Allie want to settle disputes in Everlost first, instead of jumping straight back. Well, this is because of the heartless, despicable afterlight (Everlost inhabitant) that you will grow to hate, Mary Hightower.

Throughout this series, I’ve grown to hate everything that Mary stands for more and more. Although her views aren’t necessarily wrong or twisted, which makes her a credible antagonist, they tamper with the forces of the living world. Mary Hightower has the strong view that Everlost souls are in this world to stay in this state of limbo and continue out the same routine for the rest of eternity, instead of going off “into the light”. She becomes a power-hungry, manipulating backstabber, taking advantage of the hearts of many skinjackers, giving them the duty to take over bodies in the living world and mass murder as many people as they can, which is why Allie wants to stay to put a stop to Mary’s scheme. By killing bodies and capturing souls before they go off “into the light” Mary plans to build up an army of afterlights and become the greatest ruler of Everlost. What bothers me the most about Mary is that she has such a polite and innocent façade, yet has dark ambitions of wiping out every living creature on Earth. Just like every other character in this book, Mary is just very complex. When we first meet her in the first novel, she seems to be the greatest source of knowledge and understanding in this unknown world, which is why many, including myself, draw to her, she even writes her own guides to give to new souls on how to “live” in this new land. Her views originally seem so right and just, until over the course of the trilogy we come across a plethora of viewpoints that make Mary seem like a snot-nosed brat.

Throughout the trilogy, I’ve grown attached to these plot changes that Neal Shusterman has thrown into the mix of this delightful read. Nothing in this series is ever predictable, which makes me want to drool over each page like a hungry dog. The main idea that swirls throughout the batter of this entire trilogy is the meaning of time spent in one’s afterlife, which becomes a heated source of debate in this cold lifeless world of Everlost. I would definitely recommend this series to anyone.

Michael

P.S: Happy 200th Post to myself 🙂

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Winter Break, Oh Yeah…

Happy Hanukkah to all the Jews of the world! (including myself!) I’m really glad to be finally done with my first semester finals. I came back to my dorm after my last final at 7pm blasted music on my speakers until and RA came and told me to take notice for the 24 hour quiet hours in the building. Whoops! I guess I was just in such a state of ecstasy. I am also very excited because I’ve spent the past couple of months searching and searching for a job for next semester. It’s just so competitive in a place like college to get a job. I’ve been rejected so many times, it’s such a self esteem boost *haha*. But on the day that I was going to leave back home, I got a email saying that I got accepted for a job! I was so happy I just started squealing with joy and staring at my reaction in the mirror (I mean, who doesn’t do that?).

Okay, so recently Food Network Humor posted a hilarious video based on Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa cake: the most racist and inaccurately represented piece of food on the planet. So, in case you didn’t know Sandra Lee is a klutzy drinking Food Network “personality” who shines little to no genuine personality on television and creates ridiculous and barf-worthy ‘tablescapes’ and themes for each episode. The her entire show just drags on with each 1-hour segment. So for one episode, yep, she decides to celebrate all three major winter holidays by cultivating all of the limited and inaccurate knowledge that she knows about these unfamiliar cultures and throws together some “inspired” cakes for her viewers.Of course, any viewers that she has must be part of some cult of cocktail drinkers that probably get drunk with her in bars. In this episode the “Kwanzaa cake” consists of a angel food cake topped with icing, filled with “African” pie filling, and then drizzled with pumpkin seeds and acorns. This cake just emanates with racism; there is nothing as unsettling as a clueless person imitating the life, breath. and soul of this traditional holiday; I bet her black friends (if they exist) come from all around to share in such a spectacular cake. Oh yeah… if a god-like figure such as Sandra Lee can craft such a vivid representation of the great annual harvest, then anyone can! What’s great is that everything on this cake is fit for human consumption, including the acorns! I can imagine that everyone’s inner squirrel must squeal for joy to finally come across a recipe that consists of acorns. Sandra Lee, you are my hero. This cake is a masterpiece, and you should enjoy this wonderful creation from a devoted fan.

Connor has lately gotten me pretty hyped up about the new movie, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, based on the novel with the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer. The movie follows this boy who has been deeply affected by the death of his father during the 9/11 attack. His father had always instilled in him a sense of adventure and chasing after mysteries, and so when the boy finds a key left in the closet by his father, he feels like there is still a part of his dad that he needs to discover out in the real world. Despite the absurdity of a little boy freely running around New York City by himself (not a forced isolation like in Home Alone 2) there was still a sense of magic from the trailer that was absolutely stunning. I am really curious about the emotional changes and discoveries that this boy makes as he looks for more about his father. I can relate to him, sort of. I mean, I’ve found a key in my closet when I was little, became obsessed with it, and wore it around my neck everywhere I went with the hope of finding what it opens. Of course, that lock ended up being directly adjacent to where I had originally found it *haha*. The point is, I was attached to it and the mystery behind what it opened. Little kids are just so free, they can become attached onto hobbies or other interests so much more than adults. And although these attachments are temporary, the relationships are so intimate that children build their own magical world around them. I am curious to see how the boy’s interest in his father in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is painted throughout the movie.

Also, I’ve been looking back at a lot of my older posts lately, gosh, my writing has changed so much over the past couple of years. I came across this web archive website called web.archive.org that was posted in a previous Club Penguin related post and I am re-realizing now how amazing the website is. It basically makes copies of older versions of web pages and posts them as an array across a timeline. Remember Ask Jeeves? I certainly do: the first search engine I probably ever used on the computer. I sort of miss seeing the old butler on the askjeeves.com website. I discovered using this website that the website was renamed ask.com in 2002 and that he left at the end of February 2006, how sad. I’ve always enjoyed a little bit of nostalgia in my day.

Michael

That Abandoned Idea

(June 11th, 2010)
Dear thank-god-its-summer-break Planet Earth,

Sometimes I think this idea is gonna be so great. And maybe it is. But then other times I remember other things I thought would be great… What if this all bombs out? Then in a few years I’ll look back and think, Boy, was I stupid.” ~ Trevor McKinney

As a child, you are given little to no freedom. Making a difference in the world is left for the big, strong adult figures in society… everyone else just fades to the background and lets the world change around them as they go on with their normal lives. To adjust the normal rhythm of events would be too enormous for a child, supposedly. Even after thinking you come close, there is always someone to drag you down and say that the brilliant idea won’t work and how you should just move on.

Thirteen-year-old Trevor managed to go against the flow of the world and bring about positive difference. Living with an alcoholic mother and a father who abandoned him, Trevor puts aside his problems to think about how he can actually spark change in the world around him. Through the concept of “paying it forward” he passes on good deeds to the needy people around him: he helps a homeless man make a living,  helps an elderly woman with her dream garden, and helps save the life of man getting mugged. His whole plan acts as a long chain: one is supposed to help three people, and each of those three are supposed to help another three and it keeps going on until all the world is performing kind acts. Faced with the imperfections in society, Trevor just about abandons his theory thinking that no one in their right mind would pass it on. It takes a reporter: Chris Chandler, to trace his way from the other side of the country to find Trevor and tell him that he has created an enormous movement, sparked the interest of the media, and lowered crime rates eighty percent. Out of nowhere, Trevor is whisked to stardom for his development of a simple idea.

I was introduced to Pay It Forward in Eighth Grade in one of my elective classes for a unit on inspirational people. I don’t even remember why I was forced to take such a pointless class, but that doesn’t matter: I pulled something great out of the experience. After watching the movie, I at once fell in love with the sweet, warm plot line and it dawned on me that this was something I would want to revisit in the future. This past week I decided to read the book version of the novel and get even deeper into the lives of the characters that I had known  solely on the surface after seeing the movie. It seems like everyone always says that the book version is better than the movie, and I can’t disagree with that. I just adored watching the hidden progress of the movement and exploring the lives of the characters through their own various perspectives and inputs. Each chapter focuses on a different character who was affected by Trevor’s idea, which helped me understand the movement as a whole. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in mystery novels, since there is quite a bit of profound investigation. Pay It Forward also has numerous heartwarming moments; these charitable characters painted intricately by the author will appeal to any reader. The ending was such an incredible twist of events; you’ll enjoy it.


Birds


(May 28th, 2010)
Dear shut-in planet Earth,

God, how much does it take for us to be loved?
For us to be saved?
We all are birds stuck inside our cage, covered up with praise.
And behind our saints we hide our face.
Oh, the numbers come. Yeah, they’re dialing in.
We can’t help but to compare ourselves again.
~Birds by Deas Vail~

I couldn’t take it anymore: McMurphy and Nurse Ratched fighting off against each other for months on end on the tiniest rules of the mental institution. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is jammed with tension between the “birds”: the mental patients; and the “cage”: the doctors and nurses on the ward. McMurphy, a gambler and rebel, purposely works his way into this cruel world cut off from the outside world, imagining his time to be a breeze, and he immediately realizes that it isn’t the relaxing atmosphere he has hoped for. Instead, the powerful nurse in charge, Ms. Ratched,  seeks control and inflicts pain on the patients with a range of mental troubles. Sadly, her methods have caused a cruel opposite effect: they’ve made just-about-normal patients doomed to be in the hospital for life by giving them permanent disabilities. Unfortunately, the outside world doesn’t seem to notice, since Ratched sucks up to the press and builds a delightful image to show how much progress the institution has made.  McMurphy is very perseverant in his quest to dismantle the structured system that Ratched has created. He continues on with his dastardly stunts even after receiving repetitive electric shock treatments to his brain. He becomes a figure similar to Jesus, gaining followers and later receiving beating after beating on the cross-shaped table wearing his own “crown of thorns”.  The  slow downfall of the caste system around him truly captivates the reader and brings about strong hatred towards Ratched. McMurphy succeeds in appealing to the rest of the patients around him. Going against the strict policies, the patients go on fishing trips outside of the grounds and secretly have parties with prostitutes during the night and get drunk on a mixture of alcohol and cough syrup.  McMurphy becomes closer to Bromden, a silent, inactive patient who  eventually comes out of his shell after he shows him that there is more to the world than the dull confines of the institution. This book profoundly questions the definition of insanity, showing that these people are just the same as everyone else and possibly just have been given up at a young age for various reasons. The  surprise ending makes the reader thankful for having so much freedom and opportunity in the world.

Michael

A Marvelous Adventure of Hide and Seek

(March 24th, 2010) Dear Planet Earth,

It was deafeningly bloodcurdling having to put myself through Richard’s conversations with the white men in Black Boy. Having to pick out his sentences word-for-word, I was anxious of the possible consequences that would come into effect if Richard had slipped on a single syllable during his conversation with Mr. Pease. I was enraged with fury in my mind with the shattering of such a bright, innocuous day when Richard had inadvertently forgot to complete Mr. Pease’s surname in a sentence and had dismally retreated from his employment. Such tension between the blacks and whites will draw in any reader to the treacherous conflict in this novel. Richard’s struggle to control his speech leads to a feeling of a profound sympathy for his pitiful predicaments.

Richard’s curiosity for going against the strong current in life is something that any free-thinker can relate to. His grandmother consistently bogs him down with religion, which is portrayed as a metal cage, sucking him into the crowd of Christian believers and drawing him away from his desires. She yells about how he is going to burn up in hell after he reads Bluebeard and His Seven Wives, alleged to be “work of the Devil”. Richard has a strong grasp on what he believes is right. By sneaking slowly into the dimmer side of society, he starts reading about new ideas, such as the ones formed by H. L. Mencken: a man who colored everything he saw, heard, and did. A vivid transformation takes place: he finally feels the throbbing heartbeat of life and aspires to be more rebellious. Richard in Black Boy will surely appeal to the majority of youth, since this book wraps around the obscure phase of discovering who you are inside.

Reading

(March 23rd, 2010) Dear Planet Earth,

Wild, exotic, adventurous, and vastly descriptive. I’ve caught myself in a pretty captivating adventure book called The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear. It had stood out to me greatly at Borders and I wanted to give an adventure story a shot, since this genre is completely unfamiliar with me. The book reminded me of all of the picture books I’ve read when I was little — expanded to appeal to the adult audience. The story follows a blue bear that is trying to find a place to fit in with society. The book starts out with Blue bear on a boat in the middle of the ocean and continues with a variety of random events and adventures. Any person can connect Blue bear’s development to the development of their own childhood, because just like a human, Blue bear eventually is taught how to speak by talking waves in the ocean, learns early life lessons from a mysterious island that lures him in with desire, and is shown the world on the back of a flying dinosaur. He has formed a couple strong bonds of friendship with many of the characters he has encountered, while in the meantime has been strongly betrayed. Blue bear consistently is cast away from the communities that he grows to be apart of, and so it is a little saddening. At the same time, I find it to be probably one of the most descriptive novels I have ever encountered, since it spends such a large number of pages just to describe the physical characteristics of the ever changing landscape or the many species of creative characters that the author, Walter Moers, has formed. Blue bear’s journey is throughout the land known as Zamonia, which was supposedly a continent formed millions of years ago and had been in the middle of the Atlantic. I would recommend this read to anyone with lots of time on their hands and open to a captivating journey of adventure.


What’s The Point?

(January 25th, 2010)

Dear Planet Earth,

This weekend was a tough one for the books. Luckily I didn’t have too much stress since the finals were over. I felt trapped inside the house all weekend because I couldn’t get out and do anything. Usually I pass the time by playing Dance Dance Revolution. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option this time since I had gotten a splinter from a small piece of glass… or something… that I stepped on. It was the tiniest thing, but I couldn’t walk afterwards since the bottom of my foot would start stinging with every step. On Sunday I did manage to get out with my family though. I stopped at Borders and picked out a new book. Gosh, I can just never get enough of books anymore. This whole weekend I just felt like browsing a bookstore and seeing what interesting stories I can find. I’ve started to look at the adult reading section… I know! How mature of me! I felt so warm inside when I was scanning through the shelf at that Borders in the literature section, thank you very much! I’m just not used to the reaction that my parents give me… ever since I started *reading*. Anyway, the book I picked out today, Breakfast With Buddha, is about a normal man out in the world who encounters a religious monk. His wife tells him that he should go on a trip with this spiritual being to the place of his childhood. I haven’t really gotten that far into it, but that is what I know of from the summary on the back. I don’t know why it appealed to me, I guess I’ve just been into religious readings recently ever since I took religions last year. I had a bad experience when I was trying to read it last night. I was in my bed with my night-light on when I heard my parents start arguing in the room on the other side of my bedroom wall. It felt like the arguing went on for hours… I just couldn’t concentrate on the book. My mom and dad have fought so often now and me and my sisters are upset to our stomachs having to listen to it. They just don’t love each other, and I can’t really do anything to change that. I wished I could just get up and out of the house, but I couldn’t walk on account of my splinter. I couldn’t drain out their noise with my iPod because my ear was bleeding like crazy last night. What could I have done?

With music still as a topic of thought, my life has grown a lot more musical ever since my sister handed me an iPod one day… for free! Recently I’ve written songs that I am familiar with to put on it. I still have to use my sister’s iTunes account since apparently it doesn’t work on my laptop (according to her). So I have to resort to bugging her every second of every day to put more music on. Any free moment I have is one spent listening. In fact, I’m listening to it now as I am typing this during my free period. I never knew what I was missing out on until now! Whenever the idea of music came to me, I would always just shoo it away, thinking that I didn’t need such a thing in my life. Especially with my music-adoring friend, Trevor. In the past I’ve been irritated with any reminder of music because of him. I am sick of his wild guitar and any other instrument he plays.

It has gotten warmer out lately??? I know! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that the snow outside was gone! I stepped outside on Sunday and the air actually tickled my face with its pleasantness instead of beating it up. Apparently, it started snowing again today. Gosh, these little heat waves are so short!

I’m just so glad that all of my stress from school is at a minimum level again.  Finals were… well… easy I guess. So far I am satisfied with my grade in Pre-Calculus and Physics. I realize now that I have the highest grade in my Physics class now, which makes me want to do a happy dance! I feel so honored. For my Pre-Calc final I only had one question wrong, which kind of bothers me because I was so close to a perfect score. Consumer Economics was a real painstaking class. I am just glad to have that over since it was a huge contributor to my stress. The day before the final I had some idea that I had to complete a final project for the next day. I spent at least two hours working on a goal statement as a consumer, thinking that it would have to be turned in the next day. Apparently, I hadn’t received the memo concerning the cancellation of the assignment. The minute I turned it in to the teacher she started laughing at me! I was so embarrassed, yet proud since I had gone above and beyond. I am praying to god that she gives me some sort of credit for my pointless work.

Second semester started today. I just walked into school with a smile on my face. I don’t know what it is, I just adore change to my normal routine. It might not even be as great as last semester, I just love that it is different. In Physics we started learning about impulse and momentum. I received my grade back from the roller coaster project. I got like 101% on it… somehow. I don’t even think that there was extra-credit on it. Spanish was a pain. I’m just not doing so well in that class as I used to. We started off class by talking about what we did over the weekend… and it basically grew worse from there. She announced that we had to start with Diarios again with the topic that we have to talk about someone else in our class. How exciting! Especially because I am somewhat anti-social. She then announced that we were starting a new short story, and lastly that we would be studying South America next. Gee, I really have to get back into the stream of things with that class. I was so excited when Computer Science came up in my day. I walked in, happy to get back into the swing of JavaScript and HTML when I realized that the entire format of the course was redesigned. Apparently, everything I had learned last year was pointless since we started off with a completely different markup language. I was baffled to find out that there were other people who were in the same class as me last year that were in the AP level now. I feel so behind now, gosh! Anyway, I hope I grow to get used to this whole new format.

Apparently my domain will be ending on February 19th, 2010. I hope to pay it again, I just wonder whether I should buy a new domain for my site rather that renew this one. Any ideas for website addresses?