I am a lover of libraries, a reader of everything, a girl easily swayed by pretty pictures, and overall just your average, nerdy fairy princess.
2013 is the year I'm finally keeping up a regular reading blog Reading Robyn! There I post extended versions of my GR reviews so be sure to check that out!
I always seem to be on the move having lived in seven cities and counting in my nineteen years. I'm not on the run from the law as many have assumed (at least I don't think so), but moving around has given me an appreciation for how places make stories and people make memories. While change is inevitable, books are the friends that I take with me from place to place. They comforted me when I was sick, they push me to continue to learn and grow into myself, and most importantly they opened me up to the possibilities of living in thousands of places all at once.
I primarily read YA fiction, as well as a lot of graphic novels and manga. However, I tend to be this combination of odd reads, so expect the unexpected!
Cheesy Life Quote: "In this world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself." - Frantz Fanon
Yay! My import is finally complete!! I'll probably drive myself mad re-formatting and organizing everything, but it'll give me something to do in the duller moments of life... At least it's better than watching Dance Moms.
Sitting in the middle of an autumn thunder storm with the heat cranked up and a whodunit by the fantastic Agatha Christie really is the perfect scenario.
Although 4.50 from Paddington was a slow build the end result was just wonderfully murderous. By half way through I was thoroughly puzzled by who it could possibly be, both the murderer and the murdered. The hows and whys and who were simply fantastic as one unlikely scenario after another is brought to attention with no simple explanation in sight.
Something I've always loved about Agatha Christie, especially concerning Miss Marple is just how wonderfully unique it is. As a lover of crime-dramas and murder mysteries you've seen it all after some point. There are plenty of detectives out there and more often than not there's something undeniably special about them, like a superhero. But when it comes to Miss Marple and the people she ropes into her mysteries, there are no supernatural abilities here. She's just a intelligent older lady with an eye for murder. She could just as easily be your grandma and that's not something you could say about someone like a Sherlock Holmes.
The historical aspects of the book are also worth noting. There just something so quaintly sinister about the upper class English in this time period. This book takes us away from Miss Marple's village and to a manor, built on a snack food fortune, filled to the brim with resentment and family complexities.
What really brings it all together is Lucy. Lucy is Miss Marple's younger eyes and ears in as she works to help sleuth out a dead body. It was her character and her interactions with the family that really brought out the human and not so human side of each character. I was just as eager to know who she would be romantically involved with by the end of the book as I was figuring out who murdered the girl.
Now all I have to do is figure out which book in the series I should read next. I have a feeling I'll be reading a lot of Agatha this season. Autumn is just too perfect for mysteries.
This did not go well. It certainly could have gone much worse, but it gets worse the more I think about it. Mildly offensive at best.
I'm sure Ms. Simon meant no harm. I'm sure she wasn't trying to insult me. But someone along the writing path needed to remind her of the sensitivity of her subject. How saying my jeans are "probably second hand or from Target" might be seen as an insult or how her humorous quips might be read more as jabs. How not all girls are the same and one geek is not like the others. We're not all unpopular, we're not all meek, we're not one thing. We don't all want beta boys, some of us don't even want a boy to begin with. These obvious flaws could have been rectified by acknowledging the differences.
Part of what makes a geek a geek is that we don't fit a mold, we don't all have the same spots and strips. Just because we like stuff doesn't mean it completely defines every aspect of who we are. This book makes some pretty bold assumptions and backs them up by saying that she has created a community of geek girls the "Geek Girl Guild" who she has interacted with.
"Women of all ages, backgrounds, and areas of geek expertise wanted to joined the sisterhood, making the first pledge class over one hundred strong!" - Introduction, page 5
(And yes, "joined" is a spelling mistake found in the book.)
It makes me wonder how many of those 100 women read this book after it was published and went "Hold on a second."
I will say that the most interesting part of the book for me was the quotes in the margins, some of which attributed to the non-famous, which I assume were taken from this group of women. These geek girls were happy, strong, and proud. Another positive were the small biographical paragraphs about various geek girls who have succeeded in there in field, change perceptions, or influenced geek culture. Those small elements were great to read and brought a smile to my face amidst the frowning.
With that said however, lets talk about the frowning, and the scoffing, and the sighing, and the raging.
I went into this book going off the title alone. I thought that anything geek girl oriented might be interesting to check out. I was wrong. I could only force myself to read so much and in the end, to be completely upfront, I only read the sections of this book that applied to me and as I identify myself as a geek. I couldn't force myself to read anymore.
Section 1: Fangirl Geek
Section 2: Literary Geek
Section 7: Miscellaneous Geek (because that's a confidence boost)
Conclusion: Geek Girls Unite
The other chapters are more in the same and I assure you were skimmed through diligently for the sake of this review. But these are the sections I will be going in depth.
Brace yourselves, this is about to get ranty.
We are gathered here as the Geek Girls of the world. Those of us focused on in this book are labeled by interest: Fangirl Geek, Literary Geek, Film Geek, Music Geek, Funny-Girl Geek, Domestic Goddess Geek, and Miscellaneous Geeks, which are Tech Geeks, Fashionista Geeks, Political Geek, Retro Geek, and Athletic Geek.
The majority of this book, 99.9%, is about generalizing, quantifying, labeling, judging, assuming, and stereotyping who we are as people based off of a single interest.
Now, this narrow-minded focus is bound to be exclusionary but things only get monumentally worse when Ms. Simon tries to apply humor to the situation. Her quips can easily be read as jabs, her silly throw-away pages easily read as insulting. At every turn there is another opportunity to judge and generalize, of course humorously. My glasses, my phone, everything is just another opportunity for a joke. To take one thing and boil it down to what that says about who I am.
Then there's is the FRENDIEMIES page near end of each and every section. Allow me to explain. Frenemies is a combination between a friend and an enemy, "frenemies". These pages are basically a list of people who you shouldn't like, or at least not hang out with based on your geek cred. Because you know, we're in middle school and these people are clearly not cool enough to be seen with.
Oh, you want some examples? Why, sure! Here some taken word-for-word from every section. Enjoy!
- House guests who see your Sony PlayStation and ask if you live with a ten-year old.
- Anyone who cheated their way through high school and college English literature classes by relying solely on CliffsNotes.
- Members of the illiterati.
- Simpletons who are only familiar with the term "word-play" because it's the name of a Jason Mraz Song.
- Cheeseballs who still quote Napoleon Dynamite, Borat, or Austin Powers on a regular basis.
- Poseurs who admit to being "really into film" after seeing one Wes Anderson movie.
- Investment bankers, stock brokers, and various other Wall street douche bags.
- Girls who wear leggings instead of pants.
- Women who wear fragrances by celebrities. (except for those -approved by the author in a footnote.)
- Know-it-alls who immediately launch into a "but is it art?" discussion after walking through a contemporary art exhibit.
- Eccentrics who wear holiday or Cosby sweaters unironically.
- Self-proclaimed artists who use paint-by-number kits.
My word, these people are clearly just so beneath us. Let us banish them from our cool table and make them sit with losers at lunch.
Suddenly geek girls are exclusionary, mean, would rather judge then share our knowledge, rather jump to conclusions then laugh, and willing to completely judge and shun a person based on a single trait.
This pisses me off. People like what they like! Why is it necessary to be mean to each other? Geek girls know better then anyone that people who don't accept others for who they are aren't worth being around. And the fact that Ms. Simon is encouraging this sort of behavior make me angry.
Let us not forget the previously mentioned Geek Love Checklist section. Which tells us traits to look for in the perfect geeky man. These pages manage to squeak by from my acceptance that I'm reading the same quality that can be found in your average $1.99 teen magazine.
Till of course I saw this:
"The Perfect Match For a Literary Geek Girl...
Only reads one book at a time and thinks someone who's "in the middle" of numerous titles displays commitment issues.
Which made me think this: Screw. You. Asshole.
...Remember how I told you that geek girls can be sensitive? The majority of us grow up being told what is normal, what is cool, what makes a girl desirable. If a guy said that to me, I'd get up and leave. Because I am a geek girl and I don't like elitism.
Then there was a bunch on small things that bugged me.
- The mislabeling of Harry Potter fanatics as "Muggles".
- The 18 Twilight references in the Fangirl section.
- The section dedicated to Twilight called "The Twilight Zone" which never even mentions the actual Twilight Zone.
- Reading through the entire "Fangirl" section and not a single mention of "fandom", online community, or Firefly.
- Reading through the Literary Geek section and not a single mention of "Young Adult", varying tastes, or a little word called genre.
- The page title, "TAP THAT SASS".
- The fact that the book lacks focus in the audience it is trying to appeal to.
- The way that the Literary Geek section list books and information only about adult fiction and some early juvenile fiction. I found this annoying because these were not the books that geek girls love universally. These books are books everyone should read eventually, but you have to hold an interest for them and they have to be at your reading level. When going through all the adult fiction it was like reading a list of books for a college course.
- The section on the "Political Geek Girl" has this lovely little snippet.
"They strive to be advocates and activists; thus they often possess a pretty rigid set of values and ethics. (Some might call them stubborn or obstinate. Not me, of course, but some.) In an ideal world, everyone would see things their way." - page 172
- And so, so much more. I'm starting to get upset so I'm just going to stop there.
I am a fangirl of epically giggly and badass proportions, fashion is my passion, music and film are my mistresses, and global politics is my dirty Sunday gal. But most importantly I am a literary geek who should warn all other such geeks to keep this book off their to-read lists. Not only is it not worth our time and money, but it is not worth the possible insult. As a girl, I refuse to be generalized. I am proud of who I am and that girl is not the geek that Ms. Simon thinks I should be.
I'll admit that I had a very superficial idea of what I would be getting from a book with a cover and title like OCD, the Dude, and Me. I mean, the girl is holding up a bowling ball over her face and "DUDE" takes up at least a third of the entire cover. All those expectations were very wrong. I almost feel like I should apologize they were so wrong.
What I expected was a book like Sean Griswold's Head. It's cute, it's quirky, it's a contemporary romance that also has an emotional center, but is still comprised of all-american YA fluff. OCD, the Dude, and Me was not that. Instead it was an honest, sometimes heartbreaking look, at what it's like to be inside the mind of a teenage outcast as she hates herself and struggles to understand other people. Danielle is a lot like me. I don't have OCD, but I do have capital A, Anxiety. So reading her journals and assignments it all felt very familiar, which was very much a part of why I loved this book so much.
Danielle is over-weight and socially inept. She hates the color of her hair; She doesn't know how to accept her damaged self. She loves to read, and write, and journal every little bit of her life. However, I, Jessica-Robyn, am also all these things. I was surprised how emotionally connected I became to this book. It's like that one book that speaks directly to you in that weird, person to fictional person, sort of way.
A lot of the book is about emotions and high school. As Danielle experiences her last year of high school primarily though her English class we experience things with her. Danielle goes through a lot of normal high school experiences, like a class trip to England and a school car wash, but through her worry and obsessive nature she finds it difficult to cope among her classmates. She is a wall builder, a with-holder, and she has, as we learn, a pretty good reason to be that way. ... That I can't talk about.
There are so many aspects of the plot I want to discuss and so many things I want to say to try and make a case for this book, but the honest truth is that I can't talk about my favourite moments because it would spoil it. I'm not even willing to use spoiler tags because I know you people, you'll be too tempted.
I don't know how this book is going to fly for other people, but I ended up loving it. Will other people also love it? I really don't know.
So, here I am, between a rock and a hard place. I want to recommend this, but I don't know if I can. So let me just lay it all out there.
I woke up late today at 4PM (yes, PM) because I haven't been sleeping well. When I joined my mother in the living room I sat down and decided to read because nothing good was on TV. It's been a very long time since I read a good book, I didn't expect this one to break the losing streak. But then I started reading OCD, the Dude, and Me, and did not stop until I was finished.
As a word of warning this is written in journal format. There's a lot of emails, Grade 12 English essays, and letters that ramble, meander, and leaves things out. With that said, this is the sort of story that should be written that way. It didn't come across as stiff or withholding, it felt like a very real person was laying all out there in her personal, private, record keeping space, fueled by her OCD, that sometimes crossed over into more public spaces. It made sense for her character and for the characters around her, which made it all work it a strange and wonderful, not patch-worky, sort of way.
I would recommend this book to psychology lovers and people looking for a very "inside-the-mind" coming-of-age story that reveals itself gradually with a lot of humour and a lot of heartbreak. OCD, the Dude, and Me made me feel that contradictory happy/sad that just leaves me wanting to keep this book and not give it back to the library. No seriously, I know there would be a fine, but how much would that really be? ... guys?
Also, note to self, see what this The Big Lebowski is all about.
Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator is an easy to read standalone novel in the much beloved genre of teen-girl-sees-ghosts. If that's something you love then this should be a no brainer from the concept alone. I wasn't surprised that I ended up enjoying Spookygirl, but I feel like I can't totally praise it. There were a lot of things in the story that could have been improved upon that I'll be mentioning in this review, but these things didn't really affect my enjoyment because this delivered what I was looking for.
Spookygirl impressed me right off the bat with it's unique take on ghost mythos. The plot is centered around Violet and her first foray into paranormal investigation. In this world paranormal investigation takes on a more legitimate spin then the "reality" TV shows I normally relate the term to. In Spookygirl it's a combination of Ghostbuster science and medium abilities. Not all ghosts are created equal and being able to see them doesn't come with a vast understanding of what they are, what they can do, or why they do it, which makes room for the classic voice recordings, temperature gauging, and EMF readings. I found this concept really interesting and would love to see more ghost YA take on the paranormal investigator angle.
Over the course of the story Violet has a lot of interesting ghost encounters of a vast variety. We have everything from the jock who's back from the dead, to the killer in the haunted mansion, to the ghost that just loves it's squeaky hamburger, to cemetery ghosts, to violent locker-room hauntings. There is a lot of ghostly action! Although it may sound over-crowded, each encounter worked well in the story and kept things moving. This is mostly because the writing knew how to handle it. Although I wasn't always a huge fan of the themes in the book (more on that later) Baguchinsky's writing was very engaging, especially for a debut. I'll definitely be on the look out for whatever she writes next!
Something else that I give Baguchinsky some major credit for is that Violet is a teenage girl who sees ghost, but doesn't fall in love with one! YAY! It's a very nice change of pace to have a YA novel almost devoid of romance, where the main character doesn't for a second think about boys, and instead focuses on more pressing issues. This only makes Violet a better character. Despite having all the social worries most teenagers do, she wishes to embrace her abilities more so than hide them. Although she's not a huge fan of the spotlight she isn't afraid or ashamed of her "Spookygirl" status. It was refreshing to not have a character constantly trying to hide or lie about being able to see ghosts. She's not worried about fitting in when she knows that what makes her special is a good thing. It makes her a stand out among these sort of characters.
Even though I enjoyed Spookygirl it for what it is, there are things that should be noted for the prospective reader on the negative side of the spectrum.
For all it's originality, Spookygirl can come across as rather standard. The characters and plot lines are all pretty predicable and the lack of ghostly rules are sometimes used for convenience sake. This wasn't a problem for me because I went into this expecting something light and easy, but for people looking for something more this might not be it.
The overall theme on the book was one of my pet peeves. This is very much a representation of those high schools where the jocks and cheerleaders are evil and the outcasts are just so darn special because of reasons. It was all rather stereotypical and they were only ever used as characters for Violet and friends to hate rather than anything interesting. These jock characters garner so much scorn, despite only collectively having a estimated total of six or seven lines of dialogue... and one cheerleader's name is Cherry.
Side note: When people wonder why athletes look down on reading, one may be able to make the argument that it's because they're generally represented as one-dimensional and evil. The book had more sympathy with a murdering ghost than the popular crowd. ... I'm just saying.
The only real complaint I have was the occasional sense of deja vu, which I found to be a bit distracting at first. If your a fan of the genre and you've read the Mediator series by Meg Cabot recently, you may have a similar experience when comparing The Mediator's Suze and Spookygirl Violet. I love both of their characters, but it would be very easy to confuse one for the other. Which can be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing.
But these are all minor nick-picks. With all that being said, Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator should be a go-to for fans of the teen girl sees ghosts genre. It was a lovely read that would, indeed, be an great follow up for fans of the Mediator series by Meg Cabot or The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade and are looking for more of the same.
"Dogs know how to be dogs. But people do not know how to be people unless and until they learn from other people. Which got me to wondering whether it’s possible to learn how to be a person in a world where all the people are dead."
Originally written for a Nerdfighter bases charity incentive Zombicorns has been made available under creative common license to be read online for free opening it up to the rest of us to revel in.
Honestly, I'm in complete and total shock by how much I enjoyed this. Because really, it's not good when compared to other written words, but it was very enjoyable. Although, one should note, it has nothing to do with Unicorns. (By far the most under-represented magical creature in fiction.)
As someone who consumes a lot of fan fiction of varying quality, I can say that this novella reads in a similar way. There's nothing glaringly bad about the writing, but you can see the errors and where things went wrong. Some readers will find this easier to tolerate than others, but overall I found it worked well with the journal concept. (Because who proof-reads journal entries aside from me?)
Speaking of journals, Zombicorns is less about plot or character and more the ramblings one would have if the world was ending. I found the story was at its best when it wasn't talking about corn or Z's and was instead on some philosophical tangent. In most cases this would bother me, but here it worked well.
The ideas John presents in Zombicorns will be very recognizable to subscribers of the vlogbrothers. A lot of the tangents are about things both John and Hank have discussed before in their videos, which made this especially fun for me because it took these abstract video ideas and gave them a very specific perspective and application.
Zombicorns is short and consumable, but it has its moments of meaning and depth. I'm glad this was something that John just put out there and didn't think about too much.