Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I've moved! I've installed WordPress on my homepage, so now everything's moved over there. If you follow this on LiveJournal, I've also added a new feed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck: I'd heard good things about the tale of Wang Lung's life in preindustrial China and his rise from poor farmer to wealthy family man, but for one reason or another I'd never picked up a copy. Now I have, and though the plot was a touch slow at first, I must say it's well worth the read. You learn quite a bit about the culture and lifestyle of the times without feeling like you're reading a history book. And with Buck's tender narration, even the most heinously primitive ideas - such as "woman" being synonymous with "slave" - came across more as The Way Things Were than something that stirred much righteous anger in me. Wang Lung and his wife O-Lan are very sympathetic, and there were times when I almost cried. Very moving, very educational, very memorable.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Naked by David Sedaris: As with all of Sedaris's books, this is a collection of autobiographical essays, mostly humorous. To be honest, this wasn't one of his better books. A lot of the stories felt simply too long and drawn out, as if they could have been split into two stories about two different things. I should also note that the stories are more sequential, so that things make the most sense when read in the order they are presented in the book. This wasn't a bad book, to be sure; I laughed in quite a few places. It just isn't as strong a set of tales as those found in his other books. Recommended for Sedaris fans, but if you're new to this author, you'd probably be better off trying out something else.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This week's WOW is about daily life versus writing life: Is your writing life healthy these days? How do you keep your writing life alive? What are some of the remedies you use to revive it?

Actually, my writing life has recently taken a bit of a turn for the better. I'm currently collaborating on a comic book series with my husband: I write the story and he does the art. Since he can't really do anything until I've done my part, he regularly gets me back in front of the keyboard when I've been procrastinating. It's not easy to find good collaborators, and I'm extremely lucky to have married someone I can also work with.

Lately I've also been doing a bunch of creative writing for swaps on Swap-bot. The latest two were fictional diaries: one from the point of view of a vampire, and one from that of a time traveler. They were a blast to write and it felt really good to get back into the groove again.

For a more short-term boost, I've collected a large number of writing prompt websites, which other people seem to use far more often than I. Instead of online prompts, I'm slowly working my way through Judy Reeves's A Writer's Book of Days, which is basically daily prompts plus weekly inspiration. I don't write daily, so I've fallen a bit behind the schedule, but it's a nice option to have whenever I feel like writing but need something to start with.

Lastly, one of my resolutions for this year is to finish The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. But not, of course, before finishing the next comic. :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm currently reading The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. As with most books I read that have been translated to the big screen, I put the movie on my Netflix queue. However, having seen the trailer, I'm a little worried that the film will be unintentionally amusing. After all, the main characters, all of whom are Chinese, are played by a Ukrainian, a German, an Austrian, and a couple of guys from Ohio. Yes, yes, I know that the main characters were always played by white people no matter what, but looking at it from a modern standpoint is...well, just look at the makeup!

Anyway. I'm enjoying the book now that it's starting to pick up (the first half dozen chapters or so were pretty slow); as the movie claims to "be" the book, perhaps it'll be good enough that I'll forget the painfully non-Asian actors in cast of all-Asian characters. We'll see.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh: Most people are familiar with the Pythagorean Theorem which describes a right triangle: a^2 + b^2 = c^2. However, what you may not know is that Pierre Fermat claimed back in the 1600s to be able to prove that a^n + b^n = c^n has no whole number solutions for n > 2. Trial and error suggests this to be true, but for over 350 years, no one could prove it. This is the story of the equation and those who worked towards the eventual solution in the early 1990s, from Pythagoras through Andrew Wiles, who published the final proof. His proof is complicated enough that I suspect Fermat's proof was flawed, but it makes for a surprisingly engrossing read all the same. There are tons of names and personal stories in this book, and though they often feel tangential, every single person discussed has great bearing in one way or another on the solving of Fermat's Last Theorem. One doesn't usually equate mathematics with drama or suspense, but both are present here. Definitely recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in math or history.

Note: The UK version of this book, which I have, is titled Fermat's Last Theorem. The American version is called Fermat's Enigma. There is also another book called Fermat's Last Theorem which was written by Amir D. Aczel. Confusion abounds.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: Maybe this is one of those books that really is better to be gone over in literature class, or maybe I'm just slow, but I sure didn't understand much. The prologue was sheer brilliance; after that things just got weird. A nameless African-American narrator describes his journey from ambitious college student to disillusioned hermit, encountering a series of bizarre characters along the way. From reading other reviews I understand that most of these characters are meant to represent certain groups or archetypes, but aside from the communist Brotherhood I missed the references. I'm not sure that mattered, though, after reading the epilogue, which just rehashed the points I did grasp. I tried to just go with the flow but far too often my response to this book was, "Wait, what?"

Also posted on BookCrossing.