Cristina's Library

Joie de livres

Category: Fall Life

Electric counterpoint

Sometimes I need music without the weight of words. Take a stroll outside the confines of your own mind, and enjoy.

New Moon

Surprisingly, I enjoyed this book. Why?

JACOB BLACK.

New Moon is a definite improvement for Meyer — not much, but an improvement all the same. There was a broody, melancholy feel to it, and I couldn’t put it down. It starts with Bella’s 18th birthday party, where Jasper can’t control his vampire tendencies and unintentionally tries to attack her after she gives herself a papercut. (Wouldn’t Alice have seen that coming? Hm.) Edward decides to leave Forks out of fear for Bella’s safety and soul, and out of love for her — he wants her to lead a normal human life, and carry on without him. Finally, he did something right. Except that the breakup goes something like this:

Edward says to Bella firmly, “No, I don’t want you to come. You’re no good for me.” And she basically agrees with him, thinking to herself that she is such a waste of space, and that it was all too good to be true. She then abandons all female dignity by racing after him in the woods, and laying down to cry in the mud.
Pull it together, woman.

In this situation, most women would grieve for some time, then realize it was for the best, pick up and carry on. Not Bella. Meyer portrays Bella as incapable of existence without Edward, morphing into a bleak, depressed zombie. I was waiting for the book to show that she can take care of herself, be her own woman, learn from this, gain some self-respect. Instead, months go by without change. 4 blank pages with the words October, November, December, and January depict this.

Don’t get me wrong — I do sympathize with her. It’s not easy for anyone to bear a breakup and, often, months do go by in a sad daze. But the screaming nightmares, dark, morbid thoughts, and suicide attempts were all a bit too much for me. I picture Bella as more of a fan than a girlfriend, and something in their relationship is lacking for me. What are the reasons Edward can’t live without Bella, and Bella without Edward? Why do they love each other? Nothing is given, other than he is beautiful and her blood sings to him.

But, like their weird and obsessive love, this series is inexplicably addictive.

The big change happens when Bella starts hanging out with Jacob Black, who essentially saves her from herself. He is a true and loyal friend. This is blossoming love to me: human warmth. Friendship. Little moments of connection that ring true. This is what she has with Jacob. I understood and loved their relationship, because he was real. He was an original character. I was pleasantly surprised with his characterization — he has a personality, a history, faults and triumphs. He is the only character who felt multi-faceted and normal. He’s friendly, warm, slightly cocky, good-natured and fun. He (for some reason) really cares for, and loves, Bella. She loves and cares for him. Jacob is the redeeming force of the Twilight series for me.

The book continues with Bella and Alice racing to Italy to save Edward from death at the hands of the Volturi (read: evil Vampire rulers). I was upset that there is hardly any detail to this part, which I thought was really interesting and poignant. The Volturi are wicked and evil and intriguing all at once, and it would have been nice if the entire event lasted longer than 1 rushed day. Meyer introduces a fascinating history, but really does not delve into it. It’s as though substantial writing is out of her comfort zone.

A few things bothered me while reading this book. One: Bella is extremely selfish. She spends time with Jacob in order to take her mind off of Edward — she uses him, and admits it to herself. She puts herself in dangerous situations just to imagine Edward’s admonishing voice, as her deranged mind starts to do. The Jacob plot becomes sadly overshadowed by the “I have such a huge hole in my heart, I miss Edward” whining for 200 pages. I felt so sorry for Jacob. He deserves better.

Two: Stephenie Meyer has the audacity to align her book with Romeo & Juliet in direct reference, and Wuthering Heights. Please.

Three: How can Edward and Bella kiss? It’s been bugging me since Book 1. I know it’s fictional, but it states somewhere that “in place of human fluids, there was venom“…isn’t there venom in his kiss, too? I’m just confused. The author really didn’t explain herself or think a lot of the details out. Sometimes it feels as though she wrote 50 pages in one sitting and never looked back on them to edit. She repeats herself so much, yet explains very little.

Oh yeah, and Victoria is still around, wanting revenge against Edward & Bella for James’ death. She’s loosely giving this series a plot, but we hear very little about her. On to Eclipse…

Twilight

At the end of November of this year, I challenged myself to read the entire series by December, and I did it. I went in with an open mind, and it took me 10 days of consistent reading, but I did it. My feelings were up and down — there were things I liked and things I didn’t. My review of Book #1:

Twilight – It’s not a good sign when I feel like I need to push myself through a book. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. Meyer’s writing is actually awful in the first book — the dialogue is stilted and painfully awkward, there are inconsistencies, and attempts at suspense were lost with random Bella-thoughts. Ex. *after talking to Edward* “So few questions had been answered in comparison to how many new questions had been raised. At least the rain had stopped.” …What?? What does one have to do with the other? I won’t mention the number of words used unnecessarily and out of context. It felt more like I was reading the day-to-day diary of a boring teenage girl. I don’t know if I feel this way because I read it at 23 instead of 18, but it just had me rolling my eyes.

Bella, our main character: There’s hardly any description of her — except that she’s plain, average in every sense, and doesn’t relate well to people. Somewhere later on, it’s mentioned that she’s a brunette. We surprisingly know very little about her. Yet, somehow, every guy in school is craving her attention and in love, for apparently no reason — she is unbearably insecure, has no social skills, and hardly speaks. She sees Edward Cullen in the cafeteria and feels drawn to him because he is a beautiful creature. A few days later, she falls “unconditonally and irrevocably” in love with him for the same reason. Admittedly, I was interested to find out why Edward was ignoring her, and what was going to happen, but those feelings slowly dissipated. 3/4 of the book consists of sappy fluff between Edward and Bella. It felt romantic at first, but then got annoying and redundant. He is always giving her a half-smile, or acting cold and furious.

I tried so hard to understand their love, but I didn’t. The only reason given for Bella’s love is that Edward is beautiful, and the only reason given for Edward’s love is that Bella’s blood smells good. Edward is described in meticulous and painstaking detail, including his breath. That would have been acceptable, except that a part of him was described every few pages. I get it — he’s stunningly beautiful. Bella is constantly in awe and confusion over how this creature, or any boy, for that matter, could be interested in her. There is no plot until page 450.

Meyer then tries to build their relationship and help us understand why they love each other with a long slew of interrogation about each other’s lives, disguised as “conversation”. Honestly, I did like Edward and I thought he was interesting, but the Edward-Bella romance felt patronising, paternal and creepy. He chuckles at her comments, treats her like a little girl, and watches her sleep. It’s all portrayed as normal behaviour. Bella is so completely and pathetically dependent on him that it’s mentally crippling to be without him. It’s unhealthy, and was hard to read. Some Bella quotes:

*One day, Edward is not at school* “I’d lost my appetite – I bought nothing but a bottle of lemonade. I just wanted to go sit down and sulk.”

*Later in the day, he’s still not at school* “Angela asked a few quiet questions about the Macbeth paper, which I answered as naturally as I could while spiraling downward in misery.”

*The day is over and he didn’t come to school* “Desolation hit me with crippling strength.”

THIS IS BEFORE THEY HAD EVER EVEN SPOKEN.

Meyer creates Bella as such a weak and helpless female character that it’s hard to sympathize with her. Bella has no ambition or confidence; the only thing important to her is being with Edward. I would have liked her more if there was something, anything, that she had in her life, or about her character, that was completely her own, that she truly aspired towards. She doesn’t. She doesn’t seem capable of doing anything right (except for cooking and cleaning — female stereotype?), as she herself often bemoans, and needs to be saved by Edward (who follows her around) every few pages. She literally cannot even walk straight lest she falls down because she’s oh-so-clumsy.

Some messages that Stephenie Meyer conveys through Bella: It’s ok to have no goals or aspirations other than being with someone. Physical attraction is love. Boyfriends are overprotective and jealous because they love you. In fact, as you can see, life is bland and lacking true purpose without a boyfriend. Once you have a boyfriend, it’s ok — and often better — to distance yourself from your friends.

Things I did like: Meyer’s take on modern, contemporary vampires — it’s not the usual coffin/garlic stuff we’re used to. They are compassionate, they drink animals’ blood, not humans, and they are devastatingly beautiful. They’re a family. It was different, and I appreciated that. Also, the book definitely got more interesting towards the end, and became a real page-turner. I stayed up until 2 AM to finish it! The Cullen family is very intriguing, and I liked them all, especially Alice and Carlisle. I will read the rest of the series because I’m interested and curious about the overall story and I have a lot of questions: why can’t Edward read Bella’s mind? What is it about her that makes her blood smell so good to him? None of these are explained at all; we’re just expected to shrug, accept them, and be on Team Edward.

At the end of the book, I was hoping that New Moon would be better, Bella stronger, characters would have personalities, and there will be a concrete plot. Stay tuned for my New Moon review.

Where do you want to go?

Can’t stop listening to….

I don’t think I could get through my workday if I did not have music. Usually, I can be found at my desk, tapping my foot or humming along. I’ve been listening to the new album by Feist — METALS — and it is just as amazing/beautiful/incredible as her others.  This Kinks cover is particularly stunning. Honestly, just go on YouTube and listen to every one of her songs. Your life will improve drastically. So sad the show in Toronto is sold out on Dec. 1!

Did you know? …

Word on the Street, 2011

The word on the street is that people really love books. A lot.
It was so wonderful to see this, and the joy that reading brings to people, at this year’s Word on the Street. The comforting sound of ruffled pages, excited chatter, scolding parents, and good old-fashioned book-bartering brought a smile to many faces. Kids and adults alike sprawled on the grass in Queen’s Park and U of T, drinking in the sunlight, gleefully peeling corn-on-the-cobs and balancing ketchup-laden hot-dogs with bags of books. Kids and tweens raced from booth-to-booth, flipping through picture books, paperbacks, and classics, begging their parents to buy them — “Pleeeeeeeaaase, mom!” Teens strolled nonchalantly, maintaining an air of uber-coolness, but unable to mask their thrill after picking up the latest in the Pretty Little Liars or Nine Lives of Chloe King series for a sweet 30% off. Spontaneous audiences clapped and cheered at the amazing street magician, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the right moments. Word on the Street was fun and enjoyable for all.
HarperCollins definitely stole the show at the Queen’s Park/University Ave. junction, offering backlist titles at $2 – $3, as well as a seriously energetic team that drew in the crowds. It was dramatic. I actually stood outside the tent to watch for a few seconds (I was volunteering on the Frontlist side). Like bees to honey, people stood on their tiptoes to see what was there, shouting their orders to loved ones closer to the table. Hands and arms flailed madly around the red-and-white striped circus tent, stealthily snaking through the throng of bodies, trying to reach the books. It was mayhem.
Wonderful, absolute mayhem.
Simon & Schuster, The Labyrinth, BMV, Between the Lines, and Cormorant also topped my list on great booths to peruse — great deals, interesting titles, and friendly people! There were Canadian magazines and newspapers, including the Toronto Star, which had beautiful photos of vintage Toronto and The Walrus, where you could get a year’s subscription for only $20 — and a free bag!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to visit any of the stages, but I bought 10 books and spent about $30. How is that even possible? AND I got some freebies. Which, as we know, is the best part of any street festival. A few of the titles I picked up included Palo Alto by James Franco, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar, Strangers in Paris (an anthology by Tightrope Books), a collection of Thomas Hardy poems, Dubliners by James Joyce, and a collection of Spanish poetry during the Renaissance — I have varied tastes, as you can tell. I can’t wait to start reading!
The best thing I saw at Word on the Street? It was 5pm and I was sitting on a patch of grass outside Victoria College near Avenue & Bloor, trying to organize the disaster that was my bundle of bags, when I noticed him.  A homeless man walked towards Bloor, his face turned up to the sun, occasionally drumming his hand against the yellow metal fence barricading the street. He held a small plastic bag. And inside, I could make out the rectangular shape of a single paperback. Just one. It likely cost everything he gathered in his hat that day — even if it was only a couple of dollars. He seemed to be in his own world, maybe a little crazy, but he was, undeniably, content.
He had something to read later.