Book Review: Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls 
Author: Lisa See
Genre: Fiction with some history thrown in
Number of Pages: 336
Where I Got It: Library
First Line: "Our Daughter looks like a South China peasant with those red cheeks," my father complains, pointedly ignoring the soup before him.

In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, and thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules. 

So remember the last episode of "Friends" when Ross is listening to his answering machine to Rachel arguing with the flight attendant about getting off the plane?  And for a little bit we don't know if she made it off?  Then she announces that she did and he turns around and she's there and everyone cheers?

Now imagine that same scene, except this time we never find out if Rachel got off the plane. Ross is still staring at his answering machine, asking himself if she did and then the show just ends.

That was the ending to this book.

Let me start from the beginning.  This book is A-MA-ZING.  Seriously it just became one of my faves.  Pearl and May are amazing characters and author Lisa See is a pretty brilliant writer.  I was completely engrossed from start to finish and felt so connected to all of the characters. I couldn't get through some of the pages fast enough! 

Which is why I was SO frustrated by the ending.  Literally I was like oh man here we go, Pearl is going to find Joy and something with Z.G. is about to go down.  I turn the page and...


I literally yelled "You have got to be kidding me" in my bed then immediately BBMed the following to James: "The book I just finished has the shittiest cliff hanger ending.  Wtf I am super pissed."

Then I calmed down and I thought about it and realized it was actually a really really good ending.  The book was about May and Pearl - sisters who had been through some of the most difficult episodes anyone could ever go through.  It wasn't about anybody else's relationship in the book.  At the end of the day, May and Pearl had a bond that would get them through anything and that was the message, essentially, of this book.  No matter what they had been through and what fights and jealousies and resentments they may have harbored, at the end of the day they were sisters and that was it.

I can't recommend this book highly enough and I can't wait to read more of Lisa See's novels.  Please do yourself a favor with this one. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Coming Up Next: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
American Wife is the story of Alice Lindgren, a middle-class woman (and registered Democrat) from a small town in Wisconsin who grows up to become a children’s librarian but then falls in love with an impish young dilettante from a famously rich and political family and eventually finds herself the unlikely First Lady of the United States.  The story is apparently loosely-based on the life of Laura Bush.


Video of the Day 10/27/10 - Humans Are Awesome Edition

Or incredibly stupid.  You decide.  Shoutout to Ashley.


You Should Get That Looked At...

If I'm Charlie Sheen, it's time to find an allergist who can take care of my severe allergic reactions that cause me to be naked and intoxicated in a trashed hotel room.

Charlie Sheen was hospitalized Tuesday morning for what his rep is calling "an adverse allergic reaction to some medication."

This is after:
1. He is found naked and intoxicated in his room at The Plaza.
2. Tables and chairs were thrown around.
3. A chandelier was damaged.
4. He was "emotionally disturbed" when he got to the hospital (according to TMZ).

Like I said, Charlie Sheen needs an allergist ASAP.

Also, while I want to say that this is terrible media relations work on the part of his rep - I mean does anybody believe an allergic reaction caused him to flip out that much? - I have no idea what I would do in this situation.  Actually, after a misdemeanor assault charge, two instances of driving his SUV over a cliff, and now this, I'd probably just quit.


"GleeQ" - The Cover Heard 'Round the World

Gleeks gone wild? If you hadn't heard, GQ's newest issue has a story and pictorial dedicated to the all-time greatest TV show ever, Glee. But hold on to your show tunes, everyone.  We're not in a high school glee club anymore.

The Parents Television Council is up in arms over the sexy display, saying that the cover borders on pedophilia considering the three featured (Quinn, Rachel and Finn) play high school students on the show and GQ is a magazine geared towards grown men. The GQ editor-in-chief responds by saying that in real life, these three are in their mid-20s and are old enough to make their own decisions.

I was kind of surprised at first to see these pictures and I can see how the Parents Television Council would take offense considering how popular the show is with kids these days. But then I think about it and I just don't see that big of an issue with this cover or any of the pictures inside.

This isn't Highlights for Kids or even Teen People or YM (do those still even exist for teenage girls to read like I did?) we're talking about.  This is GQ magazine.  And the PTC contradicts their own case in a way by saying a magazine geared towards grown men shouldn't objectify girls who play high school aged characters.  The magazine is for grown men.  That's the audience and thus the market that you're catering to. Lea Michele (Rachel) and Diana Agron (Quinn) are beautiful and frankly I think it was only a matter of time before we were going to see it.  We kind of already did with the Rolling Stones issue that came out a few months ago.

If your kids are getting a hold of a GQ magazine, it might be time to re-examine yourself as a parent.  And if they see it in the market and ask why their favorite Glee characters are in their underwear on a magazine... Well I'm not a parent so I don't know what you would respond with but I'm sure you'll think of something.

This begs the question of just how young is too young to be watching Glee?  I've had this debate with my friend and her mom before as we watch the show together sometimes and I'm not gonna lie, some of the stuff that's been on the show isn't always suitable for kids younger than high school age.  Sure the singing is fun, but there's also a good amount of adult content that isn't appropriate for elementary or even middle school-aged kids.  I honestly don't think I would let my child watch Glee if they were younger than high school.  How are you supposed to explain to a second grader why Finn is praying to Grilled Cheesus for the chance to touch Rachel's boobs and why this is something so important he wants to pray about it and why he's so glad when his prayers are answered?  I just get it.  A high schooler probably just gets it.  A sixth grader?  Hopefully doesn't.

Yes there's the whole "they're role models now" aspect of it, but their fanbase isn't just screaming preteens.  Do you know how many Wednesday morning IM conversations take place between me and Julie about how hot Finn and Puck are?  Not gonna lie, I wouldn't mind a Finn and Puck shirtless spread in Cosmo or something.  But just them.  I'm good without Artie and Kurt.  They have adult fans too.  They have plenty of guys in their 20s and 30s who think the girls are hot.  You have to meet both markets.

At the end of the day, why is it okay for kids (and I mean younger than high school age) to watch a show that shows high schoolers engaging in bullying and taunting and sex and dealing with very real and heavy life issues, but it's not okay for these same kids to see the same characters in their real life roles promoting themselves and their show?  Am I contradicting myself?  Because I don't see much of a difference.  You can't condone one then lash out at the other.

This has opened my eyes as to just how tough it is to be a parent these days and actually have to explain stuff like this to your kids.  So I give the PTC props for recognizing that we have some impressionable youth out there that will see that magazine cover.  But maybe drawing that line between fantasy and reality isn't the worst thing you can teach your kids how to do either.

The moral of the story:  I still love me some Glee.

KINDLE Review: The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Author: Stieg Larsson

This is officially the second book I've finished on the Kindle.  I promise the novelty will wear off soon, but I love this thing a lot so bear with me.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the final book in the Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson.  This book picks up right where the second one leaves off and concludes with Lisbeth Salander finally getting her life and freedom back.  The book resolves the whole trilogy perfectly and the ending closes the door on the whole saga really well, allowing Lisbeth to finally be at peace with herself and her new life.

Not much of a synopsis I know, but these books are hard to write any plot details about without giving away major spoilers.

The third book is a little less action-packed and we see a lot more plotting, scheming and actual criminal investigation work than we have before.  But Larsson still has a way to keep you fully engaged throughout. The back-and-forth between what the bad guys are trying to do and how the good guys are catching on and figuring out how to stop them is really interesting.  There's high-powered corrupt government officials, the FBI, regular blue-collar cops, and investigative journalists all asking questions, following leads, and putting the pieces together.

Which leads me to the same gripe you've heard before from me about these books: the entirely too large cast of characters. There are 13 "main" characters, most of which are investigators working for completely different police organizations, plus supporting characters everywhere. There are two magazine/newspaper staffs, officers of the Stockholm police force, officers in the Swedish version of the FBI, members of the secret police group that exists within the Swedish version of the FBI. I mean it's at least 20 other names to remember and sometimes they're referred to once, then not mentioned again for another few chapters.

Another issue I had with this book was that the author mixed in random subplots that I felt didn't need to be there.  They took away from the overall storyline and, again, I never understood the purpose of them or what they were supposed to bring to the big picture.

The trilogy as a whole starts out pretty explosively with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the second book holds its own as well but now that I've had time to think about the books, there's definitely a steady decline in plot, character development and overall draw.

I'd still take the time to read these and enjoyed my overall experience.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (too many characters again and the unnecessary subplots)

Coming Up Next: For now, I'm sticking with a regular book but have the following downloaded onto the Kindle for whenever I need it next:
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
World Without End by Ken Follett
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

A LTD Look at the World Series

Okay so it's not the World Series yet, but that title sounds better than "A LTD Look at the NL and AL Divisional Championship Series" or whatever the heck it's really called.

And why don't I know what it's called? Because friends, I have zero interest in following the MLB Playoffs. I've tuned in here and there and have seen some decently exciting plays and finishes. That Phillies pitcher had the complete game and almost had a no-hitter on the very first day of the playoffs which was cool. The Giants have had some nailbiting finishes. Apparently the fighting Evan Longorias were terrible this year. So I know a little about what's been going.

So I'm here to announce that I am officially rooting for the Phillies in the World Series.

Here's why...

I know nothing about the Texas Rangers. I don't recognize that many names on their roster. The Josh Hamilton story does tug at the heartstrings, so maybe that will be my backup choice if they can beat the stupid Yankees.

Which brings me to my next point. The Yankees are stupid. Their fans are annoying, their players are annoying, their players celebrity wives and girlfriends are annoying. They make way too much money for a mediocre baseball team.

And then there's the San Francisco Giants. Listen Sacramento friends, you guys are great. But I cannot root for the Giants as it goes against everything I believe in having grown up going to Dodger games my whole life. Tim Lincecum is a beast, Buster Posey is a beast and also very cute, Brian Wilson's beard is terrible but he is also a beast. But I just can't do it. Would you be rooting for the Dodgers right now if they were in the postseason? Nope. Every single Giants fan that I've posed this question to has stopped, thought about it, and replied with "Ooooh, yeah you are so right."

But don't worry, I'm a great anti-Giants fan. I don't follow them enough to trash talk and I have enough respect for fans of the other teams to not show up at a Giants game decked out in Dodger gear. First, I don't own any Dodger gear. Second, I don't want to get my ass kicked by some girl fan of the Gigantes. So carry on friends, but don't expect me to jump on the bandwagon ever.

So that leaves me with the Phillies. The Phillies fans I know are awesome people, I've never been to Philadelphia but I'm sure it's lovely, and I know a lot of names on their roster so at least I'm able to say "Oh yeah I've heard of that guy."

There you have it. Go Phillies and if they don't win go Texas. And let's hurry all these series up so we can move on to NBA season. Kobe's got a look in his eye that says three-peat.


Things I Think Are Stupid

Whatever happened to the days where you went to a mall or other shopping establishment and the parking spaces in the front were reserved for handicapped or disabled customers. And that was it.

Yesterday I went to Target in Davis and literally 10 spaces in every single aisle were reserved spots. And what were they reserved for? Hybrid cars, electric cars and carpools. This is what I think is stupid.

My San Diego friends will be the first to agree that this is stupid, considering this exact case runs rampant down there. Exhibit A: The Mission Valley Mall. A quick trip to that mall will have you circling the lot for hours because of all the reserved spaces with signs reading "Expectant Mother Parking Only".

Pregnant women, more power to you and all of your raging hormones but this is the stupidest thing I've ever seen. My argument is this: how do you know I'm not pregnant?

Seriously, what's going to happen if I do park there? Is a nurse going to jump out from behind a tree with a pregnancy test and a pee cup and tell me to prove myself? San Diego ladies, somebody try this please and tell me what happens.

So the same holds true for these reserved spots in Davis. Carpools only? What the heck constitutes a carpool? Do people have special passes designating their car as an official carpool vehicle? That is stupid.

Next is the electric and hybrid cars. These signs also claim that those spots are charging stations for the cars. Well guess what people. No outlets anywhere near the spots. Furthermore if electric/hybrid cars are so popular that they demand literally 10 spaces all to themselves, why was there officially one car parked in any of the spots last night when I was there? Just because I choose not to drive a terrible Prius doesn't mean I should get penalized and relegated to the back of the parking lot.

Plus, again, how do you know my car's not energy efficient? Maybe I converted my Jeep to run on vegetable oil with these step-by-step instructions?

In conclusion, I hate parking lots as it is (talk to my brother about this) so this just adds to the rage that is already building inside of me. Get it together parking lots.


New Very Funny Link

One of the students who works in my office shared this with me and it definitely does not disappoint.

This is "Dear Girls Above Me,".

The premise: Two girls move into an apartment upstairs from this guy who is forced to listen to their inane conversations. So how does he deal? He writes letters to them on this blog.

This is fantastic. My favorite line so far is from Oct. 13:

Dear Girls Above Me,
“I watched a special on conjoined twins and all I could think about was karate chopping them to freedom.” You should be a doctor.



Video of the Day 10/15/10 - Steve Nash is the Man Edition

Yes you read that correctly. I have an entire new respect for Steve Nash after the new ad campaign for Fifa '11. In the commercials, Nash wants to become part of EA Sports' Pro Player Challenge, a gaming tournament where soccer stars from around the world play to promote the game. He harasses Landon Donovan about it and I think it's hysterical.


Video of the Day 10/14/10 - Cat in a Box Edition

Shoutout to Sarah, a new fan of Livin' the Dream, who sent this to me earlier in the week and which I am just now watching because yes it's been one of those weeks.

First of all, how giant is this cat?  Secondly, I have personally witnessed how much cats love boxes and let me tell you, I don't get it, but that sure doesn't mean it's any less hysterical to watch.



Book Review: Gilead... Plus Some Movies

Author: Marilynne Robinson
No. of Pages: 245
Where I Got It: Library

First line: I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I'm old, and you said, I don't think you're old.

As soon as I read that first line, I knew I was doomed.  I have no idea why I chose to read this book.  Maybe because it's a Pulitzer Prize winner. Maybe because I didn't read enough reviews before taking it off the shelf at the library. Either way, I messed up big time with this one.  It was awful.

The premise is that a 76-year-old preacher is writing a collection of letters to his son who is 7.  Yes he is 76 and his son is 7.  His wife is like 30 years younger than he is as well.  So he's writing these letters to his son because, well, he's pretty much going to be dead soon.  And that's pretty much it.

I didn't even finish this one.  In fact, I made it to page 40 or something and I just couldn't even keep going.  I had every intention of finishing it. I even went to renew it from the library online but somebody else had placed a hold on it so I wasn't able to.  Yeah good luck with that buddy.  You can have this one.

There was no dialogue, no other characters, it was just this guy talking about where he had grown up and giving anecdotes that were sprinkled with Bible verses.  I couldn't stay focused and had to keep rereading pages over and over.  No bueno.

Go ahead and skip this one.

Rating: 1 of 5 stars (1 star for the pretty cover)

Coming Up Next: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
In 1937, Pearl and May live a fabulous life as "Beautiful Girls" in Shanghai.  Their faces are used to sell everything from soap to cigarettes and their world is full of glamorous parties, clothes, etc.  They live a carefree life until their father loses literally everything he has through gambling.  To recoup his debts, he sells the girls to a man who lives in Los Angeles as wives to his two sons.  They struggle and face many hardships as they adjust to their new way of life.

And now for some movie reviews:
Up: This movie was really cute, but it made me kind of emotional!  This should surprise no one honestly.  But I did find myself tearing up at the end.  The relationship that grows between the grumpy old man and the little boy is so fun to watch develop.  Another Pixar classic! Two thumbs up.

I Love You, Man: Paul Rudd is about to get married and, after overhearing his future wife's friends talking about him, sets out to find himself a guy friend.  He meets Sydney (Jason Segel) and they hit it off instantly.  The relationship has its ups and downs throughout the movie, but of course everything is solved at the end.  Although the storyline of this one was pretty predictable, Rudd and Segel are hysterical.  The one-liners and comedic timing are pretty perfect and I found myself laughing out loud a bunch of times.  One thumb up, one thumb sideways. 

Gossip Girl - Season 1: Everyone was talking about this show and I never got into it so I decided to try it out for myself.  I'm pretty pleasantly surprised.  The cast and acting is really good and although the plot line is sometimes too hard to believe, I can definitely overlook that to see what happens on the next episode.  I've worked through them pretty quickly and am halfway through season two which is also really good.  One thumb up, one thumb sideways.

As always, feel free to recommend any movies, TV series, documentaries, etc. that you think I'd like!


Come On Celebs!

I haven't blogged in a while. I have been sick and I have been out of town a lot. But honestly, the reason I haven't written about anything is that there isn't really anything to write about.

I've had little nuggets pop up where I've thought to myself "I should blog about that" but then I think about what I would say and not much material comes to mind. Here are some examples:

1. I hear on the radio on my morning drive yesterday that MTV is going to resurrect the show "Punk'd" but instead of Ashton Kutcher it will be Justin Bieber hosting. When I first heard this I actually, out loud, to myself, said "Terrible." And I stand by that. Then I thought to myself "I have to blog about this." Then when I thought about what I would say, nothing really came to mind, because there's honestly not a whole lot to say about this.

The idea of bringing Punk'd back isn't a bad one at all. There's a whole new slew of celebs that could be pranked that would make for entertaining TV as a lot of the most popular singers, actors, etc. weren't around when Ashton Kutcher was jumping out from behind a doorway to yell "You've been Punk'd!" Justin Bieber as the host though? Meh. He's annoying and I don't get the infatuation with him but that's who's super popular these days. And it could have been worse. So that was pretty much the extent of my thoughts on that. Not blogworthy.

2. Miley Cyrus gets caught at a 21-and-over club and she's... well... not 21. I'm going to go out on a limb here and let everyone know that this is not the first time Miley Cyrus has gone to a club or bar while underage. I guarantee Miley Cyrus has done plenty of "adult" things while being underage. This time, she just got caught. Not blogworthy.

3. Ashley Olsen might be getting engaged. Why are the Olsen twins still relevant? They don't do anything. Not blogworthy.

So celebs I implore you. Do SOMEthing. Help LTD out. I need a celeb scandal!