Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Paris trip approaching!

Our trip to Paris is officially within the 10-day forecast! Not that the forecast is necessarily anywhere close to being right, but here's hoping it is (as it currently stands, it's supposed to be a sunny day here in Chicago). We're leaving early afternoon, with a short stopover in Washington DC, then jetting off to Paris. Hear that weather?? NO SNOWSTORMS that might delay either flight! I'd appreciate your cooperation.

(Photo from my youngest sister's trip to Paris last summer)

My boyfriend and I have so much planned, and it'll be amazing if we get to see everything we want to. First, we've got two day trips. One to Caen/Normandy. The city still has a lot of the same buildings that were there during the French Revolution. Even street names haven't changed, meaning? I know exactly where Charlotte Corday spent a few years of her life, both while living at Le Gran Manoir and the Abbey Aux Dames! While there, we're also planning on going to the Normandy beaches to see where my grandpa landed during the D-Day invasions. Anything else we see in Caen will just be icing on the cake.

We've also got a day trip to Aachen, the furthest west you can get in Germany. The boyfriend is planning this one (as he's fluent in German), but even though it means time away from Paris I'm looking forward to it, if only because I've never been there (and I hear it's gorgeous).

And then there's Paris! The city of light! With the two day trips, we've got about 6 days in Paris. One of those afternoons (or days), we'll be going to Versailles, for sure. I want to see the palace, but even more so, I'm looking forward to checking out the Musee Lambinet, the only museum in France to have an entire exhibit devoted to paintings of Charlotte Corday and Marat.

The other days will be spent exploring everywhere possible. From Montmartre, to Marais, to the Latin Quarter. I must, must, must see the catacombs and the Conciergerie and Sacre Couer and the Chapelle Expiatoire and the Picasso Museum and the Tuileries and... well the list goes on.

I've asked a version of this before, but I'll ask again:

If there was only one thing you could see/do in Paris, what would it be?

Once I'm back, I absolutely promise to post about the trip, along with pictures, of course.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Matchmaking, new relationships, and lots of phone calls on HIMYM

Rabbit or Duck
How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 15

When I watched the Superbowl this Sunday, I told my friends--who are also HIMYM fans--that since the game was on CBS, there had to be some sort of commercial featuring Barney. Sure enough, he appeared holding a sign that read what's pictured to the right. For those lucky enough to get through on the line, they heard a pre-recorded message about meeting Barney at McLaren's bar on October 12, 2016 at 3:45a.m. Currently, the line is a busy signal.

Of course, the writers found a way to tie this into the show. After holding up his sign, Barney's phone won't stop ringing with calls and texts, which is good--at first, until Barney realizes that there's always someone better than the girl who's on the other end of the line. Cue a string of girls that Barney brings back to his apartment but is unable to seal the deal with because the phone keeps ringing, even after Barney tosses it into the garbage. This was funny for awhile, but the incessant ringing got annoying. Then again, I laughed at the ringtone for 'do your ears hang low?' which later switched to a Western tune, which was particularly appropriate since Barney had hidden the phone in Ted and Robin's piano.

Everyone else was busy setting up dates, too. Ted asks Marshall and Lily to set him up with someone--after hearing Ranjit's tale of arranged marriage--while Robin thinks she agreed to a date with co-anchor Don while on live TV. When Robin reveals that Don actually asked her to a party, the group agrees that Robin doesn't really hate Don, and that she, in fact, likes him and wants to date him.

It's the whole rabbit versus the duck conundrum, Ted explains. He shows off an optical illusion, explaining that at first you see a rabbit, and then you see a duck. This, of course, is compared to relationships: at first you think it's someone/something you hate--a rabbit--only to later realize it's someone/something you love, a duck. This sets off a huge fast-forwarded argument, but eventually, it's agreed upon that ducks are more lovable. Talk about a crazy relationship theorem, more bizarre than most on HIMYM.

Moving on... before Ted's double date, Robin asks him to go to the party with him. He claims he'll "duck out" if it looks like something might happen between the two duck--er, lovebirds. Robin opens Don's apartment door and--voila!--Don is trying out the Naked Man, which fails to win over Robin, effectively turning Don into a Playboy bunny, aka a rabbit.

Meanwhile, Marshall and Lily forgot to set up a date for Ted. Lucky for them, they get their hands on Barney's phone. Fortunately for Ted, it's the girl who can put her leg around her neck and open a beer bottle with her foot. Unfortunately, she needs a visa... and Ted found and became addicted to Barney's phone. Luckily for everyone, a fight over the phone results in Lily tossing it into a pitcher of beer.

The episode wraps up with Ted and Robin sitting in a darkened living room, watching TV together. This moment seemed like it might turn into another re-return with Ted and Robin, but thankfully it didn't.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty funny episode--but notice how much they've used plot devices from previous episodes?
- Fast-forwarding through a discussion, a la trying to figure out the best candy metaphor to describe what single-life is like in NYC.
Barney: Yes! It's like being in a candy store! You just walk right in and grab yourself
some Whoppers! Yeah! ... Is Whoppers the best one?
Ted: Mounds.
Barney: Milk Duds. (Season 2, Episode 2)
- Ranjit appearing to help Barney out in meeting all his women. He first appeared in Season 1, Episode 1 as a cab-driver. Later, he was their limo driver on New Year's Eve (Season 1, Episode 11), and he's appeared sporadically in other seasons as well.
- The Naked Man. Duh. This was one of the best episodes of a lackluster Season 4.
- Lawyered! Originally spoken by Marshall in Season 1, Mary the Paralegal--and used sporadically throughout HIMYM since, but this was the first time Ted used it. Thankfully, he asked Marshall's permission.

There's nothing wrong with using and doing stuff that's been done in earlier (better) seasons and episodes. In fact, I like that they keep things continuous, and what better way to pull off a great episode then using things that worked well before?

Then again, this episode ushered in very little progress for yet another week. Barney, as usual, acts the player part. Ted still struggles to have a normal date. Marshall and Lily act as cute matchmakers and realize how hard the single life is. But then there's Robin.

At the end of the episode, Robin is startled to see that Don is wearing pants, because he knows that she deserves a great co-anchor. And Don is back to being a lovable duck, bill and all. Progress on the Robin front!

What did you think of the episode and the latest relationship theory? Do you think Don and Robin's relationship will go anywhere? What crazy shenanigans will Barney be up to next? And will Ted ever date again!? Share your thoughts below!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

For the Love of Books

If you know me, you know I'm a voracious reader. I always need to be reading something, and if I don't have a novel handy? I read cereal boxes, read over people's shoulders on the el. Lately, this book-itis has gotten worse, all thanks to Young Adult fiction. I'm zipping through novels, caught up in some crazy but amazing, intelligent, tersely-written plots. And since I'm reading them so quickly, I feel like I'm reading even more than before. Two books in a week? No problem. Well, sometimes. I do write every once in awhile, you know, even if I haven't graced the pages of this blog as often as I used do.

Can you tell how much I've fallen in love with YA lit? I started reading it because my WIP Through Charlotte's Eyes is YA, and now I've fallen head over heels. I hope I too can join the ranks of these mighty fine YA novelists one day.

So, what have I read? I wish I kept better track, because I know this list doesn't encompass it all. But, here goes, in no particular order, all the YA I've read in the past 6 months, give or take.

(Also, I promise to get better about keeping track of everything I read. I want to remember all this awesomeness.)

A Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth Bunce; Bunce takes the Rumpelstiltskin tale and turns it on its head.

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore; I didn't read fantasy before this, but I loved Katsa, a young girl graced with fighting abilities, who is tasked with saving her kingdom.

Me, the Missing and the Dead by Jenny Valentine; Lucas Swain thinks a woman in an urn, Violet, is trying to tell him something about where his father disappeared to. Expect to cry.

Sovay by Celia Rees; Set in England and France during the French Revolution, this novel follows Sovay, who dresses as a man and acts as a highway robber--until her father is arrested for treason.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E. Pearson; After waking up from a coma, Jenna starts to put the pieces together of what happened to her, and who she is now. A stunning look at the power of science.

Madapple by Christina Meldrum; Brought up in a home far from the city, Aslaug isn't ready to leave when her mother unexpectedly dies. But once in the city, she starts unraveling the truth about her family. One of the most bizarre reads--which isn't a bad thing--of all the YA I've read so far.

13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher; Another tear-jerker. Clay Jenson receives cassette tapes from Hannah, who recently committed suicide. The tapes tell the story of who she blames and why she chose to end her life.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green; Laugh out loud funny and a great introduction to John Green. Colin is a prodigy who has only dated Katherines. The book tells the tale of a road trip with his best friend, and all the discoveries that come along the way.

The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman; Sisters Katie and Michaela react in different ways when their family gets uprooted from NYC and move to rural Fir Lake.

Summer of my German Soldier by Bette Greene; An oldie but a goodie. 12-year-old Patty helps Anton, an escaped POW, hide and eventually escape. And this short description doesn't give justice to this emotional book.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M. T. Anderson; This one doesn't read like YA, but it's a compelling story about a boy who was raised as an experiment around the time of the American Revolution.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak; Narrated by Death, this tale tells the story of Liesel Meminger, who steals books in Nazi Germany. Gripping through the dramatic end.

Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; A heart-pounding thriller about a young girl who takes the place of her sister in the hunger games, where everyone fights to the death. I sacrificed sleep to finish this book, that's how good it is. Its sequel, Catching Fire, started out a bit slower, but after I finished? Well, let's just say I CAN. NOT. WAIT. for the third book to come out this summer. Seriously. If someone somehow manages to get an ARC - LET ME KNOW.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins; Hooked by her Hunger Games series, I started her first series of books. While geared to younger readers, this is another fantasy book that had me hooked from page one. It's a spin on Alice in Wonderland, had Alice been a boy who lived in New York City and who fell down a grate into a world of humans and 6-foot creatures, like cockroaches, spiders, rats, and more.

Mercy's Mill by Betty Levin; Sarah doesn't like moving to rural Massachusetts, but she's soon distracted when she meets Jethro, a boy wrapped in mystery, who claims that he travelled through time to save Mercy.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness; Gory, bloody--and incredibly riveting. Todd Hewitt needs to escape Prentisstown when he stumbles upon something he shouldn't have. But his escape is made a lot more difficult considering everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts. The first in a series, again. (And yet more books to add to my reading list).

Dinoverse by Scott Ciencin; A fast-paced novel about a boy and three other junior high students who travel back in time and become dinosaurs. While the reading level for this book felt younger than most, I was hooked by the characters and the story.

When I was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten; Successfully written in the perspective of a young boy, Burt, this novel shows the difficulties between literal-minded parents and literal-minded kids. It used to be marketed as YA but no longer is.

The Book of Time by Guillaume Prevost; Another first in a series! When searching for his missing father, Sam tumbles into the past, not once but three times into totally different places and eras.

Phew! That's what I remember reading, but I'm sure I've forgotten something. I've also read a handful of 'adult' novels--like a book from the Mistress of the Art of Death series--but they haven't held my attention as much as all this YA fiction has.

Do you have any YA recommendations? I'd love to hear about them, even though my reading list is huge!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What a Week on HIMYM

The Perfect Week
How I Met Your Mother: Season 5, Episode 14

When the gang has the makings for an incredibly lousy week, they take joy in Barney's latest conquest: sleeping with seven women in seven days, aka the Perfect Week.

So, what makes a bad week in HIMYM land?

He's got a whole new set of students this semester, meaning none of them have heard his MAGGIE acronym yet. When rattling off names on his student roster, he starts berating the class for adding a fake name that lacks in cleverness. Unfortunately for him, and his student, there actually is a girl named 'Cook Pu.' Commence the jokes now.

After going on a horrible date with a random Dale, she doesn't understand why he won't call her back for a second date. Enough with the Robin-is-hotter-than-everyone jokes. Enough.

Marshall & Lily
What's with Marshall and Lily not sharing a burger like they usually do at McLaren's? Since Barney and Robin are no longer together, as well as Ted and Stella, Ted and Robin, Ted and Victoria, the two have been on the hunt for new couple friends. When their latest couple date found out that Marshmellow and Lilypad share a toothbrush, they think that it's, well, gross. As does everyone else. And it only makes it worse when they learn that they shared a toothbrush with Ted for 8 years and even Robin, on occasion, when she dated Ted. Oops.

But the main event of the night was Barney, who got to tell the story of his seven nights, to his imaginary interviewer, sportscaster Jim Nantz.

At first, I thought this storyline would be too reminiscent of "The Playbook" episode. In ways it was overdone, but at least this time Barney had a bit more character depth than he's had as of late.

According to Marshall, Barney is being blamed for a merger falling through at work, and he'll find out on Friday if he'll be kicked to the curb. As is usual for Barney, he isn't dealing with what might happen, rather, he's scouting out women so that he can overcome the odds and have a perfect week--just like a perfect game in baseball.

Of course, Lily doesn't think sleeping with women will solve any of Barney's problems. Their friendship dynamic is one of the best on the show, with Lily acting as the hellish angel on Barney's shoulder. She elaborates on the worst-case scenario, that if he lost his apartment he could come live with her and Marshall (that plot would be nothing less than awesome, in my opinion).

But by the end of the episode Lily realizes why they need Barney to succeed: just like in sports, they need a winner after the week they've all been having. Lily dives to the ground of McLaren's, effectively stopping Barney's seventh girl from walking away and joining NY Yankee's Nick Swisher at the corner table.

And then Nantz disintegrates in a poof of smoke and Barney has to deal with reality. Lucky for him, he gets to keep his job.

Yet another Barney-centric episode, and while we saw hints of feeling in Barney's exterior at the thought of becoming unemployed, what else did we get? It feels like the writers are stalling, biding time... but for what? The Mother reveal? I've been fine with not knowing who she is yet, but the storylines need to get a move on in other ways. Robin's jokes about everyone wanting her? Old. More stories about how close Marshall and Lily are? Been there, done that. Ted just being around for random bodily function jokes? Not usual for him, but c'mon. Let's have some more episodes that aren't all about Barney and his women.

Again, despite my criticisms, HIMYM still manages to pull off a few good laughs, especially when Present Ted says that he would never tell the story of Barney's 'perfect week' to his kids; fast-forward to Future Ted with his kids on the couch, listening to that very story.

What did you think of the latest installment of HIMYM? What sorts of storylines do you want to see for the characters? Share your thoughts below!