Saturday, August 28, 2010


Book: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Like/Don't Like: I can't think of anything to adequately describe how I felt about it so I'll just do the injustice of saying yes, I liked it.

After several debriefings with a number of people via email, phone and in person, and several days distance to compose myself and gather my thoughts, I think I'm finally able to write about this book. Sort of. Oh, gee whiz, could I be more dramatic? But seriously, this book had a strange grasp on me that I was wholly unprepared for.

Before I start I should tell you that Camille just finished it and we spend 30 minutes breaking it down and she asked why I was so emotional about the ending. To explain here is something Hannah said during our discussion of the book that I completely agree with. She said that some people are just talented readers. That for some, reading is a God-given gift. So for example, I can play the piano, but I've never considered myself to be a talented pianist. There is a vast difference between the notes I play and the notes that a truly talented musician plays. They can take the skill of playing the piano and infuse it with all the emotion it deserves. I can't do that on the piano, but I can do that with a book. When I read I pour every single emotion into it. It comes without any thought and it's been that way since I was a kid. You should have seen me when Johnny died in The Outsiders. I was 10 and devastated. When a story is this good and the characters are this real I can't help but put everything into it. It can be exhausting. (It's a shame I can't make money off of loving books. There are times when I'll say I wish I had a talent for accounting or auto repair (you know, something marketable) but in all honesty I'm pretty stoked that I got reading.)

So yes, reading this book was a really powerful experience. On many levels. But I'm not going to go into all the reasons why. People who have read the first two books and are looking for some kind of hint as to how the book was, all I can tell you is that it wasn't easy. You already know that they're at war and Katniss has to fight and with war comes some gruesome stuff. But it wasn't the violence that got me. It was the human cruelty. And it was also the human frailty. Both meanness and kindness do me in.

I won't tell you all the thoughts I had on it but I will tell you that the writing is masterful. Suzanne Collins has a gift. She paces the story at a breakneck speed and she doesn't let superfluous description slow it down. She describes things in a way that with just a few short phrases you have a clear image in your head of the setting and mood. She does not waste words, which I consider to be one of the greatest talents a writer can have. And she had a very light touch with the themes. It could very easily have gone over board in any number of directions with the environment and war and equality. But she let the story do the talking without being preachy at all.

I can't say too much about the plot without giving things away but I will tell you that it was so much more than I expected. I was genuinely surprised at plot twists. And the ending was solid. When I finished I really had no idea what to say about it. People have asked if I loved it. And I wanted to say that I loved it but I say things like, "I love the Sound of Music," or, "I love chocolate ice cream." It was a little bit more complex than that. What I did love was the experience of it. It tore me up but in such a good way. Oy, again with the drama.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

These is my Words

Book: These is my Words
Author: Nancy E. Turner
Like/Don't Like: LOVED. A lot. Even though the title hurt my heart.

You're asking how I can read a book with such a title. And I'm with you on that. Every time I say the name of this book I die a little on the inside.

Except that it is AMAZING. And I can certainly forgive a gimmicky title in exchange for an incredible story.

Emma lent it out to Teresa who then passed it on to me on Sunday and both of them said I had to start it right away. I was in between books and had some free time in the afternoon so why not. Here's why not. I could not put it down. From that time until I finished it this evening every spare minute I had was spent reading this book. Things like work and already scheduled activities got in the way but things that did not get in the way were sleep, meals and other responsibilities that could be procrastinated. It is the type of book that makes you put life on hold and you don't feel guilty at all about it.

Which completely surprised me. I'm not naturally drawn to those types of stories - those being stories of pioneers living the hard life in the West. Mostly because tales of hardship exhaust me. And oh, are there hardships in this book. So many hardships. So many that I regularly found myself saying prayers of gratitude that I was born in a time with running water and cars and hospitals and roads and food aplenty and no threats of Indian attacks or scarlet fever or blood poisoning or snake bites or train robberies or your horse rolling over you after it's been shot by and arrow. And worse things too. Like rape. Egads! It's a good thing there are good, strong male characters in this story because because every other man in it had leering eyes and grabby hands. The main character, Sarah Prine, always carried a pistol in her apron pocket, and for good reason.

All of those things and more happened to either Sarah or her loved ones and looking back on them it's a miracle I kept reading. But the writing was so straightforward and honest that it just sucked me right in. I loved her voice. It felt true. There wasn't a single moment when I thought that a pioneer woman wouldn't say that. I also loved all the other characters, both those on the side who come in and out as the years go along and those who stick around through the whole thing. (You will fall in love with Jack. Even you who are married. You will find yourself wishing your husband would grow a mustache and join the army. That's how great he is!)

There isn't much of a plot, it's just her journal spanning two decades so it's mostly just chronically her life and the joys and struggles that come with it. So it's high praise when I say that you don't even notice the lack of one. When I finished it tonight I immediately headed over to our stitching group where Emma and Teresa were and the first thing I said to them was that I finished it but couldn't really talk about the ending because I hadn't had time to process it all. I love it when a book fills you up like that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Movie: Departures
Like/Don't Like: Like.

Once upon a time at BYU a cute guy in one of my classes asked if I wanted to go see a Japanese film at the International Cinema. Um, duh. Cute guy + movie = yes please. We agreed to meet and I showed up and he didn't. As I am 80 it should not surprise you that this was back in the days when not everyone had a cell phone. So I saw him in class the next day and he was apologetic and gave me some line about homework and weather and whatever. And all of that would have been a fine excuse and I could have gotten over it except that the movie was a huge drag. It was two hours of nothing but this old couple sitting in their home waiting for their family to come visit them before they die. So the whole time I'm watching it I was bored out of my mind and peeved that the cute guy stood me up.

This naturally left a bad taste in my mouth for Japanese film. Which is ridiculous, I know. But I'm a girl. I can be like that. I've seen a few Japanese films since and have begrudgingly enjoyed them but I'm still never very thrilled at the prospect.

So you can imagine how I felt tonight when I showed up at my friends house for a movie night (on a school night, no less) and found that the movie she had selected was Japanese. (The sad truth is that this movie has been recommended to me on Netflix several times and has been in my queue for a while and had I ever found out that it was Japanese it would never has seen the inside of my mailbox.) I instantly prepared my mind to be bored and got comfy just in case I found it more interesting to sleep instead of watch.

But it was actually pretty good. Not boring at all, really. It's about a man who has lost his job as a cellist when the orchestra he played in is dissolved. He moves back to his home town and the first job he lands is performing the ceremonial preparations for cremation. (I should tell you that if you watch it, it is helpful to know that the Japanese are a little squeamish when it comes to dead people. We didn't figure that out until halfway through when people started shunning him because of his work.)

The music is lovely (full of the cello, which I love) and the scenes where he's preparing the bodies are actually quite beautiful. There are some funny moments, which kept things light and I thought it had a pretty good message about how death softens the living and puts important things into focus.