Twitterature: January & February

Since I committed myself to getting a blog moving again, rough starts and breaks and all, I’ve been unsure how to go about the “book blog” aspect of the thing. And now it’s nearly May and I’ve only written about two of the books I’ve read this year.

I could pretend that this is why I’m going to give a “Twitterature” type post a try, but the honest awful truth is I’ve been planning to do one of these ever since the end of January or so. Now, in mid April (Ok, fine, late April), I almost expanded this to include March — but decided March could have it’s own soon-to-come post. Fingers crossed I actually spend some time on April’s reads before, say, June.

Twitterature is a link-up from The Modern Mrs. Darcy. The concept is simple: very quick, brief reviews of all your recent reads.

Presumably the idea might also be to keep them within normal, Twitter 140-character bounds, but today (well, and all of the many days I wrote these over) I’m a follower of spirit, rather than law.

Here goes.

 TwitteratureJF_3
Divergent & Insurgent
 
Veronica Roth

I reread these before reading Allegiant (3rd book of trilogy) because it had been quite awhile and Imy memory of the 2nd was minimal at best. I’ve liked them both times quite a bit. I like Tris, I like the atmosphere of Dauntless, and I love the post-apocalyptic Chicago setting. They move well, and the writing is on par with average-to-good YA.

A lot of the plot-disbelief on these two ends of being explained (or, well, replaced by new problems) in the third book, but it seems to have been too little : too late for a lot of readers. I didn’t mind that, generally trusting authors to explain things in his/her own time, but I had my own problems with the final installment…

 

Allegiant Veronica Roth

Well, I didn’t throw my book across the room like Morgan did, but that was only because I already break electronics too easily and this is my second Kindle.

Let’s start over. Good book. Still on par with average-to-good YA writing and plotting, and the world building here was fascinating, if only roughly explored. The revelations of the concluding book could have  been their own series. I like a comment Morgan made, that it seems if Veronica Roth had spent a couple more years with these stories, world-building and learning as a writer, this series could have been phenomenal.

But it wasn’t. And the ending was reader-shattering (not in a  good way) and seemingly senseless. The literary choices that it required felt unjustified and shock-factor serving.

Conclusion: Good, solid, average YA; sucky book-throwing ending.

Neverwhere Neil Gaiman
(click through for full review)

 

The White Umbrella Mary Francis Bowley

This was my first foray into non-fiction this year, and also my first (and so far, only) book read from my team’s recent titles. Short review: I learned. I cried. Slightly longer review: If you have even the slightest inkling of doubt that sex-trafficking is a pretty freaking big issue in the US, pick this up. Stories like this need to be told.

It slowed down for me quite a bit towards the end, but I found it worth finishing regardless. No questions as to why this is one of our better sellers.

 

The Wednesday Wars Gary D. Schmidt

The concept of wonderful middle-grade fiction like Wednesday Wars has been a happy discovery a couple of times now (The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had was another such). I loved this book, its middle school narrator, Holling, and his relationships with his classmates, his sister, and the wonderful Mrs. Baker. I didn’t read the sequel, and I probably won’t, but that has little to do with this book and more to do with a change of narrator to a character I didn’t care for as much.

 

Dreamland Sarah Dessen
(click through for full  short review)

 

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Graceling,
Fire,
& Bitterblue Kristin Cashore

Lovely little YA sort-of trilogy. The first two books take place in entirely different settings, but connected by yet-insurmountable geography. The third ties the two together, but only as a secondary measure after being an entirely great story all it’s own.

Each follows a different young woman in a world where in one land, some individuals are born with graces: various extraordinary (and sometimes odd and unusually specific) skills or talents or gifts — and in a bordering land, there are “monster” versions of different creatures: brightly colored, entrancing versions of each species, including human.

I found these to be good-to-quite-good YA for world-building, of the sort that I can hardly remember what the writing quality was — just that it drew me along perfectly well. I also loved her play on chronology. Bitterblue was the favorite, despite/because of the slightly slower pacing and tone switch to a more political-intrigue dipped plot. I’ll be more than willing to try more Kristin Cashore.

 

Have you read any of these? Agree, disagree, or thinking of giving any a try?

Amateur design, brave new worlds, & a sad lack of soma-induced holidays

Alright, so I said I’d write about things I know about. And then pretty much gave you the exhaustive list of things I know about.

If you missed that one, here’s a hint: It wasn’t very long.

But since the furthest I’ve managed to get in categorizing my blog is “lifestyle and, uh, books?”, I suppose I do need to talk about my life. Lifestyle. (Which will eventually involve processing what my lifestyle… even is.)

And a big part of my non-sleeping, non-food-eating life right now is this frightening, intimidating delving into the broad wide world of designing for fun and freelance.

Graphic design, to be specific, because my attempts at interior design crash and burn when all I want to do when I’m at home is nap and watch Scandal.

I started freelancing for my old high school last year, based on my experience in, you know, one graphic design class and having fixed up their semi-annual newsletter for an internship there. Most of what I do for them is website sliders, along with a few posters now and then.

FinalHomecomingSized

DraftOne_Resize

 

I’m far from being anywhere near good. I rarely know what I’m doing, and I’m usually learning some fairly basic technique along the way each time. But then, I’ve also had a decent eye for what they want, and since what they want is often simple enough to land within my range, it’s a quite pleasant working relationship. (Oh, and here’s a fun secret: one of the two women I work with on projects there is my mother. So you know it gets interesting.)

FinalSliderBoxTopsFinal1

Working with people who know me and like me and don’t really want to pay someone with astronomical fees has been the perfect amateur entry point. Sliders are simple: it’s a rectangle. Fill the rectangle. Include what they want. Make it look halfway respectable. Then have ideas at the last minute, right before throwing up your hands in agony, that bring it above respectable and into, “We like it!” territory.

But past these simple projects? It’s a brave new world, baby, but you can’t clock out on a soma-induced holiday.

All that to say, I’m beginning some new projects that leave me both terrified and excited. A freelance project involving logo design skews towards terrified, while two different blog design personal projects for friends skew towards exciting.

I might talk about them later. I don’t know. There’s still a lot of new involved in all of this, and like I said: I’m still a ways away from good. (And even farther from experienced.)

But in the meantime, I’ll make weird little sayings designs, like the ones below for my mother, in exchange for love and plane tickets to visit home.Hippocrates1 NotGonnaLie

A Few of My Favorite Things || An Ode to Goodreads

To celebrate it being morning (what? Just go with it.) here’s a really egocentric blog post of things I like. Which was somewhat (or completely) spurred on by how much I love…

1. Goodreads.

I click on Goodreads multiple times day.
Most of those times, I don’t go past the first page,
because most of those times, I don’t actually have anything to do on it.
But I keep doing it anyways.
And every time, my heart swells just a little and whispers,
I love Goodreads.
If I tweeted everytime I thought about loving Goodreads,
no one would follow me anymore.
It’s bad.

Sometimes I open my currently reading,
2014 books,
or to read lists
and just appreciate all the covers for a bit.

…It’s bad.

 

2. Silver white winters that melt into spring

This is as opposed to Chiberia winters that melt into… another snowstorm. Then melt into… another one. And then rain on a cold Monday. And on, and on, ad nauseum.

 

(Someone should remind me of this when I’m complaining about my ACs inability to keep up this summer.)

 

3. Gummy Vitamins

Because there is absolutely no way I would be taking vitamins everyday if it didn’t feel like eating candy at my desk.

 

4. Books

You might have actually assumed this one earlier.

 

5. Mondays

KIDDING.

Alright, well clearly it’s genuine writer’s block when I can’t think of anything else I like — or maybe it’s just I can’t think of anything else I like that I can also be clever about. Maybe it’s just genuine pride issues. Either way, it’s Monday, and Monday is being particularly stereo typical today: rain, cold, dull projects, minimal sleep due to an extreme late wake up yesterday, and deadlines all week, both in office and freelance.

And yet, I’m feeling weirdly awake and vaguely positive. I’m not really sure what’s gotten into me, but at least we know it’s not good nutrition or anything crazy like that (unless Cheesie’s is working miracles with their seemingly unhealthy wonderful sandwiches).

Either way, good morning Monday. Have a good day, or at least try not to punch anyone.

You can do that tomorrow when you realize it isn’t Friday yet.

 

When I was a child…

When I was a child, I wanted to grow up and be…

Whatever I thought I could do better than the person doing it at that moment. Ok. That’s a slight exaggeration — and makes me sound like a weirdly arrogant kid –, but while other kids might have wanted to be a teacher because they actually thought they would like to teach, I mostly wanted to so I could NOT do it the way a few of my teachers did.

This included high school, and I honestly believe the beginnings of wanting to grow up and do things with words was the English teacher who had. typos. on. every. worksheet. (And inaccuracies about books we were reading. On graded assignments. Where you could lose points for READING THE BOOK CAREFULLY. Unless you awkwardly corrected the teacher, which I would never do. Cough. (I could never tell if she loved me or hated me. Possibly both.))

The end result is that, essentially, when I was a child I wanted to be an adult who adulted better than the adults. Now, how I’m *actually* handling being an adult is something we should talk about. Another day. (A far, far away other day: when my early twenties are just something to chuckle about.) But when I was thinking this as a kid, it was mostly in regards to how adults treated me and other kids around me. (And, if I’m being honest, how adults treated others in books. Then and now, I can get up some REAL good indignation towards fictional characters.)

I spent plenty of time considering how when I was an adult, would remember would it was like, and handling things differently.

But I don’t. It’s bewildering. I was so, so certain I would be good at this, that I would somehow retain an understanding of what it was intrinsically like to be so young.

But I don’t. In fact, I have a fairly awful memory. But doesn’t this seem to be the norm for all of us? To forget what it really felt like to be in this or that situation? Maybe it’s not my awful memory, maybe it’s just a larger commentary on … on something. Sorry, I almost started down a strange philosophical rabbit trail that I’m really not qualified to attempt. It had to do with empathy, and relating, and you can really quite possibly connect the dots without me.

Anyways.

It’s actually quite frightening, because I imagine this must continue. Mostly to parenting, when I’m clearly not going to be able to remember any of the things I wished my parents did/reacted/understood better when I was younger.

But also to myself, down the line. How well will I understand this current-me when that is no longer who I am? How well will I remember what it was like, being here?

I hope you weren’t deceived into thinking this was really going anywhere particular or unique, but as with a lot of what I’ve found myself writing lately, it comes down to the actual act of writing. I’ve always felt the urgent need to be able to, later on, understand this moment, this age, this feeling, event, relationship, etc. So throughout my life it has surprised me frequently that I don’t actually do it. It surprises me, somehow, when I don’t even keep a regular journal.

And it sometimes frightens me to realize any day-to-day moment might be completely forgotten in a week’s time.

When I was a child, I probably should have kept it simple and realized I just wanted to be a professional book reader.

But really, in a way I could never have understood then, I wanted to be someone who remembered.

I don’t know what it means to accomplish this, to be that someone. But I do know that I more than likely worry about it too much. I’m learning to accept the way my memory works (including the fact that I have extremely limited audio memory — I can remember what was basically said, ideas and concepts and more than enough to be fine, but there is no playback, and there is no way I’ll recall specific dialog). I’m learning, slowly, to accept that there will be so many more day-to-day moments that I will recall.

And I’m learning that, through I can certainly try to write more down, I can stop worrying about it all so dang much.

 

“Noah” & the beautiful complexity of Biblical humanity

Note: Originally, the shortest title I got for this was the too-long “Noah: And how the movie lends to understanding of the complexity of the Bible’s actual human characters.” But long titles look terrible with my current blog template, and I’m not quite ridiculous enough to wait to post till I redesign.

I have a lot of thoughts about Noah. (Well, I did when I wrote most of what’s below. Less now, when I’m actually getting around to posting it.) But up until the need  to respond to someone on the internet boiled over last week, I hadn’t quite articulated anything that felt original. At all.

But, as it will, someone on Facebook finally pushes you over the edge, and words happen. A lot of them. (To be exact, 499, on a poor friend’s status. I was lucky that she didn’t mind at all!)

So, hopefully the origins explain why this goes in the potentially odd order — because I don’t want to waste what’s already written, and I’m at the end of caring about this entire topic (and caring would be required to write very many new ones. Yes, that’s laziness. Go away. …Wait. Don’t go away!

I shouldn’t post the comment I responded to, so I won’t. But that means you’re just going to have to use some thinking (sorry) to imagine what it looked like. So here goes. I’m sharing a Facebook rant with you. Appreciate me.

Or scroll to the bolded word “Final” to miss the more reactive bits. As you wish.

“1. (Let’s start with some caps. I apologize for this decision.) WHY IS BEING PRO-TAKING CARE OF THE EARTH A BAD THING? I admittedly rarely recycle, but I truly don’t get the weird Christian anti-environmentalist thing. Like, let’s go be mad at people who want to take care of God’s creation! Cool.”

Ok, fine. I may have done a little straw-manning on the kid with this one, but I promise — the complaint AS GIVEN was as simplistic as the way I addressed it. Environmentalist agenda! Oh noes!

“2. The director’s alleged intent does not need to make or break my experience or interpretation of the film. ALSO, here’s another alleged quote that actually paints the director very different: ‘The film completely accepts the text, the four chapters in Genesis, as truth – just like if I was to adapt any book, I’d try to be as truthful to the original material as possible. It’s just that there’s only four chapters, and we had to turn it into a two-hour long narrative film.’ So. To repeat, ‘The film completely accepts the text … as truth.’ This is good. Let it be good.”

If he was going to believe everything the internet was telling him, so was I. I got this quote from Buzzfeed. I didn’t really check it. But it looked pretty legitimate, so… you know. It must be.

“3. That leads me to the part where I question all the complaints about inaccurate details. because he’s exactly right. It’s four chapters. You COULDN’T make this movie without making speculations on the story that was going on between the lines. This drastically affects my final thought on the movie, below.”

Hey look, see that? There’s going to be final thoughts soon. And really, I probably should have just fleshed those out for a full post — because they’re probably the only semi-original thought in here.

“4. But before that, your statement: “The whole story of Noah in Scripture is about God destroying the earth because of sin and preserving one family in covenant with himself and from that family repopulating the earth. Anything that doesn’t tell that story is misstating God’s word.” I don’t get it. That’s EXACTLY the story I watched this weekend. So if that’s what makes it a misstatement, then, well, I don’t get you here.”

Oops. I did quote him once.

Ok. The rest is also more or less what I wrote at the time, but like I said: This is the part I really care about and probably should have limited this post to. *shrug*

Final: This movie was never about portraying the exact reality of how Noah’s story played out. You can’t; the Bible doesn’t tell us enough. If you expect exactness, and no literary license, or even no careful speculation, you will never get Biblical stories on screen.

So if that movie was never about that, why do I value what I saw? Because stories like these, both in movie and literary form, humanize the people of the Bible.

Biblical stories are often sparse. We don’t always get progression, and motivation. Couple that with how much of our collective evangelical childhood was spent seeing Bible characters as really simple cartoonish characters, with little to no complexity, and the result is a difficulty in seeing the Biblical characters AS complex people.

And that’s not a good thing. Forgetting that these were real, complex people, with complex motivations, that a righteous man might also have been prone to anger or cruelty (erm, hello, David?) and we lose how beautiful the stories are.

A movie like this takes the simple cartoon aspect out of the story for me and lets me read Scripture, NOT assuming Aronofsky’s rendition was accurate, but actually understanding how much amazing complexity would have lain between the lines of the text.

And that’s worth the $6 matinee ticket.