Sunday Book Club: The Giver, Lois Lowry

With all the hype over The Giver as a movie, I decided I should reread it. Mostly because I saw the previews for the movie and I couldn’t help but think that the book was definitely not that sci-fi. Like, ok, futuristic, but not sci-fi. Maybe I’m viewing the previews in some kind of way, but it looks like nothing I imagined. So, I reread it to make sure that I just hadn’t forgotten all the cool sci-fi parts and discovered that I didn’t forget anything and I imagine the book the same and the movie is wrong. 

I first read The Giver in the sixth grade because I think that’s when a lot of people like to teach it??? Anyway, I really liked it. I mean, ok, I didn’t really like it, but I liked it enough to remember about it. And I liked it enough to write a sequel for it. Let me explain: in sixth grade we read The Giver and then were asked to do a project on it because that’s what you do in the sixth grade. One of the projects you could do for the book was to write a sequel. But who wants to do that when you could easily just make a poster about Jonas’s eye color? (I don’t think that was a real thing.) Well, I’ll tell you who wants to write a sequel for a book: me. Not that the actual book is that long and, I mean, my sequel was definitely not even close to being 179 pages, but you know, I wrote a sequel because I guess I hated how the book ended. And, after reading it again, I’ve decided that I STILL hate how this book ends. But I won’t start at the ending, ok?

The book follows this kind of futuristic city in which everything is decided for everyone and no one questions it and no one thinks it sucks because that’s all they’ve ever known. Basically everyone is a robot and that’s that. (Not so dramatic, but almost.) Here’s the major difference between my mind’s movie and the actual movie because the actual movie makes it seem super future, like drones and cool haircuts. I was imagining everyone kind of woodsy. Like almost Zelda and the Ocarina of Time, but not quite. WAIT I GOT IT. Almost like Dark Cloud, but not the original village you live in, the village you go to help rebuild after you rebuild your own. And they live in the woods and some people live in tree houses and one guy lives in a mushroom and I know they’re mostly wearing animal skins but that’s essentially what I imagined even now. Are we seeing it yet? I know they’re supposed to be a cool advanced community, but I still imagined them very old. So maybe I’m just wrong, maybe the rest of you think I’m crazy. 

Anyway, I can’t really get my mind off talking about the ending so I’m going to do it because I think that’s where most of my review lies. Ok so I have no real problem with the plot or the characters or even the development, BUT I DO HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE ENDING. I think it ends so fast and so annoyingly. I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly I didn’t like about it, but I can’t really put my finger on it. The only thing I could come up with was maybe the framing of the story didn’t work for me??? Hear me out. We had this really lengthy first 3/4 of the book. We were introduced to the community, the characters, the way they do things. We saw the different ceremonies and learned how those worked and we were able to sit in on a few of the sessions that Jonas had with The Giver. But I just feel like after five sessions, Jonas is up and ready to run away and change the world and The Giver is like “to hell with it” and goes along with it. Ok, I know the sessions span the course of a year, I think, but it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like one random Tuesday, Jonas shows up and is like WOW THIS PLACE SUCKS and The Giver is like “yep” and the next day Jonas is kidnapping Gabe and running away forever. What is that? And then they’re running away and it is basically the most boring part of the entire book. Ok, the insertion of the small memories and the idea that the memories are fading and returning to the community, fine. Ok. And even the reality of the memory with the sled in the snow, cool. I get it. But oh my goodness please end because I can’t take any more of it. And in reality, the last part of the book was maybe twenty pages and I hated it. I am so dramatic but I just feel like the framing of the story overall needed to be stronger. I can’t even remember the ending that well and I read it last week. I don’t think it ended on a strong enough point. I don’t care where Jonas ended up or what happens to him or the community, but also I feel like Lowry needed it to end strong enough where you know you’ll never know and you’re ok with that. You remember what he went through and accept it as the ending. I can’t accept this, I just can’t do it. 

Ok, what SHOULD happen (or, at least, what happens in my head because I can’t remember the exact sequel that I wrote but I’m sure it’s similar because I don’t change my mind about things) is that Jonas should maybe run into a family and it should be the exact world that Lily describes. They should all have twins. And Jonas meets his twin, but he’s too weak and basically dies, but Gabe lives with this family that would’ve been his had there not been the rule against more than two kids. I mean, ok, granted there’s another Gabe living in this new community, but he’s with a different family. You know what I’m saying? But this new family with this new Lily and new Jonas take him in and ugh it would be perfect. I’m writing this sequel again. 

Friends

Recently I have been notified that I now have 100 followers on this site and, while I’m sure all of you have many more than 100 followers on this site, I’m going to make a huge deal out of it because this is great. So thanks, new friends, for constantly subjecting yourself to my whining and terribly constructed book reviews. We are now bonded for life and you are stuck with me and that’s just how it’s going to be from now till eternity. 

Sunday Book Club: The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien

Ok, I’m going to be 100% honest for a second. I read the first chapter of The Things They Carried in one of my writing classes and thought it was ridiculously impressive that O’Brien was able to capture each character immediately, not by who he was but by what he had on his person at the time and that’s awesome. I definitely did not know this book was a Vietnam War book, but that doesn’t change the fact that I thought this was a really great and interesting read. I guess what I’m saying is that I really have no sense of picking books out, I just read a passage once and think it’s nice so I read the whole book and then someone’s dead and I’m depressed. That’s all I’m saying.

That being sad, I’m really glad I picked this book up when I was in Fort Worth at Half Price Books. (Big ups to HPB for being really awesome and half price.) I’m not the biggest history fan (aka I got the lowest score possible on my AP History exam in high school), but when it comes to historical literature, I’m all about it. Give me all the books, I’ll read ’em. Even better is that Tim O’Brien actually served in Vietnam. These are his stories. His friends’ stories. And I think that’s the most ridiculous part because I guess we all know war happens, but most of us don’t get to experience it first hand like this. Fiction seems easy to write because it’s all made up, but to write about things like the scenarios O’Brien describes seems like the most difficult time. And I guess he found it difficult because it took him a few years to actually get it all out.

Not only was the book super interesting and captivating, it was also incredibly well written. It wasn’t a story that sounded like a historical list of events. It sounded like a story you’d tell your friend or your mom. A conversation over dinner. (Maybe not because some of these are gruesome, like I probably wouldn’t talk about this over dinner with my mom, but you know what I mean.) (And now, because this is what I do to fill up space in my empty reviews, I’m going to quote a bunch of things like I really liked a lot.) O’Brien explores a lot of not only the actions that these men had to take while fighting, but also their internal conflicts and the way they felt about the things they had to do. He states this much better when he writes: “It was very sad, he thought. The Things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do.” There’s an ease about his writing, which seems absurd because there is no ease about war, especially not the one in Vietnam. I love that. When someone can take such a difficult subject and write about it like it was nothing. Not, like, they write about it simply that all power is lost, but, like, that they write so easily and so simply that all the power is in a few words. And sometimes a few words are more powerful than a book of words.

O’Brien also even inserts a little note about story telling, which I think is neat, because that’s what he’s doing. But that’s also how he obtained a lot of the stories he tells. And that’s how these mens’ families will hear what happened. And story telling is how these actions and feelings and events will continue to move through generations and life.

Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a life-time ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.

Goodness, I love that. It transcends all time and subject. It’s not a statement about war stories, although this is the subject matter O’Brien writes. It’s a statement about story telling in general and I think it’s so powerful because I don’t think people look at story telling the same way that we used to. Story telling used to be fundamental to memories and morals and lessons and histories. Today we use the internet and we use cameras and no one just talks. No one just tells stories and I think we lose such an important string in the fabric of each other’s lives. And I think it’s so powerful that he didn’t sugar coat it. He said it simply and yet it’s the only way he could’ve said it.

Everything O’Brien writes has a purpose, but basically everything he writes has a certain beauty to it. It all just sounds pretty. I think he looks at different scenarios differently than most people would and I think that’s really cool because he was there. And you half except negativity and anxiety, almost. But he writes with such beauty and such reflection and, ok, basically what I’m saying is that I love everything he wrote, ok?

And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It’s about sunlight. It’s about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to do. It’s about love and memory. It’s about sorrow. It’s about sisters who never write back and people who never listen.

It’s about sunlight. Are you kidding me, Tim O’Brien?

One of my favorite sections of the book is the one titled “The Man I Killed.” And I think I liked it so much because a lot of the other stories are kind of told through his fellow soldiers and this one was his one. It felt personal and close to home. I also really like the way he wrote it and the way he used the few repeating phrases throughout the entire section. Ok, they weren’t the nicest phrases because basically all of them described what this dead body looked like, but I think with the repetition, it gave the reader a true sense of how his mind was flickering from image to image to voice to image to feeling. We were (almost not really) there with him. So kudos, dude.

ALSO WAS ANYONE ELSE REALLY UPSET WHEN KIOWA DIED???

Ok, but on a concluding statement, my uncle fought in Vietnam and I never really had the chance to sit and talk to him about it and his experiences. My mom said that when he returned home, he suffered from PTSD and didn’t really talk to anyone about anything, which I can understand. I still have never heard him talk about anything referring to the war and I wish there was some way to tap into his mind and just for a few seconds uncover the memories he had from then. And I wonder if his experience would’ve been anything like O’Brien’s. And I wonder if he ever wrote about it, if he would’ve written about it as beautifully as written in The Things They Carried.

Follow along with my future reads on GoodReads here!

Not A Confidence Boost

Before I say anything, I want to make this 100% clear. I am not trying to give myself a confidence boost. I am definitely not trying to kick my confidence while it’s down, but this isn’t going to be one of those posts that I write about how much better I am going to be. What I will do is just try to give myself a kick in the butt to do anything really because basically I’ve done nothing about my life in way too long. It’s time to be proactive. And this time I mean it. (I think.)

I’m going on my fifth year working at the mall and, while it pays the bills and it’s super terrible, the mall is not somewhere I imagine myself for much longer. I’ve always given myself an age limit. By 25, I need to be at least getting ready to get out of the mall and 25 feels like it’s rapidly approaching which is not good for me because I feel nowhere close to getting out of the mall. My dream job would be to just be able to write and (hopefully) get published and so life wouldn’t be so terrible while I’m spending all my hours writing. But I know (at this moment in time) that’s not a practically lifestyle, so I’ve always been “ok” with the mall and the “security” it provides. And recently, I’ve really uncovered this love of fashion and clothes and visual merchandising and so I’ve been looking into doing more with that until I can pay for grad school. But even with that, I feel such a lack of confidence and experience that I’m nervous even to apply sometimes. This happened when I was thinking about going for publishing internships. I feel so under qualified because of all my years spent on a clothing store sales floor. And I know I basically shouldn’t feel under qualified when it comes to applying for visual internships, especially when they’re internships for the company I presently work for, but something makes me so nervous. I don’t even know if I’m nervous that I won’t get it. I think I’m more nervous to get it and then to have to start over. It would be like the first day of middle school or something. Will you fit in? Will you find something you’re good at? Will you make the impression you want? I think the mall, for a long time, has been a comfort for me. I know what I’m doing there and people know that I know what I’m doing and those people respect it and acknowledge it. I feel safe there because of it. But the more years I spend there, the more I realize that, while I’m good at what I do, this is never what I imagined my life to be.

I don’t think it helps that I haven’t written in basically forever. Even after deciding to set up a creative writing coalition with my undergrad comrade Julia, I still haven’t written. I’ve journaled, yes, but I actually haven’t sat down and just written something. Anything. And so I know that hurts me. I know it hurts to think that the mall is all I’ll ever be good at. Maybe if I was writing more and submitting more pieces to magazines and contests, I’d feel a little less awful about myself and where I’m going with my life. Maybe if I was working on a portfolio for grad school (something I’ve told myself to work on for three years now), I’d feel more confident in my ability to get into grad school for creative writing.

It also doesn’t help that now there’s a new added goal to my life: getting my long distance relationship to be not long distance. So, while for a long time, it’s been me worrying about how long it was going to take me to get to where I want to be, I’m now in a spot where all I do is worry about how long it’s going to take to get to have an actual relationship again. Neither of us have the funds to support ourselves at this point and I understand that. But I also feel like no matter how much I work at this mall, I am still nowhere close to even starting to work toward being together again. So that’s another added fear where I think I should just apply to internships across the country, but then it’s not only starting over in a job, it’s starting over in a new state. Which is cool, but also terrifying, considering that I already feel under qualified. Am I ready to move across a country and start over? Maybe I would be if I had an actual job and not a part-time mall job? Life is hard.

I guess it sounded a lot like me kicking my confidence when it’s down and I really didn’t intend to make it sound that way. I guess I just thought if I wrote it all down it would give me more fight. Now that it’s out in the open, maybe I’ll kick myself into high gear to just start being more proactive. I complain a lot, I do. And I know that the only person who can make any real change in my life is myself and so I think it’s time that I start doing that or else I’ll keep complaining and all of you innocent people will continue to have to deal with it.

Sunday Book Club: The Fault In Our Stars, John Green

Before I even start, I would like to make a note that this is not my cup of tea when it comes to books. It’s just not. The teen love thing has never been my cup of tea. I succumbed to literary peer pressure and I’m not too happy that I did so it’s back to never listening to anyone I went to undergrad with because teen love is all they ever want to read about ever.

I guess I should’ve gone into this book with lower expectations, but actually, I expected a lot because everyone has been singing it’s praise. Then someone made a movie about it so I figured it must at least have some really great characters who I can connect with emotionally. And I tried really hard to. I wanted to love this book like everyone else. I tried. I PROMISE. I just couldn’t do it. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not the love story thing that turned me off and it’s not that it was a happy-to-sad thing about cancer. It’s simply that I couldn’t feel myself emotionally investing in any of the individual characters. Hear me out:

We all loved the relationships between Hazel and Augustus and the friendship between Augustus and Isaac and we were even able to grow attached to the bond formed between Hazel and Isaac. These were really great relationships. They were real relationships. Augustus and Hazel were adorable. Isaac was hysterical and Augustus was dependable. Hazel and Isaac were there for each other when they had no one else. It was beautiful, it was all really great. But I can’t pick one individual character that I was invested in. So when Augustus died, I didn’t cry. I wasn’t struggling through life with Hazel. I didn’t feel what she felt because I didn’t feel anything for her. I didn’t care about her. I cared about her and Augustus, but when the two weren’t together or weren’t communicating, I didn’t care. And I think that’s terrible because all I want to do is care for all fictional characters everywhere.

I guess if I’m picking one character to really invest in, I’m going Isaac. 100% Isaac. And I know that’s not the typical choice. People invest in Hazel because she’s dealing with this thing that no one can really imagine and she’s basically everyone at 16. And the other people invest in Augustus because he was supposed to be the 80%. He was supposed to be cured and then be okay. And he’s going through his life now just making sure his two closest friends are staying positive and getting better all the while he learns that he’s not in the 80%, he’s in the 20% and then he’s gone and that’s terrible. But out of all the characters, I felt like Isaac was the most relatable. He was the most real to me. He cried for days about his girlfriend dumping him. Because she dumped him because he was going to be blind because of his cancer. How terrible is that? She promised him forever and you can’t help but think that they’d still be together had he not gone blind, but he did and she left. And yeah, he whined and it was annoying, but it was real. He had a perfect reason to act that way. In my opinion, he suffered the worst because while Hazel and Augustus were galavanting around the Netherlands, Isaac was home. And even had he gone to the Netherlands or some foreign country, he wouldn’t have been able to experience it all the same. He lost his sight. He lost his ability to see everything around him. He couldn’t see his best friend one more time before he died. He couldn’t even see the things he was missing out on because they even took that away from him and to me, that was truly the most disheartening thing for me. Yes, I think I’ll invest in Isaac.

Sunday Book Club: The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Ok, so my mom read this book and then had my sister read this book who told me to read this book. But first she said I should watch the movie so I wouldn’t end up hating the movie because of the book and I think that’s a good way to go. Watch the movie before reading this book because the movie is a good time. Obviously the book is better, but the movie is good. IT’S GOOD.

Anyway, I guess this is the second time my mom has suggested a book to me and, again, it’s worked out splendidly. Thanks mom. I really really loved this book. It’s not a light read and took me a little longer than two weeks to actually get done because I’m the worst, but it’s worth all the time in the world. All of it. Basically the story follows a young book crazed girl in the midst of WWII dealing with not being able to fully understand the events of the Holocaust. I’ve read a lot of Holocaust books, I have, and I really like that Zusak goes a slightly different route with Lisel. Not only is she basically born an outsider, she remains one throughout the novel. She goes through the daily activities of all other Germans, but she’s never fully aware and she never really lets herself get fully aware because she’s constantly escaping to her literature which I think is great.

Another thing I really liked about this book is that it isn’t written from Lisel’s point of view. It’s written in the point of view of Death. Death is actually narrating this novel and I think that was such a weird thing to do. But great, a great weird thing to do. While the novel follows Lisel’s life, the narrator being Death allows Zusak to wander. We learn all about Lisel and her struggles, but we learn about the action that is happening outside of Himmel street. And he can do that because Death goes wherever he’s needed and in a war, he’s needed in a lot of places. Death sets the time period and the location. Death sets how far along we are in the war. Death starts the book and Death ends the book and I think it was just a really cool way to do it all.

(I forgot how good I am at this.)

Like many readers, I’m sure, I thought Papa was an awesome dude. And his connection with Lisel is something that is so touching and sentimental, in a way. I feel like we all think of someone with that same comforting presence when reading his character. She was not his child, but he became her father and it was beautiful and I cried at the end of it all because he was such a wonderful guy. The relationship Lisel had with both Max and Rudy were also things that got me. Goodness, Max. What a gem. They were thrown into a really terrible situation and we were able to depend on each other for all the support the other one needed. He was such a star even though he was hidden in the basement and even though he was the supposed enemy. You don’t fully get the bond in the movie because there’s only so much you can do in such a short time, but the relationship formed between these two spans chapters. Awkward, at first, as you’d expect. But slowly and surely small connections and gestures become big and meaningful. And who can really forget about Rudy and who can really say much about him aside from he was the best one. Even Death knew it.

Ok, and to finish this REALLY terrible review off (because I’m sure this has been my worst one), I’d really like to meet a nice older woman with a library who will leave the window open for me to climb in and take a book. Like, really, I’ll bring the book back, I swear. I won’t even keep it. I won’t steal from you, I PROMISE. Help a sista out.