Great White Snark: November 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."

Thankful List

  • Topping the list this year is my job. First of all, I'm glad I even have a job. Secondly, this time last year, I was worried I was going to be a secretary forever, and actually cried (tears of joy) when one of my co-workers came up to me to discuss The Secret Garden which she had recently read. I realized then (more than ever) that I needed to be working among books and with other bookish people. God heard my prayers and placed me in a job that's perfect for me, and with people I really enjoy. I'm so grateful that the Director decided to take a chance on "the coupon girl with no experience." It's changed my life!
  • I'm grateful for my family, who are wonderful. Especially my Mom, who no matter what life throws at her deals with it gracefully and with dignity, and no matter how hard her own battles are, touches everyone she meets and knows with kindness and generosity. I'm grateful for my Dad, who's not only brilliant, hard-working, and generally the best guy I know, but for giving me impossibly high standards when it comes to dating guys, because I know what the best is, and won't settle for less. And for Michael, who is such a hard worker, is so smart it actually makes me sick, and is, comparatively speaking, a really good kid and great brother. 
  • I'm grateful for my mom's older sister who's really stepped up and helped us out this holiday season. And for my paternal grandmother, who's like the glue who holds us all together and is always welcoming and awesome. I'm also grateful that as my cousins and I move towards adulthood, we're able to reconnect in a way we couldn't when we were little kids with years between us. Being five years older is the difference between kindergarten and 5th grade when you're little. When you're older, it totally doesn't matter anymore. 
  • I'm grateful that I have a heavenly Father who loves me and forgives me, and doesn't expect me to be perfect. He just wants me to be me. 
  • I'm grateful for America, and even though our we're facing difficulty, we still live in the greatest country in the world. (Mostly because I get to have a blog where I can talk about God and government and not have to worry about getting shot for it. *_~)
  • I'm grateful for Bixby, Sherman, and all the animals we're blessed with on this planet, both wild and domesticated. Seriously, animals are great. ALL of them. But especially pugs and manatees and narwhals.
  • I'm grateful for being relatively healthy, asthma and monthly colds aside (which are due, mostly, to the fact that I work with children, who are well-recognized germ bags. Adorable and hilarious, but germ bags nonetheless). 
  • I'm actually grateful that I'm strong enough to be single in a society which tells me that I'm worthless if I don't have a guy at my side or a ring on my finger. I'd rather be happy, like I am now, and single than stuck with somebody I can't stand. 
  • I'm grateful for all my friends and acquaintances, even if we just talk on Facebook, because you make me feel loved and not as weird as I think I am in my head. But I'm especially grateful for Bethany, because we met when we were 15 and we'll both be 25 this year, which means she's been my bestie for 10 years. It's really nice to have someone grow up beside you, and know all your stories so you don't have to explain it all to them. Actually, she could probably finish all my stories for me with better accuracy than I could. 
  • I'm grateful for books, literacy, and imagination.
  • Food. Enough said. 

I know I've missed a lot, because I have so much for which to be grateful. Thank you, if you're reading this, for being here and being awesome. And Happy Thanksgiving!
(Or, as they say in the south with the emphasis on "thanks" and no "g" at the end, THANKSgivin'!)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Potential new least favorite book?

I just read the most heinous book. 

OH MY GOD, I literally can't even talk about how much I LOATHED this book. It was the most vapid, insipid, stupid, brainless waste of paper I've ever had the utter displeasure of reading. 

Not true. Heart of Darkness is still my least favorite book, but this book actually insulted me as a fan of Austen and an educated human being. 

What I hate most about this book is that it masquerades itself as some kind of almighty tribute to Austen, who is probably my favorite author, when really, it's so trite and STUPID that it's insulting to insinuate that you are glorifying her by reading or writing this book, and it's insulting to people who have actually READ all of her books to tout this as some kind of tribute. 


The main girl is a sad, Darcy-obsessed, single woman who wins a trip to Austenland, a place where you can go and literally pretend to be in a Jane Austen book alongside trained actors and everything. Of course, she falls in love with the Darcy character, but without the intrigue and intelligence of the ACTUAL Pride and Prejudice romance. 

Also, Hale repeatedly bashes Northanger Abbey, one of my favorites, and lauds SuckMansfield Park, the only of Austen's novels I actively dislike. 

It was just infuriating to me. I had to question if she'd ever actually read any of Austen's book, because this is the kind of dialogue, book, characters, and scenarios that Austen SNARKED IN HER OWN BOOKS. If you're going to write some kind of tribute novel, AT LEAST TRY, DAMMIT. 

Luckily, I've read other works by Shannon Hale and I know she's a good author, but it's like she got a prescription for stupid pills, popped them all, and birthed this monstrosity. 

I was so pissed off with this book that I literally felt my blood pressure rising as I was finishing it. If you were born with only half a brain, or you hate Austen, or you love really poor storytelling, go ahead and read this book. Everyone else, go read an actual Austen book. Or Sherlock Holmes, who would probably have injected cocaine, overdosed, gone on a crazy chemistry spree and poisoned every single person in this book, and then successfully framed Charles Augustus Milverton. Which would have been a really suitable alternate ending. 


While reading: 


 Summary of the book: 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Books I've Read Since The Night Circus

I've finished quite a few books in the last couple of weeks and wanted to do quick reviews of them. 

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan

This one was totally different from anything I usually read (or anything I've ever read, for that matter). For starters, it's a graphic novel, which usually isn't my thing. Secondly, there are no words. It's that artistic. Now, I realize that I should probably have been more serious and artsy about this book, but when there are no words, then my inner monologue takes over. And my inner monologue is really vulgar and tends to be kind of an idiot (also, it's British, don't even ask), so the reading went something like, "Okay, so this guy's going to buy postage stamps. Oh no wait, that's bread. And wait, there's a little ratf----r. What the eff even is that. What is it doing. It's like a shark-rat with gills. It's a ratf----r. Wait, everyone has a pet. That one's like a cat-fox. It's a cox." And on and on. 

This is actually a really moving story about a man who leaves his wife and child and home in a place that's being taken over by something bad (represented by a spiny dragon tail), and goes someplace new and foreign, tries to make a living over there, and later brings his wife and daughter to live there with him. It's an artistic story about immigration and emigration. He goes. The language is totally new and different (and so the reader experiences it with him, is completely made up and nonexistent). There are strange customs (everyone has some kind of pet, like in the Golden Compass books), strange ways to get food (I still don't get it...the best Inner Monologue and I came up with is that it's some kind of guessing game/vending machine in a wall), and everyone he meets has come from someplace else. It's like AMERICA but fictionalized. I liked it. I like that I was able to have a stupid narration in my head, but later realize what a cool story it is. And top of that, no matter where you're from or where you're going, you can "read" this book, because there's no words! I give major creativity props to Shaun Tan, and highly recommend it. I finished in about 20 minutes. You should at least go and look at the cute animal pictures. 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

Two things to note about my experience with this book: 
1. I have not seen the movie. 
2. I audiobooked it, and realized AFTERWARD that the actual book has some incredible illustrations that I totally missed by listening to the story, so I feel like I need to go back and actually read the physical book. 
That being said, I can't talk about the illustrations or the feel of the book, and I'm sorry about that. But the story itself was good. The boy, Hugo, works and lives in a train station in Paris. He's an orphan, and his uncle, the station's clock keeper, takes him in until he mysteriously disappears. Hugo continues to operate the station's clocks, because he doesn't want to go to an orphanage if anyone realized his uncle was dead. In the meantime, his deceased father had rescued an automaton (robot, or mechanical man) from a museum fire and was working to repair it. He died, and Hugo took over trying to fix it, certain that it held some kind of message for him about what to do in his life. 

It's a really interesting story in that it has some interesting factors: train stations, clock keeping, mechanics, magic tricks, early film, and Paris. I feel like the story wasn't as magical as I thought it was going to be, but maybe that's just me. It won the Caldecott and the movie is wildly popular, so maybe I'm just broken. But it seemed forgettable to me, if not for those few unforgettable aspects mentioned above. I do recommend it, but not to older readers. I'll keep it mind for the kids at the library, though. If you're an adult and you want to read a great kid's book, READ HARRY EFFING POTTER, ALREADY. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

I'd heard a lot of buzz about this book on YA blogs, and I decided to give it a go myself. It's not usually something I'm into, Native American lit, but this book was actually really, really good. 

There are enough places for you to go read summaries of the story, so I won't summarize it, but it's a really great story about a Spokane boy who is desperate to escape the downward spiral of life on an Indian reservation, and he does this by going to the closest white school off the reservation (which is 22 miles away). It's touching, eye-opening, depressing, darkly comical, and illustrated with comics by the narrator which add a much needed note of levity to an otherwise heavy story. It reminds me a lot of The Perks of Being A Wallflower, but with a racial twist. If you like that kind of stuff, I definitely recommend it. I finished it in one sitting. I just couldn't stop. The narrator hooked me from page one, and I loved every second of it. It's an easy read, but one, I think, that'll stay with me. 

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

THIS BOOK. OMG, THIS BOOK. This is the book I keep waiting for and it only comes every once in a great while. It's the book I was hoping that Godawful Sherlock Holmes thing would be. I was like:
It's the story of 11 year old Flavia de Luce, who aside from having a spectacular name, is a chemistry genius, prankster, and amateur sleuth. Although I use the word "amateur" loosely, because she's 11 and she basically solved every aspect of the mystery correctly. She, her father, and her two sisters live in a historic country manor home in England. Her mother is deceased. One morning, after a mysterious visitor calls on her father, Flavia finds aforementioned visitor dead on the grounds. She then cunningly pieces together the mystery of his death, using her brilliant knowledge of chemistry, her childhood naivety, and her bicycle called "Gladys" who I think she pretends is a horse. 

Flavia is a brilliant character. I can smell Sherlock Holmes on her, but she's different enough not to be a sad reincarnation. If Sherlock Holmes died and was reincarnated in the 1950's as a little girl, he might have come back as Flavia. Or if he'd fathered an illegitimate daughter with a dramatic actress (and don't even say Irene Adler or I will cut you). Or she could be a distant relative. She's calculating, chemical, and cunning like Holmes, but she has a flair for the dramatic and does, at times, show her emotions. She's just completely unique and I absolutely fell in love with her. 

I also loved the mystery. I GOT IT WRONG. I hate it when I'm reading a mystery, the red herring shows up, and like three chapters in I've solved it already. BORING. This one tricked me, and I love that! And Flavia didn't solve it by being like, "Look, a footprint, let me follow it." She conducted experiments, played on people's emotions, researched, etc. She's awesome. She's only eleven and she's fictional, but she's like my new role model. 

What I also love about this is that, because she's only a kid, she's an extremely unreliable narrator. Half the time I wasn't sure if her theories were childish and therefore, dismissible, or so crazy they just might be true. 

Loved, loved, LOVED this book. Luckily, there are three more in the series, with another two to come. CAN'T WAIT, omg, thank you so much Alan Bradley. I might even change my rule about not trusting people with two first names (or rather, people with a surname that could also be a first name) because you wrote this awesome character and story. Maybe. 

Absolutely recommend to Holmesians or people who love mysteries. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Operation Christmas Child

My bestie, Bethany, did the world's cutest Operation Christmas Child box:

Here's her box. Isn't it adorable??
Naturally, this inspired me to do one, too! My mom and I decided to each do one--she did a little girl and I did a little boy. Here are our boxes:

I didn't take a pic of the inside of mine because it was literally SO PACKED that if I un-rubber banded it, I think it would've exploded all over the place. 

It's so easy (and fun) to do! All you need is a shoebox, either cardboard or tupperware (we bought tupperware ones because they're reusable), and then you select if you want to make a box for a boy or a girl. The ages are 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14. Mom and I did a boy and a girl both aged 5-9.

We each got kiddie toothbrushes and toothpaste (which were on some kind of BOGO deal at Wal-Mart), little stuffed animals, crayons and coloring books, silly putty and Play-Doh, hairbrushes and combs, and washcloths. We also put in a bar of our homemade soap and little hand-written Christmas cards (apparently, if you include your address, you might hear back from the kid who gets your box!). My mom gave the little girl a jump rope and doll, and I gave my boy some Hot Wheels and dinosaurs. 

Seriously, this is the most fun Christmas shopping I've had so far this season (and I'm almost done with everyone on my list!). I think it's fun because you know you're going to literally change someone's life with the things you pack, and because you have no idea who they are, which makes it kind of fun to guess.

We did the Operation Christmas Child boxes when I was in elementary/middle school, and then for whatever reason, I didn't hear much about them in high school and college. This is the first box I've done in a while, but GOSH, they've grown their business! You can track your box online now (which is AWESOME), you can leave an address for your child to write to you, and you can even build a box online for $30, which is a really great price (even though we stocked ours with stuff from the dollar sections of Target and Wal-Mart, that stuff adds up quickly. Money well spent, though!). You have to at least check out their website, and if you don't have the time or inclination or ability to go out and physically buy all the stuff to put into a box, then I absolutely encourage you to do one online. It's so easy! There's really no excuse not to. 

Collection dates run through the 25th of November, and you can search for drop off places on the website (I know a lot of YMCA's collect them, too). 

And it's a reputable company who actually DELIVERS the boxes to children in need, so you don't have to worry about getting scammed. 

And, if you're not convinced yet, here's Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty trying (and failing) to pack a box:

It's just a great thing to do, and I encourage everyone to do it. It's going to make such a difference to a child to whom, without your help, Christmas would just be another day of the year. Please take a minute, even if you do one online, and at least think about doing a box. Or, if you are so inclined, pray for the delivery and recipients of the boxes. Prayer is free, but doing a box is just a lot of fun. I feel like this is what Christmas is really about, and even in our rough economy, we're so blessed compared to the majority of the world. Sharing what you have is probably the best thing ever, and what better time to do it than Christmas?

Let me know if you have any questions! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

This is probably the best book I've read this year (with the exception of The Graveyard Book, but that was a re-read). 

Everything about this book is absolutely magical, enrapturing, and basically perfect. From the cover, to the quotes at the beginning of sections, to the print on the page, it's consistent in its whimsical aesthetic the whole way through. 

How do I even begin to summarize?
I want to say its the story of two magicians who are pitted against each other in a game, wherein the circus is the playing field. But that's not really accurate. It's more like...instead of Vader vs. Luke, this story is like the Emperor vs. Obi-Wan. It's the story of two master magicians duking it out through their proteges. And the circus is the backdrop, and it is magnificent. 

The entire circus is black and white, with only pops of red throughout. It's very Tim Burton-esque, and I feel like the book should've had an accompanying soundtrack by Danny Elfman. There's your typical circus fare: a fortune teller (who can actually accurately read her tarot cards), a contortionist (who you're never quite sure is good or evil), acrobats...but then there's other things. A set of mysterious twins, one who sees the past, the other who sees the future. Men without shadows. A tent full of bottles, upon opening which reveal stories through appealing to the 5 senses. A tree that grants wishes. And no one within or involved with the circus ever ages or gets sick. 

And in the midst of it all is Celia, the illusionist, and Marco, assistant to the circus's proprietor. They've been bound together since children, trained meticulously (and in Celia's case, cruelly) in the ways of magic, and are pitted against each other in a game which spans decades. 

I'll be honest. I did not expect a happy ending to this book. But I was pleasantly surprised! And while I can't they necessarily lived happily ever after, they at least existed so. 

This book had everything in it: mystery, romance, some scary bits (but not what I'd call "horror"), and the beautiful, gothic, dreamlike scenescape the author so vividly painted. I absolutely, very highly recommend this book to male and female readers alike. You've got to try it!