Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins

I would have to rate these books as some of my top all time favorites. Not that the story is as pleasant one, but that it is the story of an oppressive government and the life of the people under it. Their reality. It gives a message of warning for us. Do NOT under ANY circumstance give away our freedom. Do NOT let the government lead us carefully down the path of oppressiveness under the guise of philanthropy. Because once freedom is lost, not only is it incredibly hard to take back-for it has to be taken-a human, once in control, does not like to give it back-but taking that freedom back only comes at an incredibly high cost. A high unpleasant cost. You will laugh, you will cry, you will live in suspense, you will be sickened by what corrupt authority can do without seeming to have remorse. These are extremely well written, around 300+ pages each. I read each book in a weeks' time. You can blast through them in a day if you have no other obligations; but I read a review in which the author related reading a book very quickly to being in a hot dog eating contest and posing the question something to the effect of "Do I really want to be the literary equivalent of a food eating contest?" So I deliberately took as much time as I could muster (a week) on Mockingjay to digest it.

The characters are loveable, relate-able and I became emotionally involved from page one. The personal, political, and other subplots give a LOT to think about. I am not one to re-read books; I have a hard time because my brain says "I've read this before" and starts skimming instead of reading, so I usually don't re-read anything for a very long time. However, I read these last fall right after the last one came out (there is a DEFINITE plus not learning about a series or trilogy/collection until the last one is about to be published! No waiting!), and by Christmas time I was ready to read them again. I haven't had that chance yet, but my head is STILL reeling with all the things there are to think about. I STILL get teary-eyed about some parts when I think about it. Many people did not like the ending to Mockingjay, but I did. Whether or not I personally liked every detail is debatable even to me, but I understood why things ended the way they did. And to me, that created a sense of finality that would let me sleep again at night. My husband listened to the audio version from the library and he didn't like the ending as well as I did until I explained how I saw things. So I guess I just view things in a very different light. "Happily Ever After" isn't the only ending, and it doesn't necessarily always paint the same picture. Compared to Orwell's 1984, I was SO depressed at the ending of that book!! I was NOT depressed like that at the end of Mockingjay.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

An oldie that the Book Club is reading for their meeting in January (skipping December). I read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland before. I can't remember how old I was, maybe middle school? Upper elementary? But I don't think I read Through the Looking Glass, though. I remember thinking that it was such a strange piece of literature, so I was wondering how, as an adult, I'd view it. So far I still think it's a strange piece of literature, and it's definitely not the most "suck you in" narrative. The copy I checked out of the library, and this is funny, is a discarded copy from a DIFFERENT library and has old tiny cursive notes scrawled into the margins. Almost like notes, as if this book had been read for a psychology assignment. In some ways I'm interested to figure out what the notes mean, and in other ways it drives me insane trying to make out the words that sometimes only repeat what was already printed on the page.

But,with it being so strange, almost absurd and silly, brings the question, does literature NEED to have a point?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford

My good friend Amy invited me to join her book club up in Boise, and while at the moment my baby's preferences for nursing (instead of being fed any other way) and her bedtime prevent me from being able to go, I have started reading the books that they are reading, which is really cool for me. If I can't be there to discuss with others, I can at least discuss with Amy and I feel a part of something, even if I'm not......if that makes any sense! Anyhow, I just got it from the library today and I will update more on it later!

Update: I have now finished the book and really enjoyed it. The chapters are brief, so if your life gets interrupted frequently (aka you're a mom) it really helps! It's written in split narrative, Henry (the main character) as a child/teen and his relationship with his family, particularly his father, and his decisions based on his experiences at the time, and Henry as a grown man who has a grown son of his own and their relationship. That sub-plot, the one of father-son relationships was really interesting to me and evoked a lot of thoughts. As a child, do I REALLY know my parents? Or do I just think I really know who they are and who they were? As a parent, how can I let my children know who I was? Who I am? As a person separate from being the authoritative figure in their life? I kept a journal through my middle/high school years, and even though I probably wrote every day creating an absurd amount of redundancy, at least they will be able to read it and have insight to what and who I was at the time. (I intend to let my daughters read parts of my journals that relates to their same age as when I wrote it).

Historically, even though I lived near Seattle (where the story takes place) until I was 6 and in SW Washington state after that, I was surprised by how little I really knew about the Japanese evacuations during the second world war. I now am more enlightened with the situation-which was represented in a very good way; from the perspective of a child-which the author did very well and in such a matter of fact, this is what happened way, that he does not condemn neither condone the acts of the US Government of that day, although with the mind of Henry, you DO get the big sense of injustice and the confusion of how it would make sense. BUT we also have to realize that only hindsight is 20/20 and for us to judge what happened in history is sometimes more complicated than it seems. We who did not live through that era may not fully realize the implications and feelings of the populace at the time. What we see as a simple, much BETTER solution may have been completely out of the grasp of reality then. Does that mean I agree with the Japanese internments? Definitely not. It just means that I realize that I don't believe I have all sides to the story including the context of the time in order to truly form what I believe to be an education opinion. It did, however, help me to realize how complicated things must be when we have fears of terrorists today. We can't just round up everyone of a certain race, religion, creed, etc and contain them because we are afraid of a few-who probably would evade such efforts anyhow. And the government would be gun-shy to do anything similar to that because of what happened. But does that impeded their ability to do what they feel is necessary for fear of public outcry? Who knows. It's just a lot to think about. And THAT is what makes this book good. I'm STILL thinking about it and I put it down several days ago.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Undaunted, Gerald N. Lund

This is a Historical Fiction (I absolutely LOVE this genre because it helps history to come alive and become more memorable to me). It is an account of the Hole in the Rock Pioneers of the late 1800s. (For more information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, sometimes referred to as Mormons, please visit The Official Church Website or Mormon.org)

Being a member of the LDS church, I was really surprised that I had never heard of this Hole in the Rock expedition. But that's also what made it that much more enjoyable for me, everything was new and I didn't anticipate events, such as when I read The Work and the Glory series or Fire of the Covenant (both by Gerald N. Lund and all historical fiction).

As usual, in addition to the historical facts being presented in a poignant way and explanatory notes at the conclusion of each chapter, there is also some innocent romance along the way. It's long, but it's good!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

This is my most recently finished read. I really, REALLY enjoyed it. The characters span 3 generations and you get a first person look at each one. With that said, at first, it is a little confusing to read because you MUST check the location and date at the beginning of each chapter (I have been known to miss those types of things because I am going to read "just one more chapter" and then realize too late that I've read 5 since I missed when new chapters began....). However, once you get into it, it becomes easier to jump mentally. It was a bit of a slower read for me in the beginning, but about half way through, it became a real page turner and I could think of little else. Were my gut feelings right? Wrong? Had I figured out the story? Yes! Wait, no. Maybe? Because it transcends around 100 years, there are mini cliff hangers within each generation as the story skips around. It's literally like reading a puzzle, one piece at a time. Sometimes reading the edges, the middle, the top left corner, the bottom right. There are also some really great life lessons to be learned. Are we going to let what we have, or what we don't have define who we are? And does it really do us much good to wonder "What if?" And even if circumstances haven't been ideal, and even if they aren't what we would have necessarily chosen for ourselves, could it be for our best?

A record of what I've read

So.....here I am. Another blog. This one inspired by a friend as a place to keep track of what I've read and what I'm reading. More info on that in the side bar :-)