Monday, October 28, 2013

Me Talk Pretty One Day

I have a secret: I'm sort of a nervous flier. Here's the thing, I love take off and landing while in a plane. I love the concept of getting in a plane and ending up somewhere different in so short a period of time. However, after working for the FAA my opinion of flying has changed slightly. I've also taken many more trips in a short period of time than before so I notice the tendencies I have while going places. One in particular is that the moment the plane so much as quivers while flying I begin to feel anxious.

So whenever I fly I make sure to take a book with me. Usually I can pass the flight with my headphones plugged in and sleeping away while music plays but it's the start of the flight, right after take off where the fun ends and you can't turn on electronics yet, that I sit there white knuckling the seat. That's when I take out a book to read so that I have a way to distract myself and, if I'm lucky, it's a book that I'll really enjoy and will sweep me away. During my first flight I read I Capture the Castle and it made the flight much easier despite the horrendous turbulence. 

In August, when I flew to Florida, I was midway through Me Talk Pretty One Day and had already laughed my way through metro stops to and from work so I thought it'd be a good distraction.

I was right.

Do you know how awkward it is when you're sitting amongst a lot of very quiet people on a flight and then you burst out laughing? I do, because I did it. I laughed my way from Washington, DC to Tampa, Florida and into the evening when I finished the book.

I've read David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice before and I really enjoyed it. It was twisted and funny so I was more than willing to give another one of his books a try. Me Talk Pretty One Day was another book I had on my to read list for a long while so I was happy to finally get around to it.

I didn't realize that it was a collection of essays but loved each one individually. Together they created a nice, amusing tale of David Sedaris' life. Real or not, I don't know, and I find I don't particularly care. I was laughing along with this book and it's so rare that I'll actually react to a book. I'll have great waves of emotions but they'll all be internal. To actually get me to react outwardly is rare but this book achieved that. I laughed my way to the end and was happy to do so.

Here's the thing, despite having read a Sedaris book before, I always seem to forget that I enjoy his books and find them funny. They're often not on the top of my to-read list but I think that's more so because the subject manner, humor, is something that I don't often go to when looking for something to read. I need to keep this mind in the future. He's a good author to visit when I'm interested in finding something light-hearted and humorous. Maybe, even, he should be my go-to author when I'm flying.

Sometimes the books border a little ridiculous, cruel, or down right wrong but I still find them funny and entertaining and sometimes that's all you need in a book, no?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sisters Red

In August I went on a trip to Florida. I had a number of books sitting on my bookshelf but didn't want to bog down my luggage with them so I opted to take my Kindle. My Kindle is packed with unread books as well. It's possibly worse than my bookshelf. So when it came down to finding a book to read I browsed through my "to-read" shelf until I spotted something that seemed like an appropriate vacation read: Sisters Red.

How silly of me to have forgotten this book! When I had gotten it, I was so excited to have it as I had seen it repeatedly in stores and found it really intriguing. But, as often happens, I probably ended up putting it aside to finish another book and therefore forgot about it completely. I'm scatterbrained sometimes.

Well, scatterbrained no more! I started to read this book and devoured it within a day. It was one of those enjoyable books that when finished I wanted more. I wanted it to continue. I stalked the poor author with hopes of finding out that she had continued the tale. I didn't see a continuation (unfortunately) but she does have other books along the same line as this. So, without further rambling, let's hop into what the book is about!

Think of Little Red Riding Hood then put it in a bottle, throw a dash of spice to it, and shake. That's basically what you come up with when you're reading this book. 

Scarlett and Rosie March; two sisters; two orphans; two hunters. Both girls survived a werewolf attack that took the life of their grandmother when they were young and now devote their lives to keeping other girls from suffering as they have. 

Scarlett, the protective, older sister to Rosie, became a fighter through and through when the wolf attacked their home when they were children. In order to protect her little sister, Scarlett killed a wolf and lost an eye in the process. Now, as an adult, she's even more lethal. Rosie, however, isn't quite made of the same stuff. 

Enter the long time family friend, Silas, who happens to be a Woodsman (sound like Little Red Riding Hood yet?) who has been off finding himself for the past year and has just returned. When it becomes apparent that there is something big happening in the werewolf world, that a potential new werewolf could join the ranks of the various packs, it seems Silas came back just in time.

The girls and Silas travel to the big city where they set up camp to stalk out the different werewolf packs. It's there that things really begin to spin into hyper drive. Sparks fly between Rosie and Silas, Rosie begins to truly embrace that being a wolf hunter isn't something she wants to be, and Scarlett feels like she is losing her better half. All of this and the potential werewolf needs to be saved without the cost of losing their own lives. 

There were a few portions of the book that didn't sit well with me. Particularly a part that came across as victim shaming (check this article out for a really good write up of the issue with this). When I finished the book I felt that I still wanted to know more about the characters and I realized, after some time, that part of that desire was stirred up because the character development wasn't perfect. There is a lot that could be done to make this book better than it is but that's sort of a moot point, isn't it? It's published already and doubtful to ever be rewritten. Still, any issues aside this job served the purpose that I hoped it would. It entertained me and I had fun reading it. It was the perfect read on a vacation get away and I'm glad I read it!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ender's Game

The film Ender's Game has been making a lot of buzz but it was before I even knew a film was being created that I had heard of this book. It's been around longer than I have been alive and yet I never read it. Sci-fi is not of my interest, not really, and as a kid I avoided books with a male protagonist like the plague. Being older now and seeing how many people read this book and enjoyed it, I wanted to give it a try. But, as is often the case, it kept getting pushed aside until recently.

I can see how this book would attract space-loving tweens but it certainly was not a book of my interests. I dragged through it and I felt much of the book could have been shortened up.

We're introduced to the world of the future, where we fought an alien race and won but have to always prepare for another battle. Not only that, but we have the ability to inhabit other planets, or at least that's the hope.

Ender, the youngest of three children in a world where it appears two is the preferred number, is "chosen" and taken away to train for this possible battle. The book follows Ender as he grows older, trains, and succeeds. For me, this was boring. Ender is generally off on his own, he makes few friends, and those whom he does become friends with he keeps at a distance. Most of the book follows Ender, as he's the main character, but there are breaks where the reader is brought back to earth and given the opportunity to follow someone else -- Ender's sister, Valentine.

Valentine and Ender had a strange relationship. They were extremely close to one another up until Ender left but even then, Ender thinks of Valentine often and she seems to be what pulls him back from developing too much of blood lust. Valentine, along with a power hungry older brother, have begun to post opposing political opinions that the world seems to be gobbling up.

For me, Valentine was much more interesting a character and had much more depth. Ender was... lacking emotion. He did what he did and maybe he felt so much that it wasn't coming across, I'm not sure, but I just found that I didn't feel for him.

Another aspect of the book that bothered me was that the children, which are literally children (under 10!), spoke with more eloquence than most adults do. Children can be articulate but I felt that it was harder to believe that small children were creating concepts and political strategies at such a young age.

In general, the book bored me and frustrated me. I felt that it often dragged and I found I had no emotional attachment to any of the characters in its pages. I like to feel emotion for the characters I read about, otherwise I feel it's a bit of a wasted effort. This won't be a book I'll be reading again, I just didn't enjoy it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods was a novel that I adored as a child. Accompanied with simple black and white sketches and a little girl growing up in the woods, it completely attracted me and my wild imagination. I read the book repeatedly in my childhood; at first it was read to me by my mother, later on we read it together, and further along than that I read it on my own. Once, just after my college graduation, I read it on my own but it has otherwise been years and I found myself desiring a trip to the big woods.

My mother owned the full set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books but they are yellowed and old; I was tempted to ask her to bring them down to Virginia but I held off because I was frightened of ruining the books. They're antiques, older than me, and I want them to last as long as they can. Having them shift about from one state to another might have been too much for them. 

When my parents visited during the summer they gave me a couple of belated birthday gifts, one such gift being the Barnes and Noble edition of the first five books. I was ecstatic, it worked perfectly, and I quickly devoured the first book.

I lugged the huge book to and from work, reading it on the train and bus, and while it was sitting at my desk nearly everyone from my job commented on the book or discussed their own memories of it. I, like a content cat, smiled smuggly and continued reading my lovely copy.

Now that I'm inching towards thirty I have an entirely new appreciation of this book. The language is simple and specifically for story telling and yet, with our modern day so different than how it was during the childhood of this book's author, you are easily taken away to a different time. The day to day activities of the family and how life was living in a tiny cabin in the woods seems simple yet hard. The children had never been to a town, they didn't know what was beyond the woods, and now in today's day and age no one bats an eye at a child who takes trips across the country. The children received candy and mittens for Christmas and were overjoyed; in the current day that would be utter blasphemy for any child. But besides this, children were expected to obey their parents and do quite a bit of manual labor while the mother of the household did quite a bit of work and the father would rarely leave home without a gun because so many wild animals lived in the woods. 

It seems that the entire year is devoted to preparation for winter and I feel that's certainly an aspect most of America takes for granted (amongst so much more in this book!) Preparing for winter usually consists of checking your chimney or raking leaves but not much else. 

When I was little and still living in New York (Sullivan County, represent!) we would often get horrendous snowstorms that would take away our water or electric. From this book, I found it fun, and I'm sure my mother used it as leverage to keep me happy and calm. It was one huge game of playing Little House in the Big Woods as my mother would melt snow and pour it into the toilets so that we could still use it, or she would cook dinner over the large wood stove we had in the basement by candle light. 

The book covers one year, every season, and you're welcomed into Laura's home and expect to see the table set up for you. You see the excitement of living in the wild woods and also the world of a little girl and her childish innocence.

After all of these years, those snowy nights are still something magical and memorable to me, made even more so due to these books. It's a quick read and certainly family friendly. Whether you are 27, like myself, or you are reading this to your child it is certainly worth the read. Now that I own the first five books I can't wait to read the rest of them--something I've never done before.