Monday, April 23, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

This was the latest pick for my book club. Seeing that our meeting is this week, I figured I should probably finish the book. So I picked it up last night and sort of sped through the last part that I had left to read. 


If you want the summary, as always, it is here. 

My awareness that this book existed when I saw previews for the movie. I never saw the movie, so I don't have an opinion about it, but from what I remember of the previews, the movie was supposed to look like this really epic journey of a little boy trying to grasp for one final reminder of his father who was killed in the 9/11 attacks. The preview makes you believe that his father had set up this whole "treasure hunt" for lack of a better term, before he died, for his son to follow. 

More or less, the book is that way as well. Oskar finds a key hidden in a blue vase that he accidentally breaks. With the name "Black" written on the envelope, Oskar of course believes this has something to do with the key, and he starts on his journey to find every person named "Black" in the city and see if they knew anything about the key. 

Firstly, I couldn't get past the format of this novel. I read the kindle version on my tablet, so of course I was able to see the pictures every couple of pages, but there were things about it that just drove me crazy. One was the lack of structure when it came to dialogue. Every paragraph of un-tagged dialogue I came to, I basically cringed with knowing I'd have to slog my way through. I'm sure that Foer knows the proper way to format dialogue, though I haven't read any of this other books, and I'm sure there's a reason he did this. The characters are from New York City, a place that is known for their fast talking and fast lives. Perhaps this method was used to convey how quickly all those characters would probably talk to each other. That makes sense, but I still feel that I lost a lot about the story from skimming through, not having the patience to figure out who was talking. I could just be letting out my snobby english degree education though. My bad. 

Second, zooming out from the dialogue structure, the structure of the novel as a whole was rough for me as well. I could be a lazy reader, but I don't like having to wonder and figure out who the heck is talking, or writing, or whatever. There are so many parts about this novel that are so lost on me because I didn't know who was talking, or what part they had. The other confusing thing was to have multiple characters with the same name. The flashback type chapters about Budapest and the bombings from the war confused me a little bit just from trying to figure out who was who. The end of the novels, in regards to Oskar's grandmother and grandfather, left me wondering what happened to them, and if they died or left or something. 

This brings me to the end of the novel. "Unsatisfying" is the best word I have for it. We find out that Oskar's whole journey was basically pointless, because his father in fact had not set up some treasure hunt for his son to follow, and that the wasted weekends of tracking down all these people that led from one dead end to the next just made this reader think "why did I even read this?" Of course, one random guy, who we meet briefly near the beginning of the novel, who was yelling and grumbling in the next room, was actually the owner of the key, and we find out he doesn't seem to be that bad of a person, but I was really disappointed that Oskar didn't even want to go see what was in the safety deposit box. BIG let down. 

Now that I've complained about the novel, here's something not as negative reactions. 

I did not do any extra research about this novel yet, though I probably will later, but I know that there is something up with Oskar. I want to say he has some sort of psychological disorder. Things are very particular in his life. And his personal rule of only wearing white (even before his father died) is interesting, but I'm not sure what it is supposed to mean. I thought at first that he started to do this after his father died, as a way of trying to make himself clean after the awful destruction that took place from the attack. However, later on there is a mention of him only wearing white while his father was still alive. 

I also wondered about the self-harm aspect of his life. I don't recall any extra mentions about it except for when he actually hurts himself or wishes that he could hurt himself. This sort of confused me, and I wondered if, after the scope of the novel, that if he never got any extra help, he would turn to other forms of self harm, such as cutting. This actually makes me worry about Oskar's character, because I know people who've had trouble with this sort of thing in the past. And he's so young to feel he must hurt himself for something. 

I did like that the extra story about his grandparents actually paralleled what happened to Oskar. In Budapest, the village was plagued by the war going on around them, which eventually hit home when the bombings occurred, killing many people and forcing other to flee the village. The bombing also caused the characters involved to feel the same kind of loss, losing a parent or friend who they had been very close with. 

And did anyone else find Oskar's grandfather sort of despicable? I had no respect for him. 

This is long enough, though I may revisit this novel with some other thoughts at another point in time. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Secret Lives of Hoarders by Matt Paxton

I have so little free time these days, that when I actually have free time, I don't know what to do with myself. I have a list of things I would like to do, but I can't decide between any of them, so I end up doing nothing. Not very productive. Plus I am still waiting for my final email from Pottermore so that I can actually enter the site. *angry face*

However, I did finish this book early this morning, so here is my review.


I don't like writing summaries of books, so here is a summary from Matt Paxton had a rough life leading up to the time when he created his business Clutter Cleaners, and began involvement with the show Hoarders. He dealt with his own struggles, which he believed help put in him a good place for helping people with other compulsive problems, such as hoarding. (He also has a podcast called 5 Decisions Away. I haven't listened to it yet, but I have a few episodes downloaded.)

This book is written as a sort of manual for helping hoarders with this problem. He outlines the necessary steps to take from the beginning stages of planning to what should happen after the clean-up, which can run from months to years. The interesting part of this book, though, is that he takes various experiences with other hoarders that he has worked with to fill in the gaps of information. He does not just give a list of things to do, bur rather draws from his own experiences and uses those to elevate the book into something much more engaging and interesting. I am a huge fan of the show Hoarders, mostly because it is intriguing seeing the things that they hoard. You lose a little bit from reading it as a book, but I guess having all the gory details is not really necessary.

As a reader, you can really tell that Matt Paxton does truly care about these hoarders and their situations. Having a personality like that is rare, I believe. But that just makes him one of the best choices for this line of work. If you have watched the show, you have seen that sometimes he gets angry, or gets in the face of the hoarder, but it seems necessary. He is usually right, as well, that he is there to help, and if the hoarder is going to resist, then he's just going to leave. And most of the time, that is not what the hoarder wants.

From my personal experience, I know that my grandpa is a hoarder. He had filled two barns, an old chicken coop, and his home with items that he has mostly bought from garage sales. A good example of his hoarding is that my mom said within five minutes of entering his barn, she counted that he had 20 ladders. As an aging adult, he really has no need for 20 ladders. I haven't been to his house in a long time, and I know that he is very reluctant to let anyone inside his home. We also feel that he has no desire to change anything. He is not a trash hoarder, however, so I suppose that is a plus.

I believe my mom also has hoarding tendencies. She likes to keep these random things that I usually have to tell her to throw away. Or the boxes of fabric and cookbooks that she has in her room and the basement. In the book, Paxton talks about the craft hoarders, who buy things like yarn and other supplies because they might need it at some point, or have all those plans to complete various projects. My mom does this. She will go and buy yarn with all these plans to make all these blankets and things, but she never completes the things she starts in the first place. Same with the fabric she buys for various quilts she wants to make. So in the end, most of it just sits around getting tangled and faded. I told her she needs to read this book so she knows what to watch out for.

And with one more generation: Me. I think that if I really had something horrible happen to me, I could probably end up doing this. But not with everything. I love books. I already have a large collection of books that is overflowing on my books shelves. While reading, I kept trying to put myself in the place of someone who would have to get rid of some of her books, and just thinking about it caused me to get uncomfortable. I realized that having to get rid of any of my books would make me feel really sad. I feel this way a little bit about clothes as well. I have several items of clothing that when I think about getting rid of, I think, "Well I might wear it sometime." And I never do. But those are the two major things I have a problem with. Luckily, I maintain that I have some semblance of self control when it comes to books and clothing. But now that I have finished the book, I realize that I should probably start making those changes now, instead of later.

Being that this book is so thought-provoking, it can help a person look into themselves and try to recognize any potential behavior that could lead to hoarding. And because this problem is so detrimental to other aspects of a person's life, it is important to notice if you have this problem long before anything gets out of control. I hope that more people will read this book and take away from good advice.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Out of Oz - Gregory Maguire

I finally finished reading this book. It took me about 2 months to read, which for me is a long time, but in my opinion, it was worth it.


If you want a summary of the book, click here. Don't read too much if you don't want all the information, because I ruined a part of the end for myself by scrolling down too far. Just a word of caution. 

Now that the summary is settled, I can dive into my opinion of the book. 

Yes, this book was rather long. For a large portion of the book, I felt like I was reading the parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy when Sam and Frodo are traveling. There is a lot of traveling that happens in the book. However, the traveling that happens works to shape the character of Rain, Elphaba's granddaughter. She becomes unattached to anyone by herself and her pet Tay. And she sort of withdraws into herself. And who wouldn't. With the way that she was raised, always moving, and rarely had anyone show her what to do, she had to figure things out for herself. And while I felt that she was really young for a lot of the things that she says and does, I think it fits in with the way she was raised. Although, sadly, if Rain was normal child in our world, she'd probably be labeled with autism or something along those lines. 

Rain is an interesting character, but you can see that she is a relative of Elphaba, aside from her green skin. It seems that in this world that Maguire borrowed from Baum, to be truly magical causes a lack of social skills and the ability to feel many emotions. If we remember how Elphie was in the first Wicked book, she was always withdrawn. In Elphie's case, she was sort of cast out by her parents and left to fend on her own. And she was always trying to live up to her younger siblings, and couldn't seem to do it. So because of those circumstances, she withdrew into herself. Rain on the other hand, had a complete lack of family to help her along at all while she was growing up. Because she was abandoned for safety reasons as a baby, she, too, had to learn how to fend for herself. And again, she withdrew into her own mind in order to keep herself sane. And of course, the ability to read and use the Grimmerie is an important mark of the similarities between the two. 

My favorite part of the entire book happened at the end, and it was only one line:

"Don't wish," said Rain, "don't start. Wishing only..." 

I stopped reading and looked around, at nothing, and was so happy. In my brain, I was cheering, "This is a line from the musical! It's from Not that Girl!" I was so excited that Maguire would drop this line into the book, that my opinion of the book shot way up. And in a strange way, it felt like closure for me. It brought together all four books and the musical into one place in my heart, and I was satisfied. I don't know why this had such a profound affect on me... it was probably because this is something I would not normally notice in a book. But I did this time!

I also loved the way it ended, with Rain basically flying off into the sunset. While I didn't give the title much thought throughout the book, once I closed the pages and took another look at the map on the back cover, I realized that the book is named for the last time we see Rain, flying out of Oz. And to where? We'll probably never know. Even though in the world of the story, there is most likely land somewhere beyond the sea, I had a feeling it was something like in the Lord of the Rings, when the elves, Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf all head off to the Gray Havens. I thought that Rain was flying across the sea to something like that, where she might be reunited with Elphie and Glinda. I felt sad for Rain when she was traveling alone around Oz, losing touch with everyone she had known and perhaps felt a shred of affection for. But perhaps she became better friends with Dorothy than we know, and Dorothy's promise to go over seas for a vacation rather than come back to Oz really struck a chord with Rain. Because that is exactly what she does. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cafe Wristers and April Plans

Oh, hello April. What happened to March? I was busy and lazy you say? Well, that's probably true.
Here's what I wish I could have accomplished during March:
-Finish a crochet project I started
-Read more than one book
-Actually write something worthwhile

Well, no sense in grumbling about the past. Here's April, the weather has gotten cold again, after that trickster March with 80 degree days in Michigan. I'm determined to read more, crochet more, and complain less (probably won't accomplish that one).

Mike and I have also started working out. Been at it about a week and a half now, going a couple of days a week. In addition, we are trying to eat healthier. For example, today will be day 3 of no high fructose corn syrup! And if my scale is to be trusted, I have lost about 2 pounds. My goal though, ideally, would be 30, but realistically, 20-25. Ha.

Anyway, I received my recent edition of Crochet Today in the mail, and there was a pattern for these adorable wristers. I also remember that I had a loan skein of Encore yarn that I bought at a LYS, simply because I felt guilty going in there, chatting with the woman, then not buying anything. So I used that yarn and made these:

They came out a little bigger than they were supposed to since the yarn was thicker than the pattern called for, but that's alright. I also didn't add as many rows to the bottom cuff. They are short little things in the picture, and I figured adding more rows would make them too long. Now I just need a fancy French cafe to go to, and I'm all set!

Hopefully I will be around more this month, as I plan to finish some other projects and start some new ones. I would like to crochet a Flying Spaghetti Monster, as well as make up a pattern for an Atheist messenger bag/purse. 

Have a lovely Wednesday!