Sunday, October 30, 2011
In fact, I haven't smiled this much since The Book Thief and The Hunger Games series. If I were an English teacher I would get busy putting this book in my lesson plans. In fact, I bet there are a lot of curriculum nerds going nuts out there right now fitting this book into English classes everywhere. It truly is an English teacher's dream. There is so much to explore. Well, I better go since the discush is starting but i will finish this later.
Here are the stats on that:
1 time when that kid gave him the Joe Pepitone jacket when he was moving away.
1 time when Douggo stopped by the paper mill and I realized his dad had kept the money and baseball and hadn't said a stupid word to him about it.
1 time when the boss at the paper mill gave him that bomber jacket.
And one other time that I can't remember but you can probably figure it out for yourself.
If you are paying attention you'll see I didn't exactly take stupid notes.
There was a point where I was mad at Jenny for picking this book and making me read it. I think it was the part where stupid Lucas came upstairs and beat up Doug and took his Joe Pepitone baseball hat. Yup. That was exactly when. Like I wanted to be all depressed. But Doug had already grabbed me by my stupid heart and that was that. I was glad I read it and didn't even care it made me act like a chump. The parts that got me good were the ones where the smallest actions made the biggest differences. It made me realize that the little things I say or don't say to people can impact them. Young artist. Mamma's Baby.
I loved the writing style. If I could trace my finger over it and copy it like Doug did with the Arctic Tern I would in a second. I have a feeling it's a lot harder than creating stability or movement in a sketch though A lot harder.
I am so glad I just read Jane Eyre a month ago.
Fantastic book. I loved it. So what?
Monday, September 26, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I too googled pictures of Lavinia and her little husband. She wasn't that pretty. I wish I could find better pictures of her. What an ego the author gave her. So anyway. The other reviews are much better phrased and written than mine. A big thumbs up Landee. I felt the same way!!
First of all, I looked at the photos of Miss Lavinia Warren Bump. She's no Beauty Queen. Perfectly proportioned? I'm gonna go with no. MORE perfectly proportioned than the peeps on Little People, Big World, yes, I'll give her that. But still. Her head is bigger than it should be. Minnie is adorable though... I just want to put her in my pocketbook and carry her around!
#2, Vinnie was highly unlikable. Who ever heard of a snotty dwarf/pituitary disorder? I recently found out that my ancestors also came over on the Mayflower and you don't see me with my tiny nose stuck in the air, do you? I can't like a snob, no matter how tiny she is. Therefore, I couldn't completely enjoy the story as it is told entirely from within her tiny brain. I can't forgive her for being so cold with poor Charles either. I mean, I wasn't looking forward to any nasty tiny person intimacy scenes or anything, but geez! A man has needs, I don't care how wee he is.
C. I LOVE P.T. Barnum. If he really is anything like how he is portrayed in this book then I want to know more. I guess that is one good thing about this book... it did make me want to know more about these people.
4th, the writing was subpar. I wanted less of a travelogue and more of a character driven story. The foreshadowing was driving me crazy too. Things like "I would later look back at that handshake and remember it as the moment I sentenced Minnie to death" (not an exact quote, but who cares?). Rarely did actual events live up to to the drama of the foreshadow. I was totally expecting Barnum to have strangled Minnie with his bare hands! As it turns out, he happened to have introduced Minnie to some short-ish dude whom she married, got pregnant with and then died in childbirth. Give it a rest, Vinnie, fhs.
Lastly, between this and Water For Elephants I'm starting to think that circus freaks are the new vampire.
I'm also fascinated by what kind of challenges one would face being a teeny tiny person in a normal world (or being a normal person in a world of giants depending on your perspective). "I had always looked up, of course; that was my natural position, just as a flamingo stands on one leg or an otter swims on its back" - challenging, both on a practical basis; things like boarding a train, getting into bed, using a bathroom, cooking, finding clothes, etc.; and on a social basis - the constant stares and whispers, and the challenge of finding a companion. In the case of Miss Lavinia Warren Bump there were extremely limited options.
I also think its facinating the way the author gave a personality and voice to this little person. I have no idea whether it was accurate or not; whether she was the nicest kindest bravest person in the world, or a selfish, bitter, cynical beotch. I suspect like most of us she was some of all the above. For me, I found the personality and voice that the author gave her to be believable, and I did not dislike her. I thought her motivations seemed genuine and I never had a "gimme-a-break" moment where I felt like nobody would act/feel/behave that way.
I don't know how I would handle being a teeny tiny person. Probably not gracefully. I think I would have been very reclusive, willing to stay on the farm and be sheltered and protected, and terrified of the day when my parents would no longer be around to provide that shelter and protection. I loved the fact that Vinnie did not want to be defined by her size, and had the courage and determination to first become a school teacher, and then to go explore the world. I didn't think there was anything incongruous or disingenuous about her wanting to protect her little sister, while at the same time feeling the need to get off the farm herself, see the world, and have people know and remember her.
I also can't judge her for marrying for practical and financial reasons rather than for love. I believe people have been doing that for generations. In fact I think the idea of marrying solely because you are in love is a relatively modern idea. Arranged marriages still happen today in many parts of the world. And again, her options were very limited. Marrying a normal (or giant depending on perspective) sized person would be out of the question for reasons I would think I need not explain. I think it was very sad that she never had any intimacy in her marriage (according the author) - I felt particularly sad for her husband, but again I can't blame her. Indeed she saw her worst fears played out when Minny foolishly did what Vinnie knew she could never do. It's just sad they didn't have something better than prevention powders in those days. Or maybe they did, but these tiny people just didn't know about it, or couldn't find anything their size. Poor little people.
I found P.T. Barnum fascinating too, and I wouldn't mind learning more about him. He certainly left a legacy. The Barnum & Bailey circus still travels around the country today. I liked the way the author portrayed him and would like to think it was accurate. I felt that while he was clearly a business man and out to provide entertainment and make a buck, he respected his employees. I personally don't have any problem with his passing off a wrinkled old lady as being 161 years old and the nanny of George Washington, or sewing half a monkey to half a fish and calling it a mermaid. I love that in our nation a person is free to find suckers and take their money. I did have a problem with his taking orphans and trying to pass them off as the Thumb's child; while at the same time being impressed by the brazenness of it. I think he probably should have done some jail time for that one given that people around the world sent expensive gifts for the baby's birth, and again for its supposed death.
I like the way that the author focused the narrative on the relationship between Barnum and Vinnie. I was sad that Vinnie blamed herself and Barnum for her sisters death, but again I found it genuine and didn't question it. I was happy that they reconciled in the end. These are two people that I will add to my list of people I'd like to meet on the other side. Of course I also found her interaction with, and feelings about the Mormons interesting. I completely understand her disgust at Polygamy. I wish I knew more about her meeting with Brigham Young.
I'm actually old enough, and maybe some of you are too, to remember "Freak Shows". I remember one "human oddity" I saw as a child. It was a tiny man. I paid my dime or whatever it was, and climbed the stairs into a trailer where we stood behind some Plexiglas staring at a little man in a tiny recliner watching TV. He wasn't an every day Oompa Loompa like midget, but he also wasn't a perfectly proportioned little man like Tom Thumb. He was rather misshapen, hunched over, and looked like he must be in constant pain. He looked to be in his middle ages and quite unhappy. I can't blame him. In the few minutes that I was there I witnessed several Cletuses banging on the Plexiglas, and shouting things to try and get the little guy to do something, like Dudley Dursely trying to get the attention of the Burmese Python. But the tiny man never acknowledged the people on the other side of the glass. I felt very sorry for this little person, and wondered about the ethics of this situation. On the one hand we were providing him with an honest living (assuming his employers were treating him fairly) while on the other hand it may have been at the expense of his dignity and self worth.
I pondered this ethical question throughout the book. It's one of the reasons I ultimately give this book thumbs up. It made me ponder some big questions. I like how the Author addressed this issue and how it must have always been a part of Vinnie's thinking. "There were hundreds of 'Tom Thumb Wedding' parties; 'Tom Thumb Wedding" fundraisers; 'Tom Thumb wedding' pageants at schools. Was I supposed to be touched by this, viewing it as a tribute to our love? Or was I supposed to be offended, seeing it as a mockery, a joke? I never could decide." When an Elvis impersonator marries a couple in Vegas, or dozens of them parachute from an airplane is it a tribute? a mockery? Both? Can you really pay tribute to somebody while you are making a joke of their appearance/size/voice/style/etc.?
Other passages that made me ponder:
"I wondered if this was how it always felt when all your dreams came true. Perhaps, after living with them for so long, did you simply toss them away - and begin to dream about something else?"
- Discussion point: Have you ever had a dream come true; one that you thought if only you had that one thing you would be happy for the rest of your life? How did you feel immediately after? 1,5,10 years after? Are you still waiting for your dreams to come true, and provide you the happiness you long for?
"I must confess, right here and now, to making a dreadful assumption. And that assumption was that a person this tall who moved this slowly, must be very slow of mind and wit and well."
- Discussion point: What assumptions do you make based on appearances? Are others justified in making assumptions about us based on our appearance, religious belief, occupation, etc.?
"I imagined what it would be like to be able to walk around freely, anonymously, nothing about me remarkable in any way. Would I like it? Would I trade my fame if it meant that I never had to suffer fools hugging me to them ever again? I honestly did not know. And I was more than a little relieved that it was a moot point, after all."
- Discussion point: Have you ever wanted to be a movie star/sports hero/national leader/famous singer/etc.? Do we envy them without considering what they sacrifice in return for their fame? Would you be willing to pay the price in lost freedom and privacy?
Whether or not one agrees or disagrees with the authors portrayal of Vinnie and whether or not you think she was a good or bad person there is no disputing the fact that this tiny person had the courage to travel the world, meeting kings, queens and heads of state, and on one tour alone "traveled 55,487 miles (31,216 of them by sea) and gave 1,472 entertainments in 587 different cities and towns in all climates of the world without missing a single performance because of accident or illness" and this without most of the modern conveniences we enjoy today. That's a pretty amazing feat IMHO and deserves my admiration and respect, if for nothing else.
JennyESP's review of The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
The writing was very nice if you take it sentence by sentence. But those well-written sentences did not always move the story along. They sometimes just sat on the page looking pretty. And at times the dialog felt inauthentic, as if the characters were speaking for the sole purpose of informing the reader. (There would be long paragraphs of dialog from one character, saying things the other characters in the room had to have already known.)
Slow. Slow. Quick, quick, slow. I danced the Tango with this book, when I much prefer the Running Man. There were whole chapters that didn’t seem to add anything to the story and were, in fact, very dull. (Like chapter 5, for instance. You can skip chapter 5 and you won’t miss anything. Actually, you can skip the whole book and read about Vinnie Warren on Wikipedia.) Conversely, the parts of Vinnie’s life that I was particularly interested in reading about were skimmed over in a sentence or skipped entirely. For example, her courtship with her future little husband, Charles Stratton, Mr. Tom Thumb himself! I had to muck through 40% of the book, which included a lot of daily snobbery, before they finally met, only to have their courtship summed up in one unsatisfying “by the way, I agreed to marry Charles” sentence. (More on that relationship later…)
Mrs. Tom Thumb (aka Vinnie):
“Never would I allow my size to define me. Instead, I
would define it would be defined as a self-absorbed, selfish, arrogant, condescending, uppity, heartless, cold, manipulative, opportunistic, cruel, self-righteous, judgmental hypocrite.” (Edits.)
The list of Vinnie’s unlikeable attributes grew and expanded as the story dragged on until any hope of redemption was lost. Although, such little effort was made to redeem this character that I have to wonder if the author intended for us to dislike Vinnie. Or perhaps the author and I simply define “strong, driven, independent female” differently. Either way, I utterly disliked Vinnie in an overwhelming contemptuous far-out way, and in the end, she killed this book for me. The most satisfying part of the book was when P.T. Barnum finally chewed her out, although it wasn’t nearly long enough and he failed to kick her into a thorny bush, as I was hoping. Vinnie never apologizes for her faults and never changes. If anything, she gets worse as the story progresses. Her mistreatment of her husband is particularly heartbreaking.
He was by far the best character in the novel. He shared many of Vinnie’s flaws, yet he was surprisingly down-to-earth and likeable. His relationship with Vinnie felt authentic.
General Tom Thumb (aka Charles Stratton):
Excuse me while I wipe the mud from this poor gentleman’s name.
Credibility (or lack thereof):
**spoilers ahead, and some frank talk about love-making, but I suggest you read on**
Charles Stratton was a real man. Vinnie Warren Stratton was a real woman. In this fictional autobiography, the author wants us to believe Charles and Vinnie never consummate their marriage.
Vinnie, the cold-hearted snake, only marries to advance her career. Unbeknownst to Charles, she never intends to consummate their marriage, or have children (adopted or otherwise, as children literally give her the heebie-jeebies). By the time the author is done with her, Vinnie is a 43-year-old, widowed virgin who is terrified of sex. Again, the author and I have different ideas about what makes a woman strong, driven, and independent.
Stretching the imagination even further, Charles, who married Vinnie for love, is blindsided by her unwillingness to consummate their marriage, but after a few rejections in the bedroom, he never presses the issue, never complains, and never strays from the marriage. He is given an almost child-like sensibility after that, as if he hasn’t any strong adult male desires. This is attributed to his small size and his “simplemindedness.”
I found this suggestion not only insulting, but lacking credibility. I read the author’s note at the end to see how she came to such bold conclusions about Vinnie and Charles, and found that the little evidence she gave to support her claims actually implies the opposite of how she portrayed them to be, if you ask me.
On Benjamin’s (author) website, she answers the question of how she balances “fact versus fiction” in her writing. Her reply: “I like to say that I never let the truth get in the way of a good story! There's a reason why "A Novel" is on the front of the book. It's fiction, and I trust the readers to know that it is. Always, my hope is that, after reading one of my books, the reader is then inspired to learn more about these remarkable people. However, I do use the known facts as a template; they're the "bones" upon which I hang the "skin"—the story, the fiction. But sometimes you do have to take liberties—although I always try to take them with people whose motivations are truly unclear in the historical record. Or with events whose details remain unknown to us.”
Oh, how I would've preferred if M. Benjamin had let a little more truth get in the way of her fiction! Her bones of facts were too easily broken. Indeed, I was inspired to read more about these real people, just as she hoped, and I believe she sold them short. Pun intended!
Here are some confirmed facts, not mentioned in the novel: Vinnie married an Italian Count (another little person) a few years after Charles’s death. She and the Count were together until her death, 34 years later. However, when she died, she was buried next to her first husband, Charles, and her grave stone simply reads “His Wife.” No name, no tiny life-size statue like her husband got, and no mention of her being a Countess. Just simply “His Wife.”
Yeah. They consummated their marriage, all right. In fancy hotels all over the world, including that weird little Mormon town in UT.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
I'm sorry to say it, but I don't like you enough to keep reading. I spent four nights with you. Four nights that I could have been doing something else like watching Seinfeld reruns or reading Twilight fan fiction, but I wanted to give you a chance. After reaching page 124, I just couldn't give you any more of my time. I'd been disappointed again. You're finally back home with your family and I'm not feeling the warmth you have for your sister that I thought you said you loved. The problem is this: I don't think your author really knows you. She can't explain to me why you do the things you do. From the very beginning there was this disconnect. A lack of authenticity. I first felt it when you decided to give up being a school teacher to join Colonel Wood. I wasn't set up well enough for that. I couldn't understand your decision-making for that one when I had thought you to be an intellectual school teacher. Your naivete was a bit jarring and, honestly, I never got the respect back. You left your little sister whom you said you loved and wanted to protect but you left without the approval of her or your family. What? That's not cool. So it was downhill from there. I'm sure you have a lovely story. Maybe someone else can sum it up for me in a paragraph or two.
Your typical 5'2"gal in Meridian, ID, nothin' to write home about here
Monday, July 18, 2011
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I love a good died-and-gone-to-heaven-and-came-back story. I watch I Survived... Beyond and Back often. I've seen probably more than a dozen different people on that show describing their experience. There is a consistent theme to them all. I love hearing people, who aren't well acquainted with religion, describing things, such as God's voice as sounding like thunder or the rushing of water. I love that they all realize in the end that there isn't an end. But none of them talk about wings or that sort of thing.
Does this make me a weirdie? I don't really care, actually. Whether or not the little boy really saw what he said he saw is beside the point, I decided. The fact that his parents are now fully subscribed to the idea of heaven and eternal families is a good thing I think. But I'm not jumping out of my skin to recommend this book to people. Or, recommending it at all. It's a good story in that it was such a hard experience for them to go through and the little boy lived. Hooray! Yikes. From growing up in WY I know about those hospitals where they aren't equipped or experienced enough to really know much of anything. So pitiful. Even this week, my nephew is finally coming to Denver for his third knee surgery because the guys in Casper couldn't figure it out. Sorry. I guess this is all beside the point.
Loved that it was a short read. Loved that it made me question a little. Love that I already sort of know pretty much most of the answers, kind of. :)
But yeah. This book was no bueno, as my dear friend Flemsta would say.
Now, I'm not saying this book doesn't have its place in this world. It certainly does. Say, for example, you have no religion in your life. Say, you have lost a loved one and honestly don't know where they had gone. Perhaps you have never believed in anything higher than yourself yet you've felt the light of Christ in your life but didn't know what to call it. Then I can see this book being inspiring. I can see it giving hope where there is none.
Unfortunately for Todd Burpo that is not me.
Now, if there is, at some point an addendum added where, when the kid is 25 and meets the missionaries and they show him a pic of Joseph Smith and he's all "Wait...that's who?" and they're all "This is Joseph Smith" and he's all "Ok, this is weird.... he was like, the third dude who talked to me up in heaven but I am just remembering that now" and they're all "Well he restored the gospel to the earth" and he's all "Oh yeah! He mentioned that! Holy crap... when can I be baptized?" then fine.
- Burpo is one of the most unfortunate last names I've ever heard.
- Sonja sounds like a B.
- I've been to the Butterfly Museum, Beebs has held Rosie the tarantula and I can testify that part of the story is true.
- I do love that picture of Christ at the end by that little girl. Like, really really love. The hair is slightly Hasselhoff but I love the face.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Check your DNA at the door and take out your ribbons, let's decode "Birth Marked" by Caragh M. O'Brien
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Friday, May 27, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I am going to actually download the latest book on audio and attempt to read/participate in a discussion if people are going to host something.
*But I digress.
The real reason for my post here is to comment on the Hunger Games Movie Cast. Have you seen it? If not, let me help you out:
Gale: Miley Cyrus' boyfriend
Not bad, not bad. He has broad shoulders, this should work out. I haven't seen his, what I am sure is epic, performance in the Last Song but if he keeps his mouth shut he can't screw up Gale too much. He is very pretty.
Katniss: Jennifer Lawrence, cheerleader extraordinaire.
Honestly when I saw her blonde chick/cheerleader pics I was not impressed but then I ran across a few gems from Winter's Bone like the one above where I was like, hey.... this could work out after all. I guess I wanted a brunette with olive skin, but it looks like she might have some acting skillz. I am giving her the bene of the doubt and going to be optimistic here.
Haymitch Abernathy: Woody.
Can anyone picture Woody Harrelson drunk? Wait, I mean, can anyone NOT picture Woody Harrelson drunk? Honestly I was shocked by this but wow, great pick. I have long-loved his ability to play both a total sleazeball and a completely nice, innocent and likeable guy. Totally versatile, and totally perfect for this. Plus he is aging pretty quickly so he is just about the perfect guy to play an older-seeming lush who can kick some serious a$$ if he needs to.
Okay so I don't really care about anyone else (though casting Stanley Tucci as Caeser Flickerman gives me great hope because I have never seen him in anything lame) but the REAL reason for this post is...
Peeta: My FAVORITE child actor of all time, Josh Hutcherson
If he is not your favorite, you obviously have not seen Bridge to Terabithia, Zathura, or Firehouse Dog. Only one of those movies is any good, but he is absolutely adorable in all of them. Very sweet, but also capacity to play a tough guy character. I cannot tell you enough how much I love this kid and I think that it is perfect. He is THE ultimately likeable underdog.
So.. your thoughts?
Monday, May 2, 2011
Birthmarked By Caragh M. O'Brien
In a dystopian world of the future, apprentice midwife Gaia, who has served the Enclave faithfully along with her parents, is thrust suddenly into a crisis. She delivers her first baby independently of her midwife mother and takes it to the Enclave inside the Wall as the first of her monthly quota of three newborns. Then her parents are arrested and she learns that they will soon be executed. Gaia springs into action and smuggles herself into the Enclave to rescue them. What follows is an exciting, almost breakneck adventure, as Gaia tries to discover what information the Enclave wants from her and her mother and tries to save both of them from prison. Along the way there is a mildly romantic turn to the story as Gaia develops a friendship and attraction to one of the soldiers, a man with a mysterious past. This world is one in which a small society, composed of an elite inside the Wall and a subservient class outside, is completely cut off from knowledge of anyone or anything outside of its borders. The rulers are authoritarian and mysterious and resemble a monarchy rather than the strictly ideological communitarian system in Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993). The cliff-hanger ending sets up the action for a sequel. Readers who enjoy adventures with a strong heroine standing up to authority against the odds will enjoy this compelling tale.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
I can easily count on one hand the number of books that I've just groaned over and hated. This was not one of them. On Good Reads, I'd probably give it 2.5-3 stars.
The bottom line is that I loved this book. I thought it was written well with some clever descriptions and phrasing stuck in here & there. I loved the characters....Matt, Kate, Baz, Miss Simpkins & the Captain guy of the Aurora (forgot his name) come to mind. It was entertaining and chock full of exciting situations Mr. Cruse needed to deal with. What more does one want from a book, right?
It did take me a little bit, however, to realize I wasn't going to be able to place the time period this is taking place. Then I started wondering "Is this one of those steampunk novels people keep talking about?" Thank goodness my question was answered when Jen from Cakewrecks/Epbot (who is obsessed with all things steampunk) did a post of all her favorite steampunk novels. Obviously Airborn was on that list or else I wouldn't be mentioning it now. She loved it. Although she also recommends some steampunk book by Scott Westerfeld and says "If you've read the Uglies series, then you know Westerfeld couldn't write a bad book if he tried." <---makes me think she has horrible taste in books.
I do think the book tends to repeat itself quite a bit and some of the coincidences were just TOO coincidental but none of it seemed to bother me. I just wanted to see how Mr. Cruse was going to get himself out of this one now. The people who I think would simply FLIP over how awesome this book is are my 11 and 9 year old sons. I may need to add this on to our nightly reading list.
I'll leave you with this... here is one person's idea of what the cloud cats looked like:
But oh how I wish they looked like this:
The story started out a little slow but picked up quickly when pirates boarded their airship. When they landed on the island things got pretty exciting. That excitement remained until Kate and Matt accidentally beckoned pirates to rescue them. Big oops. It fell flat for me there. I couldn't quite wrap my head around this uneventful, not-very-exciting way for the pirates and Matt and Kate to come together. Oh well. I did enjoy watching them squirm as they had to then pretend to be something they were not and devise a plan of escape.
I thought the cloud cats were totally stupid. I thought they were supposed to be birds, not cats.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
I'm off to Shed's grammy's 80th birthday party. But I just wanted to chime in here real quick like. I loved this book. I cannot believe the author is a 60+ year old male! I've already read the next two Flavia de Luce mystery novels with gusto. I even named a recent necklace purchase my "Flavia" necklace.
Are you gize gonna do this or what?