Those Dang Brits! *Well ok, it’s really the Irish but…

No, I’m not posting about the royal wedding, I didn’t watch the wedding, I know nothing about the wedding.  I’m going to go a different direction. I’m going with death*.

Well, not really.

I’m actually going to tell you about “Skulduggery Pleasant” which is the title of a book and of a series of books and also happens to be the name of one of the characters in the book and the series of books, although, oddly enough, not really the main character.  That would be Stephanie Edgley.  Or Valkyrie Cain. Or…

What it all comes down to is that they’re charming books and you should all rush right out and buy them (yes, buy them, don’t just rent them from the library, I need you to increase the sales in the US so that they’re easier to get.  We sent a gal to England to get the last two books for us but she says that she probably won’t be going again and there are two more books to come and…)

The point is that they’re good, funny and interesting and if you’re into audiobooks you should definitely do these in audio because they’re set in Ireland and they’re read by an Irish (I assume) guy and that accent is just so fantastic that I might cry for you if you miss it.

So there you have it, Skulduggery Pleasant.  Get on it.

*Skulduggery also happens to be dead (see the skeleton) so see, death.  I wasn’t kidding.

Crossing Over

You know you’ve reached a whole new level of geekdom when you find that you can’t put down the book on the flu virus that you got to use as a reference on the paper you have to write for your microbiology class.

Drive It Like You Stole It

The coolest person in the world sent me this book.

I read it yesterday.

Yes, the whole thing. I had to occupy myself somehow between the commercials (actually I didn’t even watch the commercials, I don’t care that much.)

It was good, quite good. It made me want to write.

Something that I keep telling myself that I don’t really want to do, something that I can’t do. But then I think maybe, between when I’m done dicing tomatoes and when the quinoa is ready I can get a few minutes of writing in. Other people do it. Lots of people have told me how they did it (and by told me, I mean written it on their blogs or something… I know I’ve heard that anyway) I could do that too, right?

Sort of, but ultimately, nope.

I could write a book that way but I can’t make one up that way. In order to make up a story I have to have the characters walk around in my head for a while and in order for them to walk around they need a little space. And unfortunately for Emery and Jack and Justin and the whole gang, all space in my head is currently being taken up by bacteria with lophtrochus flagella and standard deviations, there’s just not any extra to spare.

I could probably write in snatches but I can’t plot in snatches. To really plot I’d have to let Jane and her enormous dog wander around in my head at the very least, while I did the mindless things like washing dishes or making dinner. But even that time is currently taken up by a mental review of the electron transport chain.

The thing is that, as much as I like to think I am good at multitasking, I am not good at multitasking. I am spectacular at prioritizing. (By that I mean that I’m really good at establishing an order and going through my tasks in that order, not that I always put my life in the correct order.) And at the moment right trending plot lines and the intererptide bridges of peptidoglycan cell walls have priority over Emery glowering at Jack while the female med student giggles up at him in an adoring way.

Most of the time I don’t mind it, really I don’t. I find the synthesis of bacterial spores surprisingly interesting (scatter plots not quite so much) I LOVE learning new things, I love the possibilities that I have before me. It’s just when I read a book with well written interesting characters that I’m a little sad that, while I may become the next Dr. Quinn, medicine woman, or that with all this microbiology and organic chemistry and statistics under my belt I may single handedly cure cancer, those possible futures don’t also include best selling author.

Not for a while at least.

The Dangers of Reading Aloud

I find it problematic when reading aloud that the description of how something is said comes after the words that were said.  I find myself reading lines in a loud voice only to find that that line was said in a whisper.  It bothers me.

Nice Weather We’re Having isn’t it?

I’m not good at small talk.  I never have been.  Unlike Mr. Darcy (who at least professed to have the same problem) I know exactly why that is.  It’s the same reason he wasn’t any good at it, I don’t practice.

The thing is that I have no interest in it.  The thing about small talk, about nearly any conversations with strangers, is that it’s just the same conversation over and over and over again and it’s talking just to talk.  I have no interest in that.

I get bored by the same story over and over again.  Bored enough by them that often when something happens that’s blog worthy, I’ll save it for the blog.  Meaning that I won’t go to work, 15 minutes after having eaten a huge plateful of salad with dishwater salad dressing on it and tell my friends at work about the stupid and disgusting thing that I just did.  I have to save it if it’s going to be of any use to me because if I don’t I’ll just get bored with the whole story and be unable to tell it even one more time.

I remember becoming aware of my conversational boredom in high school.  You remember high school, when the answer to “how are you?” is always “tired” and then we try to out tired each other.  We go into the details of why we’re so tired “I was up until midnight catching up on my homework” or, “I totally forgot about the paper due in History until, like, 10:00 last night so I was up all night working on it.”  And I realized what a boring conversation this was.  We were all tired, we all thought we were the tiredest (although the truth of the matter was that I was the tiredest since I had to get up at 4:30 every morning to deliver newspapers and then go to early morning seminary and then go to a show choir class all before the normal school day started) when the truth was that we were all tired because we were all teenagers and were too stupid to go to bed.  (I frequently am still too stupid to go to bed, I just recognize that as my own problem and refuse to complain about it.)

So I quit having that conversation.  I stopped being “tired” when I was asked how I was.  (It’s possible that that that was the origin of  “fantastic” which is currently my go to answer for those sort of mundane greetings.)  Maybe this is the origin of my inability to make small talk, maybe if I had carried on with it in high school I would have developed a talent for the inane.  As it is I don’t really talk to people I don’t know and often, even with people I do know, I have an “unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless [I] expect to say something that will amaze the whole room…”

I think I may have missed my mark here.  I guess it’s time to shut up.

Mockingjay

I made a point of not including spoilers in this post.  I hate it when I’m told what’s going to happen so I’m not going to tell you what happens.  Have no fear, read on.  If you want to.

I (started and) finished Mockingjay yesterday.  I thought it was pretty good.  I know at least one person who was hoping that it would make a bigger final political statement, but I thought it was just about right. I had other problems with it, with the whole series.

I get the political aspect of the statement, I get that we need to be free.  That aspect of the books is not lost on me (how could it be, the books practically beat you over the head with it).

But I have some questions about the social atmosphere.  I have some questions about a society that watches teens killing one another as their (societies, not the teens) entertainment, but I also have questions about a society that watches “adults” hit one another with chairs a la Jerry Springer, or pull out one another’s hair a la the Real Housewives of wherever. Is violence as entertainment universal?  Prevalent, absolutely, and disturbing as a concept, but I’m just as guilty as the average person of watching the house explode on the movie, TV show, what have you and thinking it’s cool or awesome or whatever.

There’s also a lot of discussion of the outrageous hairstyles, body makeovers etc. as an indictment of the people in the capital.  How different that is than what we see today (I don’t know who would do it but it’s my understanding that there are a lot of people out there who are dying their hair un-natural colors)  most of us are not as extreme as they are in the books but I’m not sure that my time spent with the girl who waxes me is really all that different than Effie Trinket’s.  Are we only worthy if we look just the way we did at birth?

Is the difference that I worked for it?  That can’t be all of it, the people in the capital worked, it just wasn’t very difficult or dangerous work but I’m sure that the fluffy, stylist team thought that they were working hard.  Is it only work if it gets you dirty?  If you break a sweat?

Is it ok to work as little as possible as long as you don’t glut yourself on someone else’s harsh or unfair work?  That sounds good, but I shop at Walmart.  It’s my understanding that at least some of those great deals are a result of poor labor policies in other countries.  I don’t have details but I doubt that my ignorance exonerates me.

What’s my point?  I’m not sure that I have one.  Maybe I just need to stay away from books with a message, maybe I should stick with Janet Evanovich and let the rest of you figure out the bigger social and moral issues.  Because me, I’ve got nothing.

Incidentally Mormon

I just finished reading a book called Zippedby Laura and Tom McNeal, it was pretty good, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for fairly lightweight teen fiction, but that’s not the point.  (If that were all it was, I wouldn’t bother mentioning it.)  The reason that I bring it up is that there’s a Mormon character in the book.  It’s not LDS fiction, it’s set in New England somewhere (I imagine that it said specifically but it wasn’t crucial enough for me to retain) not Utah, and it’s just this one girl and her mother that are Mormon. 

And as soon it was mentioned that she was Mormon I was on alert.

Was this going to be anti?  Was she going to leave the church and realize that she had been brainwashed? (I have other objections to the whole “brainwashed” designation but that’s something for another post.)  Was she going to be some sort of wooden characeture rather than a fleshed out person?  Or some kind of holier than thou, miss priss?

And she was none of those things.  She was a real girl who liked and apparently believed in her religion.  She was slightly conflicted but she was a teenaged girl, as teenagers weren’t we all at least slightly conflicted?(Aren’t we still?)  She had a crush on a missionary, he had a crush on her, they chatted, even acknowledged the crush, she made him a plate of cookies, they even were as daring as to hug once.  It’s not the kind of behavior that is recommended in the mission handbook but it’s not going to get anyone ex-communicated either.  They wouldn’t even send him home for that.  (Transferred sure, but not sent home.)  And they didn’t.

The girl wasn’t the main character of the book, she was the girl that the main character liked.  So even the thing with the missionary was really just to add a little conflict.  End of story.  She didn’t leave the church, she didn’t even have a big crisis of faith.  She was just a girl.

I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve run into that in fiction, and the more I think about that the weirder it is.  I mean, there’s a lot of us, we’re all over the place.  You expect that in Utah of course.  I can’t imagine that anyone would write a book set in Utah in which there were not Mormon characters (but then I’ ve never read a book set in Utah that wasn’t Mormon fiction) but it’s not like there are only Mormons in Utah.  I grew up in Virginia.  I was one of maybe 20 Mormons in my high school, not an overwhelming majority by any stretch but I think it’s safe to say that everyone in the school knew a Mormon.  Probably most of the kids in the school would have counted at least one of us Mormons as a friend.  We were characters in their lives who just happened to be Mormon, not necessarily good, not necessarily bad.  We may have been having big religious crises but for the most part probably not, we were just going about our lives.

I don’t see that in the books that I read.

It turns out that at least one of the authors is probably Mormon.  She graduated from BYU anyway, I haven’t looked up her church records or anything so I’m just extrapolating here but it seems a reasonable assumption.  It’s harder to tell but my gut feeling is that her husband, the other author, is not.  (The girl’s father is not Mormon, and … I don’t know something about it just makes me think that that part is somewhat autobiographical.) But I digress.

The point is that it’s a little sad to me that as soon as I run across a character who is Mormon, I’m immediately afraid that somehow the book is going to say something negative about the church.  I was surprised and, I have to say, delighted, to read a book with a character who was just incidentally Mormon.

Previous Older Entries