Monthly Archives: July 2015

Isle of the Lost

This book does not qualify for my 2015 Book Club Challenge.

Tomorrow, Disney’s Descendants premieres.  I went back and forth on whether or not I would read the prequel, Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz.  In the end, I’m very glad I did.

The Isle of the Lost is a prequel, so its the backstory to the new movie.  At the beginning, Jay, Mal, Evie, and Carlos go to the same school but are not what you call friends.  They want to become better villains in order to please their parents, who constantly think of them as a disappointment.  To this end, they go on a quest to find Maleficent’s scepter, because the barrier blocking magic to the island was broken for just long enough for it and her friend Diablo to awaken.  Meanwhile, in Auradon, Ben is trying to work out what kind of king he wants to be and how he’s going to manage to do it.

Despite the lack of pictures, Cruz paints the location in all of its decrepit glory.  She does the same for her characters, showing their dreams, their weaknesses, and the little things that make them individuals.

Each chapter is told from a different perspective so that, in the end, we hear the story from every side so that we love them all.  By the time they become each other’s friends, they also feel like our friends.  Based solely on seeing Ben’s girlfriend Audrey in his scenes and hearing what is going on the villain kids’ heads, we are forced to begin questioning the difference between good and evil.  This question will play an important role in the movie experience.

My most favorite thing about this book: I love Mal.  But I also love the relationship between Belle and Beast. I hope that is held up in the movie as well.

My least favorite thing about this book: We never hear who the other parents are.  Who knocked up Cruella?  Or Maleficent?  We do hear that they don’t like to talk about them, but we don’t know who they are.  They have to be villains, but which ones?

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: Disney fans, obviously, but also anyone who likes a little bit of bad in their fairy tales.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  Between Jurassic Park and Bud, Not Buddy.

A memorable quote: (When the daughter of the Evil Queen, Evie, says her mother doesn’t think she’s pretty enough.)  “Really?  But you’re gorgeous,” Jay said.  “I mean, you’re not my type sweetheart, but you’ve got to know you’re good-looking.”  (Proving that just because someone is not attractive to you personally doesn’t not mean they are not attractive period.)

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De-Fogging a Headlight

Since it is the last Tuesday of July, I thought I should probably get on my “Reader-Voted Project” for July.  I found this link on Pinterest and set out to give it a try.

What my headlight used to look like.

What my headlight used to look like.

I only had to worry about this headlight, because the other was replaced a few years ago when I was in my first car accident.

Anyway, the first thing I did was make a list.  This is what it looked like:

  • Dish detergent
  • Car wash cloth
  • Microfiber detail rags
  • Painter’s tape
  • Rubber spatula
  • Large, thick sponge
  • 2 500 grit dry sandpaper sheets
  • 2 1000 grit wet sandpaper sheets
  • 2 2000 grit wet sandpaper sheets
  • Plastic Polish
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Lens sealer

Meaning, I would have to make a Walmart run and spend quite a bit of money, as the only things I had were dish detergent, painter’s tape, spatula, rubbing alcohol, and some sort of sandpaper (but I don’t even have any idea what “dry” vs “wet” means, or what grit the paper I have is).  The point is, I didn’t want to do it.  Then Leslie got here, and informed me that the only things I needed were:

  • Bug spray
  • A cloth

Seriously.  That was it.  And now my headlight looks like this:

20150728_143405

I think it looks better.  Except the scratches from when I tried sandpaper anyway.  I do think I’ll grab some plastic polish next time I’m at Walmart and try that in addition.  But personally, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

In the end, this is an example of someone really overthinking something that can be very simple.

Stay tuned Thursday to hear what I thought of Isle of the Lost and, hopefully, Red Dragon.

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Good Omens and The Squire’s Tale

Wow, I did not realize it had been THAT long since my last Book Club Thursday post.  I apologize.  To make up for it, I’m going to try to do two books a week for a few weeks.  Hopefully, I’ll be caught up by my birthday.

The Squire’s Tale by Gerald Morris
Requirement: A book with magic.

I read this book in a day while I was at the beach.  At work, it would be classified as JFIC, or juvenile fiction, but I think that’s why it was so much more fun to read than what I had been slogging through.  It was enjoyable, it was adventurous, and it was a bit of a familiar resting point, since I used to have a much greater grasp on the Arthurian legend.

My most favorite thing about this book:  That most of Gawain’s journey is learning to respect women, but that he also manages to tell people (women included) when they’re being foolish.

My least favorite thing about this book: I’m not sure it counts, but it was really sad when Gawain had to leave the woman he was in love with.  He had done so much developing, and had grown so much, but in the end, he was heartbroken.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: Any kid who wants to read about magic.  And what kid doesn’t?

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  After The Night Circus and before Beloved.

A memorable quote: “I must allow women the privilege of interpreting themselves as they will.”

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Requirement: A popular author’s first book.

This one took a much longer time for me to read.  I mentioned in my previous post that I thought the authors could have cut about a hundred pages.  While I still think the middle bit seemed to drag a little, looking back from the ending, I’m not sure where they could have cut.  Anything changed would have disrupted the final dynamic and our understanding of Adam.

My most favorite thing about this book: The friendship between Aziraphale and Crowley.  (Also, I kept thinking of Crowley as Mark Sheppard from Supernatural.)

My least favorite thing about this book: Those hundred pages or so in the middle where I couldn’t stay completely interested.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: People who don’t take the end of the world too seriously.  And people who can find humor in anything.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  I put it with the Neil Gaiman books, since that was the author I was thinking of when I chose it.  It’s after Fortunately the Milk (which everyone should read, and will only take you an hour, so go do it now) and before The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

A memorable quote: (My boyfriend is not particularly thrilled because I kinda stole his copy and underlined in it, which is part of why I’m making use of it in this new category.  Love you baby. ;-* ) “It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.”

Book Challenge

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Posting is going to go back to normal, I swear.

If you could write a letter to your 15 year old self, what would you say?

Dear Kari:

Hi, it’s me.  Well, you.  It’s been almost 8 years.  Let’s chat.

When you and Jonathan break up, put all his stuff in a box and put it in the attic space, but don’t throw it away.  You’re going to wish you had it back.  Especially when you both grow up a little and realize you shouldn’t have broken up to begin with.

Learn how to budget.  I know right now, you don’t have a lot of money.  Pretty soon, it’s all going to be about putting gas in the car.  But one day you’re going to have other bills and you need to learn how to stick to a freakin’ budget.

Read every book you’re assigned.  You’re going to regret leaving To Kill a Mockingbird for so long.

Also, exercise may seem overrated, but you’ve got to learn to take care of your body.  Eat a vegetable or two.  It will not kill you.  And learn to drink more water.

Stop pretending to like things you don’t in order to “fit in.”  Also, stop imagining the fact that you don’t wear a lot of make-up or listen to pop music means you’re not like “other girls.”  It doesn’t work like that.  Just be you and let other people be them and everything will work out okay.  I promise.

Wearing flats is also okay.  You are short.  Accept it.  It’s not that big a deal.

When you go to college (and then Disney), try to form relationships with people and actually talk to them about what you’re going to work for.  It’ll make it feel less like an uphill battle.

You and Mom are going to get along a lot better when you’re not living there.  And she does a lot for you, so cut her some slack.

Tell someone when you’re sad or anxious or overwhelmed.  I don’t care who.  Pick a person.  But tell them.

Everything is going to be okay.  It won’t be easy all the time.  But, in the end, it’ll be okay.

Be brave.

Kari

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And suddenly it was Tuesday

It’s late and I’m too tired for thinking/writing, so here are random thoughts from today:

  • You do not need to get within one foot of me in order to tell me you are done with the computer, especially considering I have already had issues with you be inappropriately touchy.  Move it or lose it Old Man.
  • You don’t realize how much you rely on electricity until you don’t have it.  Thank God, the power was back on in Belmont by 6:30 this morning.
  • Freedom of speech is a thing, which protects Southern people who want to use the Confederate Flag.  However, a government building is different from an individual person, and why would they still raise the flag of a nation they were part of that literally failed?  I’m surprised there isn’t an old law from Reconstruction-era that forbids the use of the Confederate flag.
  • Why am I so itchy all the time??????
  • On the one hand, second drafts are easier than first because most of the material is there.  On the other, second drafts are harder than first because most of the material is there.
  • I love Neil Gaiman, but I feel like he and Terry could’ve cut about a hundred pages out of the middle of Good Omens and been just fine.
  • …I guess it’s bed time now.  Night!
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I knew I forgot something yesterday…Day 5?

I’m going to keep this fairly short, because it’s late and I feel a bit sick anyway.

Last night, my boyfriend and I sat on Main Street of my hometown and watched the fireworks as a DJ played a ton of American-pride songs (“Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” “God Bless the U.S.A.,” etc.).  The fireworks were gorgeous.  I love fireworks, regardless of their message.  But last night, I actually felt a lot more patriotic than I have in a while.

Racism, poverty, and other forms of pain are still far more prevalent in our society than they ought to be.  There are a lot of things about the state of the country that I disagree with.  We have a long way to go and a lot to improve upon.

But…but…the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same sex marriage is a constitutional right.  I haven’t spoken on the subject before because I know a lot of you may disagree with me, but I believe that, regardless of where you stand faith-wise, we do not live in a theocracy.  I personally am very glad of this development.

So while there are a lot of things about living in America that break my heart or piss me off, while I believe we have a long way to go before we should be satisfied with the state of our rights, this decision was a step towards being truly “the land of the free.”  Where everyone is free.

Happy July 4th, folks.  Here’s to another year of progress.

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Day 4, and Inside Out

Technically, today should be Book Club Thursday, but we’re bucking all the rules this week.  Join me in the world of chaos…

I finally saw Inside Out today.  My mom and sister went without me the other week, so my best friend and I went today.  It was kinda nice since she’s about to go the beach for a week and we won’t get our usual weekly hang time.  But the movie…there are major spoilers to follow.

First things first: I didn’t really like the short “Lava.”  Honestly, it was kind of weird.  And I couldn’t get over how much it bothered me that the female volcano was still styled after conventional standards of feminine beauty.

But then the movie started.  I love Amy Poehler (did you see when I read her memoir?) and her voice was perfect for Joy for the same reason she was so great as Leslie Knope.  It’s basically sunshine in a bottle.  And yet, from the very beginning, you could tell she wasn’t perfect.  That she was willing to push aside everything else in the single-minded pursuit of happiness.

I’m actually having a very difficult time putting my emotions about this movie into actual words and paragraphs, so I’m going to switch to bullet points.

  • Riley’s depression didn’t come from the move, but from her trying to deny her own sadness about the move.
  • Riley’s parents weren’t perfect (her dad putting the foot down, her mom asking her to keep smiling) but they genuinely loved and cared for her.  They were trying their best.  And when they realize they may have approached something the wrong way, they go back and try to do it better.
  • Riley loves hockey.  And at the end, Disgust says there’s a fashion island, not to mention all the unicorns and rainbows and sparkles.  She has her girly traits, but she’s not by definition a “girly girl.”  Because, get this, what people like doesn’t necessarily define them.  (Also, I have a theory about her being gender-fluid, but idk enough about that to put together a thesis.)
  • I was a crying mess during the scene with Bing Bong and Joy trying to get out of the chasm.  When Bing Bong smiles and says “One more try,” and you just know that something is off, but can’t say what, and then he sacrifices himself to save Riley’s chance at happiness…that is a true friend, even if he is imaginary.  And the whole “Take her to the moon” thing…If the whole movie is a symbol of her growing up, that’s the thing that kids turning into adults fear most.  They fear losing all the unrealistic dreams they had as a kid.  And Bing Bong’s death may represent losing that in the “literal” sense, but Joy’s commitment to try shows the stage where young adults decide to pursue slightly more realistic dreams in search of that same feeling of fulfillment.
  • This movie is going to become very important to little kids learning how to understand and process their emotions.  It reminds me of a Maureen Johnson post about her anxiety, where she talks about thinking of anxiety like a little…well, she didn’t say person, she said creature or something, but thinking of these things as little “people” can be helpful for accepting your own feelings, while not letting them overwhelm you.
  • Some of your happiest moments only come because you let sadness in and out first.  Emotions are complicated.  Memories are complicated.  As we saw with the memories that were multiple colors, it’s okay to feel several different ways about a single thing or event.
  • However, it is not okay to put broccoli on pizza.

So yes, I loved it.  Will be watching it again.  Will make my kids watch it when they come.  Am considering getting plushie ones to help work through my own emotions.  It’s important people.

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Day 3, and Looking for Alaska

On my way to the beach last week, I listened to the audiobook of Looking for Alaska in my car.  BIG mistake.  Do you know how hard it is to drive while you’re busy crying over the lives (and deaths) of fictional characters?  God, so, SO hard…

Anyway, because I identify with Alaska so much (too much, if you ask my boyfriend…and anyone else who knows what happened to her), and because I feel like I’m running in circles lately, the question she asked: “How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?” really nagged at me this time.  Pudge said forgiveness; the Colonel said he chose the labyrinth over any method of escape.  Alaska went straight and fast.

The secret to getting through a maze, I was taught, is to keep one hand on the wall.  Never lift your hand from the wall.  You may walk through the entire maze, but eventually, you’ll find your way out.  That’s my answer: an anchor.

For some people it’s a person, for others it’s faith, but if you have an anchor that you can keep yourself tethered to as you follow life’s line, it will eventually lead you through and out.

How will I–I personally, as Dr. Hyde asked–ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?  The way I get through everything: stories.  The reasons I read are to both escape and understand the labyrinth I live in.  I write mainly to process my own experiences and feelings through it.  Even the adventures I go on are me trying to live out the story I want for my life.

The image of pain as a labyrinth was really iconic for Alaska, who likely had some form of depression (and I only say likely instead of definitely because I’m not a psychiatric professional and can’t really diagnose), specifically in the idea that the pain surrounds us, that it towers over us so we cannot see past it.  She got lost in it.  Sometimes, it is toxicly overwhelming.  But no matter how high the walls get, you can always hold on to something.  Maybe that something will get you through.

A final note: The copy I have includes “Questions for Discussion,” and while many of the questions are interesting, only one touches me almost as much as the question of escaping the labyrinth.  “Was it necessary for Alaska to die?”

I am, above all, and optimist.  And I believe that pain and suffering are never necessary, but they are true and they do happen.  Could the story have been told without her death?  No, it would have been a different story.

I’m one of those writers who believes the story is OUT THERE and it’s the author’s job to write it exactly as it comes, more or less.  So no, her death was not necessary, but I do believe it was true, in as many ways as a fictional story can be.

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