Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hattie Big Sky

The only quarrel I have with this book is that it didn't quite end the way I wanted it to, which, in reality, can't really be a quarrel at all.  After all, it isn't my book, and I still enjoyed it.

I'm once again pleasantly surprised with the Denton North Branch librarians' pick to sit directly in the center of the display table in the young adult fiction section.  Otherwise, I probably never would have come across this book.  Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson was a great, interesting read with an impossibly mature sixteen-year-old at its center.  Hattie Here-and-There, as she calls herself, has grown up as an orphan, being passed from family member to family member.  Then, out of the blue, a long-lost Uncle Chester dies and leaves her his claim of 320 acrs in Montana.  Eager for a place to call her own, Hattie takes the next train from Iowa and settles down to prove up on her Uncle's claim, but finds that friendship is the more valuable possession.

This story was based on the author's great-grandmother by the same name, as well as a few other people she grabbed out of history's folds.  I love that it's set during World War I, and that it deeply affects the book and its characters, just as it did in real life.  That was a great insight to read.  I also love that Hattie was such a writer.  She constantly writes to a relative and a school friend, Charlie (whom she undoubtedly loves, though she never really realizes it).

Entertaining, informative, and sweet.  I wish some of the more intense chapters had been expanded a bit.  It's definitely worth the read!  I almost cried a couple of times.  The characters in this novel are just so real and vibrant, and the hardships and happy times they face are things that really did happen almost a century ago.  At any rate, it was a nice break from werewolves, witches, ghosts, aliens, and everything else I am normally surrounded by.

I'd give it an 8 out of 10.

Prelude to a Quilt

Yesterday, while digging through one of my mom's sewing kits in search of a patch to put on the knee of a very awesome pair of jeans I want to be able to wear on BYU campus, I found several quilt squares that never got used.  I immediately fell in love with the navy blue ones, and decided that I was finally going to get around to making my very first quilt!

Since they were botoh navy-based, I wanted to make a BYU-themed quilt.  I immediately hopped on the computer and drew up what I thought to be the perfect quilt pattern!

It took a little doing, but I talked my mom into helping me out.  She did try to teach me how to sew when I was little, but I just wasn't interested in making pillow cases when I was 8.  Then I had a Utah-born college roommate that could do all sorts of domestic things that I couldn't--including make beautiful hand-sewn quilts.  When I saw the quilt she had made all by herself, I wanted to run to the fabric store right then and there!

I figured we probably had a pretty good stash of navy blue material in all of my mom's stores, so we set to searching.

We did find some cute navy material, but definitely not enough to make an entire quilt out of.

So, today, mom and I went to JoAnn's to pick out some more navy material to match what we already had.  JoAnn's is so cool!  I've always loved that store, but for their paper crafts.  I didn't realize just how much material they have until I was combing through it, looking for the perfect match to the polka-dot and paisly squares I already had.

There is so much gorgeous fabric in that store!  I just wanted to grab it all and make a hundred quilts (which my mom keeps reminding me I may not even like).  There were just too many options.  We ended up getting six different kinds of new material...

Well, we didn't have very many of those squares to begin with, and it was all on sale, and I got a discount for being a college student... :)  I went through every excuse in the book, and in the end, we ended up with these new materials.  It's still a navy blue base... sort of.  But it's going to be so pretty!

We spent four hours in that store.  And major kudos to my mom for her math skills.  We had to recalculate how much material we needed so many times...  We also had to make a new pattern.

I can't tell you how excited I am to get started on this quilt!  It may not seem like a very big thing to some of you, but I'm ecstatic!  Not only am I going to be making something with my own hands that I can actually use; I'm also gaining a skill (hopefully) that I could potentially have for all of my life!  Who knows?  Maybe I have a talent for it!

Its more likely that I'm going to get frustrated a lot, and my stitching will be awful (it isn't like I've had a lot of practice).  I can't even sew a button on straight.  But I'm going to try anyway!  You never know until you take that step, right?  :)

If any of you have any quilting know-how and have some tips you'd be willing to pass along, let me have 'em!

Here's to hoping that I actually finish my project for once!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Time Paradox

You know those movies where there's a big, epic adventure, but then something tragic happens, and at the very end, the main character gets to go back in time and stop it all from ever happening?  Sometimes, the whole movie is everything to do with going back in time to change the past.  And sometimes it's actually a good movie.

It happens in books, too.  There are also the stories of love transcending time: the lovers that belong to different decades, centuries, or even millenia.  These never end well, and annoy me to end!  You know as you pick up the book that it can't have a good ending, but the first few pages make it sound so worth it...  Ha!

The Clearing, for example.  I know I've already posted a review of this book, but I would like to say just again how awful it was.  Really!  It was disappointing, and the end was just a--"Oh!  I have to end the book now, but I don't have a mind-blowing resolution...  I'll copy everybody else!  The main character dies!"  (Oh, were you planning on reading that book?  No, I didn't thinks so.)

It all comes down to three things: the ending, what was changed, and how it was addressed in the rest of the story.  These three things are what determine the quality of a time-related story, in my opinion.  I'd like to give you a couple of great examples of this story type.

One of my absolute-favorite movies, this story does it right!  What I love about this one is that nobody is travelling through time... it's just letters transported two years into the future/past by a magic mailbox that never gets explained.  I think I like this time-related story most because it's about the romance, and not really the concept of time-travel.  The photography helped, too, as did the beautiful writing. :)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban!  I have to admit that, without a doubt, I think Harry Potter is the only book I've ever read that does the time-travel thing well, as well as the only film that included all the details I wanted.  What I love most about how J.K. Rowling approached this one is the little details she throws in the last few chapters.  Before Harry and Hermione give three turns to her time-turner, there are details in the action that are later explained by the time travel!  I have to ashamedly admit that it's been a long time since I've seen or read it, and I therefore cannot recall all of the specifics.

Neither of these movies use time travel as a way to erase the entire story.  I hate those!  When you get to the end, you're like, "Okay, so it never happened..."  I also love that the story was more important than the action.  Action is important, but it can't smother the actual plot, or it gets tiresome.

What do you think about time stories?  (No, I haven't seen Doctor Who, though I hear it's really great.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Phoebe in Wonerland

It took me a long time to convince myself that it is okay to post more blogs, because this is my 84th blog post.  The number was at 83 (my favorite), so I didn't want to ruin that.  Haha.

Pheobe in Wonderland was a beautiful film.  You know how much I appreciate writing in movies, and it was certainly well-done in this one, but I have to give some major kudos to the actors.  They completely blew me away!  I was so invested in the main character's dilemmas and joys that I could hardly stomach pausing the movie for eight hours so I could go to work.  It's on Netflix instant play, if any of you are interested.  It's definitely worth your time, and it's a family-friendly movie, too.  Very clean, and even a little instructional.

The photography could've been better.  But, I respect that it was probably a low-budget film (even though it was actually in theaters--did you ever hear of it??).  For what they had, though, it was great.  It helped tell the story, and at times is was really cute.  I loved getting into the little girl's head.

Where are my manners?!  I have yet to tell you what this movie is even about!

Phoebe, a fourth-grade student and daughter of an author writing about Through The Looking-Glass, lands the lead role in her school's production of Alice in Wonderland.  Her patient, strange drama teacher helps her learn a little about acting and a lot about life, but the more stressed out she becomes, the more she begins to see the characters from the book come to life and speak to her.  Her parents aren't sure how to handle her new behavior, and even Phoebe doesn't know what's happening to her.  What she does know is that she was born to play Alice.

It's really intriguing, and Elle Fanning is such a talented little actress.  I can't wait to see more from her!

I give it a 9/10.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was... well, amazing.  And entirely frustrating.

I saw the movie in mid-May with one of my best friends, and walked away knowing that it was one of the most spectacular films I had ever seen!  The characters were real and relatable, the filming was beautiful, and the darkest parts were so incredibly intense!  I can't wait to see it again (hurry up, redbox!), and I think it might actually wind up in my collection.

Therefore, when I saw the book in Target the other day, I couldn't resist picking it up.  It was a good price, it had Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon on the cover, and the movie was great, so the book's supposed to be better, right?

For once, I really have to say that the movie did some things better.  Let me say this--Sara Gruen is truly one of the best writers I've ever read.  The way she relates a person's opinion along with their train of thought is so well-done!  Her descriptions are detailed, but not too lengthy.  I love the way she brought in all of her research and the tiny details and anecdotes she picked up from what she learned of circuses from the time period.  I really admire the amount of research she had to do for this book.  For several nights, I felt like I could be falling asleep on a train circus.  She really drew me into the world of the story.

This story is set in the summer of 1931 aboard a train circus.  Jacob Jankowski, a Cornell-educated almost-veterinarian, jumps a train in the middle of the night and ends up being roped into working for The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.  There he gains unlikely friends, becomes very attached to an elephant, and is helplessly drawn to his boss's wife, Marlena.

At first I was frustrated with the way the book was structured--an old man recalling the summer of 1931 almost absent-mindedly.  By the end of it, though, I really liked it.  It wouldn't have transferred well to the big screen, though, which is why I guess they used the end of the book for the whole movie.  Clever and effective.  I like both ways.

My only qualm with her book is the amount of sex it has in it.  I am very grateful that the movie was rated PG-13, because I thoroughly enjoyed it.  While the book was also great, I was annoyed by frequent side-tracks from the actual plot to mention something sex-related.  None of it was at all necessary.  Yes, there is one scene in the book that is somewhat important to the plot--the night Jacob and Marlena actually have the affair--but there is a way to write that gracefully, and Sara Gruen definitely did not.

Therefore, I have a dilemma.  It was a wonderful book, but I honestly can't--with a good consious, at least--recommend it to anyone.  Too many f-bombs, too much nudity, too much.... just too much.  It really makes me sad.  I have half a mind to take a black marker to those unnecessary bits.  Then I could hand it to all of my friends and squeal, "READ IT!  It's soooo good!" like I so desperately want to do.

Everyone should see the movie, however.  Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon have great chemistry, and it's pretty clean.  Not a whole lot of cussing (though I can't blame him for letting one slip when he almost lost his arm to a lion).