Friday, July 11, 2008

A New Look

What do you guys think? I just discovered The Cutest Blog on the Block. I'm not sure if I like this idea or not. It is nice to shake things up a bit. Opinions?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Livros.

I've been taking an online English class (American Lit 1914-1960, for those who are interested), and so most forms of free reading have been put on the back burner. Today I (finally) finished a YA book I had been trying to read all month. After I finished, I thought, "Hmm, I oughta blog about this." Then I remembered that in early May I read four books in five days, while basting in the Mexican sun. How did I forget to review those reads? My book reviews are some of the only semi-important material I have for my blog! So, I now present, in the order in which I read the books, some literary reviews:

1. The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin.
Yes, Steve Martin. The actor. Just knowing that Steve Martin wrote the book made it infinitely more amusing to read. Martin became the default narrator in my head. The plot revolves around a cripplingly neurotic recluse, Daniel Pecan Cambridge, and his bizarre maneuverings through a world of self-imposed rules and restrictions. The man takes 45 minutes to walk two blocks to Rite Aid because he can only cross the street at particular driveways that must perfectly face each other. Curbs=big no-no. This book was crude at times, but... a laugh from start to finish. Plus, I mean c'mon, Steve Martin?!? The guys a comic genius, on stage, on screen, and in print. I was very impressed.


2. The Man Who Ate the 747 by Ben Sherwood.
Ben Sherwood?!? Okay, maybe his name doesn't instantly ring a bell, but the man is the executive producer of Good Morning America. Pretty dang good, right? And Sherwood still found time to write a couple of novels. You know, in his "spare time" whatever that means! I really enjoyed this book, partly because the premise was so unique. J.J. Smith is Keeper of Records for the Book of Records, and he is sent around the world to document the impressive, the unbelievable, and the downright absurd. He lands in Nebraska for a while, to track a man eating an abandoned 747 to prove his love to Willa, the local newspaper lady. Less crude than Pleasure, and I think a very sincere look into the nature of real love. Not Hollywood love. Just real people who, yes, fall in love. It does happen. Great book.

K, my brain hurts. This shall be continued tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Follow Your Heartichoke

Alright, I'm lifting this from the Board, because I have to agree with habiba, it's the best stick-it-to-the-man story I've heard since School of Rock.

Scottsdale Community College, back in 1970, infuriated the student body by stripping its government of its control over school finances. Instead, precious funds were reassigned to bulking up a monstrous athletic program. In retaliation, the disgusted student body voted, and the SCC mascot was from that time forth the "Artichokes."

Aw yeah.

Speaking of jocks with an inflated sense of self-importance, my sisters and I watched Disney's Beauty and the Beast last night. What a classic! "It's not right for a woman to read. Soon she'll start getting ideas... thinking..."

Oh Gaston, what a cootie...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dedicated to My Sisters, aka the Biggest SW Dweebs I Know

Okay, just because I simultaneously discovered how to navigate YouTube and how to embed videos does not mean this is going to become a "look what I found on YouTube!" blog. Well, maybe it must become that for a time. I'm sorry. I can't help it. I just have to share this. Our family has a functioning R2-D2 replica, a motion-activated light saber that vibrates, and an encyclopedia of all things Star Wars. Tamara told us proudly that she discusses the finer points of Jaba's entourage on the bus home from school. We are big time losers in this house.



Pretty accurate, huh? Remember kids, don't talk back to Darth Vader, he'll getcha!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Made in Utah

Tamara showed me this spoof video a few minutes ago. Some kids at LPHS made it. Yeah, there's not much to do here sometimes.



Things I found immensely amusing: the Heimlich maneuver, the heart-shaped legs, the flower hat, the state of that boy's bedroom. I would have at least made my bed.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I can't enjoy anything I write because I mercilessly edit...

Received a reception? How am I an English major? I'm ashamed...

Incidentally, I always say the phrase "I'm ashamed..." with an accent. What accent, you inquire? The accent of the little "house detective" in the old Streisand/O'Neal film, "What's up, Doc?"

"Never heard of it?" Well, educate yourself.



Start at 1:55, and watch to 2:30. Or find yourself the entire film. It's hilarious, brilliantly staged and edited. The script is sidesplitting... Oh boy.

PS - That's a person named Eunice?

A Grenadilla in London

I've been a little homesick for London. I miss that alternate universe! Sometimes it seems like it was all a wonderful dream...

Anyway, enough with the sentimental nonsense. Two summers ago, I lived in Quito, Ecuador for three months. While there, I got to experience fresh "exotic" fruit firsthand. I introduced my pallet to a lot of new produce, and some received a warmer reception than others. My favorite new fruit, hands down, was the grenadilla, or the "grenade" as we gringas chose to call it. While in the little village of Hampstead, on the outskirts of north London, I ran across an exotic fruit store that displayed out front, you'll never guess, grenadillas. These are so extraordinary, and there they were in Hampstead Heath! So of course, I had to buy one, and Rebecca and Kate each bought one too because, well, why not? Here's a picture of what this sweet little gem looks like:
Mmmm, right? I know, I know, it looks disgusting. The fruit looks like an orange grenade. The shell is pretty stiff, and sounds hollow when you thump your finger against it. Then break it open, and whoa! "What is this?" In Ecuador, we affectionately called the seed sacs "monkey brains," or "mocos" ("snot" in Spanish). You just have to go for it. You slurp out about, mmm, 10 sacs, and swish 'em around, break all the lining, get the sweet, sweet juice, and spit the seeds. Or swallow if you want. Makes for interesting bathroom experiences later. Here's a photo of moi enjoying my grenadilla inglesa on a park bench. Ay, !que rica fue!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oh Youth...

I've never been to beauty or hair school in any way, shape, or form, but being the oldest in a family of five girls, I've done my share of hair-dos. A few weeks ago, Tamara went to Prom. I curled her hair, and it took about two hours. Now, she doesn't have much hair, it's just a little longer than mine, but I'm special so I take forever. But... I'm pretty darn proud of it. (Photos courtesy of Trish... and my camera.)

There's a little corner of my face, which is about all I'm willing to post of me in an unshowered, untanned, and undieted state. Mostly, I just wanted to showcase my cute sister with her pre-prom nerves shining through a bit.

Oh my gosh, this took forever. She owes me big.

We were taking too long, so mom started doing her makeup. She looks like a pampered little brat. The truth is finally out... Kidding, Tam, kidding!

So pretty! The thing I love about Tamara is that she doesn't worry too much about it. The Watkins way.

The final product:

Hahahahaha... Good thing prom's not awkward or anything...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stalking

So I think the first thing just about every newly called missionary does is stalk her mission. At least, that's what I've been doing. I found this cool blog entry about a youth conference in Lisboa. I was so excited to see my mission president, Craig B. Terry, and his wife, Candice, sitting in the front row of one session of conference (see video at the end of the blog page). Oh, I'm already in love with the beautiful people and the beautiful language!

Monday, May 19, 2008

La Gringa

"Gringa" is what I am, but it also happens to be the name of the most fabulous comestible I have ever... comested. Have you had a taco al pastor? If you have, you understand its bewitchment. If you haven't, well, I pity your poor soul. Let me tell you of its goodness.

First, you take a small corn tortilla. You drag it quickly through oil, brown it on both sides, and then lay it in another, sometimes unheated, corn tortilla. These tortillas should be the size of your hand. Next, you take pork, which has been marinated in a secret recipe that I have yet to figure out, and is presently roasting on a vertical spit. Regarding the secret recipe: one taco guy in Cabo San Lucas told me, "Um, it's paprika, I think. Mostly paprika powder. Uh huh." So it's secret. Anyway, shave off some of the spicy meat, directly into the tortillas. Then, take a couple little nicks off the pineapple, which is at the top of the spit. Catch the said pieces of pineapple in the tortilla from above your head, like so:

video
Then, pile on some cilantro and chopped onion. Oh my gosh. No sauce necessary, the meat is so juicy and flavorful, the cilantro so fresh and fragrant... I like to squeeze a lime wedge over it all, but that's it. MmmMMM!

Okay, so that's a taco al pastor. Are you ready to hear about "la gringa"? For those of you with heart conditions, this may be more than you can bear, so don't sue me if you go into cardiac arrest from my impending description.

Was that enough of a warning? Okay.

So, "la gringa" is all the components of a taco al pastor... BUT BETTER. I didn't think it was possible. Let me explain. Alright, instead of a pair of little corn tortillas, you take one larger flour tortilla. Now, this isn't your grocery store, precooked, smooshed bread sort of tortilla. This is pure lard and flour, baby. You can see through this puppy. It is rich and perfectly chewy-tender. On that base, melt some fresh Mexican cheese. Ahhhh I'm drooling... Next, throw on the meat and trimmings from the regular taco al pastor. Finally, eat. Change your life. My father and my trip to Baja California was all about the food. Wouldn't have it any other way. Scrumptious.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

O Chamamento

video

Just had to put this sucker up here. I got my mission call! Here's a video of my family participating in the call opening practice. It's pretty fun. Mary Jane really wanted me to go to Slovenia so I could live in a city called Ljubljana. Sorry Moj. Still, I'm thrilled with my mission destination, and can't wait to get going! This will be a summer of language study... I can't wait!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Snow in May (almost).

So it snowed in May. Almost.


video

Happy Hands Club in Annie's Room

I owe everyone big time. I'm sorry. I have no excuse for myself. So here's the first of a slurry of posts.

We were all hanging out in Annie's room the other night, just... not doing much. Annie is the sister chucking stuff at people at random intervals. I'm the one singing and whistling. Our friend Elise is curling Tamara's hair, practice run for Prom. Tamara is the sister doing happy hands' fun. Trish is the sister doing the ugly dance and kvetching about the internet. Mary Jane's on the bed with me I think.

This is what we do. We're the Watkins girls. Enjoy.


video

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hylton Update

I found a family history site for the family of my book's soldier. This note was attached to his file:

Joe, I have some information and a picture of Wm. H. Hylton that was in the book that belonged to my grandmother. It's titled "History of the First Methodist Church Dallas, Texas 1846-1946" compiled by Adolphus Werry. At the back of the book is a Memoriam section dedicated to 24 young men who lost their lives in service to their country during World War II. It reads as follows "Lieutenant William H. Hylton was born May 30, 1916 in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a graduate from Wilson * High School and was a student at S.M.U. when he enlisted. He was with West Texas Utilities at Dalhart. He was reported missing March 4, 1943. He was awarded the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster. He is survived by his wife and his mother, Mrs. J. M. Campbell and sister, Mrs. R.H. Reed."

This site also lists Hylton as having had two wives, although that would have been a lot to handle before he even turned 27, although it's certainly possible. The site also listed his death date as 11 Mar 1943. I don't know what the seven days means, if they confirmed he was dead or whatnot. Still looking into it...

Oh, and the "H" stands for Haven.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Used books and military history.

Today I whipped through P. G. Wodehouse's book of shorts called Eggs, Beans and Crumpets. I purchased this book at the famous Blackwell's in Oxford, on the very top floor. Beautifully, Blackwell's first opened as a used book shop of only 12 square feet with 700 items for sale. Look how it's grown! Nine quick shorts do the job of entertaining oneself on a six/seven-hour bus ride home from the west country.

The coolest thing about my book is... Well, several things. The book was originally published by Herbert Jenkins in 1940. My copy is a second publishing, and though I don't know the year this second publication happened, there is a name and military unit information on the title page. Cool, right? "William H. Hylton, 332nd 59d 91st group"

So the internet is a powerful thing. I typed in "322nd" and "Hylton" into Google. I found the previous owner! I have, inadvertently, forged a bond with this person. Here's his deal: the 322nd Bombardment Group was created on 19 Jun 1942, and was activated on 17 Jul 1942. Online, I found some "dailies" from the 91st BG, and they gave me a little more info regarding my Hylton. Wm. H. Hylton was a 2nd Lieutenant and a navigator. On 3 Jan 1943, he was listed as destroying an FW 190. The only other time he comes up in that record is on 4 Mar 1943, as "Lt. William Hylton - Bombadier" and, quite sadly, as MIA. The dailies go through December 1943, but he isn't mentioned again. A little more research, and I found that he was never found, and presumed dead. I also learned that he entered the service from Texas, for what that's worth. The 91st division were nicknamed "The Ragged Irregulars" because they were so depleted by fatalities and injuries. I found a nice commemorative plaque.
So now I'm on a mission. A 2nd Lt. is pretty decent standing in the Air Force, which makes me think that he was older. Maybe he had a family? Maybe they'd like his book back? I'm intrigued that it would surface in a book shop in Oxford. Somehow it made its way over from Germany. How?!?

Time will tell. I'm on the trail.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

My sister is cooler than your sister!

My sister Annie makes awesome art. Art is something I admire. The fact that my sister makes art is therefore something I admire about her. And that's not even touching the fact that said art is awesome. The art you see above was made for, you'll never guess so I'll tell you, a vending machine. Yup. BYU last semester sold some art through vending machines with proceeds going to charity. So that's cool, yes, but even cooler is this buff girl. We are all buff girls inside, I really do believe that. My arms might jiggle when I wave them, but don't be fooled. I'm a buff girl.

And I love my sister who wrote me a cool poem. In fact, as a send-off, I'll include that poem because I liked it so much:

A Sister's Lament


My dearest sister Heeree,
How very much I miss thee!
Thy blixy ways, with mem'ry fond,
I ponder oft; And gaze beyond
This campus small, across the sea
To where you learn and play without me.
Tho good I know your trip to be,
I'm saddened to the worst degree
By the lack of your good company
And former close proximity!
Perhaps my sorrow's naught but folly,
But, alas, I'm rendered melancholy.
Come back soon! My heart can't bear
The miles that lay 'twixt here and there!

I defy you to find a cooler sister. Except maybe my other three sisters can tie her for coolest...

Friday, March 7, 2008

La Hermana Gordon, and a lot of links

I inadvertently stumbled upon my dear friend Christy's vimeo page. Oh, delight of my heart! She is a beautiful person, currently serving a mission for the Church in Spokane, Spanish-speaking. Girl is a huge role model to me, a big reason why I'm going to serve a mission as well. I should write her a letter, whoops...

We worked together on the Mormon Missionary Diaries project at the Harold B. Lee Library on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, UT.

Wow.

This is what happens when I do not want to do homework. Nay, not one bit.

Signing out, here is a picture of me and Christy at a How to Host a Murder party. She played a 1970s businesswoman. I played the token floozy. In memoriam, Christy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Windgirl

I've made a few really good friends on this trip. Honestly, everyone here's a champ; even if I don't love the person, no one is unbearable. I count this a great fortune when something as volatile as 40 girls and 1 guy in a small living space happens. But in this group, there are a few standouts. One of them is Abigail.

Things at which Abbie is good: making children smile, creating beautiful dance moves, dismounting from the top bunk, laughing from the diaphragm, discussing King Lear in the few hours before papers are due, looking gorgeous without makeup, reading at night with her headlamp, rollerblading in spandex, running through Hyde Park, being a card shark, winning every game ever, singing all sorts of happy songs, and in other ways fulfilling the wind element.

I love you, Abbie.

PS - When you die, can I have your sweatskirt from REI? Thanks.

Monday, March 3, 2008

This is a Tribute

To Simini.

"Did you know that you can play darts with thumbtacks? Yes, yes you can." Ack I miss you!

Studio 111

Oh the Cocherans! I love these people! They are funky artist friends of my family back home. They do a little of everything, and it is fun stuff, let me tell you. Their home is unreal, and walking through it an experience akin to passing through an incredible gallery of neo-groovy awesomeness. Nina made me a "Pat the Bunny" (well actually, "Pet the Puppy" but that's neither here nor there) retro notebook to console me for the removal of my wisdom teeth. Is that friendship or what?!?

Their greatest creations are their children, though. Their youngest daughter does karaoke like you wouldn't believe. So check out their site, give them some love, and appreciate the greatness.

Incidentally, here is a video their eldest son, my sister's greatest friend, put together. Of himself. Cleaning his room. Yes, I know it's cool.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Jesus Christ, The Son of God

Ben wrote on his blog about the Church's newest site, Jesus Christ, The Son of God, and I have really enjoyed looking through it. I'll admit I haven't perused it thoroughly yet, but the site design is beautiful and I know the content is bound to be good. Very appropriate timing, with the latest issue of the Ensign/Liahona, which reflects this focus on Christ. I feel the time must be fast-approaching that the world realizes that Latter-day Saints are in fact Christians. He lives!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cynefin

I finished another book. After The Book Thief, it's hard to read any other piece of WWII lit. Talking with one of my professors before dinner tonight, he suggested that Markus Zusak perhaps wasn't the most exceptional writer (I'd agree; he abandoned the intensity of the whole color device pretty early on in the book, and it just wasn't the highest writing I've ever seen), but he was a superb storyteller. I agree wholeheartedly. I became wonderfully attached to the characters, who on paper are quite unremarkable, and are fascinatingly ambiguous, just as we all are. The Welsh Girl did not grip me like The Book Thief did.

But The Welsh Girl is intriguing in its own right. My favorite aspect of the novel was not the plot or even the characters, but the symbol of the sheep herds so vital to life in Esther's small village. Davies paints a world in which herders are tied to the flocks, and flocks are in turn tied to their land, unable to stay on strange land for long. This idea of attachment to a plot of land is called cynefin. Even more interesting to me is the necessity of the female animals to sustain the flock. After they do their duty to the flock, mature males are sent to town for sale for meat. The females, however, are the lifeblood of the flock. Esther wonders why the German refers to is native country as the "fatherland"; in her experience, the only appropriate term for that feeling of obligation to country is "motherland." Interesting.

Gotta love some matriarchal discussion.

The Dance

In museums, it is obvious to me those patrons who are seasoned veterans and those who are ignorant novices of observing displayed art. For those who are more experienced, a general awareness exists of the dance, upon which enjoying a museum critically hangs. I would like to offer up, by way of illustration, my experience in the City Art Centre in Edinburgh this past weekend.

In the City Art Centre, 150 originals by renowned American photographer Ansel Adams were on display over three floors. The exhibit wasn't very crowded at all, and judging by the adherence to the rules of the dance by the vast majority of all patrons in the museum, I'm confident that my friends and I were among dedicated art buffs.

Here's how the dance works: two patrons stand side by side in front of one piece of art. In a nook, one patron has been moving counterclockwise through the display. The second patron, to avoid hurrying the first, has chosen to start at the opposite end of the display and move clockwise. Inevitably, the two merge at one piece. Both people look at the item for a while; finally, when someone is ready to move on, he or she steps backward, and moves around the second patron. The second patron then shifts the opposite direction, thus making room for the first to take a last goodbye before moving on to the next piece. The transition, if executed well, is seamless and comfortable. Ah, the dance.

Well, this wasn't as great a post as I had in my mind. The exhibit was fantastic. I'm glad Abbie decided to go up, because I wasn't totally thrilled about paying
£2.50 to get in, but it was worth it. Surprisingly, though I am not from California, Adams' few shots of Utah made me so incredibly homesick. I especially liked this shot of the Manti temple.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another favorite thing...

McVitie's Ginger Nuts. So inexpensive. So tasty. I love you Ginger Nuts.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What I Love About London

Dedicated to Jake.

Bitter Lemon:

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground:

The bridge on the Serpentine at Hyde Park:

And its views:

The Central Line (incidentally, I hate the Circle Line):

Intriguing exhibits at the V&A:

That's all for now. More to follow?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Candid Camera


My sister and her very good friend.

Much speculation surrounds this pair, but ultimately they are two peas in a pod, cut from the same cloth, "two soles with but one... shoe."

Fifteen is a traumatic, wonderful age.

Here's to you, sis.

Monday, February 4, 2008

YORKIE: IT'S NOT FOR GIRLS!

Two posts in one day! Lucky you.

So today at lunch I ran out and bought a Yorkie bar, because, well, I hadn't tried one yet here in sunny London (weather has been gorgeous, by the way, clear days have definitely outweighed the rainy) and I wanted something chocolatey.

I got home, busted it open, broke off one of the massive blocks (this ain't no Dove bar) and started nibbling some of the chocolate off. I pondered aloud, in my room shared with 13 other co-eds, "Why isn't it for girls? I don't see anything about this not for girls, honestly."

"It's a weight-gain stimulant!" someone shouted over the closet barricade that breaks our room into two uneven sides (mine being the smaller and much more cramped side, but quieter and darker at night, thank goodness). Weight gain? That was no good, I was already on my third brick of chocolate. "It has whey in it!" another voice shouted over. Um, well it is chocolate, so whey, a derivative of milk, might make its way (whey, haha) into the bar. But I will give them that whey is a common additive to bulk-up stuff. But the Yorkie bar?

Feeling an urban myth lurking about our room, and also to justify my happily devouring my new chocolate bar, I googled "YORKIE: IT'S NOT FOR GIRLS!" which is verbatim what appears on the wrapper:
Nestle UK was kind enough to debunk my silly roommates, confirming that "In 2001 the Yorkie 'It’s Not for Girls' campaign was launched because, in today’s society, there aren’t many things that a man can look at and say that’s for him." Fair enough, I'll consent to the truth of that. And though it will most certainly induce weight-gain, that is not its sole utility. Any guy pounding one of these before hitting the gym will be sorry to know that he is quite defeating the purpose.

And of course, Google is great for finding a wide range of all sorts of entertaining nonsense. I site example one, religious commentary and Yorkie bars:
And the more obvious chauvinism and Yorkie bars:
Favorite candy bars so far in the UK: Double Decker, mint Aero, Crunchy, and Lion. Yum.

A Giant Among Men

Yesterday morning, in my long wait for afternoon church, I hopped online and watched a rebroadcast of President Gordon B. Hinckley's funeral services, which were held on Saturday. I have to confess, the last week, the week following President Hinckley's passing, I really didn't give much thought to any sadness. It seemed almost a relief for him to be reunited with his sweet wife and other friends and family he had loved so much in life. It wasn't until I watched the funeral and other programs aired about his full, productive, and selfless life yesterday that I actually let myself shed a few tears. He was a great man with a great legacy, both to his own family and to the wider family of the church.

I was so inspired by what I saw and heard that I scratched my Primary lesson (I teach 8-12 year-olds Sunday School) and made a powerpoint presentation of all that President Hinckley had done in his nearly 13 years as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and prophet, seer, and revelator and holder of all priesthood keys in this dispensation. Beyond all his traveling, relations with the media, and humaritarian work, he also delivered the revelation The Family: A Proclamation to the World, instituted the Perpetual Education Fund, nearly tripled the number of operating temples, and so much more. My kids really loved it, especially because I typed up everything in Spanish and Portuguese so that everyone could participate, and I brought a map so we could see where in the world, significant to my diverse little group, temples had been built. It was pretty awesome to see temple growth, especially in 1999 and 2000. Overwhelming, actually.

Though I had been in the same room as President Hinckley on different occasions, I never knew him personally. However, I can bear witness to the validity of his calling and of the authority invested in him to act as the head of the Lord's true church on earth. He was duly prepared from a young age, and though an imperfect human as we all are, he provided an inspiring example of one who strove to "stand a little taller" as he advised us all to do. Reviewing his life, I realized what a body of counsel he gave to the members of the Church, especially to youth. That was me. He gave advice for my generation, and I feel renewed in my desire to pursue it.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Gordon B. Hinckley, 1910-2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Books

So, I'm in London, and I haven't blogged about it, and people are going to be disappointed after today because any reference to London will be strictly coincidental. Sorry!

But I read a lot over Christmas break. And I kinda want to go through what I discovered.

First two books I read: Sequels to the LDS novel
Charley, namely Sam and Adam's Story. Would have been a waste of time except they both read in about two hours each. I don't find Jack Weyland to be that gifted of a writer (I really, really don't, yikes), but I do enjoy reading literature about my unique religious culture. We are a nutty bunch sometimes. And even with Weyland's less-than-engaging writing style, it is nice to read about LDS culture without a filter or an encyclopedic narrative of terms and aspects of LDS life. And sometimes you need to read something so culturally "Mormon" to remind yourself that the culture is not the same as the gospel. Good thing, too.
Next two books I read: the rest of Pretties left over from my summer reading, and Specials, the last two books of the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. It's hard for me to critique too much because I'm not extremely well-versed in YA science fiction, but I enjoyed them well enough. I thought that as a male writer, he did a good job writing inside a female protagonist's head. As a teacher, I thought that the series could pull well into discussion about dystopia, current environmental concerns, the nature and changeability of love, etc.

And then I read two more books: Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines, both by John Green, of whom I first became aware through the ever entertaining vlog, Brotherhood 2.0. I have to acknowledge that Green can write. Boy, can he write. And where Westerfeld's characters are a little inaccessible due to the futuristic time period, not to mention the fact that everyone has brain lesions and is anatomically reconfigured, I thought of dozens of people I knew in high school when I read Green's teenagers. Language was kind of intense, and though I suppose it's realistic, I don't think it's totally admirable, and I also knew plenty of people growing up who didn't feel the need to drop a vulgarity into every sentence. Still, I laughed, I cried... Green writes very well and is as funny on paper as he is on video.

I read another book my youngest sister brought home from school: So B. It. Wept. What a beautiful, mature story made carefully available to young readers. I highly recommend it, also a quick read.

And the grand finale, to trump them all: I just finished The Book Thief last night on the bus ride home from a day trip to Canterbury, Rye, and Beachy Head (there, gratuitous reference to England). I cried in front of everyone. It's a fairly sizable work for a YA book, over 500 pages with small font, but it reads quickly. It is divided into 10 parts with five or seven vignettes per part that follow a young girl, Leisel, from age 9 to age 14, and her experience living as a displaced child of Communist parents with German foster parents in Nazi Germany with a Jew in the basement. What I appreciated most about this book was its treatment of life for the average German during the war. I feel like general sentiments either highlight this so-called ignorance of Germans that anything like Auschwitz or Dachau was happening, or the belief that everyone living in Germany became a hardcore Nazi. Not so with Leisel and her foster family. I highly value the look into their neighborhood as people struggle to decide which of two evil paths to follow. Another favorite aspect of the book: narrated by Death, and a personified Death that I've never encountered before.

The Book Thief is important. And it's enjoyable. This type of book makes Green's angsty high schoolers seem pretty lame. I'm of the opinion that teenagers today are a bit too self-obsessed. I can verify this because I was myself, although I think not so bad as others. Relative comfort and opportunity has made my generation and the generation behind me soft, weak, and selfish. I'm sorry but I really do believe that. Even on my trip here, I'm surrounded by 39 girls my age, and a good part of them complain about everything and obsess about shopping. I'm sorry, but there are bigger issues in the world, and aspects of life that will be much, much more important than rain in London (hello!), homework on a semester abroad (hello?!?), and $90 leather boots from Top Shop (ugh). So bravo to Markus Zusak. A beautiful piece of literature that I think will become a lifetime book for me.