Hannah Scribbles

Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

Review: An Abundance of Katherines (2006)

In Books/Authors, Pop Culture! on January 30, 2014 at 8:05 pm

You know how the adage goes.  If life hands you Katherines, you get dumped.

 

An Abundance of Katherines, AAOK, John Green novel, young adult novels,After Colin Singleton’s girlfriend breaks up with him, he embarks on a road trip with his best friend, Hassan Harbish.  Everything they see reminds Colin of Katherine XIX, the latest in a long line of ex-girlfriends named Katherine.

When the two stop in Gutshot, Tennessee to visit the supposed grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, they meet Lindsey Lee Wells, a tour guide whose mom runs the town mill.  Lindsey’s mother soon hires the boys to catalog the history of the town’s mill.

While Hassan takes on the job with gusto, Colin could care less.  He’s trying to have a Eureka moment by developing a Theorem of Underlying Katherines to predict the future of any relationship.  He is sure the theorem will move him from a mere child prodigy to full-fledged genius.

Throughout the story, Green takes sidesteps to explain Colin’s dating experiences – all with girls named Katherine (hence the name of the book).  He develops Colin’s back story out of order, which sort of fits because the kid can’t tell a story to save his life.  I guess it’s all part of the learning process.

There’s a little Colin in all of us.  Colin is self-absorbed and often oblivious to others’ feelings, but he is determined to make a difference in the world.  He wants “to matter,” and the thought of not mattering depresses him.  His self-absorption inhibits his connection to other people, and that makes him a relatable character.  It isn’t until he takes time to know Lindsey that he learns human connections cannot be predicted by advanced mathematics.

“What matters to you defines your mattering.” – John Green, AAOK

I was introduced to John Green through the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel where he and his brother Hank discuss everything from economics to why they hate nickels.  This is my first foray into John Green’s novels, and so far his style reads much like he talks.  I can almost hear him narrating the book, emphasizing certain words.  You can hear humor bleeding through the pages, pulling a laugh at the book’s frequent situational humor.

Colin Singleton, AAOK, An abundance of katherines formula,Green also uses footnotes to explain details and trivia from the book that he didn’t have time to explain within the story.  Green’s footnotes are used to explain concepts, mathematical formulas and foreign words in a cadence that is humorous while emphasizing the flow of the story.

One of my favorite aspects of “An Abundance of Katherines” is how Green writes Colin’s best friend Hassan, specifically how his religion interacts with his life.  Faith is often portrayed from an either-or position, which creates a media frame where a failure to live up to your faith is seen as a sign of insincerity.  Green breaks from the notion that someone of faith must either be a saint or a hypocrite.

Hassan’s character resonated with me because he cares about his faith but does so imperfectly.  He is lazy. He curses. But at no point does it negate the reality of his faith, and that’s what made the story memorable to me.

Rating:  4 Stars

Best Use of Footnotes:  learning obscure foreign words

Favorite Character:  Lindsey Lee Wells, the girl who doesn’t know who she is yet but wants to find out.

Loki Should Have Died

In Comics/Superheroes, Movies/TV, Pop Culture! on January 23, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Disclaimer: I love Loki.  

When “Thor” came out in 2011, I celebrated the introduction of such a compelling villain into the Avengers Universe with as much intensity as someone without a Tumblr account can have (I saw it several times in theaters). Loki was not a dastardly villain who wanted to kill the hero for money or world domination – at least not initially. He wasn’t a Macho Guy who strayed from an ’80s action film.  He was a bitter sibling whose jealousy operated on a godlike level.

Thor and Loki, The Dark World, Thor 2, Loki LaufeysonLoki won hearts by being sympathetic. In the first movie, seeks to prove himself Thor’s equal in order to win their father’s approval. His actions are morally inexcusable, but Tom Hiddleston played the character so beautifully that Loki’s crimes seem like understandable petulance. When Hiddleston returned in The Avengers (that probably had a lot to do with fans like me), Loki wrought destruction on a grander scale, but his focus remained on his older brother.

Thor’s story in the Avengers Universe is a family drama about sibling rivalry, parental love and forgiveness. It’s your basic Prodigal Son story with a bit of Norse mythology and sci-fi badassery (a real word, I promise) mixed in.  That’s why Loki is only as good as Thor and Frigga’s love for him. He cannot redeem himself of the pain and death he caused; only the family’s reconciliation can do it.

The ending to The Dark World disappointed because it destroyed a perfect story arc. Loki was originally written to die saving Thor’s life to avenge their mother’s death.  His last words, “I didn’t do it for [father],” were to be the first sincere words he said in three movies. He was supposed to die, his sacrifice resolving the family arc and bringing Thor to his knees.

“I am a fool.” – Loki Laufeyson

It was also supposed to move the larger story line forward, but instead Loki became too popular a character (I feel bad about this in hindsight). He took on a life of his own, which eclipsed the original Angsty Brotherly Bonding story of the Thor trilogy.  Movie execs brought him back, added scenes and changed the atmosphere of his story arc.  It’s a disservice to both Loki and Thor.

Instead of giving Chris Hemsworth more character depth to explore in the third leg of the trilogy, Thor will now be reduced to the fool who fell for his brother’s trickery – again.  With “The Dark World” behind us, there is nothing remaining to redeem Loki of his cruelty.

Review: Forever Odd (2005)

In Books/Authors, Pop Culture! on January 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Odd Thomas is on a mission – to find out who keeps calling his phone.

When Odd Thomas’ friend Danny Jessup goes missing one February night in Pico Mundo, the police suspect he is dead. Odd Thomas, uniquely gifted with psychic magnetism, is sure his friend is still alive. He receives a phone call from the kidnapper, who will kill Danny if Odd’s powers prove disappointing.  Within hours, Odd embarks on a one-man rescue mission to find Danny and stop the people who kidnapped him.

Pacing through Pico Mundo’s expansive storm sewers, Odd must battle both his depression and an enemy who knows more about his power than he does in order to save a dear friend. Odd’s world is thrown open to foreign magic as Koontz fleshes out his universe, and tension builds with each taunting phone call.  The world is more confusing and terrifying than Odd imagined.

“If you’re still, and if you don’t hope too much, peace will come to you. It’s a grace. But you have to choose happiness.”  – Odd Thomas

The second book is a change of pace from Koontz’s 2003 series starter, Odd Thomas. The original novel operated on a larger scale, pitting the naive protagonist against bodachs and henchmen in a bid to stop mass murder. While the stakes are objectively lower than the explosive beginning of the series, Odd’s opponent is trickier.  How do you fight for your life if you don’t have the will to live?

Forever Odd, Odd Thomas series, supernatural mystery,

Forever Odd takes time to explore the consequences of loss. Instead of a naive young man, it shows us a deeper, grief-stricken Odd. He is haunted by his heroism and the lives lost in August. Koontz’s three-dimensional characterizations allow readers to see that Odd is only changed, not diminished, by his pain. He grieves but does not wallow, choosing instead to use his pain to help others.

Koontz carries on the Odd series with an accurate portrait of grief and leaves the reader curious to see where Odd Thomas will go next.

Rating:  4 Stars

Open-Ended Question Award: What is Odd Thomas’s destiny?

Favorite Quote: “Every life is complicated, every mind a kingdom of unmapped mysteries.”

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