Book Review: Pet Sematary

Hi, everyone! It’s been a long while since I’ve written anything, and, because I had not been getting much reading done, I took a hiatus from blogging to focus on teaching and to enjoy summer vacation. I’m back today to share my thoughts on Stephen King’s novel “Pet Sematary.” 🙂

I hadn’t originally planned on reading this book, but before the school year ended, one of my students who had borrowed the book from my classroom bookshelf returned it to me, and that spurred the idea for me to give the book a shot over the summer break. After all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Shining” last year.

Image from Goodreads

Synopsis (No Spoilers)

“Pet Sematary” tells the story of Louis Creed, who moves his young family and wife to Ludlow, Maine after being hired for a position as a doctor at the nearby university’s health offices. Louis and his family move into a house in the outskirts of town across the street from the elderly couple Jud and Norma Crandall. The Crandalls become close friends of the Creeds, and Jud soon becomes a father-figure to Louis.

But Louis’s good circumstances take a turn for the worst after a fateful first-day at his new job when college student Victor Pascow is brought into his office due to a terrible accident while jogging. As Pascow approaches death, his final ominous words to Louis warn about the Pet Sematary behind Louis’s house – a warning that soon becomes true. As Jud one day shows Louis and his family the “Pet Sematary”, it is the old Micmac burial ground that lies beyond the pet cemetery that is the source of a tempting attraction, as it contains the power to resurrect the dead that are buried there and manipulate a person’s grief with a supernatural force.

My Thoughts (Spoilers Ahead)

In the Introduction of the novel, King claims that this is the most frightening book he has ever written, which is often a shock to fans who may think that such a title would belong to “The Shining.” In fact, he explains his initial hesitancy to publish the book because of how grim its content is. I knew that I was in for something indeed frightening, but I didn’t understand to what extent that could really be – until I got to the part where Louis Creed loses his two-year-old son, Gage, in a traumatic vehicle accident on the busy street in front of their home. Louis, his wife, and their other young daughter, Ellie, spiral into a terrible grief that I could only imagine is one of the worst possible nightmares to experience.

This is what makes “Pet Sematary” such a frightening book: it shows how death is lurking around every corner, ready to consume the lives not only of those who die, but also of their loved ones who are left behind. King does such a phenomenal job on playing on people’s fear of death in this way – not quite in terms of a fear of one’s own death but the fear of losing one that you love.

Louis feels immense emotions of grief and emptiness after Gage’s death, and I couldn’t help but feel such grief myself, as King pulls the reader into the darkness of grief like no other book I have read – and it is quite the frightening experience! While reading, I often found myself paranoidly fearing the deaths of the loved ones in my life and putting myself in the shoes of a parent who loses a child, which is a feeling that is too terrible and heart-wrenching to fathom.

But what also makes the novel’s themes about death more harrowing is the ways in which they are explored from many angles. There’s that of Louis’s wife Rachel who at a young age experienced the death of her sister Zelda who died from spinal meningitis and in whose final years was almost unrecognizable physically and emotionally. Rachel admits to Louis, with a mixture of shame and defiance, the sense of relief she felt when Zelda died – an opposite emotion to what is felt when Gage dies and also a parallel emotion to what Rachel’s parents must have felt when they lost their own child. In this, I was surprised to see this other view of death in the book and its exploration of the concept “dead is better,” a quote and idea that resonates throughout.

Then, there is also the aspect of the magical powers of the Micmac cemetery beyond the “Pet Sematary” where Jud shows Louis its powers to raise anything buried there back to life, as Louis finds out after burying the family cat who returns to life.

The idea of bringing the dead to life is definitely not a new one, and while we all may think we would never do such a taboo thing like that if we could, “Pet Semetary” gets readers to think twice about this idea through the grief-stricken perspective of Louis who can’t imagine continuing to live without his beloved son. Even though the stories of animals and people that have been buried in the Micmac’s grounds are not hopeful ones – everything that resurrects is either practically soul-less and without personality or vengeful and hateful – Louis is driven to madness by his grief and decides to bury Gage to bring him back to life.

As expected, this does not turn out well and Gage becomes the latter of the two forms that the resurrected take on and ends up killing Jud and his mom, Rachel. Louis has to then kill Gage so that he dies for good, and the book ends with the crazed Louis who now buries his wife. She makes a brief appearance in the final events of the epilogue, showing the never-ending cycle which the Micmac burial grounds holds on anyone who is tempted by its powers of resurrection.

My one critique of the book centers on the ending, as it felt rushed and was lacking the emotions from Louis that I would have expected, specifically in the part where he needs to put his son’s life to an end for good. With the trauma that Louis has experienced, I would think that it wouldn’t be so easy for him to kill his son, even though I understand that he realizes his son has become a monster. Still, I would have liked to have seen some internal debate in which Louis has trouble coming to terms with killing Gage.

With this exception of the book’s ending, I found “Pet Sematary” to be the perfect book to get invested in over the summer. One thing I would warn anyone who is interested in reading it, however, is that the book’s themes of death, and especially the death of a child, are dark and may be difficult to bear for anyone who has experienced deep levels of grief over losing a loved one and/or of losing a child.

Closing

Thank you for checking out today’s book review! I hope to be uploading more reviews in the near future, though they may be slow in the process. I hope you are safe and well, and, until next time, happy reading! 🙂

Final Thoughts on 1Q84

Hi, fellow readers! After many months, I have finally finished Haruki Murakami’s novel 1Q84 (hooray!) and will share my thoughts on it today.

The book was one of the longest that I have read in a while with my copy of the book having 1157 pages. If you have been following my reading progress on 1Q84 since the start, you would know that I’ve spent almost a whole year on this book! That being said, this has little to do with the book itself but more with a busy past few months and me not reading as much as I would have liked.

In fact, 1Q84 is a book that is hard to put down and the average reader would probably finish it a lot faster than I did. And while there is much to love, there are some drawbacks, I believe, which hold the book back from the true masterpiece it could have been.

Summary of Book 3 (Spoilers Ahead)

In the final part of 1Q84, Aomame is in hiding from Sagikake after murdering the cult’s leader. She soon becomes pregnant with what she believes is Tengo’s child though she has never had intercourse with Tengo or any relations with anyone in the past few months. While in hiding within a comfortable apartment paid for by the dowager, she one day sees Tengo from her balcony sitting at a playground below and staring up at the two moons. She becomes determined to find and meet him.

Meanwhile, Tengo spends a large part of Book 3 with his sick father at the nursing home in a nearby town. Fuka-Eri is staying at his apartment in the meanwhile but soon leaves by the time Tengo returns and leaves a note to Tengo saying that his apartment is being watched.

Ushikawa is the person who Fuka-Eri speaks of as he has traced down Tengo’s location in hopes of finding Aomame. He has a hunch that there is a connection between them, so he rents out a bottom-floor apartment in Tengo’s building to watch his every move.

By the end of Book 3, Aomame finds Tengo’s apartment (oddly enough, by following Ushikawa one night), and although she doesn’t meet him, she informs Tamaru, the dowager’s bodyguard, who soon finds Ushikawa, questions him, and subsequently kills him. Tamaru then tells Tengo that he is to meet Aomame and the two meet one night at the playground where Tengo first saw the two moons.

The couple is in danger as now Sagikake is aware of what happened to Ushikawa and are now in an effort to hunt down Aomame. They seek the child she carries out of a belief that the child will help them continue to hear the voices of the Little People now that the leader is dead.

However, Aomame believes that her demise is not set in stone in accordance to fate. She and Tengo make their way back to the fire escape at the busy highway where she first entered the world of 1Q84. The two make their way up and back into the normal world of 1984 where they are able to finally enjoy the long-awaited love they have had for each other.

My Thoughts on Book 3 and the Novel as a Whole

Murakami is definitely a skilled creator of story as he intertwines many side-stories and characters in a fascinating way. While in the earlier half of the novel, the reader experiences each chapter through the third-person limited point of view of either Aomame or Tengo, the book’s main protagonists, Murakami expertly brings in the perspective of Ushikawa, devoting several chapters to his background and thought process.

By doing this, 1Q84 unwinds in a way that is much needed for the book at this point. So much of Book 3 becomes quite repetitive with Aomame’s hiding situation and Tengo’s visiting his father that it needed a push in a more dramatic direction, and that is how Ushikawa revitalizes the final part of the novel. He is an interesting character first painted in a negative light (almost as an antagonist), but who any reader will soon feel deep pity for as the book continues, and he soon became one of my favorite characters because of this – so much so that I cried when Tamaru took Ushikawa’s life.

And yet, for all that Ushikawa brings to the table, the book’s main protagonists fail to do the same by the book’s end. While the love story between Aomame and Tengo is quite beautiful as they haven’t spoken since they were ten-years-old, and their being reunited is an immensely joyful moment, their happy ending can’t help but feel rushed. Additionally, as a result of the tidy ending, so much is left unanswered and unexplored.

Many questions still hovered in the air after the book’s completion: How is it that Aomame willed their way back into 1984? What then becomes of Sagikake? And is Ushikawa and anyone else who died therefore still alive? While in 1Q84, did time stop for the rest of the world back in 1984?

It seems as though Murakami did not have a way to clean up the rough edges of these questions as he did with Aomame and Tengo’s love story. Or maybe the book just got too long and answers to these questions would take another several hundred pages (maybe a sequel can be considered?)

In the end, while reading the entirety of 1Q84 was enjoyable and did not feel like a waste of time, the ending was somehow still unsatisfying. Therefore, while this was a book that was a wonderful experience in many ways, it is not perfect or one that can be placed on my list of favorites, though it is not forgettable either.

I would still recommend 1Q84 to those interested in its grandness and the stylistic effort involved. It’s also a book that is fascinating in terms of pondering deeper questions such as fate/free-will, other dimensions, love, and much more.

Thank you for reading today’s review of 1Q84. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have read it or are interested in reading it. I am currently continuing to read Blood Meridian which I had put on pause to finish this book, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on that soon. Until next time, Happy Reading! 🙂

A Closer Look into Gandalf’s Wise Words and the Fate/Free-Will Question in LOTR

Hi fellow readers!

Last year, I finished reading the Lord of the Rings series and shared my thoughts on the different books from the trilogy. While I voiced an opinion that J.R.R. Tolkien is not my favorite of writers in terms of writing style, I still love the series as a whole and can’t help but be enamored by the story he has created collectively in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

My husband and I recently viewed a celebratory cast reunion screening of the movie adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring (which was so fun and my favorite of the films). As we watched the movie for a second time in under a year, something in this viewing of the movie stood out to me in a way that it didn’t last time. This was Gandalf’s well-known response to Frodo who laments that he is the one whose hands the burdensome ring fell into and that this had to happen during his time. Gandalf replies, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

A co-worker and friend of mine has this quote posted on her classroom door, so it had been something that I had been chewing on for a while, and then when I saw the movie again, I couldn’t get it out of my mind, especially when I heard the full context of the quote and an additional part to it that gets left out in postings of the quote. Right after these lines, Gandalf says, ” There are other forces in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it, and that is an encouraging thought.”

The topic of fate/free-will has always piqued my interest, so I find Gandalf’s words interesting because they seem to position both fate and free will together. At one end, they imply that people are placed in a certain time and place without it being up to them – “that is not for them to decide” – and at the other end, people have choices for how to carry out their lives – “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

And yet, the idea is further complicated with the added lines that are often left out, as these lines suggest there is a set purpose for Bilbo and Frodo. They suggest that they were placed into this time and place for a reason, and, thus, make the emphasis on fate rather than free-will.

[Some spoilers ahead.]

With that, I would like to consider this question by considering, what if Frodo did not use the time that was given him in the way that he was supposed to? He had a choice to either carry the ring to Mount Doom or to return to the Shire and keep the ring. Or he also had the choice to give it to someone else for better or worse, and yet Gandalf suggests that Frodo was meant to have the ring in order to do reverse the evil the ring has brought to Middle Earth. But what would happen if Frodo didn’t act in the right way or the way he was meant to? Or did he never really have a choice to begin with?

The way LOTR responds to these questions is as Frodo sees it in Galadriel’s mirror – destruction to the Shire and everyone he loves if he doesn’t carry out his responsibility to destroy the ring. At the end of the film, Frodo considers his next steps and remembers Gandalf’s words and then sets forth, more determined than ever, to carry out his task. The concept seems simple in this light: Frodo has a choice between doing what’s right, even if it’s the harder thing to do, or being complacent or, at an extreme, doing “wrong” but losing out on something important and causing harm to himself and others. By choosing to do what has been set out for him, if it really is a choice, Frodo appears quite heroic to brave the unknown for a greater good.

But the complexity of the idea of fate/free-will in LOTR doesn’t end there because then there is the character of Gollum. If it weren’t for Gollum greedily tearing the ring off of Frodo’s finger at Mount Doom and then falling to his death along with the ring in the final part, what would become of LOTR’s happy ending? Was Gollum “meant” to do just that? After all, at one point of the series, Gandalf tells Frodo that Gollum will have an important purpose in the line of events, almost as if he foresees what Gollum will do. Yet, if decision and choice are factors, and if Gollum had a choice, what would have happened if he chose otherwise? It doesn’t seem likely that Frodo was going to throw the ring into Mount Doom once it finally came down to it so Gollum needed to be a part of the ring’s demise.

While I think this complicates Gandalf’s fate/free-will notion and leaves me still scratching my head, I can’t deny that his consolatory words to Frodo are beautifully-said and something worth thinking about. I also think it’s important that the entire context of the quote not be overlooked because it can can add some depth and added question into the conversation.

What are your thoughts on Gandalf’s iconic words in this scene? I’d love to know!

Thank you for stopping by today. Until next time, Happy Reading!


Side Note on the difference of this quote in the movie as opposed to the book (to make sure I cover all the bases!): The quote varies in context within the book and the movie, and, in today’s post, I mostly focused on the way it is presented in the movie. However, in the book, Gandalf speaks the “All you have to decide…” quote and then tells the story of how Gollum found the ring; It is not until a couple of pages later when he says,

“Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.”

From this, it seems more apparent in the book that there is belief in a higher force (such as God, perhaps) and knowing that Tolkien was a Catholic-Christian, this probably makes sense.

Gandalf also says of Gollum, “He is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end,” which gives a more obvious leading towards the fate aspect, but it’s also interesting how nobody knows what the result will be at this point, except perhaps, as is implied, the higher force.

Photo by Joshua on Unsplash

Movie Review: “Minari”

Hi, everyone! It’s been a while since I last posted and that’s because my husband and I recently moved into our new house! It’s been great, and we and the pets (aside from our dog, we also got a cat back in January) are really enjoying it. But with all the moving, settling in, and playing lots of “Stardew Valley” to unwind, the transition has really put a damper on my reading progress, so I haven’t really had much to write about.

Inspiration struck when, recently, my husband and I went to the movies and saw a wonderful film.

“Minari,” a film by Lee Isaac Chung is about a young Korean family who immigrates to the United States in search of better opportunities. The family, under the father Jacob Yi’s lead, become owners of land in Arkansas in his hopes of starting their own farm. They undergo numerous trials including adapting to a completely new lifestyle and culture but ultimately learn the vitality of love and each other in building their own version of the “American Dream.”

Movie Trailer for “Minari”

I don’t want to give any spoilers away because I would highly urge anyone to see “Minari.” From the magnificent acting to the haunting music score to the simple but beautiful plot, “Minari” is a movie that I would consider a “classic”, one that will withstand the tests of time.

And if you’re like me, take a box of tissues! The movie is not necessarily sad in a usual or expected way, but it stirred up a lot of emotion in me. Part of me thought about my own grandparents who brought my mom and her sisters from Mexico and worked hard here in America while another part of me thought about the human experience as a whole – there are so many hard-working people everywhere. I often forget what it takes to “survive” and the efforts that we all make to be happy and create home in this world – all things which I often take for granted.

If you have seen “Minari,” I’d love to know what you think. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you for stopping by today for this brief review of something not really book-related, but I just missed writing and loved this movie, so I wanted to share my thoughts. I have been reading almost a chapter a day of “1Q84” and I’m proud to say that I’m close to finishing it (Phew!) I have some other reading plans I hope to share in the near future. Until next time, I hope you are safe and well. Happy Reading (or Movie-Watching)! 🙂

Bookmark Thoughts: Book 2 of “1Q84”

Hello, fellow readers!

It’s been taking me a long time to get through Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84”, but now that I finished Book 2, and before heading into the final part of this very long novel, I’ll share my thoughts on Book 2 here today.

Synopsis of Book 2 (Spoilers Ahead)

In Book 2, Aomame undergoes the task of killing the Leader of a cult group who is believed to sexually assault young girls. Undercover as a physical therapist, she is hired to treat the Leader’s chronic pain, but when she finally meets the Leader, she learns that his story is much more complex than she thought. Not only does he reveal that he has secret powers (which she sees for herself) but he also claims that the young girls were not quite human at all and that he was under their control. He describes the Little People that are portrayed in Fuka-Eri’s book “Air Chrysallis” as real entities and also reveals that he is Fuka-Eri’s father.

Well aware that Aomame is there to kill him, Leader beckons her to do so because he is tired of his pain and of being under the control of the Little People as a “Receiver.” Before Aomame carries out her task, she learns from the Leader that, in this alternate universe of “1Q84,” she is to die and sacrifice her own life so her lifelong love, Tengo, can live. She realizes that she, Tengo, and Fuka-Eri all have an important role in this new world that they have entered (though she doesn’t understand how or why they are in 1Q84.)

On this same strange evening in the timeline of 1Q84, Fuka-Eri and Tengo have a moment of intimacy. The situation is much as the Leader described to Aomame – meaning Tengo’s body is controlled in a similar way to how the Leader’s has been. In this moment, Tengo has a vision of the time he and Aomame first touched hands. After this night, Aomame goes into hiding, and Tengo seeks her out since he realizes that he doesn’t want to live life without her anymore. One night, from the apartment she is hiding at, Aomame sees Tengo at a park across the street gazing up at the two moons. She rushes out after him, but he is no longer there.

Later, she returns to the spot on the highway where she first took an emergency exit in Book 1 to see if that will return her to the normal world of 1984, but the spot is no longer there. She is about to shoot herself with a hand pistol in desperation to get out of 1Q84, but at this same moment, Tengo encounters an air chrysallis much like the one described in the book, and, inside it, he sees a young Aomame and calls out her name.

My Thoughts

Book 2 started out strong: I enjoyed the suspense and thriller-like aspect of Aomame’s mission. I also appreciated her encounter with Leader which took a different turn than I expected. I didn’t think that he would actually want to be killed nor that he would indeed have supernatural powers.

The book got a little too weird for me when Fuka-Eri and Tengo have intercourse because Fuka-Eri is only 17, which would make this quite unethical. Pointedly, Tengo did not do anything on his own accord (his body was controlled as he is the new “receiver” and Fuka-Eri is a “perceiver” – still a bit lost on this aspect), and it is not quite a moment of “pleasure” for either character but more like a ritual in which they are communicating into Tengo’s memories with Aomame and in which Fuka-Eri gives him insight into these memories. Still, there are other ways that this connection between “receiver” and “perceiver” can play out, and I don’t know why the book had to resort to this specifically. In my eyes, this idea (including that of the Leader and his “shrine maidens”) is problematic in terms of each character’s agency among other things, and I wish it was handled differently.

In another light, there are some thought-provoking ideas that I liked in Book 2, including the idea of writing out one’s own story. Many of the things that start to happen are just as it is written in “Air Chrysallis” which we also finally get to know more about since Aomame ends up reading it. Delving into “Air Chrysallis” was a fascinating part of the book, as it gives insight into Fuka-Eri’s background and why she escaped from Sakigake. Aomame starts to have a realization that she is part of this book since she is in a similar world to that which is described in “Air Chrysallis”. This makes Tengo a character that can possibly be the “creator” of this world and all the main characters, including himself, are now in a book within a book (if that makes any sense).

This is an interesting turn, and it makes me wonder if Tengo’s writing also has the power to change events. Maybe Aomame does not have to die. Maybe Aomame and Tengo can actually meet and live happily ever after. It can possibly be up to however Tengo writes out the rest of the story.

Finally, what I also liked about Book 2 is the romance between Tengo and Aomame. They have not met yet (not since they were children), but the fact that they both know deep in their hearts that they love each other (and that they have always loved each other) can’t help but make me excited for how their love story will play out. I’m rooting for them in Book 3 – maybe love can beat all odds in the strange-fated world of 1Q84.


Thank you for stopping by today! The next plan is to finish the book and share my thoughts on everything as a whole. I hope you are safe (and warm!). Until next time, happy reading! 🙂

A “Words Wednesday” Comfort Poem: “Song of Myself”

Hello, readers!


I hope you are safe and well. On my end, life has been busy, and, frankly, kind of tough. I got through a big hurdle in my job yesterday which I was very relieved about, and I thought the rest of the week would glide by. But then today happened, and it was one of those unexpectedly rough days.

Besides turning to a helping of ice cream to soothe the stress, I couldn’t help but also feel like writing – something that I haven’t done in a while. The other night, I was looking at stamps (of all things) online. This is because a beautiful friend of mine asked if we can become pen pals. While we live in the same city, we haven’t been able to see each other due to the pandemic, so this is another extra creative way we can communicate with each other.

I was excited about this idea, especially when I received her letter which made me even somewhat emotional because I hadn’t received a piece of handwritten words like that in a while. As it’s now my turn to respond, I realized I didn’t have any stamps and even had to look up how to get stamps. I browsed the USPS website and had some fun poking around at the different kinds of stamps being sold (and the extensive descriptions of each is amazing!)

The Walt Whitman stamps in particular caught my eye. “I definitely want these!” I thought, until I realized they had the label “Three Ounce 95 cents” under the title and, after looking up what this means (which I still don’t quite understand), it turns out for my simple letter, I only need a “Forever” stamp – I could be wrong about this but that’s what I understood. Anyway, this is a long-winded deviation from my original intent to say that, for one, I miss the idea of letter-writing and am fascinated by it, and, secondly, these stamps reminded me about how much I admire Walt Whitman’s poetry, which I know I’ve talked about briefly here on the blog.

Today, I remembered one of my favorite parts of “Song of Myself”: Part 18. Whitman writes about honoring those who have failed. Funnily enough, the idea of “failure” has been one of my favorite themes in movies, literature, etc., ever since I myself have experienced feelings of failure a couple of years ago. Whitman’s words stood out to me when I first read them because he spoke kindly about failure. He didn’t say that failures are losers like the lies we tend to tell ourselves when we fail at something.

Instead, he “plays marches for conquer’d and slain persons” and praises “the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known.”


While Whitman writes about war, soldiers, and battles in this section, it can’t help but feel relevant to life as a whole, since life itself is a battle. Instead of only acknowledging the victors and those who “win” he writes, “I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.”

This is my comfort poem whenever the feeling of failure begins to creep up, words of healing that mend the soul and help remind me that it’s okay to mess up and for the day to not always be a victory.

Thank you for stopping by today – I feel like my posts lately have been sort of personal and not very bookish, so I look forward to getting back on track with book talk soon. I am so very close to being finished with Book 2 of “1Q84”, and plan to share my thoughts on it next time because I miss book-blogging! I hope you stay safe and well, and, until next time, Happy Reading! 🙂

Wednesday Thoughts: The Simplest of Words

Hi, fellow readers! Have you ever found yourself unexpectedly inspired by words that are displayed somewhere ordinary and unassuming? — For example, by words found on the back of a cereal box or even in the little piece of paper inside a fortune cookie?

I have been thinking about this question for a few weeks now because every time I drive home from work, there is this electronic billboard display (not entirely sure what to call it) from a local school district that displays quotes. While at times the quotes can be cheesy and the same ones we’ve all heard before, there are actually quite a variety of quotes that are unique and even truly inspirational. And they always seem to be just what I need to read at that moment.

One of the quotes that has been displayed is, “Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness” by poet Katherine Henson who I did not know about until I looked up the quote (and now I want to read her book of poems!). This quote as it was shown on the display immediately struck a chord. I’ve often been viewed by people as having a “soft heart”, and, while some see it as a plus, there have also been some who have seen it as a weakness. Of course, what people think shouldn’t matter or stop someone from being who he/she is, but it was nice to find some validation in this quote. In fact, it even gave me some courage as I read it thinking what a radical idea it is that having a soft heart can be strength and not weakness.

Another quote read, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday,” which is from Dale Carnegie (This, I also needed to look up). As I read this quote one afternoon, I practically laughed to myself thinking that this billboard caught me red-handed! It has a simple logic, the kind that is so matter-of-fact that it’s easy to overlook, but one that is also spot-on and a much needed reminder for worriers.

These are just a couple of quotes from this electronic display that have somehow made life more meaningful in a small way, and one of the numerous examples in life that reminds me that words are powerful in many forms and places. On a side note, I wonder who the person or group is that is choosing these quotes because I’d want to thank them for making my day that much better!

Have you been inspired by the simplest of words found in the most ordinary of places?

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you are safe and well! In the coming days, I look forward to sharing a review of Book 2 of “1Q84” with you all. 🙂

Happy Reading,

Tirza

A New Year of Goals and Books (and Book Goals)

Hello, fellow readers! The New Year is here, “and I don’t feel any different” – a playful nod to a song from my favorite band “Death Cab for Cutie” – and while I guess this is somewhat true, I have some “resolutions” for this year which makes it a little different for me since I never really make any resolutions.

But as I get older, I’ve learned that life is not always easy. Maybe setting some goals for the things I feel the most unsure about is a way to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and to face each day with a confident humility. I’ve asked for trusted people in my life to help keep me accountable for the following goals because I know that it’s hard to do it alone. Here’s what I hope to do this year:

  • to continue with my job of teaching and push through all the challenges I may face
  • to start a library science program and begin a path towards becoming a school librarian (however long this takes!)
  • to continue learning to be more comfortable with myself

Additionally, one of my resolutions is, of course, to read more! It’s a new year and new (somewhat) set of books I’d like to read. I’ve gathered some books that I would like to read this year, with some other little rules I’m creating for myself. This includes not limiting myself to these books but to read whatever catches my interest and not forcing myself to finish a book if I really don’t like it.

With that, here are some books I’d like to try reading this year:

Listed in order from left to right, starting with the top row.
  • “When Montezuma Met Cortes: The True Story of that Meeting that Changed History” by Matthew Restall
  • “The Essential Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux
  • “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” by Dr. Claire Weekes
  • “What is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life” by Mark Doty
  • Finish “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami
  • “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
  • Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” and “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”
  • “The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics” by C.S. Lewis

Some of these are a step into genres that are quite new to me like “When Montezuma Met Cortes” and the C.S. Lewis works. And some are inspired by interests of mine like “The Phantom of the Opera” and the book about Walt Whitman’s poetry. But all of them sound intriguing and like a great way to expand the library in my brain. 🙂

And you may notice that one of these was something I had on my Christmas wish list: the three-book collection by Agatha Christie! I’m so grateful to the friend who gifted me this for a Secret Santa gift exchange we had.

What I am Currently Reading

I’ve been digging into Book 2 of “1Q84” and loving every bit of it. I can’t wait to share my thoughts on the blog soon. Meanwhile I’m also slowly trudging through “Blood Meridian.”


Thank you for stopping by today! I hope you are safe and well.

Happy Reading,

Tirza

Bookmark Thoughts: “Blood Meridian”

Photo taken by my brother.

As we close out the year, I didn’t want to leave progress on my most recent book untouched. I haven’t been able to read as much as I hoped for because of spending time with family over the holidays, but I have read more-or-less the first half of Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” which I started reading in November, and will share my thoughts on the book so far today. 🙂

Currently, I’m on Chapter 9, and, up until this point, without giving away too much, the book has followed “the kid,” a nineteen-year-old boy who is journeying through south Texas and northern Mexico. At one point, the group of men he is travelling with is attacked by a violent tribe of Native Americans who kill almost everyone; After this, “the kid” ends up with a man named Sproule and eventually they end up with another group of men and continue traveling along the northern part of Mexico. “The kid” experiences different events along the way, including being witness to much violence and desolation.

My Thoughts

“Blood Meridian” has been a tough read. It’s not exactly a leisurely book – the kind that you can cuddle up and relax with – but one that really forces you to use your brain. While, of course, this is not a bad thing (my brain can use with some exercise!), it makes reading this book something that is more of an intentional action.

For one, it took a while for me to get used to the fact that McCarthy does not use quotation marks. This forces you to concentrate on who is talking and when. For another, there are lengthy but beautiful sentences that require me to re-read them to get the full effect (or partial effect) of their meaning. “The kid” is also constantly on the move, and so are the events of the book. In a matter of one page, he can be in a completely different location than the page before, which sometimes makes it a bit confusing. And finally, the book is very dark in its themes and plot. It’s been hard for me to read it even when I have the time because I have to consider whether I’m in the right mood and frame of mind for it.

While these are elements that definitely make this book a challenge, it is not without its great things. I’ve been pretty fascinated by some of the locations it mentions – some of which I’m actually familiar with since I live in the region of Texas that some of the book takes place in. This has caused me to do some research into some of the history of these places, and I can’t help but be in awe that these places are mentioned in a classic book such as this. The terrain that is described is also something that I can envision because of growing up in this part of Texas, which is neat, too.

Along these lines, I find it interesting to read something that takes place in Texas and Mexico (and the border) during the first half of the 19th century. McCarthy’s descriptions of the harsh land (and people) is interesting. The characters and people in the book have to put all their energy into surviving, not only the elements, but also from other groups of people. Death is everywhere in this book, and violence is around every corner. It has gotten me to think about how different times were back then and also about colonization in Texas and along the border, even causing me to veer off to question my parents (both who love Texas history) about the history of Texas that I ironically and sadly have never truly understood or cared to understand until the past couple of years.

“Blood Meridian” has also been great in the way that it has gems of sentences and phrases. One of my favorite quotes in the novel so far is found in Chapter 8. It is when the group enters a cantina in Janos, Mexico and listens to an old man who gives some profound and haunting dialogue:

“He looked up. Blood, he said. This country is give much blood. This Mexico. This is a thirsty country. The blood of a thousand Christs. Nothing.”

These lines gave me chills – especially when I think of the terrible circumstances that are taking place in Mexico today due to the war on drugs. It saddens me to think about how much the people of Mexico suffer due to the power that gangs and druglords have over everyone and the corruption in the country’s own government and police. It saddens me to think about how the beautiful people of Mexico have to live in a country, just across a mere river from where I grew up, where they can’t even feel safe. It really is a country that even now “gives much blood” and where many people sacrifice their lives like “a thousand Christs” as the old man in Chapter 8 says.

Overall, while “Blood Meridian” has been difficult to read – both in the way it is taxing on the brain and on the emotions – it has been worthwhile for the way in which McCarthy describes Texas and Mexico and brings to light the darkness and violence that mankind is capable of. It has also been fulfilling to experience and learn about McCarthy’s writing style which is dense but lovely.


On that note, I look forward to continuing this book (however long it takes me!), and, while I’m at it and long thereafter, to learning more about the history of my home and the people and places that surround it because this book has surely sparked that interest in its own way.

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you have a safe and happy New Year, and I’ll see you in 2021!

Happy Reading,
Tirza

A Sloth/Christmas-Inspired Story, Written by Me

Merry Christmas, dear readers! I hope everyone is having a restful and peaceful holiday season. Today, I’m doing something quite different. While I usually share on what I read (and occasionally on what I watch or even listen to), today’s the first time that I share on something I write! I’m a bit nervous but also excited as this has been a goal of mine for a while. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂


When I took a fiction workshop this past spring, it was one of the first times I experimented with fiction, and I really enjoyed it. Today, I thought I would share a revised version of one of the stories I wrote for that course, since the story is somewhat Christmas-inspired.

As a little bit of background for today’s piece, my family and friends like to playfully call me a “sloth” because I’m sort of slow in my actions. For example, I tend to be the one who lingers behind the group or the one who everyone is waiting for before heading out of the house.

Last Christmas, my parents gave me this sloth figurine pictured here. In my fiction course, we were prompted to write about an inanimate object and give it feelings and actions like a human would have. The story below is the result of my writing to that prompt, from inspiration based on this sloth figurine.

Isn’t it adorable?

I’m not a professional or experienced writer by any means, but I hope you enjoy!

And I wish a blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones. ❤


The Call of the Sloths

I am a sloth. But I was once only a mere imitation of a sloth. At 5 inches tall, I stand on the shelf of a bookcase that overlooks a family living room. Here, I get to see many things on a daily basis: the family going about their day, the T.V. always on to entertain a bored dog, this same dog chasing his tail in endless circles. Sheila is my baby sloth. She clings to me with her little sloth arms over my shoulder and together we simply stand and watch the fast-paced, uneventful life of an ordinary family.

Since I can first remember, we have always worn matching red and white striped scarves. I wear a Santa hat and Sheila wears earmuffs. All of this I learned from the mother human of the family who detailed every feature of our being to her friend over the phone, from whom I could hear a muffled, high-pitched “Awwww!” on the other end. The mother human has a sort of fascination with all things “sloth”: She has coffee mugs of sloths, a sloth throw blanket, and sloth knick-knacks – Sheila and I being one of them.

But don’t worry. I won’t bore you with an explanation of my life as a sloth figurine. Instead, I am going to tell you about one day in particular that changed everything I ever knew about myself and Sheila.

It was “the most wonderful time of the year,” according to the many commercials that played on the “Hallmark Channel” which the dog and Sheila and I were forced to watch while the humans were at work and school that day.

 On this particular evening, the mother and father humans and their two children set up the kitchen in preparation to make “gingerbread cookies.” The children danced and jumped around as they baked together as a family and sang Christmas carols. From our perch on the family room bookshelf, I could hear the clatter of dishes and the scent of something sweet and warm. Meanwhile, from a speaker somewhere rang the tune, “White Christmas,” sung by a deep-voiced man.

“Momma, I can’t wait for them to put out the cookies for Santa this year,” Sheila said from behind me. I felt the soft paws and the steely claws of my baby wrapped around my shoulders, and I longed for Sheila to experience something like the human children were experiencing. I longed to make Sheila happy.

That evening, after the mother human put her children to bed (and Sheila fell asleep on my back), she and the father human relaxed with a glass of wine on the reclining sofa beside the bookshelf, watching a channel called “Animal Planet.” They cozied up and tuned in to watch “All About Sloths.”

As a cheesy intro song played, a montage of cute, awkward-looking, hairy, tree-climbing, slow-moving creatures called “sloths” appeared. They didn’t look much different from Sheila and me, yet everything about them was so different. I stood entranced — not that I could really have been in any other position.

“Welcome to the Costa Rica sloth sanctuary!” a happy twenty-something-year-old girl wearing tan shorts and a blue polo shirt said to the camera.

“Today, Katrina and Linda are on a mission to teach the baby sloths an important lesson,” the narrator’s voice said over video footage of Katrina and Linda walking towards a tree with sloths hanging from the branches and others moving slowly down the trunk.

“Today, we’re going to potty-train the sloths,” the girl named Katrina chuckled. “It’s not exactly a very noble lesson, but it is crucial for them to know how to do this in the proper way.”

The scene transitioned to a little baby sloth, not much younger than my Sheila, at the base of a tree trunk, clasping the trunk in both of its arms, squatting, and moving side to side as it did what Linda commented on as, “The poo dance.”

The two humans on the couch giggled and looked at each other wide-eyed. “What? That’s crazy! I didn’t know they did that!” The mother human said to her husband.

Neither did I, I thought. I have never done a “poo dance,” nor have I ever felt the need to “poo.”

The episode continued, and Katrina and Linda explained the need to teach the baby sloths how to “poo” because they don’t have their mothers to teach them.

I thought about Sheila. I’m your mother, but I have never taught you this very important necessity. I glanced down in shame, but then my eyes were drawn back up towards the television.

The other woman with brown curly hair, Linda, held one of the sloths in her arms. It emitted a darling little “meep” sound from its mouth. I guess it cannot talk yet like my Sheila, I thought. Together, Linda and Katrina proceeded to feed the little sloth some leaves, and it ate slowly from their hands. The camera continued showing scenes of sloths as they climbed slowly across branches and gazed lovingly at viewers through the lens of the camera. For a brief moment, I felt as though I could see myself, and as though I could see my Sheila, both of whom I have actually never seen, gazing through the television, happily enjoying life in the rainforest sloth sanctuary of Costa Rica.

The show finished and the end credits scrolled up as the “All About Sloths” theme song played once more. The two humans got up, put their wine glasses in the sink, and dragged their feet to bed.

But I couldn’t sleep that night.

Who were these “sloths” that lived completely different lives from us? Why did they live in lush tree tops while we live on the shelf of a dusty bookcase, in front of some neglected encyclopedias? How come the baby sloths were learning something I have never taught Sheila? How can they move and we can’t? Yes, they move torturously slow, especially compared to the speedy humans who come in and out of the living room each day… but at least they can move.

Finally, I thought, what are we if we are not one of those things called “sloths”?

As the night continued, and my thoughts deepened to the rhythm of Sheila’s gentle snoring, I tried to think of all the ways we could live like them – the real sloths. I could hope that the dog takes us up in his mouth out onto the backyard and leaves us in the grass under a tree, I thought. But then what? Ooh I got it, I can hope that the human little girl will take us with her on her class field trip to the zoo! … But then what?

My options were becoming less and less reasonable, until I came to the most desperate and unreasonable one yet. What if I can move? For Pete’s sake, I could think, right?

I thought hard as I tried to lift my right leg planted in its ceramic base. To my astonishment, it lifted, not in a swift movement, but a painstakingly slow one. In fact, it took nearly ten minutes to move it even a millimeter. All this time… I thought. Sheila slowly began waking up. “Momma, what’s happening?” she grumbled. “We are becoming who we were always meant to be!” I exclaimed with excitement.

By the next two hours we stood in the center of the living room, just underneath the glass coffee table. We had taken a terrifying tumble straight from the shelf to the floor, but, thankfully, the floor is heavily carpeted and our fall resulted in nothing more than a quiet thud. One of the two hours alone was spent simply trying to get back on my feet – the other hour, making our way towards the front door.

Sheila and I held our breath as we passed the slumbering dog. But through the blinds of the living room windows, I caught sight of a light that was no cheerful boding for us at that moment. The sun began its routine of peeping through the gaps of the window blinds, and I heard the mother human in her fuzzy slippers, scuffling towards the living room.

“What are you doing down here?” she yawned as she picked Sheila and me up and placed us back on the bookshelf.

Sheila let out a sad sigh, “Momma, I’m sorry.” As the sounds of the mother human making coffee came through the living room from the kitchen and my emotions finally calmed down, I explained to Sheila who we really are. I could feel her face beaming from behind me. “I’m proud to be a sloth, Momma,” she said. “I am, too, Sweetie.”

And that is where we are now. Okay, you caught me. Nothing has really changed. But maybe you just wouldn’t understand. Yes, we may still be a ceramic figurine (technically), but we are sloths.

So what exactly was it about this day in particular that changed mine and Sheila’s life, you might wonder? I like to think it was the call of the sloths.