Thursday, June 29, 2006
This book killed my spirit. It took me two weeks to read. (Well, ok, I did take 2 days to read 12 Sharp.) I had to force myself to keep going. It became a chore. I didn't even want to read at night. I would distract myself with a skill I haven't exhibited since my "Cultural Geography" course freshman year in college. But I plodded on, sure, just sure, that it would all be worth it in the end. Positive that the meandering plot and wandering tangents would all be puposefully tied up in a satisfying package at the end. I am SO naive. But what a great title! Portman can certainly name things, whether they be books or bands (which play an amusing role in this book), with definitive panache.
Right. Basic plot. Sigh. I'm so unmotivated for this. Drudgery. (Snap out of it Jac...). Ok. Kid's father is dead - under suspicious circumstances (he kicked off awhile ago, so there isn't as much angst as mystery). Kid finds dad's old books which starts a whole conspiracy theory thing. Kid has developed elaborate schemes not to be beat up on at school (ok, those are kinda funny). Kid also happens to have a band. Which they rename about every week. That's the highlight. It was unsatisfying. To me. At the end it was: Here is the place where I learn a lesson. This is what I learned. blah, blah, blah. It was rather tongue-in-cheek, but it just really didn't do it for me. I wish it had. It totally derailed my reading quota. That, and I really HATE Catcher In the Rye, which is talked about endlessly. I read it one and a half times in high school. Even acknowledging that HS tends to kill most books (I don't do well with forced reading), I have no desire to relive that book.
I say! (do read that with the proper accent.) The best bits are at the end with the 'Bandography,' where you'll find a listing of the different names applied to the main character's band throughout the novel, and the glossary, where things are defined in their very own unique way. Read those, and you should be good.
Please note that there is a lot of messing around depicted in detail (though not graphic if we're splitting hairs). +14
Monday, June 26, 2006
I now realize that I have far too much of myself invested in the Harry Potter books. This startling revelation made itself known today when I read a series of articles where Rowling says that at least 2 (at least?!) characters will die in the final installment. I know to expect terrible things, but, you see, despite this, I'm still terribly anxious and afraid for those lovely faux people. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Harry didn't make it, and I bet Ron, Hermione & Ginney are safe, but then I've no basis for such conjecture.
Read here, here, and here.
Read here, here, and here.
Right. So it is a treatment that few titles get. I allowed 12 Sharp to jump ahead of 14 books. Christie offered to let me borrow her copy as long as I finished it by Saturday (3 days to read Evanovich? No problem). It was either that or wait for the 112 people ahead of me on the holds list. That, and who doesn't want to read that fun indulgent romp come summertime? It's bound to be way more fun that what I was reading (King Dork).
It's not stellar or anything. It's really not even noteworthy. But it was still fun, and I was glad to see those characters I love once again. Basic plot: Ranger's kid gets kidnapped by a maniac impersonator with surprising skills. The authority suspects Ranger, making Steph the one who has to help figure out what's going on, slash, be the bait. Which any reader of this series knows she excels at.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Back when I was a teen I loved reading historical disaster novels. I think that there was a series of them and I read every title I could get my hands on (then probably returned them late, I was a horrible patron even back then). I remember most distinctly the one set during the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 (6,000 dead). There were normally harmless objects killing people left and right and things that wouldn't normally scratch a fly impaled in walls and poles. It was very harrowing and there was always a romance wrapped up along with the adventure. I know at least one of those many titles were set in San Francisco six years later.
I've read many a historical novel depicting a young girl struggling against the confines of her society. This one is no different. Set over about 5 years surrounding the 1906 SF earthquake, Jessie Wainwright wants to be a doctor like her prominent father, but her family wants her to be the ornament society expects of a wealthy daughter. Nevermind her obvious capabilities. Add culture wars, adultery, adventure, heroism, intrigue, and of course, romance. Shake. Viola! Aftershocks by William Lavender. It might not circ a ton on its own, but rest assured, it is an easy sell. Know that the adultery bit is a tad shocking and dealt with head-on. Girls +12.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Ah, Benjamin Franklin. I'm not a big reader of the non-fiction, but for Ben Franklin... I didn't plan on reading this whole book. I just thought I'd browse through it, read a few anecdotes, be amused and informed and move on. Or it could suck me in with it's clever stories and slightly odd chronology. A Dangerous Engine is not, in fact an invention of Franklin's, it is the man himself as dubbed by random (and probably important) European (hey, I'm not ethnocentric!). It focuses primarily on Franklin's experimentations with electricity and how those findings placed him in a position unique among his colonial colleagues. Because of his scientific exploits, Franklin, before he was even aware of it, was an international celebrity. The respect he garnered from overseas made him the natural choice as the budding nation's de facto ambassador. That and he was a crazy clever dude. Can I have a crush on a old guy who's been dead for 200+ years? Whatever.
Bits that struck me as funny: "[In France] fashionable circles discussed scientific subjects in the evening when they met at fashionable homes; these gatherings were ruled by women, well educated, exquisitely dressed, and charming, for France was not England, where society was ruled by men of noble birth who excelled at shooting birds" (p 70) hee.
Also: "Madame Brillon was a talented musician and composer in her early thirties, married to a treasury official many years older; John Adams believed she was one of the most beautiful women in Paris. She called Franklin 'mon cher Papa,' ... As she told Franklin, 'People have the audacity to criticize my pleasant habit of sitting on your knee'" (p 152) !!! Yeah, Abigail Adams didn't so much like the woman (or Franklin).
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Monday, June 12, 2006
I read Nailed in one sitting. This said, that was a week ago and now that I'm ready to blog about it, I'm having difficulty remembering much more than thinking that it felt authentic. I'm going to pause now and try to come up with something better than that.
Right. Flint is famous among Michigander's as being a place that you leave (unless you're Michael Moore, and then only part-time). Patrick Jones apparently grew up there, but he went the popular way of Interstate 69. Nevertheless, his second novel is set in Flint. Bret isn't your typical good-student protagonist; he's reformed goth with long, green-streaked hair (when it isn't purple) and his relationship with his father, well, couldn't get worse. He lives for the theater and his band, but outside of drama class he doesn't care much for school. He learns that his father's adage "the nail that sticks out the farthest gets hammered the hardest" has merit when he quickly makes enemies with his sports coach English teacher and the bullish principal, not to mention enduring the typical everyday jock v. alt-teen conflict.
I liked this. Bret seemed real - he makes normal mistakes and acts like a teen, right down to moments of irrationality (not that you have to be 16 for that). He gets hurt, he acts out, he grows and takes charge of his life. It is a solid book. There's sex, language and clearly issues with authority, so it's for the higher-end reader.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Friday, June 09, 2006
I have never read Jane Austen. My mother tried to get me to read P&P, my Brit Lit 2 prof tried to get me to read Persuasion, another Lit prof tried with Sense & Sensibility. I know people who read her books over and over again. P&P is the favorite book of more people than I can count, and yet I STILL haven't read it. I'd get two chapters in and become completely irritated with the characters. Nobody can say or do anything that they actually want to do, leaving only frivolity for discussion. This was my impression - as a teen being coerced to reading. I never did well with forced reading. It rather takes all the fun away.
Straight A student, Alice, got a C+ on her Pride and Predjudice paper. Her teacher is giving her a chance to reread the book and write another paper over Christmas break. Alice sees the book, not as the comedy it is, but rather as an out-of-control tragedy. You see, she identifies with Mary - quiet, nerdy, socially inept, Mary. She hates the book, but she hates C+'s more. So she starts to read it again, but this time she's changing how it turns out for Mary.
This was actually a really sweet book. Very short. Named after the original title of Austen's novel, First Impressions follows along what I suspect (by my copious movie watching) is roughly the tract of P&P. Not having read the inspiration I can't give any in-depth analysis (yeah, like I do that) but I can say that it was a satisfying read. Very much a feel good book.
I'm ever more one plodding step closer to reading that demmed book.
Which Classic Female Literary Character Are You?
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Yeah, so what would YOU do if your boring parents turned out to be Supervillians and you saw them ritually sacrifice a homeless kid right in front of you? I'd high-tail it outta there. But I don't know if I'd have the guts to discover my latent superhero qualities and try to take my parents down, but that's what these seven aim to do.
Death, mayhem, destruction, hidden subtext, you know, your typical comic-book. Or not. Runaways, vol. 1. I don't really know what to say about this one. I loved it. Unequivocally. I read it while Sarah was here (I'm horribly behind with this posting thing) and she had to be here as I cackled my way through it. It's my new favorite graphic novel, and when I go to work tomorrow, I'm going to make sure we own whatever post-vol. 1 issues I can find. Age-wise it's actually not as old as that whole ritual sacrifice thing might lead you to believe. It's a minimum of blood and pretty much happens off-screen. The swearing is done in %&$^#@ symbols, so other than the whole disrespecting authority figures and advocating running away from evil people, there isn't a lot to object to. It can safely be given to 12+. You'll probably find a market even with non-comic readers.
Monday, June 05, 2006
I haven't read any Sharon Draper before. She seems to be a recurring name in the Coretta Scott King Awards, so when I needed an audiobook and Romiette and Julio was just lying about... The best thing I can say about this was that the plot idea was fantastic. Ok, yeah, Romeo & Juliet was updated with West Side Story, but here we had something set more recently than the, what, 1960's, and pivoting around the influence of gangs in today's schools. So the pressures from the families are far less, while the peer's has skyrocketed to dangerous heights. Romiette is African-American and Julio is Mexican-American. They fall in love, blah, blah (seriously blah) and whine and blather on, but their annoying true-love existence is threatened by the local gang who don't want Romiette dating a Latino. Threats ensue. And they escalate.
As stated previously, I listened to this one. I wonder if I could have tolerated the excessive buildup (some of the CHEESIEST dialogue EVER. Seriously. "Romiette you are my flower" - and that's just what I haven't blocked out - *gag*.) if I had my internal narrator rather than the one provided. I don't know, but I do know it took FAR too long for anything to happen. There was a nice, though predictable, arc and everything tied up nicely, however unsatisfing. I pondered quiting several times, but I really wanted to know what the gang was going to do.
I think I have faith that other titles by Draper are better than this one. Probably the ones with embossed stickers on them...
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Friday, June 02, 2006
100 pages. That's your penance before you are worthy enough to read this. That's not to say the first hundred are boring, 'cause they're not, it's simply that after all the set up it moves. Fast. It is most fun. The first in a trilogy (followed by Pretties and last month's conclusion Specials), Uglies is set in a dystopic future where at age 16 everyone undergoes extreme plastic surgery to become "Pretty" in the name of equality. The theory is that if everyone embodies the ideal of beauty all may live together in peace without jealousy, unlike the ancient "Rusties" who new nothing but hatred and war (we're the Rusties, people). Tally, our heroine, accidentally falls in with a renegade band of runaways who refuse to turn pretty. Then she learns that there is far more than beautification happening with the surgery she's looked forward to. It's totally social commentary about conforming, but I completely fell for that society. Meaning, as with all good science fiction, I can absolutely see its tract in today's society. This is also one of those books you can reccomend accross demographics. I'm just as comfortable giving this to a 12 year-old as a 17 year-old or even an adult. Of course, I don't know yet what the next two books brings. But I'm going to read them, so you'll know too.
You know what else I love about this book? The physical book itself. It's a great tactile experience. Just the right size and heft, it has a smoothness to the cover and flexibility to the binding that, well, is darn nice. And yes, I know I'm a dork.
For more Westerfeld, check out his blog (link to the right). The comments are slightly over run with inane teen-ness (that might be a hypocritical statement) which sometimes makes my head explode, but it's cool that they found that location to be themselves on. And Westerfeld himself is pretty funny. If you want to see the maybe/maybe not cover of Peeps upcoming companion novel The Last Days (it's awesome) go directly here.
Here's a funny story. When Buffy ended it was a big deal. Not to me. I didn't watch the show, or any of the other Whedon shows. But when it ended, it was all over the place. They were talking about it on NPR, for Pete's sake. Seriously. It was huge. It gained some cred to me once it made NPR, but whatever. Then, about a year later my Mom comes to me and says:
"You know, I've been thinking I'd like to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Does the library have the DVDs?"
"Uh...yeah. Wait, really?"
"I was thinking we could start over Christmas break"
And so it began. My Mom got me into all things Joss. We slammed through Buffy, taking only one annoying break where Mom ate too many almonds (while watching Buffy) which freaked out her pancreas and she had to get her gall bladder removed (clearly not sound medical logic, but I don't care, she made me wait three weeks before I could watch "Once More, With Feeling." I will forever blame the almonds.).
Anyway, after Buffy came Angel, then Firefly. Then Serenity. And that's were this short graphic novel (Serenity: Those Left Behind)comes in. It takes place between the end of Firefly and the beginning of Serenity. Now clearly, being one who owns both Firefly (awesome Christmas present, Ryan) and Serenity, I know those characters. I know exactly what's going on. It still rocked. One fight and I was right back into that world. Even the non-initiated would fair well. They might not know Dobson's (or anyone else's) back story, but they don't need to in order to understand the motives. The sparse language of the screen versions translated impeccably into the graphic novel. I'd love to see more of these.