Sunday, April 30, 2006

James, don't read this post

Ok, so I was not going to post tonight, especially at this hour as it would be tantamount to announcing that, yes, I'm still awake at 4:20 am, which will make my mother say something to me. However, tomorrow is the one day I don't have to work and I couldn't help it when my lack of somnolence led me to this site. I burst out laughing and probably awoke my neighbors due to the aforementioned thin walls. I had to share; I know most of you will appreciate it, if James, perhaps, will not. Sorry to point a finger at you, babe. I still love you and all your conservatism. Feel free to point back at me on your blog, but do try to be clever. ;)

On a note more of the faux milestone variety, in my dubious role of 'librarian in charge,' today I got to learn about biohazards when I had the opportunity to use the pathogen kit. (Please go back and read that last bit again if you didn't apply the appropriate tone of sarcasm the first time around.) One of the charming children chose, inadvertently I'm sure, to have a, well... massive... accident 10 minutes before close. Now, yes, I realize that urine is supposedly sterile, but that didn't make me feel less relieved when there were reassuringly thick blue disposable gloves in that amazing kit. It actually added a note of adventure in my mind - it instantly reminded me of the scary blue-gloved guys ("two by two, dressed in blue") from Firefly. Before people start with the outcry that I'm in public service and shouldn't complain - I'm not. Really. I didn't bat an eye. I knew that I was the one getting the 'big' bucks, the one nominally in charge, it was my responsibility. I was so glad it wasn't vomit or worse. I can't express how glad I was about that. Oh, and that powder stuff you sprinkle is totally amazing! It'll suck up ANYTHING. (one more amazing and I qualify for Tom Cruise status, blech.) I was also very grateful to Rachel who stayed late with me to help clean it up.

As it is now later than 4:20 am, I shall attempt for sleep.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The most dreaded place on Earth.

We've seen the results of Gossip Girls in teen lit in the past couple years with trashy and at times risque books that read quick and sell well. This book is, I'm sure, entirely in debt to that trend. It is however of sufficient quality that it does rise to the top of the group. I must admit that I don't read this kind of stuff. I normally figure that I know what it is and who would be interested in it, and I'd rather save my time for something with a little more, er... depth (Usually). However, when my boss snagged me an ARC at PLA (for the 5 people who read this and aren't librarians, that's an Advanced Reader's Copy at the Public Libraries Association conference, remember that, 'cause if I've cause to refer to it again I'm not typing it all out), I couldn't help but read it. Who doesn't feel cool reading what the general public can't yet get? (I won't say anything about the books I really wanted. I was lucky to get what I did!) Naturally, I waited until the last possible moment to read it, as it is released on Tuesday.

As I said, I suspect this is a little better than it's compatriots. Basic summary: There's a new boy at a fancy prep school for the rich who's mind, unbeknownst to him, has somehow gained an eavesdropper. Reluctant to reveal her identity, she's witness to every thought, emotion, and experience Gideon encounters, and narrates it all with an appealing pithy, sarcastic voice. Oh, and did I say anything about the bet? For fans of GG, A-List, etc. (Though, if you are REALLY clever, you might be able to get a guy to read it - it is mostly from a guy's POV).

Admit it, you still Love Queen.

Way back when, in the days that I belonged to one of those mail order book clubs (we're talking junior high/high school, which is weird 'cause those things were totally for adults. I had such a liberal mom, which I didn't get at the time - we're talking sanctioned co-ed sleepovers, here. Shocking, I know!), I would see the summaries for the latest Discworld book by Terry Pratchett. I always wanted to read those, but I was utterly intimidated by the sheer quantity, not to mention the lack of a clear linear order in which to read (my downfall with the Pern novels as well, I read them until I could no longer quickly figure out which events took place first). Yes, I'm obsessed with chronology. Everyone knows that by now (what you don't know is my need for symmetry - and why has this blog devolved into Jackie is crazy?). Right.

While trolling the best selling teen book list on B&N and Amazon, I came across this title, thinking, Hey! New book unrelated to Discworld! Perfect intro to Pratchett! If I really like it, maybe it will inspire me to figure out that order! Turns out this is just now being remarketed to teens and was actually published back in the long ago days of the early 90's. Which I discovered on the CIP (because I'm a good librarian and always read that page. Psychotically.) I had read American Gods by Gaiman and thought "...That was interesting." I know that I found it more interesting than I would have had I read it a few years prior when I knew less about mythology. Speaking of the CIP habit, I was rewarded this time with the Caveat (and who doesn't love that word) located on that page. "Kids! Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your own home." And that about sums up the book (get it? your own home! heh heh). At times I thought it was just a tad confusing, and it took me too long to read, and while it was a smidge predictable (when not confusing) it was wholly amusing, at times edging on hysterical. Very tongue in cheek and slyly funny. The ongoing gags like all tapes kept in the lead demons car longer than 2 weeks turn into Queen, are very funny the first 3 times, but after that, well, you start to express the same frustration he does. Perhaps it was more clever than I initally thought. Anyway, Since they've published The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky aimed at teens, this is a good step into the more complicated (and dark) Gaiman. +14

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I turns out ceramics should be labeled some sort of contact sport. On Tuesday (oh, so long ago), I managed to get a handle on the whole 'there's clay going in circles in front of you - you are better than the clay, don't let it defeat you' issue. I might not be better than the clay, but I think that we have reached a bit of an agreement, so we're on rather equal footing for the moment. However, now the stupid wheel is jealous and took it out on my hand. It's like Xtreme rug burn. Layers of skin were so slowly removed that I didn't notice until afterwards when the clay (parts of which had become remarkably leprosy-like as it dried on various locations) had been cleaned up. Sure enough, by the next day it was bright pink, by Thursday it had a striking resemblence to the attached photo. I probably will handbuild rather than throw this week so I don't aggravate whatever healing is still going on. So there's the injury watch. On the bright side, I managed to throw two items. One which most likely will turn into a bowl of some sort; the other's best hope is as pencil holder. I was aiming for vases.

I was at a library conference Wednesday through Friday. I had brought my beautiful laptop with me, but was unwilling to pay the RIDICULOUS price of $9.99 for one days access to the hotel's Wi-Fi, and thus had to content myself with the public access laptops for attendees. Needless to say, that didn't inspire me to much communication whilst away. Sorry. It's so invigorating to go to those things. Until you just get tired. I kept expecting to see people I know, forgetting momentarily that I wasn't in Michigan, where I would run into people I know at such a conference. It does lead me to admitting that I constantly see people who, for just a split second, make me think that they are people from home. So either, everyone out here is a clone, or I just miss all of you enough to put your characteristics on complete strangers. Although, crazy is always a possibility.

Pat an I were able to catch the standby flight on the way home, thus arriving two hours early (yea!). This meant I got home early enough to hear my upstairs neighbors have sex. Yep. I flirted with the idea of taping a note to their door saying, "Please move bed six inches away from wall, and try not to scream so much. Thank you, your Neighbor." I didn't but, you'd better believe I will next time. I won't be like James and the airhorn. ;)

OH - Rachel E. and I have brought our Twilight obsession to a sad, yet comical point (you are SO not alone, Kristy). We each spent an obscene amount of time on the MySpace account where readers pose questions to Stephenie Meyer and occasionally she comes along and answers those questions. She even posted another excerpt there. Also, if you haven't noticed, they have released the cover of New Moon with a teaser blurb.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Review Monday!

I've been reading a disconcerting amount of bad and mediocre books recently. I don't know why. I haven't hit a book that I can get all worked up about in months. I expect that will change with spring publishing, but my library is always just a little behind (I have nothing to do with ordering, sadly). That said, I did actually like this book, quite a lot. In fact, I gave my copy away before I even checked it in. With a cover rather similar to Geography last week (although 13 was published first), it's a standard girl-finding-herself plot. When Ginny gets a package from her dead aunt with $1,000 and instructions to buy a backpack and head to London, it sets off a series of adventures that culminate in self-discovery. Like you were expecting something else. It was a tad predictable, but wholly enjoyable, so it was forgiven. Clearly an easy sell for girls, 12+

By the way, if you've read something Fabulous recently, do recommend it!

Let's give it a name...How about...

I feel like Henry Garfield was just lazy. And his editor(s?, I haven't a clue) even more so. First of all, it jumps around POVs for the first half, all of which is set-up, before settling on Danny, the werewolf's son (which, considering the title, you'd have thought it would have started out that way, well, at least if you are me, you would think that) for the second half. Secondly, there is an entire character, Carlton, who gets to offer his point of view, before disappearing completely from the book, without explanation, you literally NEVER HEAR FROM/OF HIM AGAIN. You'd think that they'd at least throw a conciliatory sentence like "he got scared and hightailed it out of town, never to be seen/heard from again." (or are we falling into that whole what I think and what's "real" problem again) Anyway, there's a whole lotta rather boring setup that could have used either some editing or some punching up before it gets kinda interesting. It's A WEREWOLF book for Pete's sake! It shouldn't be boring! Ah well, the whole climax section was pretty good, but you really had to earn it by reading what came before. Sigh. Boys, +12.

We Seem to Have a Trend!

I'm a sucker for ship novels. I think that it all started with The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle in sixth grade. I don't know why. I mean, it must have been unsufferably boring, being on a ship, that is. Even now. What is there to look at, to see? You'd better have good company, 'cause if it's bad, there's no end of difficulty - as is the case in Charlotte Doyle and Powder Monkey. Having set out to sea in a merchant ship, 13-year-old Sam is soon pressed into service onto the British Frigate Miranda (being pressed is far more amusing in Under the Jolly Roger). You see, it's 1800 and Britain is fighting France (demmed Napoleon with his whole post French Revolution need for an Empire) and they need as many bodies (no matter how willing) to catch gunshot, cannon shot and chain shot (often leading to a death most bloody) as possible. Anyway, it is in this fun & games atmosphere that dear old Sam is dropped into. He doesn't want to be there, and there are some pretty belligerent jerks with ropes who are only too happy to beat him up. Oh, and there's that pesky war what with the fighting and the death. Noteworthy detail: they sprinkle sand on the decks before a fight so the floor doesn't become slippery when all that messy blood is spilt; might have known it before, will certainly remember it now.

There is one thing that sets this ship novel apart from most of the others that I've read. Sam is just a normal boy, who, at least on some level wanted to work on a ship. He doesn't have any extraordinary cleverness that allows him to one-up the bullies and the authority. He's just a boy stuck in a bad situation trying to muddle through. He's not really a hero at the end (despite what the stupid jacket flap says), but he has grown, and will probably have a few more adventures. If you think that the kid will go on to read Patrick O'Brian and Bernard Cornwell, or if they just like this kind of book, go for it. I might not make this the first introduction to the genre, as the aforementioned Avi title, the Bloody Jack series and Slave Dancer are all stronger, in their own ways (and some, eras).

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Who needs a kiln?

So I've come to realize that I'm a danger to humanity. I was making dinner last night (chicken salad with pecans, dried cranberries, and since I was out of celery *gasp* (forgot I had used it all for the homemade tomato soup I made on Sunday - yum) I blanched some asparagus and cut it up - it was very good) and I thought that I'd toast the French bread under the broiler. It was good, thick French bread and I knew that if I broiled it the bread would have a nice crunchy outside and remain soft and warm on the inside. So I put a little butter on it and slid it under the coils, as I've done so many times (I like my sandwiches with melted cheese). I walked away to make replies to the IM conversations I was carrying on with Matt and James. Seriously, maybe two or three minutes I was gone, I swear. I head back to the kitchen, open up the oven, and my bread is in flames! Sincere, flapping flames, licking the broiler, lighting up the entire oven flames. I grab the nearest towel and attempt to pull the blazing mass out of the oven without setting myself on fire. I actually manage to do this and swiftly turn around and stick it under the faucet. Well, as it turns out the little butter daubed on prior, means that this was partially a grease fire. Yes, water made the conflagration just a little more angry. At this point I dropped the plate, swearing. Eventually the bread soaked through from the bottom up and the blaze went out. I just turned the oven off and walked away.

In slightly less dangerous news, I attended my first ceramics class. Yet again my attempt at friend-making has been in vain. There are two girls in high school and six-ish women at least twice my age. Which is fine, I was just hoping to meet people my age. Oh, and also, I suck at ceramics. Yes, I know it was my first time, blah, blah, blah. But really, I mean it. I suck at ceramics; I'm simply being honest here. All the other students were able to make their little pile of clay into a cone and then back into a mound smoothly. I struggle to make it into the cone, then the top half of the cone breaks off into my hands, or the whole 'demmed' thing parts from the wheel. And I've never been so dirty in my life. I just kept repeating, "It's clean dirt, It's clean dirt." Marginally, I suppose. There was clay layered so heavily on my hands that it would eventually fall off from its own weight. I was covered up to my elbows. I noticed today that I had apparently sat in clay and it was caked into the seat of my jeans. It was fun. However, to those of you I promised art: Don't hold your breath.


When your SUV is so freakin' big it sounds like the delivery truck I'm waiting for, it's too big. Go buy a Prius, you selfish gas-guzzling jerk.

I now know why fate dictated me to read Mismatch. Yesterday a kid came in asking for books on the Japanese occupation of China. Weird.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Was that an Anvil that just fell out of the sky?

*mutter*stupid didactic drivel*muttermutter* Oh, sorry about that. While this Romeo and Juliet plot has potential with it's "Her Grandma suffered in occupied China and therefore hates all Japanese and His Dad went to Beijing and it was dirty and the old people don't like the Japanese because they occupied China during WWII and because of that were mean to him on his business trip and now he thinks all Chinese are dirty and backwards, oh, however will they break it to their families that they are dating" melodrama, it mostly falls flat as it's buried beneath lessons about ethnic stereotypes. Our thwarted couple, Andy and Sue (he's Japanese-American, she's Chinese-American, in case you didn't catch that), are in 11th grade, and the book is marketed for teens, but it really is written for the interest level of about 5th-7th grade. Rather low in sophistication. It's a pity really, she could have done a lot more with the story.

While it ends without the poison and daggers, I rather wished it hadn't, or at least that it hit me in the head with an actual brick - it would be less painful.

Don't give it to anyone unless you are REALLY hurting for Asian-American experience books. Which, is probably why this was published. I had to force myself to finish it.

It's as Fun as Pink and Green!

I picked this up simply because I thought that the cover rocked without realizing that it's that James Howe (dude, who didn't totally love Bunnicula when you were a kid - wait, maybe that's why I have to read/watch all that vampire (only vamps with humor please, all that serious crap annoys me) stuff - I can blame it on James Howe! Or my mom, who gave me the book...) , or that it is getting a healthy dose of literary praise (not that that sways me, see that last post)(Wow, that was a lot of 'that's!). If you've read The Misfits (I haven't) you'll recognize our protagonist and his friends. Joe believes himself to be a "total original." When his English teacher assigns an 'alphabiography' to be written over the course of most of the year, each chapter culminating in a life lesson, Joe takes it on in the most honest fashion, pouring out his heart - even thoughts he wouldn't dare share with anyone else, until, partially through the support of friends and some family, he gains the courage.

This is an utterly CHARMING book. It is funny and sweet and not the more common angst-ridden gay fiction fare offered by the likes of Brent Hartinger or Julie Peters (not that there is anything wrong with those books, they are often very good, it's just nice to see the lighter side of coming-out fiction once in a while). This isn't to say that Howe avoids the serious issues that gay teens have to deal with, he just does it in a less dark and tragic manner. Anyone, it's a really enjoyable book.

This ends my parenthetical-ridden post. Sorry for the confusion.

Where's the #%*@ Compass?

Despite having an intriguing cover that captures a dash of poignancy, and despite having luminous praise from the likes of Sarah Dessen, Ann Martin, Sonya Sones and, curiously, Julia Stiles, The Geography of Girlhood by Kristen Smith lacks, in my opinion, balance or any clear navigation. Two years of a teenage girl's life is loosely listed within, in the terribly trendy prose poetry/novel in poems format. The author deals with the emotions of Penny from an arms-length, an unusual feat as, in my experience, emotions should be all the closer from that poetry format. I never really connected with Penny. I didn't really even feel for her when her acting debut COMPLETELY flopped (how mortifying) because Penny didn't really even care, although not caring about what others think wasn't really characteristic of her, or any other 9th grader. And why didn't Smith delve in to the often mined and always effective by-golly-there's-no-mother issue?

I didn't realize it until after I read the entire book, but Kristen Smith is apparently the cowriter of the movies Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Ella Enchanted. This perhaps explains Julia Stiles, as well as being a good indication of the quality of the book itself - at times reflecting the brilliance of 10 Things, at others moments reflecting the utter horridness of Ella Enchanted, with a whole lot of the not-terribly-offensive of Legally Blond. But, like I said, this is just my opinion - feel free to read it and comment away (even if you don't get to it for another few months). Girls (obviously) 12+.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Photo Album

Pictures of my apartment.

The Delightful Deck (hint: tilt your head to the left!)

Living Room from Kitchen.

Kitchen from dining/sitting room.

Living room from entry (you can see how the sitting/dining connects).

Sitting/Dining from kitchen.

I do have a bedroom and bathroom, and even a hallway, but as the bedroom doesn't have much furniture and the rest are just boring (assuming the others aren't, which of course they are) I didn't feel compelled to add them.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tha-thump, tha-thump

I feel that to truly appreciate this short, quick novel is to reread it. I'm not going to do that, so you'll have to do with my possibly short-sighted review. Beating Heart is a ghost story in a semi-traditional fashion, in that it is a life unresolved. It's fresh in that there is another life that, while truly being haunted, is largely unaware of that fact. Unusual in that it is a ghost story that is not scary.

Our Ghost tells her story in first person verse; Evan in third person limited prose. Each fits its respective character. The Ghost's POV is, I think, enhanced because of the stylization. It lends itself to a more unformed, ethereal quality. This is a book of language, love, and innocence to the point of naivete, appropriate for the youth of our characters. I empathize with Ghost and girlfriend. The experience lends Even to admit truths to himself; he doesn't know why he's suddenly come to the conclusions he has, but he does recognize what rings true, to him and to us. A very frank portrayal of the 17 year-old boy mind. Well, at least as a 25-year-old girl (me) believes it is. ;) 15+, there's sex, touches on some of the emotional issues with that.


It is a good thing that I didn't realize that Chris Lynch was the author of Freewill before reading Inexcusable, as the former is in an inconclusive race with Planet Janet to be the WORST teen book ever, or at least most hated in propria persona. Had I remembered this, it is entirely likely that I never would have read this NBA finalist. Which would have been sad. Not because I liked Inexcusable, as it isn't a book a normal person would exactly like. Rather, it is an interesting exercise. Take the inexcusable crime of rape and tell the story of the unreliable perpetrator of the crime. See it through his eyes and POV.

This is the first author in my immediate memory who uses the unreliable narrator as more than just a gimmick - more than just a device to conceal information from the reader. Lynch's Keir (can I say how much this name annoys me? especially since his sisters were named Mary and Fran) is himself completely unable to see facts that he doesn't want to see. It is not that the author is misleading us; Keir denies reality in favor of rose glasses and thus creates a dangerous perception - since Keir is misleading himself, he cannot help but mislead us. Although he is a very troubled young man, one still can not find much empathy for him, as he has become the worst kind of bully - he really has no idea what he is doing. He believes that he is a "good guy" and that if certain actions would not be done by a good guy, then he couldn't possibly be guilty. A fatal step in logic. It was not a fun read. But it was intriguing and it was nice to get back to Teen Reads after such a long, uncharacteristic absence.

Misguided Read (otherwise known as Jac screwed up again)

I read this SOLELY because Kip raved about Mary Jane vol. 2. My need for chronology lead me to this book. Yeah. This is an entirely different series of Mary Jane/Spiderman comic/graphic novel thingamajigs than what Kip was talking about. It was distracting, but not engrossing. Nor was it what I had intended to read. Sigh. At least it only took 20 minutes. I'll have to ask that Kip's recommendation gets purchased. Then I'll wait and wait. Sigh. This is a light, fluffy comic meant for girls who don't read the genre. It wasn't God-awful or anything, but it wasn't good either. As I said earlier, distracting would be the best adjective.

UPDATE: Well, it actually turns out that I read what I was supposed to read, but just got confused. Not atypical for me. Still doesn't make me like them more. It's not that I DIDN'T like them, I just didn't think that it was anything real special. Sorry, Kip. I still think you Rock, if that's any consolation. And, I'll still read things you recommend!

"That demmed, elusive Pimpernel"

I will confess to having intended to read this for about, oh, five years or so. I will also confess to the sole reason for my reading intentions. I really liked the musical. Really. More than Rent. More than Les Miz. So much that when it came to town I saw it twice in one week. Had time permitted, I would have seen it three times. Yes, my desire to read this is entirely shallow and teen-like. Of course, for all the Austen fans out there, this bodes well, as my love of the new P&P movie is about the only thing that might convince me to pick up the book, despite my to-date inherent hate for Austen.

I was, therefore, very much amused to find actual lyrics within the text. However, you want to know what it was I read. Not more about my silly obsession with the musical...

1792. Madame la Guillotine is madly chopping away at the heads of the French aristocracy in the height of the French Revolution. Confounding the Reign of Terror is the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel whose mysterious nature resides with his ability to evade the most stringent security, rescue the doomed, and slip his calling card to the person of import, notifying him that the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel were at work.

No one but the merry band knows the identity of the meddlesome hero - unless of course, you've seen the musical. This creates fear and rampant superstition on the French side of the channel; great curiosity and speculation on the English side. Will he be unmasked? Will Lady Marguerite betray one to save another? Will our hero escape from the insidious Chauvelin?

I suppose that I was predisposed to either love this or hate it, but in all honesty, of the classics that I've enjoyed, this fits right in. It's adventure and romance. Miscommunication and misleading literature at it's finest. Even knowing the identity of the Pimpernel (and I suspect that it wouldn't be too hard to figure out, even if you didn't know going in) I was still turning the pages quickly to see exactly HOW it would all play out. I think that, eventually, I shall read the rest of the series. This was great fun. I may have to dig up one or five of the movie versions...

Parody oh Parody!

I've once again gotten terribly behind on my literature (well, if you can call what I read literature) postings. Here is the beginning of an absolute glut.

This is a terrible, terrible book. Exactly as intended. If you read Nancy Drew or any of her counterparts in the teen mystery genre, or, especially if you hated that genre, you'll find this book rather amusing. The most scratchy of wool has been pulled over the world's eyes! Nancy Drew the famous teen sleuth is real! Carolyn Keene was the jealous college roommate who stole name and persona for her own misguided revenge. Ned Nickerson was not the love of Nancy's life - what she loved about him was that she often needed to rescue him. Inside you'll find the life and cases of the REAL Nancy Drew, teen sleuth.

It is the perfect parody. Even so much as it is formulaic and annoying after the first 50 pages, although really, rather clever.