Monday, July 30, 2007

We now return you to your regularly scheduled (sporadic) blogging.

This was it. This was the book that finally dispelled the doldrums. It made me laugh out loud (Although by now you must realize that I laugh easily and often and probably my amusement is less of a compliment than if it were made by a more dour blogger. But who likes a dour blogger?) and held me rapt and allowed me to at last move on from the wizard boy.

The first laugh came from the dedication page: Hale dedicated it to Colin Firth. It only got better. You see, Jane is obsessed with Pride & Prejudice. More specifically, Jane is obsessed with Mr. Darcy, and that fictional romance to which no reality can compare. She's ashamed of her P&P compulsion, and thus hides her DVDs behind a plant. A crafty (and rich) great-aunt discovers this and knows instantly what it means.

Then Aunt Carolyn dies and in her will leaves Jane a non-refundable 3-week vacation at a mysterious resort called Austenland. It's a place where your Regency dreams can come true. Like like Manor House ('cept that MH was Edwardian...but what's a 100 years between analogies?). Including the corset. Immersed in the world she so desired, Jane hopes to kick the P&P habit for good, and start living her own life.

My one regret is that the aunt had to die to give Jane her vacation. She was a great character, and I would have loved to see her brutally honest (and rather hilarious) insight. Of course, if it wasn't Aunt Carolyn's dying wish, Jane may well have not gone. This was adorable and immensely fun. It made me happy. Hale did a great job of honoring her inspiration. Even I, the sole girl on the universe who's not read P&P, could tell.

I'm ashamed to say that I've only read this and The Princess Academy by Hale. I've got this idea that she's a comfort read, and every time I want one of those, I wander over to the shelf. The Goose Girl is ALWAYS (I'm not kidding) checked out. And now I know why: A mom waiting for her daughter overheard me telling a colleague about Austenland and remarked on how much she loves Shannon Hale and how The Goose Girl is the best book she's ever read. This is the mom! I love that! So, I guess the adults have discovered Hale from their daughters, and that's why I never get to read it! (In a similar phenomenon, I think the adults have latched onto A Northern Light, too. I know I've given it to many.) ALSO, I'm now DYING to read Book of a Thousand Days, but it doesn't come out until September. Sigh.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In a move that represents a longing for more Potter...

Harry Potter is over. There are no more books. In the gaping hole that leaves in my heart, a hole felt most acutely on Monday when I finished Deathly Hallows, I was at a loss as to what to do next. Days later, I'm still processing all that happened, still talking about the events of the novel, still feeling tears well upon the discussion of the demise and triumphs of certain characters. But this girl's still got to read. I wanted to just start over and read it again, but I promised to loan my copy to a co-worker, and I couldn't withhold Harry Potter. That's just mean. BUT WHAT TO READ NEXT? What can possibly compare? What can shine through the shadow that Harry casts? It's hardly fair to the next book. I found myself in a quandary.

The deciding factor? A want to hold onto the magic of Harry Potter just a little longer, the fact I kept giving this book to kids and hadn't read it, and a wait list on the copy I'd finally gotten of The Lightning Thief. On the surface they do share striking similarities - a young boy suddenly finds out that the world he thought he knew is a far different place, and he, himself, will play a very important part in its future because of powers he never realized he had. And then he'll go to a place when others like him learn to hone their craft before setting out on an adventure he alone (with the help of a couple friends; one very smart girl and a boy who is helpful, if slightly accident prone) can succeed at. Did I mention there's a three headed dog? Or that this is the first in a series? Yep. Sounds like Harry Potter.

However, since Riordan has centered his tale around the idea that the Greek Gods of yore are still going strong and affecting the lives of mortals. What boy (or girl) in Percy Jackson's situation wouldn't want to suddenly find out that their absent father is a Greek God, that his dyslexia is because he's hardwired to read Ancient Greek and his ADHD is actually something that will keep him alive on a battlefield? That after all this time as a social outcast, after all the school expulsions, Percy has finally found a place to fit in. Even if he is just a bit more important than the other kids. Not that our dear hero realizes this, of course. I love that Percy's got dyslexia and ADHD. It just SCREAMS to be read aloud in a classroom. Right alongside a unit in mythology. It's funny and the kids will be enthralled from the first page.

It's also very plot driven and readable, if largely predictable to anyone who learned any mythology in high school (ok, it was largely predictable to me based on my Honors English 9 coursework, but now, because of Riordan, I've finally got the difference between Charon and Chiron DOWN. Woo! Always something to learn!), and fits perfectly with the typical mythology hero quest format. That's set in modern day, for just a bit more fun.

But, since I'm like the last person to read this book, you already know all this!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


So I'm curious as to what everyone has chosen to read AFTER Deathly Hallows. What world did you visit next? Something completely different? Another fantasy? Did you take a break from reading? Watch a movie? Start re-reading?

I'll post a review of the book I chose Thursday night.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

No Spoilers, I promise

There's really no point in reviewing this one, so instead you're getting my reactions as I read it. I don't know why you'd want to know, but all the same.

p 41: hahaha
p 51: Ah, Fred & George, you are so funny!
p 55: oh god
p 63: aw man, so soon?
p 67: well this is certainly moving quickly
p 69: oh no
p 74: hahahaha
p 78: sigh
p 86: When was the last time Hermione's parents saw her? Like, two books ago?
mmm jello break
p 92: saggy left, what?
p 97: huh. well I guess that answers that question.
p 103: oh that's interesting.
p 111: aha! knew that would have to turn up.
p 115: the mortification is hilarious
p 119: Ron, you are such a dork.
p 139: I'm going with candyfloss = cotton candy
p 162: "...and I had them all stacked by subject" giggle
p 187: "always pure" of course
p 221: oh, that's awesome
p 225: yay!
p 240: that's a bad sign
p 268: What's happening?!
p 269: oh my god
p 277: billycan?
p 282: can't be...
must sleep
p 302: "Your tone displeases me!" lol, I bet.
p 307: uh oh
p 315: resist, you morons, DO something!
p 337: not who I thought it was, far more interesting!
p 340: not fair
p 344: why didn't she just apparate?
p 349: well, that's a wrinkle
p 353: wrong again! I suck at this.
p 366: that seems like a bad idea.
p 378: *sob*
p 387: aw
p 390: I'm going with Ginny. Not that I've any reason to.
p 396: adorable. just adorable.
p 425: break her out
p 431: well, duh
p 434: she does like double meanings...
p 442: "It would tend to" lol
p 444: that was fantastic!
p 445: crap crap crap
p 463: not good
p 465: scary...
p 469: my heart is pounding
p 471: oh. well that's...
p 476: No! nonono
p 501: "the manner of taking matters."
Sunday phone break
p 514: *squee* yay!
p 543: well that was an adventure
p 554: too many ''and''s
p 557: could it be! could it be!
p 560: yeah, hunger equates stupidity in most boys I've known...
p 569: nobility. It makes for good speeches.
p 570: woohoo!
p 571: aw he's so brave and faithful!
p 576: break for laughter
p 578: *shakes head*
p 595: Yeah, you are!
p 600: cackle
p 602: "You blithering idiot!"
p 606: YAY!
p 609: done a bunk?
p 623: So casual in light of such danger...
p 625: !!!!!!!!!!!!!
p 632: moron
p 636: It's like the Buffy finale all over again.
p 637: sad sad sad. Is that enough death now? pretty please?
p 639: I think I'm in shock. It's been two pages, and I keep getting sadder.
p 642: this is giving me heartburn
p 645: giggle
p 646: HAHA!
p 647: oh drat this won't be good...
p 647: oi, forgot about them...
p 651: haha just like in the first book, but turned around!
p 652: trust...
p 656: huh. I didn't expect that.
p 657: is that...
p 661: You've GOT to be kidding me.
p 679: well that was an off-handed remark.
p 681: yes
p 686: not good. not good. not good.
p 689: god that's sad
p 692: this sucks
p 698: i feel sick
p 701: i hate this book
I can't take this anymore. I have to stop. I'll finish it in the morning.
Ok. I'm scared to finish it. I don't know what's going to happen, and I fear that I'm not going to like it. And I really want to like it. I keep putting off picking it up again. But I have to. I need to find out for myself, no matter how frightened I am of what's going to happen, and the fact that there's nothing more after. Maybe I'll go eat lunch first...
p 703: well there has to be a benevolent witness.
p 707: WTF
p 712: as they say
p 722: it's kinda appalling
p 723: smiles
p 727: heart's pounding again
p 727: quiescent |kwēˈesnt; kwī-| adjective in a state or period of inactivity or dormancy
p 730: thump tha thump
p 731: lies, all lies
p 731: yay!
p 732: well it had to make an appearance
p 732: what...!
p 733: oh you sweet boy
p 734: this is exciting!
p 734: squee!
p 736: well, that was a justified swear, if I've ever heard one
p 736: um, wow
p 743: uh...I think I'm going to have to read this again to get all that straight.
p 745: smile, only what he deserves
p 746: yeah, hon, it does
p 751: that's a jump, but yay!
tears, tears, copious tears.

I think I'll always want more of this story, but it is remarkable how important everything we learned in each book turns out to be.

But, what now? What do you do AFTER Harry Potter?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter IS NOT Lefty* (I hope)

Friday, 9:15 pm: East Coast friends text me gloating that they already have their Harry Potter. But I don't care, I'm planning to wake up Saturday morning to a knock on my door.

Saturday 7 am: Wake up. Look at clock. Realize that it's unreasonable for UPS to bring my book this early. Fall back asleep.

8 am: Give up attempting to sleep. Wash dishes.

9 am: Shower very quickly, hoping not to miss UPS.

10 am: Realize that Amazon was a really stupid choice.

11 am: Carefully, avoiding all news and book sites, open up email. Read warning from best friend not to go anywhere online.

1130 am: Email other friends complaining about lack of Deathly Hallows book.

12 pm: Eat left over Fritatta.

1215 pm: Continue re-reading Half-Blood Prince, sure that UPS will knock any moment.

1 pm: Talk to non-HP fan Emi since I won't want to once HP arrives.

130 pm: Go back to HBP

2 pm: Dan, the friend who's yelled at me to read the last two books faster so we could discuss them, calls. He went to a midnight release, but he's only read the first chapter. It's his reward to himself after he finishes some major paper. Makes me promise not to talk to him about it until he finishes it. Says he'll call me the moment he does. Mocks me for not having my book.

230 pm: Still no UPS, still no book. Contemplate buying another copy, but know that if I leave the house UPS will finally come.

5 pm: One chapter left in Half-Blood Prince. Still without Deathly Hallows. Not quite sure what do do about it. If there is anything I can do. Short of buying another book. Which would still mean leaving. Descending into despondency.

545 pm: Finished last chapter. Made popcorn. Thought to track package. UPS says it left facility for final destination at 2:10 pm. Do not trust them (though, I still trust Snape).

720 pm: Made Jello. Stuck the Netflix movie in. Got the Hiccups. Still no book. Wondering if there's a number I can call...

8 pm: Call UPS. Wait on hold for 10+ minutes. Apparently, they contracted out with USPS and the book should be in my mailbox. Except since I live in an apartment, the box won't fit in my mailbox. And since I didn't check my mail today, I didn't see the notice they gave it to the apt office. And now the office is closed until Monday. I am beyond irritated. Should I have known that UPS was giving my book to USPS? Because I so didn't, and now I think I'm going to return my Amazon order and go buy myself a copy. Because there is NO WAY I'm waiting until 10 am on Monday to get my damn book. Called Dan to vent. He was suitably commiserative.

834 pm: Went to Borders. Got it. Will now crawl into my cave and read.

MONDAY: Turns out the apartment office is now closed on Mondays too, so I would have been waiting until Tuesday to get my Amazon copy. I'm SO glad that I didn't.

*Clifford Odets play: Waiting for Lefty. It's about a labor union wanting to strike and waiting for their elected chairman named Lefty. Who never appears.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Girl. A River. A Code Name.

There is no end to quality WWII fiction. Even for teens. Of Mal Peet's Tamar, I knew nothing when I first saw it gleaming on the new book shelf. "A novel of espionage, passion, and betrayal." Well, that sounds good. And it's winner of the Carnegie Medal? That's, like, the Newbery for England. Hmm. Those parachuting guys are intriguing. And look! A windmill! Didn't the Dutch have a healthy resistance? Oh, I do like a good resistance tale. Far better than those depressing concentration camp ones. I bet there will be a chase scene! But what's a Tamar?

A Girl. A River. A Code Name. Tamar is many things, but the details of what happened in the Dutch Resistance near the end of World War II for two undercover Allied operatives has remained a mystery for 50 years, but the repercussions still echo, and one 15-year-old girl's life will forever be altered because of them.

It's a dense book; not one you're going to rush through. Peet has measured and deliberate pacing. It's masterful, really; the tension increases at imperceptible rates until you find yourself unexpectedly glued to the page, completely engrossed. The psychology of the situation is just as important as the plot that slowly unwinds. People unravel under the stress. Stakes maintain an impossible height. And exactly how will betrayal enter in? And what's so secret it causes a suicide 50 years later?

But what with that Carnegie Medal, you don't really need me to say more, now, do you? But drat, now that I've looked at this year's short list... I wasn't in love with the winner (Rosoff's Just In Case), but now I really do need to read A Swift Pure Cry and Sedgwick's My Swordhand is Singing looks GREAT. Not that the US would let such a great cover make it across the pond. Aw, jeeze. That's not even out in the US. I guess I could just go read others of his that I've ignored...rambling now. sorry. Tamar = good. I wouldn't hesitate to give it to adults, either.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What would I have done if it had sucked?

Janet Lee Carey sent me Dragon’s Keep. She sent it to me signed. With a pretty bow. And there was chocolate. Yummy chocolate. Really yummy chocolate (seriously, Janet, where did you get that stuff?). But what if, oh jeeze, what if I didn’t like it? What vestige of journalistic integrity can possibly remain? How do I declaim in this public forum an author I wish to succeed? A step further, how do I proclaim without seeming to pander? I totally ate the chocolate.

I can’t. I just have to be honest, and you, dear reader, must make up your mind to whether or not you think I’ve been bought.

So it is with mixed relief I tell you that Janet Lee Carey’s Dragon’s Keep had me from its opening passage. The premise was fresh and fascinating, even when building off the standard of Arthorian legend. Not that King Arthur had anything to do with the story, save the use of his name.

6oo years ago Merlin made a prophecy. He said that the twenty-first generation would give Wilde Island a queen that would unite two races and restore the exiled nobility to their rightful stature. Rosalind is to be that queen. The one thing that holds her back is a hideous flaw that links her to the island's eternal scourge - dragons who think humans are a great delicacy. She must protect her secret or risk losing her kingdom, and her family's name.

No pressure or anything.

Rosalind's voice was clear, unique and realistic. She suffered a great deal but always, always came out stronger and wiser for it.

Janet Lee Carey propelled me to the encyclopedia for this one. She set it during the time of Empress Matilda, of whom I had never heard. Did you know that Matilda was the first woman ruler of England? Before Jane Gray (9 days a queen), Mary & Elizabeth? This was FASCINATING to me. And I promptly regurgitated everything I learned to all the science majors in the room as I easily beat them at Dr. Mario. I think it freaked them out a little. But hey, I was on vacation. Anyway, I think that setting a fantasy (or sci-fi) with some connection to the real world of the past or present helps the audience buy into the story. Carey already had the familiarity quotient by bringing the know elements of Arthur and Merlin, but she gave it depth by giving us Matilda and Henry - even if those characters never appear on stage, they remain part of that world.

You know what else is awesome about this book? The actual book. The cover beneath the jacket (which I removed because I was traveling and didn’t want to ruin it) is green and textured reminiscent of the very dragon scales that prove the major point of conflict in the story. Go Harcourt. I wish that all good books received such care in production and design. It’s beautiful.

To go beyond the scaly binding, head on over to the Readergirlz Archive where you can explore more about Dragon's Keep, including interviews with the author. Then join in on July's Readergirlz discussion of Goy Crazy by Melissa Schorr.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What I Read On My Summer Vacation

Hi! Sorry I've been gone so long. I had that whole vacation, computer glitch thing, and now that I'm back home and in possession of my lovely computer, my Comcast Internet has gone out. Which, needless to say, isn't exactly um, convenient. Anyway, I'm happily plunked down with a warm bagel and strawberry lemonade in a cafe that's open until 10pm. Ten pm on a Sunday! Clearly, it's a lovely land.

Books I Read on my Summer Vacation:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (1st teen book!)
Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey (woo! sent me to the encyclopedia)
Frozen Rodeo (it came with the highest personal recommendation)
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (which took too long. Stupid adult books.)
The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty (not done. underwhelmed thus far. Will eventually go back.)
The Off Season by Catherine Murdock (hello? Sequel to Dairy Queen. OF COURSE I'd read it!)
Tamar by Mal Peet (heavy, serious, long, gripping)

I'll review all of these eventually.

Two additional bits of news for those who have missed them:

Die-hards I'm sure already know this, but for the rest of us, the first chapter of Eclipse has been posted on Stephenie Meyer's site.

ALA has started an award for audio books for kids and teens. This excites me, since I do love me some audio books. It's called the Odyssey Award. They are taking field nominations for titles, but you'll have to be seconded by a committee member. Find more information on the award site; to nominate look here.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Woes of Techno-life

Here's the thing. My parents, they have dial-up. That is painful; I knew this, but I forgot how awful it was. Now my lovely iBook has gone a bit on the fritz, and the surprisingly unhelpful guy at the normally pleasant Genius Bar has taken my computer. I really did plan on posting while on vacation, but here I am, dejectedly posting in the Apple Store, telling you that I don't know when I'll be back. Plus, to add insult to injury my click wheel on the iPod has stopped working, and, well, I'm feeling rather abandoned by technology at the moment.

Anyway. They should send my computer in 5-7 business days. I don't really know what I'll be doing in the meantime. It sucks. Sorry.