Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: "Keep Out, Claudia!: The Baby-Sitters Club #56"

Keep Out, Claudia!: The Baby-Sitters Club #56 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

In this book we finally see some of the racism in Stoneybrook that Jessi has apparently been experiencing all along. But it's not even Jessi (at first) who deals with it, it's Claudia. Why is that? Did they feel it would be too difficult to show an African American dealing with misguided bigots? I don't know. This book was okay. The little blonde kids are super creepy but hey, Claudia's cover outfit actually matches the description for once!

The story starts out with Claudia baby-sitting the Rodowsky boys. Shea is practicing the piano (his "a doggie-o's") and Jackie and Archie are down because they don't play an instrument or anything. Archie wants people to clap for him and to be a star. Jackie just wants to not knock anything over for once. Poor Jackie, he's gonna have some serious issues later on. This sets Claudia's little brain a-thinking, while she heads home to clean up her room for the BSC meeting. (Snacks hidden around her room at this moment: Snickers bar and M&M's and Neccos and Fritos and ranch-style potato chips and crackers and popcorn...) Oh! And genius Janine locked herself out of the house!

At the meeting, Claud tells the girls her idea: help the kids plan a musical performance or something. Seriously, the amount of time these girls spend with these kids, they should get a raise! Are the parents giving them any extra money for these rehearsals and costumes and art supplies? I don't think so! A new client calls, the Lowells, and Mary Anne gets the job. When she gets there, the mom gives her a quick up-and-down look but apparently approves of what she sees. The 3 kids are little blonde clones who line up for Mary Anne to check out. The job goes well, although there a few weird moments with the kids asking her what religion she is and giggling at someones eyes on tv.

Then it's Claudia's turn to baby-sit for the clones. Mrs Lowell looks less than thrilled to see Claudia, but Claud just assumes it's because of her wild clothes: leggings and high-topped sneakers, my fringed blue-jean vest and beaded Indian belt, my six silver rings and... (Spoiler: it's not her outfit.) Claudia has a rough time with the kids; they don't listen to her and sneak snacks and such. And at the next BSC meeting, she calls and asks Kristy for any sitter but Claudia. So Jessi gets the job hah. Stupid racist cow. (Sorry, getting worked up over my BSC book here.)

Jessi over-prepares for the job, arriving right on time and putting together a sweet office play set for the kids. But when Mrs Bigot opens the door, she looks shocked and just stares at Jessi for a second. Then she tells Jessi she doesn't need a sitter after all and shuts the door in her face. Jessi doesn't know what to think or do so she just leaves and cries as she walks home. She has a familiar feeling about what happened but doesn't really know. You'd think she would know exactly what happened since she apparently dealt with it all the time after moving to Stoneybrook. The girls are all upset at the meeting, trying to figure things out.

Kristy takes the next job to see what's up and even wears a skirt to see if it was just Claud's wild clothes. (Again, it wasn't.) The kids are fine for her but she has a gross taste in her mouth when she gets home, so she talks to her mom, Watson, and Nannie. She tells them she thinks Mrs Lowell is a racist and Nanny says "With each generation I think it's going to be over. But it isn't even getting better. Maybe I'm just an old fool." I feel ya Nannie, I feel ya. Kristy tells the girls at the next meeting what she thinks and Claudia is understandably upset. But she gets mad at her friends because Mrs Lowell isn't there. "Will you guys at least look at me?" I shouted. "I am not dirt you know. Nothing is wrong with me." 

It'd be interesting to see this book get updated to current times. Claudia would have to prove she's not an illegal immigrant and Jessi would be protesting the police after her dad and Squirt get killed in a routine traffic stop. :( Wow, this review is getting really dark isn't it? Okay, here's a lighter moment and then moving on quickly.

Dawn asks for wheat germ biscuits (gross) and Claud has a bit of humor: "Oh, yeah. Right. Wheat germ biscuits. I have them hidden here under the bed along with my endless supply of tofu."

Mrs Lowell calls for the blonde-haired blue-eyed baby-sitter and the girls realize she's just a general racist against everyone and agree to never sit for her again. They continue on with the band rehearsals and the kids decide to perform songs from Fiddler on the Roof. The concert is a success, Claire Pike doesn't throw a tantrum, Jackie doesn't knock anyone over, and the Lowell kids watch the concert in secret. Claud & Jessi wonder if the kids will grow out of their bigotry eventually.

"It's okay to hate some of the things people do, but it's not okay to hate the people who do them."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: "The Sweet Life"

The Sweet Life: The Serial by Francine Pascal
3 out of 5 stars

I actually got this book last year but it took me a while to get around to it and in the right mood for it. But I finally did back in August (so far behind reviewing again ugh) and I enjoyed it, for the most part. I was really excited when the first one came out and it's what got me back into reading all the original books again. This book has the 6 novellas Pascall published online after Confidential took off better than expected. This review will obviously have spoilers from that 1st book but I'll try to keep it minimal for the rest. And I'll intersperse it with highlights just like my regular reviews. :)

"They're ready for you," Katy Johnson, Jessica Wakefield's assistant/savior, said as she peeked into Jessica's double-windowed corner office, iPad in hand.

The first novella starts 3 years after the last ended. Jessica & Todd have a sweet little boy, Jake, who is 2 years old. But they aren't together anymore. Jessica has gotten even more successful at her job and Todd has gone back to the fifties. Were they really back to where the woman had to stay home with the children or have some kind of unimportant job that was totally second to her husband's and could be dropped whenever he needed it to be? So yeah, things are tense there. They still love each other but can't get over past fights. Also, there's some new people brought in who don't help matters.

Jessica's office clothes were Elizabeth's party clothes. Today it was a hot little dark pink DVF minidress with a deep V back. Off the hook the whole dress couldn't have weighed more than two ounces. Her hair was parted in the center with cascades of blond flowing on either side of her face, just the way she'd worn it for her wedding. Her Jimmy Choo heels, which she had kicked over into the corner, were woven with the thinnest pink and silver threads, which if she were wearing them, would make her about five inches taller than her sister.

Bruce & Liz are still together, but things get rocky when Bruce is accused of assaulting an intern at work. We're made to feel very back & forth on whether Bruce really did attack the girl and honestly, I hated that story line. Liz is a reporter on the local newspaper and they expect her to research the story which she does, to the extreme. So extreme, she befriends the girl.

The baby [Jake] looked up with that flash of confusion, just long enough for the penny to drop and register "Not Mommy." The flash was down to a nanosecond and its way to a picosecond, and soon it wouldn't be there at all. Instantly, she'd be Zizzie. Even if it was only for a moment, she had to admit she liked being mistaken for Mommy.

Lila Fowler married Ken Matthews, who is a hot NFL quarterback, and she is desperate to get cast on "True Housewives of Sweet Valley". Lila decides her niche for the show will be spoiled rotten and proud of it. Yeah. Of course, she gets on the show and does some truly despicable things, even for Lila.

Lila might have been deficient in certain disciplines, but when it came to knowing what appealed to people, sexually or otherwise, she overflowed with skill.

Caroline Pearce causes lots of trouble and scandals with everyone, on her gossip blog. They deal with it because Caroline'd had cancer and it might come back. Wow. Caroline never found it easy growing up two doors down from the beautiful Wakefield twins, always being compared to them and coming up short. I don't recall this at ALL in the original books. Her living on their street OR people comparing them.

Steven Wakefield and Aaron Dallas have a baby with a surrogate and the little girl is so completely spoiled, she screams bloody murder whenever they try to put her in her crib or stroller. Steven hates it and is afraid little Emma will turn into Jessica but Aaron doesn't care. The nanny claims (privately) that she is the most high-maintenance baby she's ever seen. And her new friend in the park, the one who has just lost her own baby, agrees but still loves Emma. A little too much...

The Jessica gene had saved Emma's life.

Annie Whitman ("Easy Annie" as she was known in high school) shows up to defend and befriend Bruce, Liz can't defend or even live with Bruce, Jessica goes out with Liam the movie star and regrets it, Todd dates the plagiarizing reporter and regrets it, everything blows up in Lila's face, typical Sweet Valley weekend really.

All the suffering, all the pain--it would all go away in this next moment. She felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

(Those of you that have read this will realize that I didn't put the real last lines of the book, because it was a big spoiler and also, it made me mad lol.)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Haul: Summer/Fall Edition

There's a lot of pics, so let's just get right to it, shall we? Comment below if you want details on any specific books, I'm going to breeze through them pretty quickly. In July, I hit up the Half Price Books sale, Amazon for a few must-buys, and the local comic book store for some funsies (that I just read this past week on my vacation oops).

In August, I had some more luck at Half Price and of course, had to pick up Harry Potter & The Cursed Child. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to review that one or not. It's kind of unreviewable, if you know what I mean.

September was fairly quiet, with a couple of good finds at HPB, some new comics from Amazon (Jem!!), and a small library haul, in which I accidentally got a book I'd already read and pretty sure I own oops.

October has been big for books so far and it's only the middle of the month! I blame the Half Price Books clearance sale of course and a week of vacation time. :) This is the most I've ever gotten at a HPB sale (also got 3 movies); I found some really great things. Some graphic novels, classics, holiday reads, a few random finds, and a TON of 80/90s children's books. I say this every time, but my sister is so good at helping me find these! She goes thru and looks for Sweet Valley High (only one this time boo) and any with the apple (publisher) on them lol. Then I go thru and look at everything else. There was a LOT of young adult books this time, I think we were there close to two hours. (Did I mention she's semi-patient too?)

My sister also found me these gorgeous vintage children's books, 5 of them total. The covers were falling apart (I don't know how they still had them on even) but it was okay, because the naked books were just as pretty. I am going to use the covers for bookmarks probably and I would love to make a cute little display on my shelf with the books.

I was on vacation last week (hated coming back to work!!) and got out of the house one day (yep, just one lol) to enjoy the sunshine at a botanical garden (and read) and then hole up in bookstores. :D I hit every bookstore that day, but I only bought at my local comic book store. I didn't realize the 6th Saga book was out, so of course I had to pick that up. I had a stack of single issue comics at first, but put a few back since I did find Saga. Excited about the ones I did get though.

I'm going to wrap things up with my Kindle cloud because I realized I haven't been including it regularly in my haul posts. I've gotten 30+ books since my last update in July 2015 oops. I find it really hard to pay for eBooks, so most of these were free or less than $3.00.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review: "Becoming Jinn & Circle of Jinn"

 Becoming Jinn & Circle of Jinn by Lori Goldstein
3.5 out of 5 stars

I first heard about this series when I met Lori at the Daring Reads YA Panel back in the spring. I've never read any of her books but this one sounded really interesting and unique. She gave out little pamphlets that had a short section of the first book and it hooked me, so I added it to my list and bought it at the NTTBF in April. Then of course, I had to buy the second one because hello, cliffhanger! I really enjoyed them both, overall. There were a few minor quibbles here and there but nothing big. Honestly, I thought this was going to be a bigger series but it looks like it's just a duo for now. I'm actually kind of disappointed, I would have liked more in this world. Also, the covers are just gorgeous! You don't see very many purple books.
(pic by me & heavily edited lol)

Okay, anyway. The story starts off with Azra on her sixteenth birthday, coming to terms that she is now an adult Jinn. In other words, a genie. And she is not taking it well. She doesn't want to be a genie or grant wishes or even keep the super hot makeover she automatically got, along with her Jinn bracelet/bangle/shackle. She just wants to be normal. Which is so not going to happen now.

I've always liked genies. I Dream of Jeannie was one of my favorite shows to watch as a kid (as reruns, I'm not that old lol). And there were quite a few genie-related shows in the 90s: Jambi on Pee Wee's Playhouse, Kazaam with Shaq (my sister loved that movie), and of course Aladdin. I haven't been able to watch Aladdin since Robin Williams died. :( I love the music though and listen to it quite often. My junior high choir had to learn Friend Like Me and I still know 75% of it by heart lol.

So Azra doesn't want to do the whole genie thing but she doesn't have a choice. She also doesn't want to have anything to do with her Zar, which is like her sisterhood, a group of teenage girls that are or will be Jinn eventually too. These should be her closest friends and family but she's shunned them for years now so doesn't have any of that support to help her deal with this big change. And wow, is it a big change. I mean, she can do magic now and apparate anywhere in the world. But she also has to learn how to grant wishes for people that the Afrit (head cheese Jinn) choose for her. She can't just grant anyone a wish, as much as she would like to. Especially cute friend boy across the street Henry. Human Henry, who is not supposed to find out about her secret but of course does, immediately.

I liked Henry, a lot. But of course, there had to be another guy that Azra was hot for and thus, a love triangle was born. Boo. I didn't hate it but it just wasn't necessary. I loved Azra's interactions with her Zar sisters and her mother. You may notice I haven't mentioned a dad or any male relatives. Well, in the Jinn culture, the women stay in the "human world", granting wishes, while the men stay below or hidden in the Jinn world. Kind of a nice switch really. This comes up more in the second book so I won't spoil it too much.

So we've got a rebellious teenager, magic wishes, and a love triangle. What more do we need? A little conflict? Oh sure. Azra is one of those exceptional teenage girls in the likes of Katniss, Tris, and others. And she is "destined" to do "something" lol. The second book leads up to a big battle that unfortunately, didn't seem that big to me. That's part of the reason I thought this would be a longer series; I was completely not expecting it all to get wrapped up that quickly. And maybe it's not. She left it kind of open so she could possibly come back to it later. Overall, I enjoyed these books but was left wanting a little bit more in the end.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

TILT: I'd Rather Be Reading

Things I love (and need) Thursday. Me today.

(if you do not want your product shown, please contact me!)

Necklace by OxfordBright

Pencils by EasilySuede

TShirt by FriendlyOak

Art Print by AddisonandLake

Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: "Jessi's Gold Medal: The Baby-Sitters Club #55"

Jessi's Gold Medal: The Baby-Sitters Club #55 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

Okay, the ghost writers really screwed up with this one. This is almost an exact repeat of the last book. We're just switching Jessi & Mal and their "sport". And they kind of spoiled it with the title. Guess Jessi wins or whatever. There was also a major inconsistency that I'll get into later. I found this list of who wrote which books and it's really helpful. As a kid an adult, I thought Ann wrote ALL the books. I was pretty disappointed when I realized she didn't. Of course, I know there is no way she could be cranking out that many books in a year, but still.

Anyway, back to this book. This one was slightly better than Mallory's only because it featured talk of the Olympics. The 1992 summer Olympics to be exact. Let's give a little back history okay? Hosted by Barcelona, this was the last year that the Summer & Winter Olympics were done in the same year. It was the first time NBA players were allowed to play basketball, leading the Dream Team to win easily. Two gold medals were awarded in solo synchronized swimming after a mistake with the judges. (How can it be "solo" if it's synchronized?) The motto was Friends for Life. Shannon Miller, part of the Magnificent Seven, won 5 awards, more than any other American that year. So overall, it was a good year and a smart move by the authors to focus on the event. Which is interesting, because I don't remember any other real life events being talked about before. Correct me if I'm wrong!

And the fact that I read this right before the 2016 Summer Olympics started was just a happy coincidence. It really got me in the mood though. I love the Olympics. My favorite events are men's gymnastics, men's swimming, men's beach volleyball...well, you get the idea. ;) And of course, women's gymnastics. Oh and rugby, I forgot rugby! I have gotten so far off topic for this book.

Okay. The book starts with Jessi at ballet class and her telling us how hard it is but she loves it and Mdme Noelle is so tough but fair and moving to Stoneybrook was hard because she's black etc. Her dad picks her up from class and they don't have the air conditioning on, because it's not good for dancers' bodies, until they pass a billboard for the Olympics with a swimmer on it. Jessi has this brilliant thought: Why pound your body into a wood floor when you could plunge it into water instead? Couldn't agree more. When they get home, she watches Becca & Squirt play in the sprinklers, and has her brilliant idea. (Not to be confused with one of Kristy's Brilliant Ideas.) They should get a pool. Of course, her parents laugh in her face but they do say they can get a membership for the local pool complex and she's happy.

And now it's time for a BSC meeting and What Claudia is Wearing. She was wearing these sharply creased, pastel-green, cuffed shorts; a wild Hawaiian shirt tied at her waist, with vibrant colors that perfectly picked up the green; and sandals with crisscrossing ankle straps to her knees. Her hair was swept to one side [she does that a lot] and held in place with a long, fake-flowered barrette that looked like a Hawaiian lei.

During the meeting, Claudia is trying to come up with a logo for the SMS Sports Festival. (Apparently an annual thing, though I've never heard of it.) Mary Anne is like "ew sports" and Mallory looks "glum" but the other girls are excited and talk about the events they're going to enter. Dawn says she's going to do something different like shot put or pole vault. Then Kristy mentions how the loathsome Alan Gray bet Kristy that he could beat her in a race anytime. You see where that's going, right?

In gym class the next day, Jessi & Mallory find out they are going to do swimming lessons for the next few weeks. I find that kind of odd, for a middle school, but whatevs. Mal is horrified, because she's anti-exercise and then even worse, they are going to be swimming with...BOYS. And of course, she brings her manky old swimsuit with the ruffle skirt. Ugh, how embarrassing. Jessi is uber-excited though, especially when she is hand-picked to join the synchronized swim team thanks to her dance background.

So she joins the class and learns all these cool moves like the crawl and standard scull and tub position. Then she finds out that her team is actually going to be performing in the Sports Festival. She and her partner have to create a routine and Jessi jazzes it up with lots of crazy moves like Egyptian hands and they have to practice a lot. And here's where that huge inconsistency is. In the last book, Jessi's parents wouldn't let her take horse lessons, ONE DAY A WEEK, because it would interfere with her ballet. Now, they're totally okay with her swimming every day after school AND weekends. What? So yeah, that was irritating.

Let's skip over to some of the baby-sitting now. All the kids have Olympic fever too, especially Becca, which gets Jessi thinking and she's right up there with Kristy now: why don't they put on a mini-Olympics for all the kids? Of course, everyone loves the idea because they haven't had a big group gathering in like, two weeks. They start putting it together, Kristy goes overboard, Andrew cries because he's 4 and can't do anything, Charlotte doesn't WANT to do anything, and the Pike kids make it all about them as always.

Throughout the book, we get little digs from Mallory about how sports are dumb, not everyone wants to be in the Olympics, etc. Jessi finds it odd but doesn't try to talk to her best friend about whatever is bothering her. Because, you know, that would be too easy. Then, when Claudia & Mallory are baby-sitting the Pike clan, Mal "accidentally-on-purpose" sprains her ankle and "oh no!" now she can't perform in the Festival! So sad! Sike.

It's finally the day of the festival. Mal is in the stands, on crutches, Mary Anne agreed to run the lemonade stand as a compromise for joining the festivities (why couldn't Mal just do that too?), and Jessi is super nervous. Kristy runs the hundred-yard dash and looks like a real athlete, bulging muscles and all. Claudia runs a backwards race and dresses accordingly.

She was wearing electric-pink track shorts with a turquoise racing stripe, a matching top with cut-off sleeves, brand-new high top track shoes with no socks, and floral-print suspenders! Her hair was pulled up on top of her head and held in place with a silver barrette in the shape of the Olympic symbol. If it had been an athletic-wear fashion show, she would have won. [During the race] Claudia managed to stay on her feet, but she was running strangely - on her tiptoes, so that her hair bounced up and down like a horse's tail.

And then Kristy and Alan have their big race. Loser has to be winner's slave for a week. Winner gets total bragging rights. Who's it gonna be? You tell me, who do you think won? ;) Okay, it was Kristy. Like we didn't see that coming. I feel bad for Alan sometimes. He's got this total crush on Kristy, but he just does not know how to act around her.

Finally, it's time for Jessi's synchro and of course, they do perfectly and win the gold, because that's what the title told us would happen. Is anyone else bugged by their arms not being in sync on the cover? Just me? Okay. Then we have the mini-Olympics, in Mary Anne & Dawn's backyard because their parents are total pushovers. There's plenty of silly obstacles and events, Jackie Rodowsky falls into the kiddie pool, everyone gets an award, even Andrew (Most Determined), and everyone goes home happy. Oh and Mallory finally admits she was a poor sport about sports. This review was sooo long! Hope you enjoyed it still.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

TILT: Books & Music

I love books with a music theme, that and roadtrips are some of my favorite books. Which is why The Disenchantments and Amy & Roger's Epic Detour top out as absolute favorite reads.

I'm going to see Guns N' Roses in concert tonight last night and I am soooooo excited for it! GNR has been my favorite band since I was 13 years old (a long time) and I never got to see them in concert before they split up. My lovely sister managed to get me cheap-ish tickets for my birthday and I can't wait to experience it!

Anyway, all that being said, I decided to do a music themed Things I Love Thursday this week to celebrate. You can view my full collection of bookish music on 8Tracks here if you like, I add to it constantly. I'm just going to post a few of my newest finds here.

And if you want to comment below, I want to hear about one of these things: your favorite concert you've been to, the concert you would KILL to go to (like me with GNR), your favorite music themed book, a bookish playlist you've made or found. Share with me!

Jem & The Holograms is a graphic novel about music so you know I had to go find some playlists to listen to while reading it! This one is great in that it mixes some of the original cartoon's music with some newer stuff that goes along with the theme.

Princess Jellyfish requires Japanese Pop and this playlist fits it perfectly!

Finally, the wonderfully talented Stephanie Perkins just recently shared her last playlist for Isla & the Happily Ever After and it is just as great as the other two! I love when authors share their music they listen to while writing, it really helps me get an even better mood for the story.