Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Review: "North and South" Classic a Month #12.2013

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a good Twitter friend a few months ago and I put it off because my library only had one copy. And then I remembered, duh I have a Kindle and there are always lots of free classics on there so I looked and yep, there it was. :) I did enjoy reading this and there were great parts but on the whole, I felt it was pretty average. If I were describing this book to a potential date, it would be "sturdy constitution, decent upbringing, with impeccable manners." But don't let that discourage you! I would still recommend it and would probably even reread it at some point. Also, I feel like I missed out on a lot because I've never seen (or heard of) the BBC series and this is definitely a book that would (does?) work well as a television show.

It's impossible to discuss this book without comparing it to Pride & Prejudice. Both are stories set in the 1800s and feature young people from different classes falling in love. Each of the couples clash immediately upon meeting, trading sharp barbs of wit and sarcasm. One of the duo (coincidence that it is the guy in both cases?) falls in love waaaaay before the other and spends half the book trying to ignore their feelings while simultaneously encouraging chance encounters.

She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall down over her round wrist. Mr. Thornton watched the replacing of this troublesome ornament with far more attention than he listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see her push it up impatiently, until it tightened her soft flesh; and then to mark the loosening-the fall. He could almost have exclaimed-"There it goes, again!"

And then, there is an epiphany where the female suddenly realizes that she was a fool, A FOOL I tell you! Margaret was not a ready lover, but where she loved she loved passionately, and with no small degree of jealousy. She is suddenly in love with the guy but now she can't have him for some reason or another, until the very end, when they must both swallow their foolish pride and come together. Metaphorically speaking of course, I'm pretty sure the corsets and bustles would have gotten in the way. ;)

Now, you're probably wondering why you should read this if it's just like P&P. N&S is a much quieter love story, less dramatics, more tears, lots more death. But the biggest difference and the thing that makes this book worth reading is the commentary on class divisions...North vs South, tradesmen vs "genteel", factory owners vs the union workers. I never really thought I'd enjoy reading about economics but I did. Gaskell knows how to write, that's for sure. Not just making economics interesting but her world building and descriptions were first-rate.

"I don't know-I suppose because, on the very face of it, I see two classes dependent on each other in every possible way, yet each evidently regarding the interests of the other as opposed to their own; I never lived in a place before where there were two sets of people always running each other down."

She makes you feel for both Thornton, as the hard-working mill owner, and Higgins, the poor union worker. Higgins was one of my favorite characters, with his gruff attitude and tender heart. And when he takes in the orphan children...awww. So many of the characters died, though. I kind of had a problem with that, mainly because most of them happened very suddenly and were done and moved on within a page or two. I'm just glad Higgins didn't die, I wouldn't have forgiven her lol. And I'm going to end this review with two wonderful quotes that need to be turned into resolutions somehow. I'll start working on that now.

"Surely, if the mind is too long directed to one object only, 
it will get stiff and rigid, and unable to take in many interests."

"Thinking has, many a time, made me sad...but doing never did in all my life.
Do something...do good if you can; but, at any rate, do something."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Review: "Nancy Drew & The Secret of the Old Clock" Classic a Month #11.2013

Before I get to my review, I have a few things to say...first, I hope everyone who celebrates had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I'm typing this on Saturday afternoon and I've had a pretty great 3 1/2 days off so far! Sis and I stayed home Thursday and watched the parade, cooked some yummy mini pies (okay, sis made the pies), and then we made & ate a super good Thanksgiving dinner. Then we watched the football game (go Cowboys!), ate some pie, and watched an awesomely cheesy made-for-TV Christmas movie (confession: I have a serious weakness for these!) Friday we braved the crowds for some afternoon Christmas shopping, came home and had some leftovers and decided to put up the Christmas decorations. :)  So I hope your day(s) have been just as nice and relaxed as mine!

And the second thing I wanted to talk about was my blogging slump. Because it's pretty clear I'm in one and I don't know what to do about it...or if I want to do anything about it. I'm still reading and have had some good to great books that I'd like to talk about, but I'm just being so lazy lately. All I do in the evening and weekends is sit on the couch and watch TV. And when I do get off the couch to do something, I don't want to sit at a computer and type for several hours. I tried last weekend and ended up finger-water-painting instead lol. Which is okay with me right now. So I'm going to continue my Classic a Month reviews for sure but I'm not going to put a lot of pressure on myself to do much more than that. I hope y'all are okay with that and I hope my slump goes away soon. Okay, now let's talk about the Girl Sleuth, Nancy Drew! :)

Nancy Drew #1: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
2 out of 5 stars

This book was so hard to finish! Obviously I'm used to reading older books with different values and language than present time, but there was just something about this one that I couldn't handle. Nancy Drew is 18 years old, just graduated high school, and wants to be a lawyer like her father. Even though this is the first book in the series, it doesn't feel like it. We don't get a big introduction like in the Baby-Sitters Club, we just kind of jump right in with Nancy saving a little girl after she falls off a bridge. The only people I recognized from reading it as a child were Nancy, her dad, and the housekeeper. Her BFF and boyfriend aren't in this one, which was kind of disappointing. I do have the 2nd book also and am debating whether I want to read it right away and see if it's any better or not.

Due to a series of strange events, Nancy finds herself investigating the mystery of a dead man's will. Nancy didn't know the man when he was alive, she has no personal investment in the contents of the will, she's just basically a nosetta. Oh and she really dislikes the people that got all his money from his first will. After talking to a bunch of people connected to the man, she becomes sure that there must be a second, more current will that will give all these nice people money and leave the snotty girls nothing. Each chapter shows Nancy in another predicament and another (agonizingly slow) step closer to solving the mystery. Duh, just read the title of your book, Nancy, and you'll know where to look!

She rescues the little girl from the river bank where she fell which is where she meets the two old aunts who have just had some furniture and silver stolen from two men in a van. Nancy races off to chase after the men and unable to find them, instead goes to report the burglary to the police. Because it's her business. When she gets home, she immediately starts questioning her father, the wonderfully handsome successful lawyer, about everything he knows about old Josiah Crowley. (The old man who died.) Mr Drew seems to enjoy being cross-examined by Nancy so he tells her all about all the relatives Josiah should have left money to and didn't. The next day, Nancy runs into Ada & Isabel, the most obnoxiously spoiled brats ever, who just happen to be the ones who inherited everything from Josiah in the first will. Nancy gets some gossip from the dressmaker and later, at lunch with her father, some more from a fellow attorney... honestly, does anybody in this town not have gossip about a dead man??

Then Nancy gets caught in a freak thunderstorm and can't get the top of her fabulous convertible down so she drives into some stranger's open barn and scares the living daylights out of a poor girl inside. And hey, guess what? The girl and her sister should have gotten money from Old Josiah too! Why did he even have the first will and why didn't he make this newer will easier to find?? In the next chapters, Nancy: saves a puppy and gets attacked by its mother, discovers a future opera star, plays badminton, helps an old lady who fell and couldn't get up, sells tickets for a charity ball to those awful girls & gets a clue about where the will could be (hint, look at the title of the book!), gets a flat tire and changes it herself, takes a trip to a summer camp and hikes a lot, spends the day out on the lake after her motor boat dies and fixes it herself, and discovers the summer home where the clock and will might be.

And what does all this snooping get Nancy? Locked in a closet by the moving van thieves with no one for miles to hear her screaming. Serves her right, honestly. But this chapter was one of my favorites of the whole book, it was so real and her emotions went beyond "sparkling eyes" and inquisitiveness. Of course, she gets rescued and catches the bad guys with no bodily harm. Drat. And finds the clock, which contains a little notebook of Old Josiah's and tells all about a newer will in a safe deposit box. Nancy and her father take it upon themselves to go get the will and read it before taking it to anyone actually related to Josiah. But it's okay, because turns out he did leave money for all the nice people and none/very little for the not-nice people. So everything works out in the end and Nancy is truly bitten by the snooping bug.

I obviously had trouble with this book, but I can see how it would still appeal to younger children, even 70 years after it was first published. Nancy is a strong, confident, pretty, young woman who has adventures but is also a lady. She has a wonderful father figure who allows her to be independent in an age when that was frowned upon. She gets into dicey situations but everything always comes out sunny at the end of the book. It deserves to be a classic.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: "The Lucy Variations"

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
3 out of 5 stars

I had a hard time rating this book. There were some things that I really loved about it and then some parts I was just not happy with. So let's start with the basic plot and go from there. Lucy is sixteen years old and a gifted classical pianist. Or she was, until something happened to make her walk away from it all. Now it's been eight long months and she's beginning to wonder if she made a mistake. But can she come back to that world? Her domineering grandfather says no. But her younger brother's new piano teacher says absolutely. So who should she listen to? And more importantly, what does she actually want?

Lucy is a pretty typical girl in a lot of ways but then she's not at the same time. She's become accustomed to all the perks of being a child prodigy and when she throws that all away, she has to get used to being a normal teenager again. She is much more mature than her classmates and considers herself an adult in a lot of cases, namely with her relationships with actual adults. And this was one of the parts of the book that I didn't like and will get into after the spoiler owl.

Lucy's younger brother, Gus(tav), has inherited the family talent and is now expected to take Lucy's place in all the competitions and performances. Gus is sweet and kind and a typical younger brother who wants his big sister's approval but doesn't want to seem too eager for it. When his new piano teacher, Will, starts to take an interest in Lucy as well, he gets a little jealous. This brother/sister dynamic was an interesting part of the book and I think it was done well. Same with Lucy and her parents and grandfather...you can see the importance the family puts on being "talented" and what a burden that can be on everyone involved. But you also see the love and pride, if you look deep enough (in the grandfather's case).

Now lets talk about the music, because like the circus itself in The Night Circus, the piano and music become almost another character in this story. I know I've said this before, but I love classical music. My dad made me listen to it as a teenager and it just stuck, I guess. It's a total cliche to say, but Mozart is my favorite. It just seems to take you to another world when you listen to music stripped of words and dubbing and all those fancy music things people do now lol. It's funny how a piano, one instrument, can make you cry with its beauty. And that's what I love about this book, that it shows that love. I can overlook all the other stuff just for that.

(One of the pieces mentioned in the book, 
highly recommend listening to all the movements I-V)

Okay, here's the big thing that I had a problem with: Lucy's relationships with adult males ie: Will and her English teacher. Both were youngish and good looking and showed a special interest in Lucy. Now, I would NOT have a problem if that's where Zarr wanted her story to go. I'd be okay with that. But she never fully committed to it. She hinted at it and said yes, this could possibly happen. But there was no resolution, no conflict to make it warranted. It just felt cheap. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

TILT: Fall Necessities

It's finally, finally getting cold for good here in Texas and I am so happy. Maybe now it will feel like Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner (eep!). So I've been all about the fall goodies lately. What things do you love in the fall? These are my main essentials for a perfect fall afternoon.

A big stack of books comes first, of course. I had excellent luck at the library last week and I've already read 3 of these! (Review of The Last Present went up yesterday) I have a couple of books on hold for me again too that I need to pick up this weekend. There's just something about having a bunch of different genres and styles of books to browse thru all afternoon.

Hot cocoa or your hot beverage of choice. It's still comfortable enough to have the window open a crack, so you can use your coziest blanket and sip on your salted caramel hot cocoa yum. I actually really like the cheap Swiss Miss cocoas especially if you add in some chocolate kisses or a candy cane stirrer. :)

I like to have some background noise on when I read. On Sundays it is usually a football game, which is fine. But lately I've been really into classical music again. (Partly because of The Lucy Variations which I'll be reviewing soon.) The only classical I have on my phone right now is Yundi Li's Vienna Recitals, so I've been listening to playlists on 8Tracks a lot.

And finally, I must have a comfy reading chair or spot with my kitty cat & a cozy blanket --(chair pic by babyjidesign on Flickr, blanket pattern can be found at The Purl Bee) I'm kind of a blanket hoarder lol. I just can't help myself, if it's super soft fleece or a nubby afghan or a cotton quilt that always stays cool but keeps you warm, I need it! And where there's a blanket, there's a Binky Cat.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: "The Last Present: Willow Falls #4"

The Last Present by Wendy Mass
4 out of 5 stars

I was so excited when my library had the newest and last Willow Falls book last week. (I got a great stack of books that day!) I love this series so much and this was a perfect finale for it. But just a word of warning, like the others, you will definitely want to read them consecutively and pretty close together. Otherwise, you will have no idea what's going on and will constantly ask yourself, "what happened to them last year? who are they again?" etc...So this review will automatically have spoilers for the first three books, there's just no way around it. If you haven't read them yet, stop here and go get them! Then come back and tell me what you think. :)

The book starts out with the strange & unusual Angelina D'Angelo, ten years ago. She is putting a sort of protection spell over baby Grace (from the end of the last book we know something bad has happened to her) just like she does all the babies in town. This is why none of the kids get seriously sick or injured. She's kind of the town godmother. Unfortunately, Angelina is interrupted by Grace's big brother, Connor, and doesn't finish the blessing. Angelina is thwarted each time she tries to fix her mistake in the next 9 years. Which brings us up to the present and Grace's 10th birthday, when she falls into a mysterious coma. Angelina asks Amanda & Leo to help her make things right and we finally learn why they haven't been able to speak to each other for a year (although I still can't remember when they started this). It was so nice to see the focus back on these two, I really liked them the best.

Angelina explains that, thanks to the curse from their great-great-grandfathers (first book), once they speak to each other again, they will have the ability to travel back in time. She wants them to use this ability (gift/talent?) to go back to Grace's previous birthdays and fix certain things...specifically, things that Angelina had enchanted to protect Grace which Connor somehow messed up each time. Since they are so used to Angelina's crazy ways by now, Amanda & Leo agree and with the help of their friends, start planning how to get Grace better. Of course, things don't always go as planned. And when Angelina is involved, they definitely don't. Amanda & Leo have problems from the beginning (or the past?) and a certain ornery character keeps appearing, causing trouble for the kids. We also get to see some of Angelina's past and finally see why she does things a certain way and how she became so important and powerful in & for Willow Falls.

I loved how all the kids worked together and became closer in this book. We got to see everyone from the previous books, even the parents, and see how their lives had changed. The ending brought everything together and made me tear up a little bit. The only problem I had with this book was how they all got "coupled up" by the end. Each of the 3 main girls now had a boyfriend. I just wish Mass had focused more on the friendship aspect and not turned it into a "happily ever after".

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Sequels I Need Now!!

I actually already have a list going of sequels or series I don't want to forget about when I have some extra money again, so this week's Top 10 Broke & Bookish topic should be pretty easy!

First, let's start with 5 series that are already out and I have either just read the first book or need to get caught up on the series:

1. Dog Blood by David Moody --I just read the first book in the Hater series last week and I really enjoyed it. It's an intriguing world and I can't wait to see how it continues. Also, the cover is so striking it just makes you want to look again.

2. The Chaos: Numbers #2 by Rachel Ward --another that I just read last week, but I didn't realize this was a trilogy until I started it. Very intrigued.

3. Scarlet (and Cress): Lunar Chronicles #2 by Marissa Meyer --I actually have this one on hold for at the library right now! I need to go get it and hopefully by the time I finish it, they'll have #3 too lol.

4. Last Breath: Morganville Vampires #11 & Up! by Rachel Caine --I am so behind on this series! The last book of the series comes out TODAY and it's getting harder to follow her on Twitter without getting spoilers lol. I really love this series and I actually have this book, so I need to get on it!

5. Lover at Last: Black Dagger Brotherhood #11 by JR Ward --I really really want to get this one soon. Yum.

And 5 books that are continuing their series in the future that I can't wait for:

1. The Fiery Heart: Bloodlines #4 by Richelle Mead --ack I am so ready for this next book!

2. The Boy Most Likely To: My Life Next Door #2 by Huntley Fitzpatrick --I just found out there was going to be a sequel to this the other day and I squee'd, I was that excited lol.

3. The Long Way Home: Family Tree #2 by Ann M Martin --this actually just came out last week and I'm pretty excited about it. The first book was very good and it's nice to read some more serious non-BSC stories by her.

4. Unwholly & UnsouledUnwind #2 by Neal Shusterman --I have the 2nd one at home right now from the library. I think I will do a reread of the first though because it's been a while and maybe by then, the library will have #3 too (just like Cress lol).

5. Isla & The Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins --I am waiting patiently for this one because I know Stephanie is having some problems lately and I want her to be happy with her life and her work.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: "If Only We"

If Only We by Jessica Sankiewicz
3.5 out of 5 stars

I requested this eBook ARC from the author because it sounded really interesting. She's not paying me for this review or anything like that. ;) Okay, let me just say this first-I really enjoyed the story overall. I think it was an excellent first book and I'm totally jealous because I've already given up on NaNoWriMo lol.

Adrienne is at odds with her family and closest friends and she's pretty sure it all goes back to her actions on the day of her high school graduation. When she gets a chance to go back and fix her mistakes, will she be able to or will she just be doomed to repeat herself over and over? I love a good time-traveling book and this was definitely a good one. Adrienne is a likable character and I connected with her story. It's hard trying to make people happy when it conflicts with what would make *you* happy. This book has its serious moments and it made me tear up but it also had some fun, light-hearted passages.

There were some great secondary characters too. Stepsister Kaitlin was sweet but a little underdeveloped to me. I couldn't figure out her age until about halfway thru the book and I wanted her to have a little more personality. I would have loved to hear more of her story. Lindsay, Adrienne's BFF and cousin, was the perfect amount of outspoken sassiness and caring individual. And then there's Chevy, the boy. Excuse me..THE Boy. :) I liked Chevy, he was totally swoon worthy. He was equal parts serious brooding boy and fun-loving karaoke dude.

There was really only one big thing I didn't like about the story. Adrienne is being pushed into becoming a nurse by her mom, following in her footsteps. I get that. But I don't get the big push to find a new career immediately after she decides to not go the nursing route. She starts looking for careers online and when Lindsay suggests she start sewing and make a business out of that, Adrienne jumps on it and just assumes that it's all going to work out. Why couldn't she just go to college and do her basics and decide in a year or two what she wants to focus on? That's what most people do. It just didn't ring true to me.

Also, a small thing, but the writing seemed a little forced at times and some of the conversations didn't sound natural. "I intended to do so but, for some reason, I was possessed to keep it." That just doesn't sound like an 18 year old boy to me. But honestly, I think that will just become better with practice and more books. And I really hope there are more books to come. :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: "Frankenstein" Classic A Month #10.2013

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
2.5 out of 5 stars

I had many issues with this book but I also enjoyed a good part of it. Hence the ambivalent 2.5 rating. As always, my classic reviews are full of spoilers and this one more than most, so don't say I didn't warn you. ;) Okay. Let's talk about the author first because that part is pretty interesting. Mary Shelley was born in 1797 but her parents were big time hippies...they didn't believe in marriage and she was encouraged to learn and question everything. When she was 17, she met Percy Shelley and they fell in love, despite the fact that he was already married and had children. They eloped and she spent the next several years having and losing babies. The summer she was 19 she was staying at a lake house in Geneva with Shelley and telling ghost stories with neighbor Lord Byron (who was a complete scoundrel). And that's when Frankenstein was born. Yep, she was 19 years old. Don't you feel bad for yourself now? I know I do. After her book was published to mixed reviews, she had a series of deaths including her husband when she was 25 years old. She lived to be 54 but refused to remarry, saying that she wanted her tombstone to read "Mary Shelley". She had a pretty sad life if you really start thinking about it.

I was expecting Frankenstein to be a true horror story which is why I picked it for my October classic. I wanted to be scared. I was not. I wasn't even a little bit weirded out for the most part. But let's start at the beginning. The book starts off with a series of letters from a ship captain named Walton to his sister who lives in England. This was confusing enough but then when he starts telling his sister about a man he meets on his travels who starts telling Walton a story parts of which were told to him, it just becomes this nesting doll of who said what. And the letters were truly boring. They're all about how Walton wants a friend and it just starts to get a little weird. "I desire the company of a man who could sympathize with me, whose eyes would reply to mine." Okay then. It finally starts to get interesting when the stranger starts telling his story. Not really sure why he felt the need to tell every little thing about his life ("I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic.") but whatever.

In case you haven't guessed yet, the stranger is Frankenstein. I'm assuming you were aware that Frankenstein is actually the scientist and not the monster. The monster never even gets a name. Young Victor Frankenstein grew up in a happy family, with a mummy and a daddy and brothers and a lovely girl named Elizabeth, who was taken in as a young child from a peasant woman in Milan. Victor always considered Elizabeth "his" and she, along with his best mate Clerval, were what kept him from becoming a sullen outcast. Victor became interested in the science of life and death at an early age and soon focused his studies "...with the greatest diligence into the search of the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life..." So yeah, he was a strange child. (I can make Harry Potter fit in any review lol.)

At the age of seventeen, after mourning his mother's death, he went off to university and began his descent into the weird world of alchemy. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera. But these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles.

It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being. ...I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionally large.

Sure, that seems smart. Make the monster even bigger than you first thought. Victor goes into this kind of frenzy of studying and gathering materials (IE: body parts) and basically starts ignoring every other part of his life. And I apologize for the large amount of quotes, but there are some really good ones, so here we go:

A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquility. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule. If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasure in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind.

So Victor continues on in this state for nearly two years and he finally succeeds...the monster comes to life. There is no lightning storm or shouts of "It's aliiiive!!" or even a hunch-backed sidekick. The monster opens its milky yellow eyes, Victor freaks out and runs off to his bedchamber. The monster shows up, hovering creepily over his bed, and does the "father??" routine but Victor wants none of it and runs into the night. (Running is a theme, FYI.)

Then, horrors, Victor's pal Clerval shows up suddenly to check on him. They make their way back to Victor's pad, which is ominously empty, and Victor falls into a sort of delirious fit that leaves him bed-ridden for months. (Another theme) Clerval takes care of him and two years pass. Yep, you read that right...TWO YEARS go by and he doesn't do anything about this monster that he let loose into the world. He doesn't even know if it really is a monster, he just assumes. Especially when he gets a letter from Elizabeth telling him that his younger brother was murdered. Victor immediately heads home, where he is confronted by the monster first thing, so yeah, he was probably right. A servant girl is accused of the murder and Victor can't say anything without incriminating himself, so the girl is tried and hanged. Good job, Vic. His whining and selfishness really got on my nerves throughout this book. Also, his lack of nerves. Every other page, he's fainting and falling into a horrible illness that takes months to recover from. Grow a spine, weenie...or steal one from a cadaver, whatever. Anyway, after all that mess, Victor takes off and ends up on an icy mountain where he's confronted by his creation. Who is surprisingly eloquent.

"All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us."

Seriously? I don't have a dead guy's brain rattling in my head and I can't speak that well! Basically, the dude is super sad and it's all Victor's fault. Because of that, the monster wants Vic to listen to him and show some freaking compassion for the pitiful creature. So Victor sits down and listens to the guy's story, which though really long and wordy, was one of my favorite parts of the whole book. Speaking of long and wordy, this review is getting there, yes? Let's try to speed things up.

The monster wakes up to a scary world, with no idea who or what he is. Victor totally shunned him so he goes off into the world. After freaking out some villagers, he comes to realize that he's kind of a leper of some sorts so he hides in the woods a lot. He finds a small cottage with a hovel of sorts next to it and hides there and starts spying on the family living there. Turns out it's an old blind man and his two children. That's where he learns his humanity and language and such. He starts to care for the family and does things for them in secret, like cutting wood and shoveling snow. He begins to find his humanity again.

These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man, indeed, at once so powerful, so virtuous and magnificent, yet so vicious and base? He appeared at one time a mere scion of the evil principle and at another as all that can be conceived of noble and godlike. To be a great and virtuous man appeared the highest honour that can befall a sensitive being.

After observing the family for months and months, the monster finally decides to reveal himself, in the hopes that they will accept him and love him. It doesn't go well. And in a fit of rage, he sets fire to their cottage and takes off to find his creator. Way to live up to stereotypes. He finds Victor's family, kills the boy, sets the crime on the help, and starts stalking Victor when he shows up, and now we're back at the icy mountain. What does the monster want now? He wants Victor to build him a woman, a companion, as ugly & ostracized as him, and then he'll leave him alone forever. Understandably, Victor is like "Whaaat??? No way, dude." But then the monster threatens him and says he'll follow him to the ends of the earth til his dying days, blah blah and Victor reconsiders.

He finally agrees and then a whole bunch of months pass again. Victor and Elizabeth get engaged, but he refuses to marry her until his deed is done (although he doesn't tell anyone that, so she thinks he has another woman somewhere). Victor and Clerval go off on this "gentleman's holiday" of sorts which Victor set up so he could go somewhere far away to make the lady monster. He gets all the materials together and does more research but in the end, just can't bring himself to do it. The monster, of course, is keeping tabs on him the whole time and is super pissed when he sees Victor destroy the body. The monster retaliates by killing Clerval, which Victor is accused of and hey, he falls ill again. Oh, before that he gets this ominous message from the monster: "I shall be with you on your wedding-night." Whoa dude, not that kind of relationship. Haha, just kidding.

Victor is freed from prison, marries Elizabeth, they honeymoon on a tropical island, the monster finds them and kills Elizabeth, Victor faints. He doesn't actually get sick this time though. He finally decides to take out the monster once and for all, especially after his father dies from all the grief, and starts tracking the creature all over the world. And they make their way to the icy sea where he meets Walton and the story is back to the present. Victor is near death which is very sad for Walton, who thought he might be his friend. Alas, Victor doesn't want a new BFF.

"When you speak of new ties and fresh affections, think you that any can replace those who are gone? Can any man be to me as Clerval was, or any woman another Elizabeth? Even where the affections are not strongly moved by any superior excellence, the companions of our childhood always possess a certain power over our minds which hardly any later friend can obtain. They know our infantine dispositions, which, however they may be afterwards modified, are never eradicated; and they can judge of our actions with more certain conclusions as to the integrity of our motives."

I love that; it's so true. And we're at the end of the book...Victor dies after telling Walton to seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition, the hideous monster shows up on the ship and is kind of mad that Victor died and the chase is over. Because he was kind of enjoying himself. He tells Walton not to worry, that he's done killing, after one last person...himself. And that's it. Honestly, I think I prefer Young Frankenstein.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Review: "Cutters (Uglies: Graphic Novel #2)"

Cutters (Uglies: Graphic Novel #2) by Scott Westerfeld
2 out of 5 stars

I was so excited to get this second installment of the Uglies graphic novels but then when I finally did, I just kept putting it off. I wasn't sure why until I actually started reading it. Like the first, I'd say if you are a mega-fan of the series, then absolutely read it. If you enjoyed them on a surface level, like me, I'd say you're okay skipping them. I probably won't buy any of the future issues, if he decides to make them.

This is starting out pretty negative, so let's talk about the things I did like about this book. The artwork is great still, for an anime-style gn. The party scenes in particular were lovely. I didn't feel like it lived up to the novel again though. I wanted to see more of the high-tech bubbly world that Westerfield created. Maybe it needs to be in color? I just thought of that. The cover is much more crisp and life-like.

I also really liked Dr Cable, her evilness shone thru the pages for sure. The rest of the characters fell flat though. I kept getting all the guys confused and even had a hard time recognizing Pretty Tally. Shay was okay, but I still disliked her as much as in the novels. Which I guess is the point. You really need to read this pretty close after reading the novels though, I was very confused throughout most of the book. Despite the title, the cutting seemed to be glossed over a lot more than in the novel. I mean, yes it does show the kids cutting themselves and having the ceremony, but it doesn't seem to have the glorification that the novel did.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: "Amy & Roger's Epic Detour"

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
5 out of 5 stars

I've been meaning to review this book for a while now, I read it back in August! But I wanted to make the playlists on 8Tracks for people to listen to and they just take a really long time to do. I've managed to do the first three, which I'll post in here and I want to continue doing them, so I'll update my review as I do. :) And if you haven't read this book, you'll have no idea what I'm talking about so carry on lol. I read so many great summer romance/contemporary books this summer and this was probably the best.

Warning: minor spoilers in first paragraph, but nothing that isn't on the back of the book or in the Goodreads summary. Just letting you know in case you like to be totally surprised by things. :)

Amy is reaching the end of her junior year in California and has been having a really tough time. Her dad died a few months ago, in some sort of accident that she was part of, her twin brother Charlie is in rehab, and her mom is in Connecticut teaching. Amy has been alone for the last month and now her mom needs her to transfer their car to their new home and join her. Only one problem: Amy doesn't drive. That's where Roger comes in. The son of her mom's old friend that Amy used to play with as a kid but has no recollection of (don't you hate when your parents spring some person on you that you're supposed to remember and be BFF's with?) has agreed to drive Amy cross-country. Amy's mom arranges all the details, without discussing it with her daughter first, and suddenly Amy finds herself riding in a car for four days with a complete stranger. A cute one at that.

As Amy & Roger set out on their trip, things are obviously awkward between them: they don't know anything about each other except some distant childhood memories, they are both going thru heavy things in their lives that they don't want to discuss, and they are stuck with Amy's mom's tyrannical trip schedule thru the most boring parts of America. Or are they? Amy has the first of many epiphanies when she realizes that she doesn't have to do what her mom says all the time. As long as they make it to Connecticut in the right amount of time, who cares which route they take? And thus begins Amy & Roger's Epic Detour.

Like Roger, I agree that music is the most important part of a road trip. The playlists that Matson adds throughout the book set the mood for the story. The pictures and receipts from their various stops add layers so that by the end, you feel like you went on the trip with Amy & Roger. I want to go on a road trip like this. I've driven to San Antonio and Galveston tons of times, but that was to a destination and only a few hours. I want at least a week and no specific stops or itinerary. I want to see the world's largest ball of yarn (not actually in this book, I just want to see it lol) and go to Graceland and find strange new places to eat. (I feel sorry for people who don't have Sonic or Dairy Queen in their lives. I couldn't survive without Sonic.) And the people that they meet along the way! Some are friends of Roger's and some are strangers, but they're all interesting and probably the best secondary characters in a YA book I've seen in a long time. I can definitely see Matson writing a companion novel about Bronwyn with her clothing philosophy or Lucien and his shrub animals. :) Or maybe Amy's twin brother can take a trip back to California to get closure with their dad's death too. Or Wolcott and his band and his strong/strange sense of state pride.

You've got to have pride in your home. 
You are where you're from. 
Otherwise, you're always going to be lost.

This book is obviously about the physical journal Amy & Roger take, but it's also about their personal journeys. Amy has a lot (a LOT) of guilt and grief about her father's death and thru flashbacks, we start to see why and how that came about. As they cross the states, Roger helps her come to terms with all her feelings and in turn, she helps him get over a rough breakup. The book is really sad in parts, so be prepared to cry. But it's broken up enough with scenery changes and new playlists that you don't feel overwhelmed with the sadness. Ad astra per aspera, to the stars through adversity.

So you know Amy & Roger are going to get together in the end (sorry if I spoiled that for ya!) but I never felt like I was reading a formulaic summer romance. (Darn, that means my theory needs to be tested more!) They take things very slowly and for a long time you even wonder if they're actually getting together (despite the title). But it's okay, because their friendship grows into something great and you almost wouldn't care if they don't get together. Almost.

"Tomorrow will be better."
"But what if it's not?" I asked.
Then you say it again tomorrow. Because it might be. You never know, right? At some point, tomorrow will be better."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: "Kidnapped! Sweet Valley High #13"

Kidnapped! Sweet Valley High #13 by Francine Pascal
4 out of 5 stars

Before Reading: Ermahgawsh this looks scary! It looks like it should be one of the Super Thrillers.

The Main Plot in 50 Words or Less: Liz gets kidnapped by this creepy guy that works at the hospital. Jess thinks it's kind of her fault and feels super guilty.

The Second Plot in 20 Words or Less: New family in town: Regina & Nicholas Morrow. Regina is deaf & possibly a bad girl. Jess wants Nicholas.

Opening Line: "Steve, can you help me with this zipper, please?" Jessica Wakefield called as she raced down the hall to her brother's room.

Closing Lines: She had a strong suspicion that Nicholas hadn't reacted this way with Jessica. And she dreaded what would happen when Jessica found out.

Best WTF Line: Gently he ran his thick, stubby fingers across her hair and then unwound her braid, slowly, methodically, until her soft blond hair fell to her shoulders. 

Happenings in SV: There's a new family in town: Regina & Nicholas Morrow, and they're throwing a welcoming party for themselves? I don't know, it didn't really make sense. Liz & Jess have a party at the end of the book to celebrate Liz getting rescued. Todd & Liz are super intense at the party & Mrs Wakefield doesn't like it.

Fashion Icons:  (lots of fashion in this one!) Jessica had a knack for picking out clothes that made her look her best-although even a burlap sack couldn't conceal her perfectly proportioned figure. This dress was no exception. The iridescent material matched her brilliant, blue-green eyes, and the neckline of the sleeveless dress was about as low as a sixteen-year-old could get away with. [Jessica] really thought her brother was the most handsome guy in Sweet Valley. Steven was dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt. His black-leather aviator jacket was flung over his shoulder. 

Now Elizabeth won't have to waste time choosing an outfit, Jessica told herself, as she fingered a long, red velour skirt. A few hangers down the rack, Jessica found an off-white, high-necked blouse that completed the outfit.

As usual, Caroline Pearce [Miss Nosy of the Year] was the picture of respectability, her pink shirtwaist dress buttoned right up to the collar, her red hair clipped back neatly.

[Regina] had long, wavy, black hair, a porcelain complexion, and dancing blue eyes. Her black silk jumpsuit fit her tall, statuesque body perfectly. 

Twin Hijinks:  Jess gets a nagging feeling that something is wrong with Liz at the beginning of the book, but she shrugs it off. At the end of the book, Jess goes to the hospital to look around and runs into Carl, the crazy guy. He thinks she's Liz and freaks out. He seemed almost possessed, his eyes bulging out of their sockets, his voice desperate as he cried out her twin's name. Nicholas confuses the twins too at the end and it looks like he likes one twin more than the other. Oooh...

Other Thoughts: Finally, a book with Steven in it! Steven's girlfriend, Tricia Martin, has leukemia. Jessica's friend, Cara, likes Steven and Jess told her that maybe after Tricia dies, they could start over again. *snort* Liz's kidnapping was really scary. You're supposed to feel bad for Carl, because he's kind of slow, but yeah, I don't. He's smart enough to lie to the cops and try to get Liz out of town. Max Dellon, guitarist for The Droids, has to pass English to stay in the band. His dad is a real jerk, Liz is supposed to tutor him, & obviously doesn't show up. Max goes to look for her & ends up getting arrested and accused of doing something with her. Todd fights him but then realizes he didn't do anything. Todd, Jess, & Max go junior sleuthing and end up being the ones to find out where Liz is.

The Next Book*: Will Elizabeth leave Todd for Nicholas? Find out in Sweet Valley High #14, DECEPTIONS.

*(not necessarily what I'll be reading)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Review: "Bumped & Thumped"

Bumped & Thumped by Megan McCafferty
3 out of 5 stars

I saw these books in a "What to Read After The Handmaid's Tale" post on Bookriot and since that was my classic for September, I decided it'd be interesting to read these and compare it. There is a definite similarity and I'd be comfortable calling these a contemporary remake of Handmaid's. I would at least recommend them as a companion read for it. When I checked them out at the library, my 13 year old sister was with me and after reading the summary, she said that she would want to read them as well.

I'd almost call this a utopian series as opposed to dystopian. Or at least, it's trying to be. There's a strong sense of hope and "we're doing good things" instead of doom & gloom and "everybody is going to diiiieeee". ;) Bumped is set in 2036 America and like Handmaid's, a virus has caused the majority of the population to be infertile. In this case, most women over 18 years. Why is it always women? Why can't men have a problem for once? So this means the world must rely on teenagers to have babies. Controversial for sure but McCafferty did a really great job with it, in my opinion. I have to admit I've never read any of her other books, but I really enjoyed the writing in these two.

Melody and Harmony are 16 year old twins separated at birth. Melody has grown up to become a Professional Breeder (although she hasn't gotten a contract yet to actually procreate) and Harmony was raised in an incredibly strict Church life in "Goodside". Harmony's story is very old-fashioned-no technology, communal raising of the children, etc. Where Melody's story is all about the new slang and electronics of the future-MiVu's, contacts that you put in to connect to the Net and things like that. The lingo was a little annoying at first, she was trying a little too hard to push it.

Ventura Vida has the pee stick. "The Pro/Am has an image problem," she says. "We're just not sexy enough. I mean, rilly!"

But there are some interesting comparisons to present-day as well, just like Handmaid's. In the United States, deliveries of every color and creed are valued. It's shocking to think that the government would try to stick its nose in our ladyparts. I know a lot of people believe this story is meant to be a satire, but it had its serious moments to me. When the twins reunite, they are each carrying secrets and they must come to terms with them before their relationship can grow. The struggles they face are real even if the world isn't. Their confusion about what is right and wrong is heartfelt. And of course, there are boys and romance...it is a young adult novel after all. Melody's best friend, Zen, was a lot of fun and his interactions with Harmony were particularly nice to read. Ram, a "brother" in Goodside, has a major secret that he struggles with throughout.

And then there is Jondoe. The breediest man brand you could possibly ever want to bump with. This dude is a true pro and he loves every minute of it. And I know what you're thinking: "ew gross" right? Well, yeah at first. But this guy has more depth than his stud-for-hire commercials show. So give him a chance. But be sure to wear protection haha! (Sorry, I just had to go there!)

Moving on. Bumped focuses more on Melody's side of the story and you may feel like Harmony is getting the short end of the pee stick, but Thumped brings it more into balance and you really end up liking both girls quite a bit. Be sure to get both books at once though, because the first ends on a cliffhanger (someone gets pregged!) and you will want to know what happens. I don't know if I would want my 13 year old sister reading these, even though she read Twilight ages ago, but I think an older teen would have no problems with it. Just from the reviews, you might think the books are encouraging teen pregnancy, but after reading them I think you'll change your mind. It would absolutely be a good companion to The Handmaid's Tale, as I said above. In any case, they will get you talking.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

TILT: The Other Stuff In My Head :)

I'm kind of in a random mood this week so I figured it'd be good to do a random Things I Love Thursday. Plus, I couldn't decide on a theme otherwise. What things, bookish or not, are you loving this week? New TV shows? I enjoyed Rebel Wilson's new show last night, but not sure why she's trying to suppress her accent. Agents of SHIELD was pretty good again but it hasn't sucked me in yet. Music, fashion, toys? I want to know!

(if you do not want your picture linked, please contact me!)

Cool Cat Sweater at Forever21 --I really want this sweater. It's been hard in the past to find kitschy/kawaii stuff in plus size, but this season seems to have some fun things. I bought a Pop Art dress at Torrid and I absolutely love it. (Sold out but they have leggings in same print!) And I got the owl sweater from Old Navy, just waiting for it to get cooler so I can wear it lol.

This trick I saw on Pinterest from Lifehacker has changed my life in a small but effective way! I always have the worst trouble putting bracelets on myself. What small tricks have you discovered recently that have surprised & delighted you?

Blythe in Library by LuluS on Flickr --this is such a lovely picture and combines two of my favorite hobbies: Blythe dolls and books. :)

Gummy Bear Thumbprint Cookies by The Baking Robot --awesome blog name, awesome cookies! I really want to make these soon. Our favorite Fro-Yo place, Happy Sweet Frog, has the best gummy bears. They're huge and have really amazing flavor. We found them recently at Sprouts grocery store and they are just begging to be made into these cookies.

And from super department of random, I found this hilarious video by AdultSwim about girls' toys from the 80s that have gone bad. Kinda NSFW, but so funny! The part with Strawberry Shortcake made me snort, I was laughing so hard.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Bookish Pet Peeves

I hadn't planned on doing this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic by The Broke & The Bookish but then I started reading other people's lists and things just started coming to me. Y'all are so inspiring! :) My list is a mix of annoying things about the story/plot and about the books themselves.

1. Typos --there is nothing worse then a book full of typos/spelling errors. Except maybe a book full of typos by a well-established author. Lazy editors, don't be lazy! (I proofread this post 3 times, I hope there aren't any typos!)

2. No Parents --I've seen this on nearly every list this morning and I absolutely agree. Nothing worse than having a bunch of 13 year olds running around New York City for the first time all by themselves. ;)

3. Super Short/Long Chapters --I don't know about you, but I have this thing where I'm reading and have to stop at a chapter break or at least a big paragraph break. That's pretty hard to do when my sister is hollering for me to help with dinner and the chapter is 62 pages long! On the other hand, the book I just finished had 2-3 page chapters, with alternating viewpoints. Way too short, way too much page turning.

4. Movie Tie-In Covers --can't stand it. I've only done it once, with Beastly. And if I ever find a cheap non-movie cover, I'd probably replace it.

5. 30 Pages of "Extra"/Blank Pages at the End --you think you have tons of story left and then *bam* you're into the reader's guide or a preview of their next book! Or even worse, nothing at all! That's a waste of paper, people!

6. Cliffhangers with Sequels in A Year --it's not that I hate cliffhangers, but I usually end up having to reread the first book when the second comes out.

7. "Twilight" Love --please, I'm begging you...don't watch the girl sleep. It's icky and creepy and gross and stalkerish. Also, perfect example for bad love triangles, awful insta-love, weak/whiny female MC and more.

8. Inconsistencies (that is the hardest word to spell lol!) in a Series --the first book, the girl is 17. The next, she's celebrating her 17th birthday. Or they change the spelling of a main character's name. Or they forget so-and-so had a sister three books back.

9. Books Made Entirely of Emails --it just bugs me.

10.Huge Spoilers in the Summary on Goodreads or the Back of the Book --"so-and-so dies???" Whaaat??? I don't care if it does happen on the very first page, keep it vague!

Things I Don't Mind So Much:

Love Triangles --done correctly of course. For example, I'm reading Being Friends With Boys right now. I'm not very far in, but I can already see the MC having to choose between one of her best guy friends and one of the hot new guys in the band. That's plausible.

Insta-Love --I think it's pretty realistic for a high school girl to fall instantly in love with that new guy in her English class. Don't you remember how many crushes you had in HS? It was like every week there was someone new you were madly in love with. If it's not YA though, I need a reason...you spent a whole day on an airplane talking, you are being held hostage together by some maniac vampire group, you have to work on a huge project for work that takes days of constant togetherness, etc...Not any of that "we made eye contact across the crowded dance floor and I knew instantly that he was the one". ;)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: "The Handmaid's Tale" Classic a Month #9.2013

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
3 out of 5 stars

As in all my classic reads, I'm going to assume you've either read it, haven't read it but know all about it already, or don't plan to read it, so spoilers will abound in this review. :) This is such a hard book to rate. I can't really say I enjoyed reading it, but I'm glad I did. Does that make sense? You know by now that I'm not a blogger who will dissect all the "themes" of the book or how it relates to the political climate we're in right now and all that stuff they make you write in high school essays. I can just write how the book makes me feel. And this book depressed the heck out of me. There are no positive aspects to this book, at all.

This book was written in 1985, set in a "distant future" that seems to be around now present-day time. Which is disturbing on so many levels. That we live in a time now that people used to create dystopian societies. And while we don't have the flying cars of Back to the Future, these worlds sometimes feel eerily similar to real life. In our present day world, the government is already trying (and succeeding here in Texas & many other states) to take away a woman's reproductive rights by defunding places like Planned Parenthood and outlawing abortions. That's a too small step to Atwood's imagined world, don't you think? I said I didn't like to get political in my reviews, so that's all I'll say about that.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. Does that sentence even make sense? Let's break it down...Offred is a person, a female, 33 years old. Her name literally means Of-Fred, property of some dude named Fred. I kept reading it as Off-Red though, which also works, because she now has to wear a long red Nun's habit and keep her body concealed at all times. As a Handmaid, she lives with a higher up Commander, Fred, and his wife. Her sole job is to make a baby for this family, by "lying" with the husband once a month. To make it even more awkward, they do this the "old-fashioned" way, no artificial stuff here, and the wife lies with them. The Republic of Gilead is the East Coast of the former United States, in the 2010s, after a Middle Eastern religious group is blamed for shooting the President and all the members of Congress. A new government is formed, one that brings about the "old ways" of women being property, no longer able to hold jobs or bank accounts, all decisions must be made by the man of the house. Then there is a virus, a power plant explosion, something like that...it causes some women to be infertile, not the men of course. The population is endangered. Young, fertile women are taken to former schools or Nunneries and indoctrinated into a cult of sorts that makes them believe this is their destiny, their new job. The old, infertile, resistant are taken to Colonies, awful places where they just wait to die.

Offred is brainwashed into this new life just like everyone else, but she has moments where she can't help but remember her former life. She had a husband, a child...both taken from her because she was his second wife and divorce is illegal now, so the child is illegitimate. She doesn't know what has become of them, after. She wonders if this is what her life is going to be forever. Women can no longer read or write, which was actually the part of this book that upset me the most. The fact that they are taking away not just their individuality and bodies, but their freedom and ability to learn, their brains, it's just so sad.

But Offred finds ways to keep her wits, stay as present and positive as possible. She finds a Latin saying etched into the floor of her bedroom closet: "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum". Don't let the bastards grind you down. She uses it as a slogan, something to repeat over and over as she is humiliated and used. The Commander, Fred, starts to take an interest in her. He encourages her to break the rules and talk to him late into the night, play Scrabble, read old illicit magazines (Vogue). One night he takes her to a brothel, dressed up in an old sequined costume and cheap makeup. Sex is supposed to no longer be a pleasurable thing, but a way to build up the country again. But of course, men will always break the rules they make. If I were writing this as a school essay, I would use that as a main talking point. And also the question of "love" throughout the book. This passage stood out for me, as one of the most important themes in the story:

We've given them [women] more than we've taken away, said the Commander. This way they're protected, they can fulfill their biological destinies in peace. With full support and encouragement. Now, tell me. What did we overlook?

Love, I [Offred] said.

Love? What kind of love?

Falling in love, I said.

Oh, yes. Was it really worth it, falling in love? 

Love, said Aunt Lydia [Nun] with distaste. Don't let me catch you at it. Love is not the point.

Those years were just an anomaly, historically speaking, the Commander said. Just a fluke. All we've done is return things to Nature's norm.

Falling in love, I said. Falling into it, we all did then, one way or another. How could he have made such light of it? Sneered even. As if it was trivial for us, a frill, a whim. It was the central thing; it was the way you understood yourself; if it never happened to you, not ever, you would be like a mutant, a creature from outer space. Everyone knew that.

This book pushes buttons and I can understand why it has been on the Banned Books List so often. (Not saying I agree, just that I understand.) But sometimes you need to read books that make you uncomfortable and question the ways of the world. How will you grow, otherwise? And even if the book doesn't have a happy ending or even an ending really at all (like this one), does that mean you wasted your time reading it? I don't think so.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: New York, New York! The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #6

New York, New York! The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #6 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

Ugh, Claudia is starting this one. That means an extra dose of bad spelling and hard to read handwriting. :P So the girls have yet another 2 weeks off school. Do they ever actually go to school for more than 3 books in a row with no holidays? I'll have to keep an eye on that. Claudia talks her parents into letting her go to New York City and take an important art class for that time and stay with Stacey & her dad. Then Stacey's dad says any of their other friends can come too, because he's trying to be a good dad or something. Somehow, all the other girls' parents agree to this far-fetched plan and ridiculously, Laine Cummings' parents agree to let some of the girls stay with them in their amazingly huge and fancy apartment. Claudia decides to keep a diary of their trip and illustrate it, because she's a super awesome artist. Side note: this book was actually illustrated by Ann M Martin's dad, which I think is pretty cool. I can't remember if he did the others or not, I'll have to go check.

Claudia starts out her diary by freaking out about her new art teacher, McKenzie Clarke (who I couldn't find in my Googling, so he's made up?), and thinking about what each girl will be packing for their trip to the Big Apple. Stacey is going to investigate each wardrobe before they go, to make sure they all look totally chilly (which is way better than dibbly). There aren't any specific What Claudia is Wearing in this book, so I thought it'd be fun to show what each girl is probably wearing to NYC. Let's start with Stacey and Claudia, who are both totally sophisticated.

Stacey would be packing black leggings (some with stirrups on the feet, some without) and baggy black and white and red tops. She would probably pack or wear her black cowboy boots. Stacey and I both look good in black and white. Stacey wears very chilly jewelry..., and she loves to do things that make herself look a little unusual. She might sprinkle glitter in her hair, or paint her nails silver. And what was left in my [Claudia's] suitcase after I'd removed that three years' worth of clothing? Outfits like Stacey's, only wilder, if you can believe it. I would say that, like Stacey, I'm pretty sophisticated, but I may be the chillest dresser in the BSC. That's because I LIKE to look different from other people.
(Click here for links & details)

The girls are excited to get to NYC, but first they have to make it onto the train and away from their parents. Every member of every family came to see the girls off...even Shannon the dog and Tigger. Ridiculous. Once they get settled on the train, Claudia pulls out the junk food, Mary Anne pulls out the guidebooks, and they're off. Of course each girl has a "special" storyline, it wouldn't be a Super Special if they didn't, right? All the girls basically go off and do their own thing for the whole 2 weeks, which seems really odd to me. Again, these 11-13 year old girls are allowed to wander around a strange place with no adult supervision. But whatev. Let's go down the list, shall we?

Claudia and Mallory are taking the special art class at FALNY...Claudia because she is obviously the best art student ever and wants to be "professional" and Mallory because she wants to learn how to draw ponies and cute hedgehogs for the stories she writes. Both girls are a little surprised by the class. They have to draw a lot of boxes and other boring stuff like that, but they also get to go on field-trips, like to The Cloisters. Mac, as the best students call him, disses Claudia nearly the entire time and encourages Mallory like crazy. Obviously, he is using reverse psychology on one of them to encourage growth in their talent. I'll let you decide which. Hint: It's not Mal and her country mice, Ryan and Meaghan.

Kristy's story isn't super big...she finds a dog in the park and smuggles him into the Cummings' apartment. Jessi does a great bit confusing the doorman so Kristy can get him inside, but turns out dogs ARE allowed in their apartment building. It's just Laine's parents who don't want a dog. Kristy seems to think she can just take the dog home with her and it'll be okay, but Watson & her mom veto that quickly. She puts out signs around the neighborhood to try to either find the owner or find a new one. A little boy calls her and says he wants the dog and Kristy agrees to go over to his apartment without even speaking to the parents at all. Way to be a Super Sitter, Kristy. At least Laine walks over with her and meets the family before leaving Kristy all alone. Laine is actually much more of a parental figure in this book than most of the parents. The little boy ends up taking Sonny the dog and everything turns out good.

Even though Kristy lives in a mansion with her mom and her millionaire stepfather, she was probably just tossing jeans and turtleneck shirts or T-shirts into a duffel bag. Kristy has never been one to dress up...Mary Anne, who looks something like Kristy...will be packing her very different wardrobe. Mary Anne used to have to wear clothes her father picked out for her. She looked like a first-grader. Now she wears much chillier clothes. Dawn, who's individualistic and pretty self-confident, would be packing her own personal style of clothes, which the rest of think of as "California Casual".
(Click here for links & details)

Stacey & Mary Anne have the baby-sitting gig in this special. Which leads me to ask: what are all the parents back in Stoneybrook doing for this 2 weeks? All the baby-sitters are gone, who are they calling? Logan & Shannon? Psshh...nobody wants those alternates. Anyway, Stace & MA agree to watch these kids of British dignitaries or something who are conveniently visiting for the 2 weeks. Basically, they're getting paid to take the kids all around NYC, which is perfect for MA the tour guide. The kids are suitably adorable, with their sailor suits and perfect manners and accents but their trips are marred by a strange man (or men) wearing a rain hat and sunglasses who seems to be following them everywhere they go. The girls, of course, jump to all sorts of conclusions and don't talk to the parents till nearly the last day, when they learn that the guy is actually the bodyguard. Um, okay. Who are these people?? They hire a professional bodyguard to follow the kids around, but not an older, professional nanny? Weird.

And what does Dawn do for her 2 weeks? The same thing she does every time she goes to NYC...hides in the apartment and freaks out over every car backfiring, cockroach, and homeless person. Seriously, Dawn. You're supposed to be so laid-back and California chill. Eat some special brownies and relax already. She takes to cleaning up and organizing Mr McGill's apartment. You know, she has a real problem trying to organize people's lives: first her mom, then Mrs Barrett, now Mr McGill. She may want to seek counselling for that. A few days into their vacation, Mr McGill's downstairs neighbor, a boy Dawn's age of course, knocks on his door. Seems he has a broken leg and visits with Mr McGill sometimes, which I find very hard to believe since Mr McGill is a well-known workaholic. He doesn't have time to be hanging around with some 13 year old boy and if he does, maybe the authorities should be notified. (Kidding kidding) After Dawn finally decides the boy isn't there to kill her and stuff her body down the trash chute, the two become friends and he gets her to venture outside the apartment. He takes her all around NYC as a tourist would (which she could have done with Stacey & Mary Anne) and they eat a lot. That's about it.

At the Pikes', Mallory was probably tripping over her seven younger brothers and sisters and packing the trendiest stuff she could find. [Jessi] would probably pack a leotard and her toe shoes. Otherwise, she would pack stuff pretty similar to Mallory's.
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Finally, we have Jessi, who gets the love interest this time around. I know, I was pretty shocked it wasn't Claudia too. Jessi goes to the ballet, alone, and ends up sitting next to a boy. But not just any boy: Quint, the amazingly handsome, conveniently aged, racially harmonious, uber-talented ballet dancer. They start talking about the ballet, which I am almost positive is Swan Lake. Jessi says she loves it and everything but doesn't even mention that she was the freaking lead? That's weird. Especially since nearly the first sentence out of Quint's mouth is that his ballet teacher thinks he should try out for Julliard. Is Quint the one who carries his ballet stuff in a pizza box or is that from some movie? I can't remember. Anyway, he doesn't want to try out because he's getting ragged on by all the neighborhood thugs, but Jessi convinces him that he should at least give it a shot. She even goes with him to talk to his parents. (Again, Laine chaperone's.) I don't think we find out if he gets in yet He totally gets in! I know he comes back in later books too. Good thing, since Jessi has no chance of finding a boyfriend in Stoneybrook. And that's it for this Super Special...up next, another All Grown Up featuring Mallory. That should be interesting. ;) And look! There's something mysterious going on in Stoneybrook! I would start reading the mysteries in between the regular, but I don't have them all yet. But hey, you know what that means?! Mass trips to Half Price Books haha!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Banned Book Week!

(Courtesy of the Lisa Simpson Book Club Tumblr)

It's that time again...time to stand up against censorship and read all the books "the man" is telling you not to! ;) I just don't get the energy people put into this whole "banning" thing. If you don't want your kid to read a book, that's fine, I'm not judging anyone's morals or anything here. But don't make it a huge issue including the whole class or school or district. What's the point? It just embarrasses the child and causes undue hardship on the schools, when they already have enough problems. And that's my little soapbox speech. Let's get on to some fun stuff, okay?

How about this cute little "I'm Banned" Button by BustMyButton? Hehe...

I was checking out the Banned & Challenged Classics list on ALA and turns out I've read the top 4 in the last few years for my Classic a Month. Go me! :) The Great Gatsby was challenged for "language & sexual references". Psshh...challenge it for not being that great instead lol. And okay, I can see why The Catcher in the Rye is challenged so much...profanity, lots of sexual talk, obscene, blah blah blah. But I honestly still think it's an important book, for the right group. I was actually a little surprised at first to see The Grapes of Wrath on the list but then I read that it was challenged in a lot of Southern states and that makes more sense, on the grounds that the minister is "corrupt" and they say "God Damn". And I just finished The Handmaid's Tale for my September classic, which is continuously challenged for being religiously immoral and sexually explicit, and I'll be reviewing it in full later this week. (Banned Bookmark by MJ*LaFlaca on Flickr)

Looking at the 2012 Banned Book List, I was pretty surprised that I'd only read two. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.  I understand why parents are afraid of this book, but that's not a good enough reason to ban it. Teenagers have pain and misery thrust into their lives all the time and they need to know that they aren't alone. This wasn't a book about suicide to me. It was a book about asking for help, even after it's too late.

Looking for Alaska by John Green: Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. I don't understand this "unsuited for age group" thing. Who do they think these are suited for? Do the people challenging these books not remember their teenage life? Kids are going to read/listen to/talk about/do "explicit things" no matter what.

And let's end this with a fun little comic by Grant Snider, which reminds us that sometimes the best books are the ones people are telling us not to read.