Tuesday, July 30, 2013

80s-Tastic Baby-Sitters Club & Ann M Martin Giveaway!

Alright lovelies, I have finally gotten my act together and am ready to do my first Rafflecopter giveaway! :) This giveaway is open to everyone, US & International! There will be 2 winners, chosen by RaffleCopter, first chosen will get prize #1 & second chosen prize #2. And what are those prizes, you ask?

Prize #1 is a copy (slightly used, as you can tell) of The Baby-Sitters Club #2: Claudia & The Phantom Phone Calls signed by Ms. Ann M Martin herself. Also included are a copy of Martin's book, A Corner of the Universe (unsigned), your very own slap bracelet watch (can't guarantee it'll work after one slap lol), some awesome animal stickers, super cool pencils, a spiffy button, and ZOMG a Lisa Frank notepad. ;)

Prize #2 is a copy (slightly used) of The Baby-Sitters Club #4: Mary Anne Saves the Day (unsigned). Also included are a signed copy of Martin's newest book, Better To Wish, your very own slap bracelet watch (can't guarantee it'll work after one slap lol), some awesome animal stickers, super cool pencils, a spiffy button, and ZOMG a Lisa Frank notepad. ;)

There are plenty of ways to enter, each point counts, so do as many as you like! The giveaway will close on Tuesday Aug 6th and I will announce the winners that Wednesday.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Must be at least 18 years old or have your parents' permission, since I will need your address. If I don't receive the addresses of the winners by Friday Aug 9th, I will pick new ones. Please email me with any questions or concerns: seejennread@yahoo.com

Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: "The Grapes of Wrath" Classic a Month #7.2013

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4 out of 5 stars

After last summer's Steinbeck-palooza, I knew I wanted to try one of his bigger books this summer. When I found Grapes of Wrath at HPB for $1.00, my decision was made for me...maybe next year I'll tackle East of Eden. Before I started Grapes, I was expecting it to be this huge, daunting work of literature. I should have known better. Steinbeck's voice shines thru in this story about a family trying to survive the Dust Bowl and Great Depression of the 1930s and made it an easy, if not always pleasant, read. I was also helped along by Harry F who conveniently summarized each chapter for me. Usually they give up after a few chapters, but Harry made it all the way to the bitter end and made his feelings clear. ;)

It's hard to imagine the conditions that forced the Joad family and thousands of others to pick up and leave their homes. I've seen drought conditions here in Texas, but I can't even comprehend this: The dawn came, but no day. In the gray sky a red sun appeared, a dim red circle that gave a little light, like dusk, and as that day advanced, the dusk slipped back toward darkness, and the wind cried and whimpered over the fallen corn. And even if their crops happened to survive the dust storms, they had to deal with the banks after that. Forced to borrow a little bit of money to keep it going, they now have to pay that back. And in most cases, that means giving up the land that their great-grandfather grew up on. Does this feeling of ownership exist still? That sense of pride in your land and what you've grown, the comfort of knowing that generations of your family will live and work and die on this land long after you are gone?

But it's our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it's no good, it's still ours. That's what makes it ours--being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it.

While this book is about that era on a wider scale, it is also about one specific family, the Joad's, and their struggles. Tom Joad Jr has just gotten out of prison (he murdered a man, but in self-defense) and after meeting a lapsed-preacher, Casy, on the road, they make their way to Tom's family home, which they find completely deserted and demolished. Tom fears the worst until he is told by a neighbor that his family is staying with an Uncle down the road. They get there and Tom is greeted with happiness and relief from everyone...and just in time too, as the Joad family is packing up to head West. They can't make it anymore in Oklahoma and have heard that there are thousands of jobs in California, picking fruit and cotton. Even though it will violate Tom's parole, he doesn't hesitate to go with them and talks Casy into going too.

Casy was really interesting to me. He had an epiphany of sorts about religion once all these people started losing their homes and just decided that he couldn't preach in the normal sense anymore. "Why do we got to hang it on God or Jesus? Maybe it's all men an' all women we love; maybe that's the Holy Sperit [Spirit]--the human sperit--the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever'body's a part of." He just kind of speaks his own mind now and even though he doesn't think so, he is helping people still. He helps the Joad family when they lose several family members, thru death and desertion, on the way to California and keeps Tom from going back to jail numerous times and eventually making an ultimate sacrifice for them. Tom goes thru a tremendous amount of personal growth throughout the book and a large part of that is thanks to Casy.

"Well, maybe like Casy says, a fella ain't got a soul of his own, but on'y a piece of a big one--an' then--Then it don' matter. Then I'll be aroun' in the dark. I'll be ever'where--wherever you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'--I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build--why, I'll be there."

Sometimes I hate Steinbeck for knowing exactly how I feel and being able to put it in words. Do you ever get that feeling while reading? I'd really like to know what it was and what you did after. In my case, that quote above really relates to the political-ness that has been going on in Texas the last few weeks and I feel like I need to do *something*. I want to be more involved and make my voice heard, just like Tom and Casy. Hopefully without the head injuries and running from the cops though. :P

I know this isn't a typical review for this book probably. I could have talked about how amazingly strong Tom's mother was and how awful the conditions were for the migrants all along the road and into California. How the car salesmen would fleece the people for all they could or how the gas stations wouldn't let the people use the water hose unless they bought something. How they had to camp on the side of the roads and bury their loved ones in the desert and spend their last dollar on a new tire. But that's not what the heart of this book is about. It's about family, those you were born with and those you choose, and the path that you take in life and how it impacts everything around you.

The twenty families became one family, the children were the children of all. The loss of home became one loss, and the golden time in the West was one dream.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mid-Year Resolutions Update

Okay, it's a little bit past mid-year but I've seen several other people updating this week and it reminded me that I did, in fact, make resolutions, so I figured I'd better go see how I was doing. You can view my 2013 resolutions, but I'll recap them some here too.

My not-so-bookish goal was to create more and I have done fairly well with it. I am keeping up with my 365 Pic a Day project, which I am so so happy about. I transferred over to Instagram at the end of May and I love it so much more than (new) Flickr. I've made new friends, gotten lots of new toys because of it, and really enjoy taking my pics for the most part. As far as my other craftiness goes, well...it could use some improvement still. I did start on a Night Circus inspired Blythe doll outfit, which has been a source of great pain and annoyance. It's actually almost done though and as soon as I get the right background stuff for it, I'll share it! And this week I am making and sending out happy mail to some lovely online friends. :) I just feel like I need to do *more* though. Anyway, enough rambling about that!

My book/reading goals: 

1. Enjoy my reading--absolutely, yes I have! I have found and refound so many good books so far this year. I reread my favorite graphic novel series, Strangers in Paradise, found a new favorite in Locke & Key, and talked my sister into joining me in my Annual Summer ReRead of Harry Potter. :)

2. Continue my Classic a Month--I have read a classic every month but I haven't had any super-amazing-blow-my-mind reads like last year. Any suggestions to get me out of my slump? Grapes of Wrath helped some (which I will be reviewing next week), but not all the way there.

3. Goodreads Goal of 130 books--I am doing super wow good with this lol...I've read 89 books so far this year, which is 68% of my goal.

4. Read my Shelf!--erm no...I was doing really good, I made a (rather lofty) goal at the beginning of summer to not buy any books for Jun-Aug. I made it thru the end of June. :) I did read several off of my shelf, but then I replaced them all so...back where I started. Actually 3 more than, bah.

5. Baby-Sitters Club--this is where the goals start going way downhill. :( I've only read/reviewed 5 BSC books this year. I did set up my master list. That's something, right? No? Dang it. And I keep dangling that giveaway in y'alls faces and not doing anything about it. So. I am making a goal for THIS WEEKEND to GET THE BSC GIVEAWAY STUFF TOGETHER AND POSTED FOR MONDAY. Yep, all caps people, I MEAN BUSINESS!

6. Expand my Genres--hmm, does reading more graphic novels count? I didn't think so. Oh wait, I did read a bio of Harper Lee! And I read Twelfth Night by Shakespeare! And...that's about it. Help me! Give me suggestions for nonfiction!

7. Blog More--nope. :p Summer kills me, I just want to go swimming every night and this year has been even busier than usual with birthdays, graduations, holidays, parties, it's hard being popular. Haha j/k!!

8. Blog Redesign--I still want to change it up but I need time and help for that. Maybe this fall. I did do my About Me post.

(Found on ChickieUngie)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: "Jessi & The Dance School Phantom: The Baby-Sitters Club #42"

Jessi & The Dance School Phantom: The Baby-Sitters Club #42 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

Didn't we already have this storyline? Jessi gets the lead in the ballet and someone is threatened by her talent? Are we already out of fresh plots and starting to repeat? I hope not! Anyway, the book starts out with Jessi at ballet auditions for Sleeping Beauty. Apparently Mme Noelle decides all the roles, but wouldn't she have someone else helping her or at least take some time to think about it? And there is only Jessi's class at the auditions. This is already not making any sense.

At the end of class, Jessi finds out she will be playing Princess Aurora and all the other girls are jealous. In particular, 3: Carrie, who is maybe 13-14 and the "old lady" of the class, this is her last chance to show her skill before she transfers to a larger, better class. Katie Beth, who did not get along with Jessi at first because she's so young and awesome. And possibly because she's black. Don't quote me on that. And Hilary, who was forced into dance by her overbearing mother, kind of like that one girl in Center Stage. (Man, I love that movie!) These 3 girls are the key suspects in a convoluted childish plot to force Jessi to quit dancing forever...or else. This plot includes stealing Jessi's toe shoes & extra outfit, leaving threatening notes written in blood red calligraphy pen stuffed into her shoes, returning her leotard completely shredded, leaving her a red rose that she pricks her finger on. (Get it? Cause she's Sleeping Beauty. I'm super smart.) And actually dangerous, spilling some water on the dance floor so that Jessi slips and sprains her ankle.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "My god, these are awful things, someone could get (even more) seriously hurt. I hope Jessi calls on her baby-sitting friends to help her solve this mystery and absolutely does NOT involve any grownups." You guys & gals are so smart, because that's exactly what she does! :) Super-sleuthers that they are, the BSC members go over all the notes Jessi has gotten, attend one of her rehearsals and observe all the suspects, and quickly narrow it down to the 3 above. Two of the girls get eliminated for some reason or another, I can't really remember, and they are pretty sure they know who it is. Then they work on a "trap" to catch the guilty one, a la Claudia's cheating scandal. It's the stupidest trap ever and of course it works...turns out it's Hilary because her mother has made her so crazed about her dancing that she'll do anything to win. But as soon as Jessi confronts her, she totally backs down and even quits ballet after the recital. Wow, okay. The ballet goes off without a hitch, Jessi is super-fab as usual, and we get What Claudia & Stacey Wore to the Ballet:

Claudia looked extremely cool and exotic, as usual. Her hair was braided with silver ribbons, and she wore a shimmery dark blue minidress. On her feet were silver sandals, with laces up the calves-kind of like toe shoes. Stacey had on a tuxedo! That's right, a tuxedo, just like one a boy would wear. But it was made to fit her perfectly, and she looked great. She must have gotten it in New York. [Also, Kristy is wearing a dress! ZOMG!!]

Oh yeah, there is some baby-sitting in this one too...Kristy has a Great Idea to have a pet show for all the kids. Half the kids are upset because they don't have pets, half are upset because they have multiple siblings and only one pet, and half are upset because their pet won't win because it's not big/cute/smart enough. (Yes, I know my math doesn't add up, I had Claudia's help lol.) Lots of animal chapters, pretty boring, Myrtle the Turtle gets a paint job, Chewy gets loose again, Boo-Boo loves Max Delaney, and Frodo the hamster has green fur. Oh and the Pike triplets come as a horse. Jessi realizes that every kid should get an award, even if they don't bring a pet, and everyone is happy. The end and in the next book, Stacey's diabetes finally does her in!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

TILT: Jewelry for the Book Nerd

I was browsing on Etsy yesterday and kept coming across all these cool bookish jewelry things, so I decided to do another Things I Love Thursday based on book nerd jewelry! :)

(as always, please contact me if you do not want your shop featured)

I Still Believe in 398.2 by ThePendantEmporium --I've seen this one floating around on Pinterest a lot lately and I just adore it. And it is super cheap too...I may have to get it soon!

Librarian Locket Ring by Marolsha --I like that it opens up, so you can put secret notes in there, like your library card number lol.

there is no friend as loyal as a book by CynicalRedHead --maybe the only thing I like about Hemingway hah!

The Little Prince Book Locket by TuesdaysAndFridays --love the charms with it. This shop has a ton of cute book lockets too, including Harry Potter & John Green! Love!

And a special extra fave, this amazing Harry Potter/Molly Weasley themed pocket watch necklace by RazaelsLair. The detail in this is incredible and a very decent price for what you get! This is another one that I may have to buy myself soon! :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: 2 Non-BSC Ann M Martin Books :)

I haven't read a Baby-Sitters Club book since April. I'm never going to finish the series at this rate. :p I need to get back on top of that, stat! I like to say STAT! when I really! mean! something! Lol...okay, not really. But I am going to get back to it soon. Until then, I have these 2 books that I got at TXLA and will be giving away at least one, if not both, of in my next giveaway. (Also slacking on, gah!) Okay, on to the reviews.

Ten Rules For Living With My Sister
3 out of 5 stars

This was such a cute little book...kind of like an updated Ramona & Beezus. I gave it to my youngest sister, 12 yrs, because I thought she'd appreciate it but I don't think she's read it. She's like my older younger sister (figure that out lol), she has to really be in the mood to read and doesn't take suggestions very well. Oh well, maybe I can get it back from her and give it to one of you instead! :)

Pearl is 9 years old and all she wants to do is hang out with her 13 year old sister, Lexie. This leads to problems, because Lexie, of course, wants nothing to do with her. The two girls have a typical sibling relationship, plenty of arguing and miscommunication. Pearl doesn't understand why Lexie won't play with her anymore and Lexie just wants to talk on her phone and be left alone in her room. There's a funny bit where Lexie has to put up a "you must wear pants if you want to come in my room" sign to keep Pearl out. My sister has the same sign, only it says "...if you want to come out of your room" hah!

I really enjoyed Pearl as a narrator. She has very few friends at school and only one in her neighborhood, a first grade girl who is kind of odd. The only boyfriend she has ever had is her cat Bitey and he's not very reliable. Pearl sincerely wants to get along with Lexie and so she decides to make a list of rules she should follow to get along with her, such as "take her seriously, she has no sense of humor". Pearl's attempt at following the rules is tested when their Grandpa, Daddy Bo, has to move in with them for a few months and the two sisters have to share a room. Along with the sister dynamic storyline, we also get a more serious one concerning Daddy Bo's memory loss and early Alzheimer's. It was very touching and heart-breaking at times to read about his problems and Pearl's attempts to help him. I would definitely recommend this as a starter book for a child having to deal with a grandparent getting older. And of course how to deal with your older sister. :)

Better to Wish: Family Tree #1
4 out of 5 stars

This is Martin's brand new series and I was so happy I got to read it. It's such an interesting premise and done so well, I'm really looking forward to the next books. Also, I got this one signed, so someone will definitely be getting this one. :)

The first book starts off in the 1930s with 8 year old Abby. Each book after this will focus on another generation of her family so I'm guessing that eventually the series will end up in present time. Abby is a much more serious child than Pearl and the subject matter reflects the time period, so I would recommend looking this one over before giving it to a young reader. The story is told by 100 year old Abigail looking into the past and she has picked both good and bad days to focus on. The bad days seem to outweigh the good, but only because they are just so sad and deal with some heavy issues...her mother had 2 miscarriages before her & her sister and it has caused a severe depression in the mother. When she gets pregnant again and the son is born with severe defects, this pushes her even closer to the edge. The father is a hard-working man who only wants the very best for his family, but he is also quite racist against anyone not the same as him and it takes its toll on Abby's friendships all thru school. So as you can see, there is some serious stuff here, but I still think it would be a good book for the right child.

Of course, it's not all sad. There is a lovely chapter telling of the Christmas Abby buys her sister a much sought-after gift. And as the girls get older, they learn how to deal with their father and still keep their friends. Abby is smart and resourceful and even though bad things have happened to her family, she doesn't dwell on them. She looks ahead and sees the silver lining in almost everything. I can see this series being liked by American Girl lovers...it seems to have the same uplifting hope, but for a more mature audience. (Note I didn't say older, because what is okay for a mature 8 year old may not be okay for a not-so-mature 11 year old.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Most Anticipated Books to Movies

This week's TTT on The Broke & The Bookish is one that I actually just did recently on a freebie week, so I thought I'd switch it up a little. Then I realized that I'd already done what I was going to do too...10 Books I'd Turn Into Movies. Boo, now what? How about my Top 10 (or as far as I get) most anticipated book to movie adaptations? Sure, why not. :)

1. The Cousins' War series by Philippa Gregory (showing on STARS TV) --I've only read the first in this series, The White Queen, but I really liked it and have the second already. I think it'll make a great miniseries...too bad I don't have cable though!

2. Horns by Joe Hill --I haven't actually read this book yet, but it's on my to-buy and anything with Daniel Radcliffe is okay by me!

3. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins --duh. Can't wait! I think it's crazy that I've only read this series once, when Mockingjay came out...I am making it a fall goal to reread the series before this comes out!

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak --this was probably my favorite book in 2011, so I am apprehensively excited about this movie lol. I really, really want it to transfer well but it's such a huge plot that I'm not sure if it will.

5. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead --live action will definitely be better than the graphic novel, right? I'm actually wondering if this would be better as a TV series, since it's so long and could spin-off into the Bloodlines series. And they better put Adrian in or I will boycott lol.

6. Divergent by Veronica Roth --super excited about this one, since I just read it recently.

7. Delirium by Lauren Oliver --as much as I disliked the ending of the series, I'd still love to see this first book movie-style.

8. Uglies by Scott Westerfield --I don't think this one is confirmed yet, but I think it would be amazing (as my 13 yo sis would say lol). You can view the official book trailer on Westerfield's blog also!

9. Locke & Key by Joe Hill --I just discovered this graphic novel series and have only read the first 2, but I am in love with it already and so excited to hear it is being made into a movie!

10.The Fault in Our Stars by John Green --I can't believe I almost forgot about this one! Yes, it is going to make me cry like a teenage girl who just broke up with her boyfriend and is now watching The Notebook, but I don't care! ;)

And 2 book to movie adaptation I am NOT looking forward to and should just go straight to the chopping block:
50 Shades of Gray --how how how are they going to make that a movie viewable by anyone??
Hush, Hush --more Twilight-ish, stalkery, watch you while you sleep, I love you so much I have to kill you, love story? No thanks.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: "Kiss & Make Up"

Kiss & Make Up by Katie D Anderson
3.5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes I feel like I need a better rating system...this book was not a 4 star book, but it was still above average. Arg whatever. :) Kiss & Make Up is a cute book probably best suited for lipgloss-obsessed 12-14 year olds. It does have some kissing (obviously) and there is some minor talk of a suicide, so keep that in mind if suggesting it to someone. There is also a mystical element to this book, which I'll talk about more below the spoiler owl. (Also, be warned if you don't want to know what that element is, Goodreads does spoil it in their summary.) It's only available as an eBook right now and looks like it is $3.99 on Amazon (I got it as one of the free daily deals and no, I was not asked to review it) or free with the Prime.

The book starts out with 14 year old Emerson desperate for her first kiss. When her preoccupation with her aunt's latest make up line (think Mary Kay or Mark) causes her to miss out on a game of Spin the Bottle at her BFF's house, she is understandably upset, but she does end up getting that first kiss. Is it everything she dreamed of? No. Do weird things happen? Yes. Fast-forward two years and Emerson is still pining for that perfect first kiss and is still a major lipgloss-aholic. My sister shares this addiction, it's sick I tell you. ;) Emerson lives with her aunt and older sister and she is having major problems at school, mostly just not "applying herself". Her aunt threatens to take her out of the private school, because it is obviously a waste of money, but Emerson begs for another chance and decides to do whatever it takes to get her grades up. Enter the mystical element, but I'll get to that in a minute.

There are a lot of boys in this book and a lot of characters in general that I don't think got the attention they deserved. I don't really know how eBook pages compare to physical book pages, but this seemed short and I think it could benefit from being a longer book. Her sister, Piper, and Aunt Arch both had interesting side stories that didn't get fully resolved by the end. The neighbor boy, Luke, who is supposedly like a brother, gets so few lines that when he finally does show up at the end, I was wondering who he was. I did love the male protagonist though, I thought he was very well done.

Okay, the magic bit? Emerson can see into a person's mind when she kisses them or they kiss her. I thought it was pretty interesting, especially when we learn that she most likely inherited the gift/curse from her mother before she killed herself. Although, if that's what drove her mother to suicide, why would she give it to her daughter? Weird. Emerson's first kiss is kind of a disaster when she reads the boy's mind and sees that he's a pyromaniac who likes to kiss lots of girls. So you can kind of see why she abstained after that lol.

But when her aunt tells her to get her grades up or else, Emerson decides to use her gift to her advantage...by kissing unsuspecting nerds. Yep, she's doing what pretty girls have done for hundreds of years, using their goodies to get better grades. I am being sarcastic here, of course. I'm sure lots of hunky guys have used their muscles on limp-haired girls too. ;) Anyway, when Emerson realizes that she gets an insta-brain with just one lip-lock, she makes up a "study" schedule to conquer all of her classes. Hilarious near-kisses & misses ensue, she suddenly becomes a smartie-pants, and she even falls for one of the so-called nerds.

Just when she's at the top of her game, everything comes crumbling down, as they so often do. Emerson's maturity in dealing with all the fall-out is something I greatly admired in this book...she tells the truth, comes clean to her aunt about everything, and drops the decathlon because she feels she cheated to get in. Of course, after that she realizes that she just needed to buckle down and actually study, so she gets those good grades and the sweet, funny, cute, nerdy guy in the end still. Awww...she also passes her "gift" on to her sister at the very end of the book, which I thought was neat and would make a fun sequel.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: "Dash & Lily's Book of Dares"

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
3 out of 5 stars

Being more specific in my rating, I'd give this probably a 3.75 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed it quite a lot, but there seemed to be something off about it. Maybe it's the fact that it is a Christmas story and I read it in the middle of June lol. I think I'd like to buy this still though (I read it as an eBook from the library) and I can see myself enjoying it around the holidays more as a light, fluffy read. One of the main problems that I had (like most of the reviews I've read) is that Dash & Lily, who are supposed to be 16 years old, come across as overly sophisticated and at times, unrealistic.

This book was written by two authors, obviously, but their approach was to not write it together, but to write a chapter at a time, Levithan writing Dash's part and Cohn Lily's, with no communication otherwise. It's intriguing but at times it doesn't work, the story doesn't mesh well, and towards the end it just kind of unravels. In one chapter, we have Dash cursing up a storm as he is forced to sit on Santa's lap at Macy's and basically feel him up. Then in the next chapter, we have Lily saying she can't go to a movie alone and practicing "mean faces" in the mirror. But even with that, I still enjoyed the book!

Dash (this must be the week for weirdly-named teenagers lol) is a sixteen year old boy who has managed to trick his divorced parents into letting him stay home alone for Christmas break. He detests Christmas and all its familial obligations, forced cheer, and over-crowded stores. He spends most of his time in bookstores, browsing in odd and peculiar fashions that intrigue me: "...the afternoon was sponsored by a particular letter, and would visit each and every section to check out the authors whose last names began with that letter. Other days, I would decide to tackle a single section, or would investigate the recently unloaded tomes, thrown in bins that never really conformed to alphabetization." It is on one of these bookish journeys that he comes across a red Moleskine journal that does not belong among the Salinger classics. Curious, he opens it and begins a journey across the bookstore and with an unknown girl (he hopes).

Enter the unknown girl, Lily, who adores Christmas and everything about it, but is "abandoned" by her parents, who have decided to take a trip to Fiji and her grandpa, who is proposing to some hussy down in Florida. She is stuck with her older brother and as he is completely enamored with his new boyfriend, she is essentially just as alone as Dash. She agrees to go along with the Book of Dares that her brother has come up with and is completely surprised when A. someone actually goes along with it and B. they up the ante and she is swept along in the adventure. My favorite part about Lily? She has fashion sense that rivals Claudia Kishi and I just had to do a Polyvore for her. :)

I think my outfit is very festive for the day before the day before Christmas...Oxford uniform school shirt tucked into a knee-length lime-green felt material skirt with a reindeer embroidered on it, candy-cane-colored swirled stockings, and...Great-aunt Ida's retired tasseled majorette boots, with taps still on the toes and heels.

Seriously, awesome right? In between the dares and the running around New York and the just being kids, there are some surprisingly deep moments to enjoy. Well, maybe not surprising, since they talk like they're 30 (and even I don't talk like that half the time). Quotes like this remind you that this is, indeed, a romance: I want to believe there is a somebody out there just for me. I want to believe that I exist to be there for that somebody. And I think it does a decent job of representing that.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: "Spanking Shakespeare"

Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
3 out of 5 stars

This book caught my eye one day when I was browsing "Shakespeare" on Goodreads, trying to find a Classic a Month, and I thought it looked amusing. Which it absolutely is. On an extremely superficial level. I can see young, teenage boys loving it. So it's good for something, right? I enjoyed it but I'm glad I checked it out at the library. :)

Shakespeare Shapiro is saddled with a horrendous name from his parents and it has affected his life more than he cares to admit. And now, in his senior year of high school, he must come to terms with it once and for all and decide if it is going to continue ruling his life. Shakespeare goes to a prestigious high school which requires all seniors to write a memoir of sorts and he attacks his with crude humor and cringe-worthy honesty. With chapter titles such as "The Time I Got Caught with a Pornographic Magazine in Math Class" and "The Time My Mother Used Emotional Blackmail to Deprive Me of the Only Thing I Ever Really Wanted", you can tell he's really going for the shock value here. He was born on Hitler's birthday, his brother is named Gandhi, and his parents are "anti-rules".

My brother and I were difficult children, but much of this was due to my parents' complete ineptitude. 

But things are not all bad for Shakespeare...he has an English teacher who really believes in his talent and encourages it, he has 2 very good friends (although one is overly-obsessed with his bowel movements), and he gets the girl he desperately wants, in the end (although maybe not the one he knew he wanted). And there are some surprisingly sensitive moments, like when he befriends a quiet girl who seems to have much more serious problems than being sent to a Lord of the Flies-esque summer camp. (Side note: I laughed out loud when he described the Coma Game: no moving, no sound, basically being dead. We taught our young, 5-6 years, sisters how to play Cemetery from Daria lol. (skip to 14:45) They still remember it!)

As Shakespeare gets to know Charlotte, the quiet girl, he realizes that maybe he doesn't have it so bad after all. I mean yeah, he definitely has his issues, but there's always someone out there with it worse. And I think that's what makes this a good read for teenagers, boys in particular. They'll laugh at all the sex jokes and potty humor, but they'll also commiserate with Shakespeare's girl problems, realize maybe their parents aren't so bad after all, and consider why exactly they won't accept help when offered.

The truth is I know exactly why I'm resistant. I don't want a therapist to tell me things about myself I don't want to hear, and I don't want to admit that I have problems I can't deal with myself. It would be one thing if I could just go in and complain about my life, but having to confront and take responsibility for my shortcomings and insecurities is something I have no interest in.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: "The Outsiders" Classic a Month #6.2013

The Outsiders by SE Hinton
4 out of 5 stars

My 13 year old sister told me I HAD TO READ THIS BOOK, BECAUSE IT WAS AMAZING!!1! So I did. And she was right, it was pretty dang amazing. :) Side note: my sister likes to use "amazing" for everything from One Direction to broccoli, so I usually don't take her too seriously, but she was right in this case. I'm not sure why I never read this in school though, seems kind of odd. And the fact that this was written by a 17 year old girl just blows my mind. And kind of makes me feel sad for my pathetic life.

Okay, anyway, this is one of those "coming-of-age" stories where lots of bad things happen to the main character but he still stands strong for his morals and beliefs and turns out okay in the end. Or maybe he dies, that happens sometimes too. In this case, we have Ponyboy (real name), who lives with his two brothers, Darry and Sodapop, after their parents are killed in a car crash. The boys are 20, 18, and 14 so I'm not really sure how that works, them staying alone. The book is set in Oklahoma, in the late 1960s and the brothers live on the poor side of town and are known as Greasers. Their gang includes other lively characters such as Dallas (Dally), Two-Bit, Steve, & Johnny and their main goal in life is to take down the Socs (Soshes or Socials), the rich kids that seem to have it all better than them.

They carry out this goal by "jumping" random Socs who venture into their territory, stealing knives and candy from stores, sneaking into the drive-in movie, and having street "rumbles" which combine their thug skills with the other lower gangs against the Socs. I wish we still had rumbles, although I suppose we do, just all online now lol. "You didn't like my picture of my cat in a box! I'm unfriending you!" or "You use too many hashtags, I'm blocking you!" (<--actually happened to my coworker friend recently!) or "No one likes my pictures, I'm just going to delete myself from all my social media accounts." (<--also seen IRL) I will give the Greasers and Socs one thing though, they are highly civilized in their rumbles...they agree ahead of time when and where it will happen, what kind of weapons are allowed if any, where the "hit zone" is, etc...that's some classy fighting right there.

Ponyboy and his brothers also like to get cleaned up for the rumbles, putting on their nicest & tightest white t-shirt and making sure their hair is greased into that perfect curl. Just think of the amount of hair pomade these kids went thru in a month. Yikes. All kidding aside, this is a moving story of a boy having to grow up way too young and way too fast. Ponyboy has seen and done things he is not proud of and he is just now realizing that maybe the thug life isn't for him. Especially when 2 of his street family are killed. Spoiler, highlight to read: I didn't cry when Johnny died, because I kind of saw it coming, but I did wail dramatically "noooo Joooohhnnnnnyyyy!!!" Lol. /end spoiler The question is though, can he get out? Is it too late for him? I like to think that he was able to use his considerable brain and loving brothers and pull himself out of that pit of despair and maybe become a teacher himself of lower-class kids, kind of a Stand & Deliver ending. ;)