Monday, October 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: "The Sweet Life"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jessica gene had saved Emma's life.

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

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Haul: Summer/Fall Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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