Back from the Dead? Friday, Mar 27 2009 

I’ve been sort of sleepwalking through life lately. I’m trying to find a job and let me just say it’s not fun.
I haven’t even had that much time to read lately, which makes me terribly sad, especially considering the three boxes of unread ARCS under my desk right now. I suck.
On the plus (?) side, I’m still commuting about thirty hours a week, which means I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books. I actually just finished (And I know this one’s old) The Mysterious Benedict Society , and I hacve to say, I loved it. Sure, it took a definite suspension of disbelief (a difficult word to spell) for a number of plot points, but I enjoyed the style, which reminded me of many of my favorite books from elementary school.
As far as actual, honest-to-god reading is concerned, I recently finished Nicky Singer’s Gem X. It was an interesting take on the teen version of a dystopian novel. Though Singer hits a lot of the tropes you see in other novels of this sort (a complete divide between the haves and have nots, a main character who suddenly realizes his perfect life may be lacking in the human emotion department, etc.) she definitely hits a few new notions. I especially liked the suggestion that the Gem X generation, the supposedly perfect human model, is breaking down from within, and the use of wrinkles, or “cracks” to suggest this idea is great.
Would I recommend either of these books? Yes, on The Mysterious Benedict Society, if you like that sort of tongue-in-cheek tone, a mix between Charles Dickens and Roald Dahl.
As for Gem X, I’m not sure. If you’re into Dystopian novels, go for it, it won’t hurt to read it. If this isn’t your favorie genre, but you’re looking to branch out into it, start with Skinned by Robin Wasserman or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Anyway, if I don’t find a job soon, then I’ll have a lot of time on my hands, since school’s almost over.  And I’ll have no money to buy food or any of that handy stuff, so I’ll have to read a lot, if only to take my mind of the hunger. In which case, I’ll probably be posting plenty of reviews over the summer.  Not to mention the occasionally whine fest about how hard it is to get a full time job right now!

Meg Cabot: a Timeline Friday, Dec 5 2008 

Ok, I’ll be honest: I haven’t read every single Meg Cabot book on the market.  I mean, thre are a lot.  And I have a lot of other stuff to read too.  Plus two jobs.  Plus school.  Plus three hours of commuting every day, and I can really only handle English accents reading audiobooks.  But I have read most of her stuff.  And for a while I thought I disliked her work.  Then I thought “hey this is almost as funny as Sophie Kinsella.”  And now that I’m just finishing up All American Girl, I’m not sure how I feel.  So, I’m making a timeline.  Maybe a pattern will emerge?

The Princess Diaries (first volume publish 2000)

I liked this series.  Really, I did.  At first.  I’ve only read the first six, but I enjoyed them up until that last one.  Unfortunately, by the time I reached Princess in Training, I was kind of tired of Mia.  Se’s a bit whiny, don’t you think?  And she has a slight (?) tendancy to overreact, get totally worked up, and freak herself out over NOTHING.  And yes, that’s a trait familiar to many teenage girls (including myself, back in the day), but it does get kind of old.  After a while, you kind of want to shake her and say “Just because Michael’s hot, and the first guy to be interested in you, doesn’t mean you’re destined to spend eternity together, stop calling him your one true love!”  But I haven’t read the break-up book yet, so maybe she gets past that phase. 

All American Girl (2002)

Remember what I said about Mia?  You should, it’s like, four lines above this.  Ditto Samantha.  Her obsessive belief that Jack is her soulmate and that she couldn’t possibly have the slightest feelings for David, because that would be unfaithful is supremely annoying.  And yes, she gets over it, and realizes that Jack’s maybe not as cool as she thouhgt, but still, such mooning can get a little old.  Overall, not a favorite of mine.

Teen Idol (2004)

My favorite so far.  In fact, my favorite overall.  This book was interesting. The characters were not quite so single-minded as Samantha and Mia.  Jen is actually an interesting character, she hardly whines at all, and I think, if I were to meet her, we would probably get along (but then, that was the point of Jen, right?).  So, yeah, the premise is a bit far fetched, but Meg pulled off pretty nicely, in my opinion.  Though the marshmallow making out thing was revolting.  Plus I loved that it took place in Indiana.  Yay, memories of my own hoosier high school.  Overall, a great addition to YA chick-lit.

How to Be Popular (2006) 

The hits keep on coming.  How to be Popular didn’t strike quite the same chord with me as Teen Idol, but I enjoyed it nonethless.  Maybe the whole hook up between Steph and Jason was a wee bit predicatable, but come on, that’s what chick lit is all about!  It was charming, well written, full of funny, likeable characters, and generally a pleasant read, with a good ending. 

Pants on Fire (2007)

Another high note.  The switch back to the East coast was jarring to me (so few books take place in Indiana, I was getting kind of used to her’s taking me back there), but the characters were cute, the story was funny, and only a tad far-fetched–cerainly still believable.  The teen hormones were a-flyin’, and I enjoyed the ride.  Still not on par with Teen Idol but a fun read, none the less.

Jinx (2007)

And then what happened? We were flying high.  I liked Jen and Steph and even Katie.  I Enjoyed the wide range of boys, the lessons about being yourself/standing up for yourself/being yourself, respectively, were all woven into the stories in a nice, not too in-your-face manner, and the writing was sharp and witty.  And then Jean Honeychurch comes along and annoys the pants off me.  At least, not in the way Mia did, but in sort of a contrived, this is silly kind of way.  The whole witch thing was too much for me, and, on top of that, Jean’s obsessive belief that Zach is desperately in love with Petra (not unlike Steph’s belief that Jason is in love with that coffee shop chick, but way more of a major plot point).  I just don’t get how she’s such an idiot.  I just don’t get it.  When I was in high school I was fully aware when a boy was flirting with me.  Not that it happened often.  But I was still fully aware.  ANd then I had to run away, to stop the blush from spreading all the way across my face.

Airhead (2008)

Ok, so the premise is totally unbelievable.  And the book sort of fell flat when it came to exploring all the angles.  And seriously, even medical miracles aside, how can a reader be expected to believe that Em’s parents don’t have any say in the fact that she has to go and live by herself, as a 17 year old, in a loft in NYC.  The whole thing just smacks of bad fan fic.  But the thing is, it’s not.  It’s funny, and engaging, and you really feel for Em.  I can’t wait for the next book in the series to come out.  I mean, I’m seriously counting the days until May, when I can read Being Nikki.  So she did someting right with this book, despite the surface problems.  Overall, a charming read that makes me want to know how the charactes fare afte turning the final page.

So, that’s it.  Those are the only ones I’ve read.  Haven’t gotten around to the adult books, though I plan to.  I probably won’t be reading 1-800-WHERE-R-U, since I tend to prefer humor to missing children.  And I doubt I can handle Avalon High.  My years of studying the Vulgate Arthurian cycles, and my dissertation on Malory make it too difficult for me to read teenage mock ups of Arthurian legend.  My brain fries with all the anachronisms. 

So, what did this timeline teach me?  Nothing, except that I get annoyed when teenage girls whine too much and/or obsess about their feelings for a boy/a boy’s feelings for another girl to the point of absolute distraction.  Overall, I think as she’s matured as a writer, I’ve come to appreciate her books more, with the exception of jinx.  I mean, even Airhead, which you have to admit seems pretty flawed, is a charming book full of likeable characters. 

So, I’m going to rescind any statements I’ve made about Meg Cabot in the past.  And give her career an overall positive rating :)   Not that she needs that from me.  I mean, she’s already a huge bestseller, with movie options on almost all her books, enough money that she doesn’t need a day job, homes in NYC and Key West, and a pretty kick ass body.  She’s been doing fine without my appreciation.  But for what it’s worth, Meg, I heart you.

Now what am I going to do to fill the rest of this very slow night on desk?

I have not seen it and I probably won’t. Tuesday, Dec 2 2008 

I’m talking, of course, about Twilight.

From everything I’ve heard, people, both fans and those who haven’t read the books, have enjoyed the movie.  There’s a general consensus that it’s pretty much in the category of teen romance, and not exactly Oscar-worthy, but entertaining and appealing to its intended audience none the less.  Those a few reviews I’ve read have touched on the whole “I love you so I just might kill you if we kiss” theme, there seems to be a lot less outcry about the anti-feminist message of the plotline.  Which is a plus in my book.  I mean, I like vampire movies, so I wouldn’t be against seeing the movie for that reason alone.  But still, I just don’t think I can handle it.

I do, though, think it interesting that they made Edward older in the movie than in the book.  I always felt he was too young to be considered “old.”

Here’s a review from someone who liked it (but the comments after the article suggest his readers didn’t!)

This one’s a little more lukewarm.

THough Twilight probably won’t be on my Christmas movie list, I am planning to see Bolt.  How cute is that hampster?  And The Tale of Desperaux will be a Chistmas Day movie for me!

A dream is a wish your heart makes… Friday, Nov 14 2008 

Let me begin this post by saying that I read Lisa McMann’s Wake at the same time as I read Teen Idol by Meg Cabot, The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson, Remember Me by Sophia Kinsella, and a biography of Emily Post by Laura Claridge.  That last one didn’t really affect my ability to fully process Wake, but the others all caused a bit of confusion.

I generally find myself reading four or five books at once, and I’m usually good at keeping them straight.  This situation was really no different, but I think the fact that I reading so many lighthearted books kept me from delving fully into the darker aspects of Wake.

I recently flipped through it a second time in order to refresh my memory and write this post.  In doing so, I found myself pulled into several of the plot elements a bit deeper than I had been before.

The basic story is a pretty unique idea.  Janie, a girl from the wrong side of town finds herself sucked into the dreams of anyone sleeping in her near vicinty.  Unable to dream on her own, she finds herself powerless when pulled from her waking life into people’s innermost subconscience.  That is, until a series of events have her searching frantically for control.  Control of the dreams and, perhaps more crucially, control of her own life.  With the help of Cabel, a boy she’s known most of her life, who has more dark secrets than even she, and some cryptic words from an elderly woman in the nursing home where she works, Janie finds her curiousity about herself growing as she starts to take control of her environment, sleeping and waking.

Blurb finished, let me lay out a few things:

  • Yes, there is sex, swearing and a profusion of illicit substances.  No, this book is not “bad” because of that.  But if you’re sensitive to such things, go into Wake with the knowledge that your innocence may be slightly tampered with.
  • I wasn’t a fan of the ending.  I don’t want to ruin the book for readers, so I won’t say WHY I wasn’t a fan of the ending.  Suffice it to say that most of my problems could be reseolved by the second and third installments of the book.  I feel Janie’s story is unfinished.  But that’s good, because it left me really wanting to read Fade, the sequel, due out February 10, 2009.

On to the real commentary…

nytwakeThis was a subtly dark book.  The characters were real enough that the reader could connect to them, despite the slightly supernatural element, but not so real that they were either boring or too complicated.  McMann wrote this book very skillfully.  It is not the least bit overwritten.  The dream sequences (a very difficult thing to write well) came out nicely, capturing the oddness of dreams, but not turning into a pure stream-of-consiousness muddle. 

Janie is a great character.  I love the combination of her determination to get out of her life and her realistic understanding of her options.  She knows she has to work hard to rise above her circumstances, but she’s not a  one-dimensional goody-two-shoes who never has any fun. 

I really like the cast of supporting characters as well, Carrie and Melinda especially.  I love the fact that everyone, no matter how seemingly one-dimensional on the surface, has a secret.  Janie’s ability to know the others’ secrets, without exploiting them provides a great level of subtext that is sometimes lacking from paranormal books.

Cabel, on the other hand, I still need to decide about.  I think I like him.  I liked him at first, but his character kind of confuses me right now.  I need to wait to make a decision about my overall feelings towards him.  Yet another reason to look forward to Fade.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Lisa McMann is holding a competition for reviews of Wake, so if you haven’t read it, and your interest is at all piqued, I definitely say a) pick up the book and get started, because it’s a great read! and b) write a review to submit to the contest!  There are some great prizes being offered!

The joys of deadlines Tuesday, Nov 11 2008 

So it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted anything up here.  I’ve been drowning in a freelancing project I took on a year ago.  Yes, that’s right, a whole year, and I wait until the last month to get to work on it.  To be fair, it’s not entirely my fault, since I didn’t get the finalized template until October, but still….

In my haze, I’ve missed out on some cool (and not so cool) stuff.  Not so cool includes all the hoopla surrounding the Twilight movie coming out (oyvay…)  Cool, on the other hand, includes the release of some awesome new YA books, like the newest Blue Bloods novel, Revelations

Other cool stuff that I found out about just in time?  Lisa McMann, author of Wake is holding a contest for her readers.  Go here for the details. 

I’m sad that I haven’t already written a review of the book on here, because, despite the fact that I’m a shameless SWAG-chaser, I don’t want to seem like a shameless SWAG-chaser.  But seriously, those are some great prizes, for both me and my library, and I want in on them!

I have until November 25th to get my review up, but it’s been a while since I read the book, so I’ll have to go back and look it over again before writing anything. In the meantime, if you have something on Wake that you’ve written on Librarything or Facebook or where ever, submit it!

I have to say, despite the fact that I love my job, and helping connect people with books, and all that, one of the coolest things about working in the library world is access to all the great opportunities like this!  Who needs a Swarovski crystal encrusted Blackberry when you can get autographed copies of Wake, and Paper Towns?

How did I not find this webpage sooner? Friday, Oct 17 2008 

A fabulous addition to all my daily book sites, Bookslut.com provides a look at books I might not come across in my daily review reading.  The reviews are irreverant (what an overused word!), funny, and tend to be right on target.  The reviewers are obviously well-read in more than one genre, and intelligent to boot.  And the regular columns are giving me a great kick-start when I’m having trouble finding some way to fill my endless computer time.  Just when the internet was seeming too small again, I clicked on the right link, and now here I am, feeling refreshed by the addition of some much-needed non-librarian oriented reviewing.  Yay!

 

Books that have made it onto my (ever-growing) list of stuff-to-read based on the reviews on this site include:

White by Marie Darrieussecq

A History of the World for Rebels and Somnambulists by Jesus del Campo

The Bruise by Magdalena Zurawski

Upon further perusing of the site, I intend to increase this list dramatically, but for now, three should do me.  Especially considering the two still unopened boxes of books from ALA, and the shelves and shelves of already unpacked ARC’s.  Plus all my overdue library books.  Why am I still typing?  I need to get to reading!

Beverly Hills Chihauhua is currently number one at the box office Monday, Oct 13 2008 

This fact makes me lees proud of Nick and Norah’s so-far decent showing in the ranks.  While it’s still on the level of movies like A Walk to Remember (Blech, Many Moore before she learned not to do that weird half-smile, pouty lip thing when she acts) rather than some of those high grossing, cross-genre movies that appeals to a wide demographic, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan can be proud of the showing.  For a teen movie, which generally has a lower gross income at the box office than, say Batman, Nick and Norah both are doing pretty well.  Overall, $20.8 mil is nothing to sneeze at.

The Red Lending Menace Monday, Oct 13 2008 

Super Funny–

 

Oh, Stephen Colbert, you’ve grown on me  (kind of like a fungus)…

A Guide to Style Guides Monday, Oct 6 2008 

Most of my book reviews look at books for teens.  Mostly books for teen girls, at that.  I’m happy to say that one of my favorite overall genres is YA lit.  But this morning before work, while waiting for my Dunkin’ Donuts delivery guy (also known as the Boyfriend), I read Nina Garcia’s The One HundredAnd I decided to put my thoughts on fashion books out there.  Because, the truth is, I love fashion books too.  And they are, for me, totally library related, because I discovered this love while shelf reading years ago when I work in circulation.  My section, in part, covered the area where these books tend to be classified, and since I was required to spend at least half an hour shelf reading every day, my section never really got messy.  So I had to find something to do while filling my requisite 30 minutes.  And this is how I discovered my all time favorite guide to style, Laren Stover’s The Bombshell Manual of Style.

A bombshell believes in her fantasies…She expects people to send flowers and stop by with Champagne.  And somehow, they do.

Since discovering the world of fashion guides and style books all those years ago, I have since devoured more than I can usually remember.  I don’t necessarily take them at face value, but I enjoy them all and, with tongue firmly planted in cheek (or chic, as the case may be) offer up their wisdom in casual conversation, much to the annoyance of most of my friends.

So, here follows a list of some of the most fun reads in this genre I have discovered.  Don’t worry about the publication dates.  These are not books on trends.  Like a LBD, a Burberry trench, or a white, button-down shirt, these books are timeless.

  1. No shock here, it’s the Bombshell Manual of Style.  This book gives more than mere fashion advice (and the fashion advice it includes really should be followed.  At least, not without a grain of salt).  Instead, it is a “lifestyle book” full of words of wisdom, lists of great old movies, and even a comprehensive examination of the books any Bombshell worth her peroxide will have in her personal library.  When I’m feeling down, I buy a bottle of champagne, run a bubble bath, and re-read my favorite passages from the book.  It perks me right up.
  2. Entre-Nous: A Woman’s Guie to Finding Her Inner French Girl.  By Deborah Ollivier.  This is another book I discovered while shelf-reading, and subsequently gobbled up.  Like the Bombshell Manual of Style it offers a lot more than just tips on how to dress.  Snippets of French History, a few (really great) recipes, and the ubiquitous book list flesh this style guide out to encompass the whole person, not just her wardrobe. 
  3. Nina Garcia’s The One Hundred.  What sets this book apart is the manner in which it’s organized.  One hundred items, from the boyfriend cardigan, to the belt, to perfume, arranged alphabetically (at least one item for each letter of the alphabet).  Nina includes tips on how to wear something, a list of her favorite finds (which include Target and the Gap alongside Hermes and Gucci), as well as an overall push for vintage.  Instead of setting out a list of exactly what every woman should have in her wardrobe, she sets up a backdrop, and makes it very clear that it should be used only as a starting ground, from which each reader should strive to make everything they own truly unique.  What I loved most about this book was its unabashed mixing of high and low style.  She admits to her love of Hanes t-shirts, tells her readers that two of the most important items she can own are a pair of Converse sneakers (my all time favorite) and a zip-front hoodie.  She also seems to have a thing for skulls in her accessories, which I found unexpected and delightful.
  4. How to Walk in High Heels by Camilla Morton.  Don’t be put off by this book’s length.  “448 pages for  a fashion book?  How much could someone possibly have to say?”  A lot.  This book goes well beyond how to match colors and who makes the most comfortable four inch stilettos.  It is, in fact, a general guide to living a fashionable life.  It includes everything from how to get dressed well in five minutes to how to change a lightbulb.  The writing is clear and witty, and the book has actually ended up being my go-to reference guide for just about anything.
  5. Tim Gunn’s A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style.  This book is the ultimate reference for dressing successfully.  It includes a discussion of all the elements of style, from channelling the icons, to developing trademarks and signature looks, and does it all with Tim Gunn’s beloved characteristic wit, empathy, and intelligence.  Anyone who’s fallen in love with him through Project Runway  will  his book wildly appealing, while at the same time, actually picking up a pointer or two. 

 

Librarians are notoriously frumpy.  Of course, like any stereotype, there are those who fit the bill, but many who break the mold.  With a little careful browsing in the 630’s (while checking for out of order books and litter), anyone can learn the value of cashmere, the proper way to wear a brooch, and even how to walk in a pair of heels.

Guess What Happens this Weekend! Thursday, Oct 2 2008 

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist!  Hurray!

Obviously, Roger Ebert Hated it.

I will preface this argument with the fact that I know, not even having seen it, that the movie doesn’t follow the plot of the book exactly.

That being said, let me just respond to Roger Ebert with the suggestion that he read the book before completely dismissing the plot as improbable.  And may I also sugget that Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, despite their status as “adults” generally have a bit more insight into why 17 year olds do what they do than Mr. Ebert generally displays.

Of course, I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t give an opinion on its merit just yet, but Roger Ebert’s disgust (how unlike him) does not lessen my desire to see it.

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