Monday, March 30, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (17)

If you're new around here or I just haven't done one in a while, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. 'Cause those things take me a lot of time!

Also, this one is a very strange round-up, but I want to get a post up for March, so. Here it is!

The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson

Published: January 1st, 2009 by Clarion Books
Genre: I would classify this as contemporary MG, but apparently most people see it as YA/it was marketed that way?
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 144
Part of a series? No.
Got via: I bought it off Amazon.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Meli Lleshi is positive that her drawing of her teacher with his pelican nose started it all. The Lleshis are Albanians living in Kosovo, a country trying to fight off Serbian oppressors, and suddenly they are homeless refugees. Old and young alike, they find their courage tested by hunger, illness, the long, arduous journey, and danger on every side. Then, unexpectedly, they are brought to America by a church group and begin a new life in a small Vermont town. The events of 9/11 bring more challenges for this Muslim family--but this country is their home now and there can be no turning back.

Thoughts: I had mixed feelings about this one. I don't know much about the subject, so it was a learning experience for me. It's diverse, obviously, as Meli is Albanian and Muslim, as is her family. And it was a very interesting story. There is something, however, that just says "homework" about it to me. Like as a study unit, or a reading list book, it would fit very well. It reminds me a lot of the Breadwinner series that I read as a kid.

I dunno, I didn't dislike it, and it's small, so I'm not all "I must weed this for the shelf space", but I don't think I really connected with it. The plot seemed kind of confused, if that makes sense. This is one of those ones I'd really like to read other reviews of. I also think the timeframe of 1998-2000 is somewhat hard to work with and describe - it's not contemporary, but it's not really old enough to be historical, in my opinion. The writing, too, was a bit hard to get into, and I think reluctant readers would struggle a lot, and even strong readers may decide it's not worth it. Possibly I would enjoy it more on a reread.

I'm reading reviews now and a lot of people are saying this is a YA, whereas I would have categorized it as MG - I don't think this works as YA at all. Meli is I believe thirteen when the book starts, and fifteen at the end, but only barely, and most of it has her around thirteen and fourteen, which is very young for YA, and the arc is not really a YA arc to me. This book can't seem to decide where it wants to live, and I think it struggles with a lot of confusion. Also, for a YA, this is very short, whereas it'd be okay for MG. The problem is, I think, is that there are so few books about this subject that I want more from this.

And this is why I blog! Half the time it's not until I start writing that I work through my feelings!

The Haunting of Hiram by Eva Ibbotson

Published: This edition was published in 2009 by Macmillan Children's Books, but it was originally published in 1987 by the same publisher.
Genre: Fantasy MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 172
Part of a series? No, but it should would make a nice set with her other books.
Got via: I bought it from Amazon or Chapters, can't remember which.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links - this is also called the Haunting of Granite Falls for some reason.)

Summary (from goodreads): Alex MacBuff can't afford to keep his beloved Castle Carra, and an American millionaire has made him an offer he can't refuse. The castle is shipped all the way to Texas, but its ghostly inhabitants, including Krok the Viking warrior and a hell-hound called Cyril, follow their home across the Atlantic. How can Alex stop the haunting Hiram and also save the millionaire's daughter from an evil ransom plot?

Thoughts: I love Eva Ibbotson, but this is not my favourite of her books. She writes ghosts wonderfully. There's so much colour in them, and they are so very British. They're really fun, and she's not afraid to, like, flat-out murder the bad guys which can be very satisfying when you're young, and I think a lot of kids would enjoy this. This is a type of book where you need to go in expecting the silliness of it - ghosts exist, they live in castle, that castle is gonna be moved. You go in expecting something realistic, you're not going to be in the right mind frame.

But there's things about this that I didn't like. The man in a dress trope is transmisogynistic. Encouraging kids to not take medications that they need (even if they decide they don't) is not a good idea, and it's bad disability representation to do the "sunshine and friendship will heal all your issues" thing. Also, there's a running joke about "prairie ghosts" and Native American ghosts that is kinda racist.

So while I enjoyed the book, it's hard to say if I would recommend it for kids. I think the new covers are neat (this one is actually a bit darker in real life, with richer colours), but the content in this one is... somewhat dated, and problematic. It's really hard to look at these things, because I've loved Eva Ibbotson since I was small, but ... I don't wanna be the one who says that stuff is okay. I think she has better stuff that I would reach for first.

The Search by Nora Roberts

Published: July 6th, 2010 by Putnam
Genre: Romance
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 488 and I'm gonna have to go with that because I don't have the copy I read anymore.
Part of a series? No, I don't think so.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life-a quaint house on an island off Seattle's coast, a thriving dog-training school, and a challenging volunteer job performing canine search and rescues. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare...

Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf serial killer, who shot and killed Fiona's cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona found the peace and solitude she needed to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He's the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy, foisted upon him by his mother. Jaws has eaten through Simon's house, and he's at his wit's end.

To Fiona, Jaws is nothing she can't handle. Simon, however, is another matter. A newcomer to Orcas, he's a rugged and in-tensely private artist, known for the exquisite furniture he creates from wood. Simon never wanted a puppy-and he most definitely doesn't want a woman. Besides, the lanky redhead is not his type. But tell that to his hormones.

As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona's life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands...

Thoughts: My mom kept reading me bits of this because of the puppy, Jaws, that were hilarious, and I had just finished finals, so I sat down and spent an evening reading this. I don't really review most of the romance I read because I review YA/MG, and I track/tag my picture books, so romance is about the only thing I just... read. So I have no notes or anything from this, but I enjoyed it. I really needed something like this after finishing finals/my final projects. This isn't even a mini-review, this is just a "I read this".

Okay, the next thing is neither one book nor really a review nor a first time read, but, hey, I need to get this post up and clean some books out of my room, so let's go with it!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Published: January 1st, 2008 by Scholastic
Genre: Dystopian YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 374
Part of a series? The first book of the Hunger Games trilogy.
Got via: I bought it at Walmart.
Amazon (also the kindle copy is only like 3 dollars) / Book Depository / Indiebound
(I'm also going to throw it out there that the boxed set is only a little over 20 dollars for paperback, 36 for hardcover, and under 15 for kindle, because, hey, that's a nice deal, and I like to tell you guys these things.)

Summary (from goodreads): The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

(I'm going to put the summaries for the second and third books, too, so after this point, here be spoilers. If you've managed to avoid Hunger Games spoilers for 5 years, 3 books, and 3 movies - congratulations! What's the address of the rock you live under???)

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Published: September 1st, 2009 by Scholastic
Genre: Dystopian YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 391 in my hardcover copy.
Part of a series? The second book of the Hunger Games trilogy.
Got via: I also bought this one at Walmart.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Published: August 24th, 2010 by Scholastic
Genre: Dystopian YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 390 in my hardcover copy.
Part of a series? The third and final book of the Hunger Games trilogy.
Got via: Lindsay gave it to me because I was having a lot of trouble finding it where I live. (Love you!)
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

Thoughts: I have a notebook around here somewhere that I took all my notes in. Well, some of my notes. I reread the Hunger Games as a school project, and wrote a 5000 word essay on it for my final project for my Social class, so those notes are completely different from my regular "reading" notes, and for the other two, I just like writing stuff down as I read. I was not necessarily writing down review notes.

So my notes for the first book are largely on the "ways this relates to democracy" and my other homework stuff spectrum, but it was really nice to reread it. I am a person who enjoys rereading - I used to have a very, very small collection of books as a kid, and I read them all time after time. I can't do that to the same extent these days, but I still enjoy rereading.

And I really do like these books. Honestly, I love the movies (except I haven't seen Mockingjay yet 'cause I'm waiting to watch it with a friend and we've both been ridiculously busy), which isn't always the case, but I do love both the movies and the books, although I am good at separating them, too. There are things in the books that simply would not work in a movie.

Funnily enough, actually, some of the things I enjoy about the movies are exactly opposite that what I enjoy in the books. I like the fast pace of the Catching Fire movie, but I like the way the book spends so much more time showing us District 12, the people there, showing what Katniss' new life is like. I like how much more time people get in the book versus the movie a lot, although I also understand that things that are great in books sometimes just don't work on screen.

My notes make little sense here, honestly, because the further I read because the less coherent I was. Mockingjay makes me cry like a baby. Half of my notes are just me going "I'm not ready". One thing I really like about Mockingjay, though, is Katniss' experience of PTSD - she's mentally ill and physically disabled (actually the one thing that makes me really angry the movie is that it glossed over how injured both Katniss and Peeta were in the games, especially Peeta's leg and her ear) and I like that that makes people so angry because I'm sort of vindictive like that.

So this is really rambling, but I have too many feelings to really do this in a short form - 5000 word essay, remember? This will probably have to be my best effort! Plus I really want to get this up before March is over so I don't break my "at least one post per month this year" goal.

Oh, and I thought you might like to see my copy after I finished my homework.

I like post-its. I counted and there was 4 pink paper post-it strips, 8 green paper ones, 20 of those green plastic flags that are clear on one side, 43 blue plastic flags. I really like those plastic flags, by the way. They're really nice for studying.

See you in April!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, February 16, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (16): ESP Edition

If you're new around here or I just haven't done one in a while, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or whatever reason fit my fancy. Sometimes I do ones that are kind of... themed.

Because that kind of thing pleases me.

Although in case, it was mostly accidental, and I'll show you how it happened as we go along.

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Published: I believe it was first published in 1955. My copy was a ebook I borrowed from the library that was published by Penguin in 2010
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Binding: Ebook!
Page Count: It varies.
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): First published in 1955, The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear story of genetic mutation in a devastated world, which tells of the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.

David Strorm's father doesn't approve of Angus Morton's unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realize that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands

Thoughts: I actually had to read this for a class I'm taking. I'm not super into science fiction, especially adult science-fiction, and it wasn't really my favourite book ever. It was interesting, though, and I enjoy the class. Do not like Wyndham's views on women, and I did sometimes find the prose very purple. Plus it seemed like he kind of lost the message he was going for halfway through. Anyways, I can knock something off a list somewhere, and this makes the rest of this post kind of fun!

I'm going to go by chronological order after this, I believe, although this one is somewhere in the middle.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Published: Originally published in 1988, I believe, but I think my copy was published in 1998 by Puffin, but it's somewhere in my room and I don't feel like chasing it around.
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 240 so we'll go with that.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: Someone donated it to the library, so I bought it.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she's just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It'll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

Thoughts: Everyone loves Matilda, don't they? I mean, except maybe the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your House, but what's her deal, anyways?

Okay, but seriously. I love Matilda. I read it at a bad time in my life (the trip to attend my grandmother's funeral), but I still have majorly fond memories of it. There's just something about Dahl that's special, there really is. And the illustrations are lovely, too. So when I saw this at the library on sale for a quarter, of course I snapped it up! And since I'd gotten to the library early, and no one else was there yet, what else did I have to do besides sit down and read for a bit?

Anyways, highly recommended! And the movie's pretty good, too. Also, I just listened to the audio sample on Amazon, the newest one is read by Kate Winslet. There's an older version read by Sarah Greene, and there's nothing wrong with that, but the sample I heard of the Kate Winslet version is really fun. She's got a good voice. I may have to check that out from the library at some point.

Now, there was quite a gap between these two books, but it works nicely anyways!

The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts

Published: This edition was released in March 2011 by Aladdin which is owned by Simon & Schuster, but it was originally published in... goodreads says 1980. This article I found on Tor says written in the 70s. Probably published 1980, or at least that's the best I can find!
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Paranormal
Binding: Mine is a paperback
Page Count: 181 in this version
Part of a series? NO AND IT SUCKS
Got via: This copy I bought, and I'll tell you all why in just a second.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate link - although you could likely get a used copy, too, for pretty cheap.)

Summary (from goodreads): Katie Welker is used to being alone. She would rather read a book than deal with other people. Other people don't have silver eyes. Other people can't make things happen just by thinking about them! But these special powers make Katie unusual, and it's hard to make friends when you're unusual.

Katie knows that she's different but she's never done anything to hurt anyone so why is everyone afraid of her? Maybe there are other kids out there who have the same silver eyes... and the same talents... and maybe they'll be willing to help her.

Thoughts: This was basically one of my favourite books as a kid. I had a copy that somebody, I think maybe my grandmother, gave me, and I literally read it until it fell apart. I mean, I still have it, but it is held together by about three rolls of tape and my childhood hopes and dreams. That thing has been with me for over half my life, so it's not going anywhere, but it's also not exactly readable.

I found out about the reprint a couple years ago, actually before the cover had been finalized, I believe, because I have this in one of the files on my computer, possibly from an old project, not that I can remember, but I also can't find it anywhere online:

Which was totally fine with me. Took me a little to adjust because, well, when you literally read a book to pieces, you get used to the cover. But I didn't buy it because I had a copy, and also I was/am totally broke, so I don't buy two copies of a lot of books unless it's by accident with books like Goosebumps and library sales or garage sales. Just recently, though, I started really thinking about wanting to reread it, and I'm honestly scared to read my copy, it's so roughed up. Then I got some book money (either from the Grammarly thing I did, or from a Christmas present - I can't remember which site I got those from at the moment) so I thought, "Why not?" And it was only something around six or eight dollars because it was a bit older by then, so I didn't feel like a total dork buying something I already owned, even though wearing something out is a totally legit reason to buy a new one!

Anyways. I put it on my to-read stack and forgot about it a bit until I started my English class and we read the Chrysalids, and I started thinking about this because, hello formative book! So I decided to reread it!

And to be honest, I have a really hard time believing it's basically 2015 (it's 2014 when I'm typing this, but I'm gonna schedule it, so it probably won't post til next year - HELLO FUTURE), and that this book is at least thirty-five years old. This book is... thirteen years older than me. Now I feel really old, wow. But the book is not super dated, really. The language at times is a touch old-fashioned. There's at one point a mention of a molded salad, and that just seems so seventies/eighties to me that it's hilarious. (Also I actually had to look it up to know what it was.)

But there's a lot of stuff that really isn't dated. The fashion is simple, so you can easily picture them as current fashions, like shorts and T-shirts. Some technology is lacking, like cellphones and computers, and that could make the plot somewhat different today, but there's also a certain amount of sense it makes, because her mother is stated to be pretty broke, barely being able to afford their apartment is "the best she could manage, and she'd have to cut down on something else to pay for it". Mind you, it does rely a lot on Yellow Pages instead of Google, but still, that's about the worst of it. There is also an unfortunate stereotypical character who is fat, and depicted as lazy and gluttonous, but it is balanced by a very nice fat character. Katie also thinks a bit on her choice of language about the first character, and comes to the conclusion, basically, that it wasn't very nice. So it's not the best on that front, and a couple of the lines are a little mean, but it's quick, at least. And, to be honest, I've read worse in modern books, and I expect more out of those than a book published in 1980.

Katie does come off as very empathetic, even if sometimes it takes her a moment, and she has some moments where she is incredibly wise beyond her way, but not in an annoying way. It's more of a reflection of a life spent dealing with people being afraid, or leary of her. She's also a huge reader who doesn't make friends easily because other kids her age find her strange. Three guesses why I loved this book as a kid!

I also really love, as an adult, how many women there are in this book. There are a lot of female characters, and they're wide and varied. Some are very good, like Katie's friend Mrs. Michaelmas, and some are more of an annoyance to Katie, like her baby-sitters, which she obviously does not need, being a whole ten years old (haha), but none of them are ever villanized for their choices. Besides the one baby-sitter (the fat one, who is very stereotyped), pretty much none of the characters are shallow or caricatures. Katie's mother, who left her when she was very young, is distant, and while their relationship is strained, but she is not demonized for leaving Katie. (Neither is her father, although he is not a large character in the book, and the relationship there is very interesting.) At one point, Katie ends up at a sleepover with several girls. She's quiet through it, and she doesn't know any of them, but they're all kind to her, giving her food and including her in their activities, despite none of them having a clue who she is.

So while this is a little dated, and I'm not super fond of the fat character's depiction, none of that is enough to turn me off of it. I still really love it, honestly, and I wouldn't feel bad at all giving it to a kid today. I think it's clever, and there's a lot of it I appreciate very much as an adult. It's a really good story, and I desperately wish there had been a sequel! Like that was one of my great disappointments in life as a kid! Definitely a keeper. All in all, I'm glad I bought a new copy so I could actually read it, and while that one bit stuck out to me as an adult, it is only really in one chapter, and I can put it aside because of everything else that I love, including positive fat characters.

And I like the new cover. It's not mine, obviously, but it's shiny, and I think it would catch a kid's attention today. Also it takes elements that were actually in the story (Katie's silver eyes, the apple, her glasses, her face being slightly off-putting in a way that would creep adults out), so that's nice. Here's an interesting post that mentions the art on the cover.

But hey, let's be nostalgic for a second, and I'll show you "my" cover:

THE FASHION. Kids today probably wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole! There are others, but this is obviously the One True Cover.


Dark Visions by L. J. Smith

Published: This edition was published September 3rd, 2009 by Simon & Schuster, but the original books were published in the mid-90s.
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Binding: One giant paperback
Page Count: 732
Part of a series? It's the full Dark Visions trilogy bound-up in one volume. It goes The Strange Power, The Possessed, and The Passion if you read them individually.
Got via: I think I bought it at Walmart.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Kaitlyn Fairchild has always felt like an outsider. Her haunting eyes and prophetic drawings have earned her a reputation as a witch. But Kait's not a witch: she's psychic. Tired of being shunned, Kait accepts an invitation to attend the Zetes Institute, where she can study with other psychic teens and have a fresh start.

As Kaitlyn learns to hone her abilities with four other gifted students, she starts to discover the intensity of her power - and the joy of having true friends. But those friendships quickly become complicated when Kait finds herself torn between two irresistible guys. Rob is a healer - kind and gentle, he's surrounded by good energy, while Gabriel is aggressive and mysterious - a telepath concealing his true nature. Together, Rob and Gabriel's opposing forces start to threaten the group's stability, and when an experiment traps the five teens in a psychic link - a link that threatens their sanity and their lives - Kaitlyn must decide who to trust... and who to love.

Thoughts: This is the only one that I really did on purpose. I did want one more book to fit in this kind of theme I had going on, and I owned this and it'd been forever since I'd read it last, so I went with the impulse. I own the first one separately, and have since I was a tiny child. I read it about a million times, and absolutely loved it as a kid. Combined with the last book, this was one of the

These have some odd similarities to the Girl With the Silver Eyes. You have a Kait, which is very similiar to Katie, who has "strange eyes", and magical powers. In this case, it's premonitions versus telekinesis, but both books feature the main character who finds a group like her and has telepathy within that group. I should put this as a spoiler, I guess, even though the one book is older than me and these ones are only a few years young but as much, but hey, stop reading at some point if you care - anyways. This has the school for people with special powers, although in GWTSE that's only vaguely mentioned as a possibility. Both main characters are from small farm towns. Both are said to never cry, although that changes with Kait. Obviously, there's more different than the same, but that's kind of fun to notice.

Anyways, while TGWTSE ages pretty gracefully, this one does... not. It's kind of cheesy now, and since I'm now over the age of 12, the writing is not amazeballs anymore. 17 year old Kaitlyn flying alone at 17 in a red dress and 2 inch pumps, and doing twists in the airplane bathroom, really made me giggle. Some of the characters can be a little stereotypical - Rob is the "good guy" all blonde and Southern, Gabriel is the "dangerous bad boy" named Gabriel Wolfe and all MANPAIN, Anna's character unfortunately falls into the whole "Magical Native American" trope, although I do like that she holds a connection to her family and roots that is near and dear to her heart - it's not done out of malice, but it is somewhat clumsy at times. The dialogue can be a bit dated, it's kind of judgemental about people who look different (like with hair dye and piercings, not skin or anything), Kait is kind of passive sometimes, and there's a lot of InstaLove.

But it was fun. Yes, it's cheesy and super dramatic, but it was fun because of that, too. I kinda felt like I was ten again, in a good way. The second and third I only read maybe once, because they were really hard to get (I had to order the third one from outside our region, which took a massive amount of work and came with a swack of paperwork I couldn't lose - nowadays, I can order from the whole province, but that's how long ago it was), so they were mostly new, which was kind of fun. It was fun seeing what I did remember, though. And all in all, it was a decent way to kill an afternoon. Sometimes it's just fun to read something kind of fluffy and silly, you know?

I  also do like the new cover of the bind-up. The grey stuff on the side is actually just shiny on mine, and it makes a pretty effect. These bind-ups all look really nice together, and it made them a LOT easier to find than the old copies! I have another of the Forbidden Game trilogy, and I think I'd like to read that sometime soonish.

Oh, and here's the cover  I grew up with (and still have!) just for fun:

This is like all the 90s rolled up into one. The hair! The giant head and tiny dude! The really weird cliff-area they're randomly standing on! The fact that I'm pretty sure she's wearing sneakers with that dress!

Also, what's up with either of the covers not getting that she's a redhead? She's not blonde! And they both make her super blonde. Not cool, covers. Not cool.

So, anyways, if I was gonna do the "is this worth the shelf space" test, I'd totally go with yes. They aren't going to be everyone's cup of tea, and a lot of it is nostalgia, but I do still think they've got a good story, and I still like them for what they are. So keep!

Okay! This got a little long, but it was a lot of fun!

Tell me what you think!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, February 9, 2015

Things I've Read Recently (15): Valentine's Day

If you're new around here or I just haven't done one in a while, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or whatever reason fit my fancy. This is a special edition! There are only three in this one instead of my usual four, because I only ordered three last year, and... that's what I'm going to go with.

The Case of the Secret Valentine (A Jisgaw Jones Mystery #3) by James Prellor

Published: 1999 by Scholastic
Genre: Children's/Chapter Book Mystery, RL2
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 76
Part of a series? Yes, there's apparently about 30 of these.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (from goodreads): Someone is secretly sending Jigsaw Valentines. When Jigsaw thinks about each valentine as a clue, the case starts to come together. It's a red-hot mystery for Jigsaw and Mila, the best detectives in the second grade.

Thoughts: This was cute. It was the third book in the series and I hadn't read any of the others, but it wasn't confusing or anything. I know a lot of kids who really like mystery books and this would be a great one for kids who are a little young for, say, Nancy Drew, etc. I liked how Jigsaw liked school, and also that nobody in the mystery was a "bad guy", really. While I don't think kids exactly need to be coddled like that, sometimes a little positivity is nice. I also thought it was neat that the mystery was more realistic, something a kid this age could actually solve, not a crime or anything. And Valentine's Day slant was a nice touch. It was a good seasonal book without making it impossible to read at other times of the year. Thumbs up.

Oh, also, I was completely wrong when I guessed who the culprit was. So either it was a good one or I was really not on my game reading it. Your pick!

The Valentine Baby Mystery by David A. Adler (Cam Jansen Mysteries #25)

Published: 2005 by Puffin according to my copy
Genre: Children's/Chapter Book Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 74
Part of a series? Yes. There's about 30 of these, too, and they've been around since like 1980. There's also the Young Cam Jansen series which are beginner readers.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links - and the Kindle copy of this is only like 4 dollars.)

Summary (from goodreads): It’s Valentine’s Day, and Cam is at school when she learns her mother is about to give birth. Mrs. Shelton quickly takes Cam and her best friend Eric to the hospital.There, in the waiting room, something of great value disappears. Click, click! Cam starts to unravel the mystery.Will Cam solve it before her Valentine sibling is born?

Thoughts: I read a couple of these when I was a kid and spent a couple weeks trying to train myself into having a photographic memory. You know, as you do. I was really into mystery books as a kid and I quite liked these. They've been around a long time and if this one is representative of the whole series, then they do work very well as a book for this age group. As an adult, the mystery here is a little unrealistic, but for kids, it'd work fine, and it's dramatic without the characters getting into dangerous situations, which can be upsetting for some kids. I don't know about others, mind you, but this one is good for that.

This was not super Valentine's Day focused. Other than a few scenes, there's very little that makes this a "Valentine" book. All in all, I'm not in love with these as an adult, especially since third person narration can be very dry in books for this age group, but I can see kids enjoying these easily.

Okay, this is gonna be a little spoiler-y if you care, but it bothers me a little. Cam's mom is having a baby. They don't tell her exactly when she's due, apparently, because she's literally just finished telling her friends that it could be "a few weeks". I could forgive that because babies like to surprise people. But her PARENTS decide to surprise her by NOT TELLING HER THAT THE BABY WAS TWINS. Like... that's not a good thing???? That just... bothered me. Not a big deal, just made me raise an eyebrow.

Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime by Barbara Park (Junie B. Jones #14)

Published: 1999 by Scholastic
Genre: Children's Contemporary/Chaper Book, similar reading level to previous two
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 69 in my copy and no I'm not giggling
Part of a series? Yes, there are again around 30 of these
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links - as I'm writing this, the Paperback on Aamzon is only 4 dollars. That may change, but this would be a great little Valentime present for the young reader in your life!)

Summary (from goodreads): It's a mushy gushy mystery!

Hurray! February 14—Valentime's Day, as June B. calls it—is just around the corner. Junie B. can't wait to see all the valentimes she'll get. But she never expected a big, mushy card from a secret admirer! Who is this secret mystery guy, anyway? Junie B. is determined to find out!

Thoughts: The Junie B. Jones series are classic children's book. I read a handful when I was a kid and I remember that I liked them, but I don't think I read this one. This is also the first one I've read as an adult.

And, man, I almost died laughing reading this. Junie is spunky, she's funny, she's honestly freaking adorable. The premise unto itself is cute and her voice would appeal to children well.

But man. The adult humour that would go over the kids' heads is HILARIOUS. Like the poor teacher is probably driven to drink because of these children. There's one scene where she has to go to the sink and take aspirin and I almost giggled myself to death. I just... I was literally sitting there giggling to myself. I loved this book. And it was an awesome Valentine's book. Or Valentime's book. Either way. Great book, great seasonal book, really funny. Loved it.

Alrighty, that's it! What'd you guys think of this post?

Peace and cookies,

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

YA Review: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend

Fun fact! I wrote this as homework. Best homework yet! Cross your fingers I get a good grade on that. I'm actually only doing minor editing to make this work for here!

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Published: June 10th, 2010 by Dial which is an imprint of Penguin
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 259
Part of a series? Nope, standalone
Got via: I think I bought it from Chapters with a giftcard. Either that or Amazon.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
(Affiliate links.)

Summary (copied from goodreads, but edited to match the inside flap of the dust jacket because I'm strange like that): For months, Cass Meyer has heard her best friend Julia, a wannabe Broadway composer, whispering about a top-secret project. Then Julia is killed in a sudden car accident, and drama friends make it their mission to bring the project – a musical entitled Totally Sweet Nina Death Squad – to fruition.

But Cass isn’t one of the drama people. She can’t take a summer of swallowing her pride and painting sets, and she won’t spend long hours Heather Galloway, the girl who rudely questioned Cass’s sexuality all through middle school and who has somehow landed the starring role.

So Cass decides to follow her original plan for a cross-country road trip with Julia. Even if she has a touring bicycle instead of a driver’s license, and even if Julia’s ashes are coming along in Tupperware. When Cass returns in late August she’s not the same person – and neither, she discovers, is Heather. In fact, it’s hard to tell what will happen to the play when they start falling for each other…

This is a story about friendship. About love. About traveling a thousand miles just to find yourself. And it’s a story about the bloodiest high school musical one quiet suburb has ever seen.

Review: First of all, I kinda cried through about half of this. I’m a little bit of a wuss, but it was a really good book. I do think the beginning was a little hard to get into, and at first, the non-linear story can be hard to follow, but once you get into the swing of it, it works for the story. It’s not the most unique storyline in the world, but I think it is different in that Cass isn’t straight, and her story is very different because of that. Diverse stories like this don’t need to be as unique as stories about straight character, especially, because the representation isn’t there yet. People need stories like this about characters like them, so in that, the plot not being the most unique thing is not a bad thing.

Plot Talk: Like I said, this isn’t the most unique plot ever. I’ve actually read a few in the last few years along these lines, and considering how not on the times I am... that's saying something. The two I really liked were Saving June by Hannah Harrington and Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott. (Bear in mind my linked reviews may be pretty old and not very good - personal growth and all that.) Saving June was actually also about a road trip of grief to scatter ashes in California, although that was a sister, not a best friend. Love You Hate You Miss You, though, also had a dead best friend named Julia. Combine those and add lesbians and you get A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend!

No, I'm kidding, but it is a trend. Ones that makes me cry a lot, actually. Other variants I’ve read include 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues, which was pretty diverse itself, but I thought was kind of cliché and a little weaker in the writing, maybe Rosebush by Michelle Jaffe which I was not a fan of, and maybe we could include this small press book I read The Green-Eyed Queen of Suicide City by Kevin Mark Fournier, which I had a lot of conflicted feelings about and was kind of weird - you can hit up my review of that for more information.

So again, the dead best friend road trip of grief thing isn’t the most unique thing, but it is unique in its representation, so that’s not a problem for me. I did really appreciate that although Cass is not entirely certain of her sexuality, it’s not really a coming out story. Questioning is fine, you know? Lots of people do it, because sexuality is something that can be constantly changing and shifting.

I also did like that her road trip was on a bike, not in a car or anything. That is pretty different from any others I’ve read. Plus, road trips tend to be a very male literary trope, so whenever you get girls taking them, it’s nice to see.

Characters: Our main character is Cass, who lost her best friend only a few months before, and is still dealing with her grief, and the loss. The story is told through alternating chapters between the past and the present. The past in this case is the road trip Cass attempted to take after Julia’s ashes to California, on her bike. From Illinois. And I don’t know US geography that well, I’ll admit, but even I know that’s far. The trip, however, isn’t really about getting to California. It’s about Cass’ grieving and trying to find out who she is without her best friend, and what her feelings for Julia really were.

The present here is about Julia’s musical, Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad, which Julia’s boyfriend and drama friends decided to put on, and was one of the major factors in Cass needing to leave, because she was feeling left out, like Julia’s friends were just that, Julia’s friends, and not Cass’ friends. It also deals with her confusing feelings for Heather, the star of the show, who used to make her life miserable until she went away to Catholic school and is now back, and… confusing. Very confusing.

Heather is an interesting character. She’s gay, but was very much not out in middle school, when she made Cass’ life miserable by spreading rumours about her. She’s trying to… not erase what happened, but try and make up for it. I’m not entirely sure I like the idea that it was her being closeted that made her bully Cass, because I’ve read some criticisms about that, and how it’s a problematic narrative with kind of unfortunate implications. Something about dating your bully just squicks me out a little, too. That kind of seems like a bad base for a relationship, but it works alright, and she doesn’t try to excuse her actions. So I don’t love that part, but it’s not a dealbreaker for me. I would, however, have to read other POVs about this before I say much more.

Now, the dead best friend – usually in these books you get a much better view of the dead friend or sister or whatever, with flashback or scenes set in the past, and this one is different in that even the “past” storyline is still post-death, so you don’t get quite the same impact of who this person was. She’s still there, but it’s different, and that’s something that is unique about Love Story.

I do think the story suffered a little in the other secondary characters. They aren’t bad or anything, but they weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been. Horner also didn’t have the strongest physical descriptions of the characters, which can be a plus or a minus, but I think didn’t work so well in this one. On the plus side, the cast, especially Julia’s friends, were pretty diverse, but that didn’t have the time to shine that it deserved. At times it was almost blink and you miss it.

PG-13 stuff: Nothing too much to report. Mature subject matter, especially in the grief aspect, but I wouldn’t say this is inappropriate for younger teens. There’s not much for language. Some, but it’s used sparingly. There’s some sex talk, but nothing that happens on screen, and it’s realistic, and very well handled. If I was the person doing the little stickers on books, I’d say maybe 12+.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I didn’t like that they never mentioned the concept of bisexuality. It’s basically danced around that Cass is either gay or straight, and I’m not a fan of that. Cass’ sexuality is never labelled by her, although other people do, but despite all her questioning, that’s never a word used, and I didn’t like that. Bisexual characters – or, god forbid, asexual characters – are like unicorns. Except you see unicorns on TV, and they don’t call them horses that don’t like labels.

Um, other than that, I think I’ve mentioned everything. Narration style is a little confusing at the beginning, secondary characters could have been a little more fleshed out… I think that’s about everything.

Cover comments: I like that it takes the elements of the book like the bike, the motel, the theatre-type sign. I don’t like the girl because she looks very model-y, and really smiley, which is not appropriate for the story. If they had, like, cut the girl and slid the bike over a little under the window, I think it would have been just right. It’s a nice cover, still, though.

Conclusion: Cass’ struggles in finding herself her best friend’s death, of trying to figure out who she is and what she wants, of trying to take part in this ridiculous wonderful musical, just trying to find her place in a world where she’s lost a person she’s cared about very deeply, they’re realistic. None of this stuff is easy, but that’s kind of how life goes. Thing are hard and sometimes they suck and sometimes they’re really awesome.

When I showed my friend my stack of books I was considering, I had a little bit of feeling he’d pick this one, because I knew he loved it, which was actually part of the reason I bought. I mean, I had a gift card and it was on for really cheap so that was a part of it, too, but also I knew he liked it. He really recommended it, and recommended it as something that was unique, and I think in the end, I do think that while the tropes are familiar, the writing is good and the representation especially makes it very unique. I bawled like a baby and like actually couldn’t reread one of the scenes without tearing up a little while I was checking some of the stuff for the review, but in the end, while I did really love this book, and that’s great, it’s not really written for me, and that’s okay, because there’s somebody out there who desperately needs this book. And I’m glad that person has a good book waiting for them to find.

Somewhere between three and a half roses and four for this one. I'll put 3.5 for simplicity's sake, but probably 3.75 if I gave quarter ratings!

I don't think I have any other notes, so...

OH I meant to mention - last year I posted at least once every month. Hoping to keep that up again this year! I'm barely squeezing this one in, but it was the end of semester, so I'm not being too hard on myself about that.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, December 29, 2014

Things I've Read Recently (14)

If you're new around here or I just haven't done one in a while, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review or didn't have enough to say for a full review or had to return to the library because they were overdue, that kind of thing.

Undercurrent by Paul Blackwell

Published: July 23rd, 2013 by DoubleDay Canada
Genre: YA Science-Fiction
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: I have 312 written down, but Goodreads has 320
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: I took it out of the library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Callum Harris never wanted to move to Crystal Falls. Neither did Cole, his brawny and fearless older brother. With the recent separation of their parents, the brothers have had quite enough change of late.

But the move turns out to be only the first of many changes in Callum's life. After he plunges headlong over the falls, he wakes up in the hospital to find that life is no longer what it once was: his squabbling parents appear to have reconciled; his brother, an unrepentant jock and serial dater, is paralyzed and bed-ridden in a makeshift hospital room at home; and even Callum himself, always studious and unpopular, is now the object of desire for the two hottest girls in school.

As he adjusts to this surreal new life--a life both exhilarating and terrifying--Callum struggles to reconcile his past memories with a dangerous and uncertain present. Who is he? Where is he? And what, exactly, has he become?

Thoughts: This isn't actually my normal sort of thing. I'm not a huge sci-fi reader (is it still cool to say sci-fi?) reader. This does lean much more to science fiction than paranormal or anything as far as I can tell. It kind of makes me think of Human.4. Not because they're super similiar in premise, but because I have read both and they would probably appeal to similar audiences. I actually bought Human.4 for my cousin last year for Christmas and this would be something I'd consider buying him, too. I do kind of wonder if the cover might turn some readers off, but eh, it's neat anyways.

Hopefully not, though because it's a good book. The premise, now that I'm thinking about books I've read, reminds me a little of Rosebush which I didn't like much but has the same wake up in the hospital not remembering things deal, only this is very much not a straight-forward mystery. I don't want to spoil the plot so that's about all I'm going to say about that. ;)

All in all, I thought the plot was cool and a little surprising considering the back didn't give away anything. I basically read it all in one sitting. It didn't amaze me for some reason that I can't really finger, but was well-written, nothing really bothered me, and I can see a lot of people liking it. This is more of a me thing than a book thing and I'd probably give it a solid three and a half. Recommend.

Let me see... what else do I wanna put here? Eh, you guys probably don't want to hear about my random Christmas books... how about this little cutie?

Queen of the World (Babymouse #1) by Jennifer Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm

Published: December 2005 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Graphic Novel
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 96; I've long sinced returned the book
Part of a series? Yes, there are 18 out, and one coming out in 2015
Got via: The library again.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): It’s the same thing every day for Babymouse. Where is the glamour? The excitement? The adventure? Nothing ever changes, until... Babymouse hears about Felicia Furrypaws’s exclusive slumber party. Will Babymouse get invited? Will her best friend, Wilson, forgive her if she misses their monster movie marathon? Find out in Babymouse: Queen of the World, a graphic novel with attitude!

Thoughts: I actually got this for an ex-Storytime kid (she grew up on me!) who likes longer books, is a strong reader, but still likes pictures. She's fun :P (She's a wonderful kid, actually.) I try to always pre-read books I send home for her, so I read this, and I'm really glad I did, actually. It's really cute. I love Babymouse's little imagination tangents, and the wonderful writing, and, really, I just liked it a lot. I was very charmed, and I would readily recommend this to kids. Reluctant readers especially would probably like these, too, as would fans of pink. Also I found it a really enjoyable read. The writing was super strong, no dragging like some chapter books can do, and I really just liked it.

Hmm, what now? No, I'll put that one in a different post... oh, I know.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Published: It was originally published in 1889, and I'm not going into all the details.
Genre: Children's Classics/Historical I guess
Binding: Mine was an ebook
Page Count: Again, ebook. Different bindings run from 250-350 pages.
Part of a series? Not really, but there are two "sequels" that were written by one of the translators after the author's death
Got via: A free public domain copy on Amazon, which you can get here.
Or you can buy it from this Amazon listing / Book Depository (I think I have Anne of Green Gables from this collection, and how cute is that?? And it has an introduction by Eva Ibbotson! I want that!) / Indiebound

Summary (from this random goodreads copy that I thought had a cute cover): Heidi, a lively orphan girl, goes to live with her cranky grandfather in a little hut high in the Alps. Soon she is happy and healthy, leading a carefree life with her grandfather, her new friend, Peter, and the goats on the Alm.

But Heidi's happiness is short-lived when she is sent to stay with a rich city family as a companion for a sick girl, Clara. Although she grows fond of the older girl, Heidi is terribly homesick. She eventually returns to the Alps and finds happiness once again in the clean, pure natural mountain setting.

Thoughts: So I was talking about Hello Kitty one evening, as you do,, and I started thinking about the show that was on in the 90s, and looked up a couple episodes, but one that I loved as a kid was the Heidi episode, and I could not find that one to save my life. But thinking about it made me want to read Heidi, so I blew off my homework for a night, and spent an exciting Friday night reading Heidi.

I found a free copy of this on Amazon and just read it on my kindle app on my laptop. I rarely read ebooks, but this was available, and I didn't want to wait, so I read it like that, and it was fine. The Kindle App is pretty neat (and great for homework). The public domain version doesn't have any kind of photo, and the fomatting sometimes is a little wonky, but, again, free.

I owned a copy of Heidi when I was a kid, and read it several times, so this wasn't new to me. Obviously the book from 1889 is a bit dated, and it was a touch more religious than I remembered, but I enjoyed it. It was very nostaligic, and it reminded me of my childhood.

Okay, what else can I stick here... eh, let's go with this:

Don't Pigeonhole Me! by Mo Willems

Published: June 18th, 2013 by Disney Editions
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction
Binding: A giant, heavy, wonderful hardcover
Page Count: Goodreads says 288, but this is like the size of a textbook, so that's a lot of book
Part of a series? Not really.
Got via: I borrowed it from the library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): In Don't Pigeonhole Me! Two Decades of the Mo Willems Sketchbook, readers are given a rare glimpse into the mind of the man the New York Times described as "The biggest new talent to emerge thus far in the '00s." Since he was a teenager, Mo has been creating characters and scribbling ideas in the pages of sketchbooks. In the early 1990s, he started self-publishing collections of his drawings, and The Mo Willems Sketchbook was created. What began as a calling card for his work has morphed over the years from a form of therapy, to an opportunity to explore and experiment, to a gift for friends and loved ones. But these sketchbooks have always been (and continue to be) the well from which Mo draws ideas and inspiration.

Want to know where ideas come from? Look inside.

Thoughts: I love Mo Willems' books. I read them at Storytime, I give them to people, I am responsible for our library's collection because I talked so highly of them (no joke), and they just make me so happy. He's awesome.

Now, this is not a book aimed at kids, because his career is not solely about children. He's an artist, and has been for decades, so his work is not just in one genre. So you need to keep in mind that this is a book for adults. Some of it can be shared with kids, but some of it is probably not super appropriate.

However, I found it fascinating to read, and at times, absolutely hilarious. I liked the little glimpses into his life and his creative processes, and I enjoyed watching the evolution of the art. I would definitely recommend this one, and in fact, I gave it to a Storytime parent as soon as I was done it, because she loves his work, too, and I thought she'd like it.

Alrighty, that's a glimpse of what I've been reading lately!

I'm really squeezing this post in because I like to have these up on Mondays and I'm finishing it at nearly 4 in the morning (so pardon my spelling/typing - let me know if you spot typos), but posting this means I posted at least once every month of the year! That's pretty good for me, huh?

We're almost in 2015! I'm going to at the very least try and keep up that schedule of one post a month. I am in school now so that's taking a lot of time, but I will keep trying! Thanks for hanging around another year, guys!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, November 10, 2014

YA Review: An Off Year

An Off Year by Claire Zulkey

Published: August 29th, 2009 by Dutton books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 213
Part of a series? Nope, it's a standalone.
Got via: I bought it off Amazon for like 4 dollars which was a great price for a hardcover, right???
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Cecily has always done everything as she was supposed to: taken the right classes, gotten the right grades, applied to the right colleges. But after a lifetime of following the rules, she surprises everyone by arriving for her freshman year of college . . . and turning around. There are infinite possibilities for Cecily's unexpected gap year. She could volunteer, or travel around the world - but, for now, Cecily is content to do absolutely nothing.

What follows is a year of snarkily observed self-doubt and self-discovery during which Cecily must ask herself, for the first time, what does she really want to do with her life?

Review: Well, I learned one thing reading this - reading 3 and a half books in a day makes my vision really bad, and I have to put my glasses on to feel halfway normal. Which has very little to do with this review besides that I look adorable right now!

Right before this, I read My Sister's Keeper and bawled like a baby through like three quarters of it, so I kind of needed something a little fluffy to make me feel better and not cry into my pillow for the rest of the night. Now, I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but what with the whole pink shag carpet and bunny slippers thing this has going on, I just had a feeling this one would do the job.

Which is not to say this is completely super fluffy. It does actually tackle some pretty big issues and it does it well while sometimes making things really funny. It was a good read. I had a few things that annoyed me, but for the most part, it was an enjoyable way to recover from emotional devastation.

Plot Talk: Basically, Cecily gets to college, then "Nopes" herself right out of there, goes home and spends the next year trying to figure out what she wants to do and why she "Noped" in the first place. The summary says it prettier, though.

Characters: Cecily is a really enjoyable average person. She did well in school, but didn't try especially hard as it was all just easy for her. Had a best friend and didn't try that hard at making other friends. Never made trouble. Right up until she, as previously stated, "nopes" away from college and can't explain why or what she wants to do next. She's so normal and I liked that a lot.

I actually really liked that her dad took her home when she decided it wasn't happening, that he was supportive, that when his kid did something massively out of character and then did absolutely nothing for like a month, he did make her go to therapy. I didn't like when he got really passive-aggressive about college, though.

Most of the characters were pretty solid. A lot of the book is about how people change and grow and that's neat.

PG-13 stuff: Language decently heavily, ableism, talk about sex, slutshaming, sizeism, big scary life decisions.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: There's a fair amount of grossness about weight. At one point, Cecily's sister says she couldn't be that scared of college because she's not fat. Apparently fat girls don't go to college? At another, Cecily is "relieved that somehow my sporadic attempts at exercise were keeping me from getting fat". Because in the middle of causing chaos to your family and being a bit of a mess in general, heaven forbid you get fat! Weight loss is used twice to indicate happiness/success.

It's irritating to read that kind of stuff.

Also I didn't like the slutshaming, honestly, and I couldn't figure out why it took until page 117 to even mention that not everyone goes to college. Why was it never discussed an option that Cecily might decide that she just didn't want to go to college?

Cover comments: It's super cute. Cute bunny slippers, the carpet that actually makes an appearance in the book. It fits the book. And I like that the book is pink with white letters and when you remove the dust jacket, the book is plain white, but with pink letters on the spine. Things like that please me.

Conclusion: This is exactly the kind of book I needed. Nothing to make me cry! And I think this kind of book is really important. Too many YA books, as far as I'm concerned, TV shows, movies, they all act like college is an inevitable conclusion, and it's not.

While there were things that annoyed me, most people probably wouldn't notice them and for the most part, I enjoyed it. I especially liked that Cecily went through a year of therapy. You guys know I like therapy in books. And this one featured cognitive behavioural therapy versus talk therapy, which is what I've seen much more often.

I have not really read any New Adult, but I do like the idea of this kind of book - not just college-set romance or YA with sex or however people describe NA when they don't know what they're talking about, like me - but stuff that explores what happens after high school, what if you're scared, that kind of stuff. This is pretty darn good at filling that gap. (Heh. Gap year. Gap. Get it?)

So, I think this one will get three and a half roses from me. (Points off for slutshaming and the gross attitude about weight.)

Peace and cookies,

Monday, October 6, 2014

Things I've Read Recently (13) Older MG edition!

So if you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of blog posts I do that are basically mini-reviews for whatever reason. I think I'm scheduling this for October! It's only July! I'm actually really proud of that!

Alice Whipple, Fifth-Grade Detective by Laurie Adams and Allison Coudert

Published: 1987 by Bantom-Skylark
Genre: MG Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 102 pages
Part of a series? It's apparently the 3rd book of a 5 book series, but it functions fine as a standalone
RL: 4
Got via: I think it came from a library sale, but I'm not sure. It has library stamps, but no bar code and it doesn't have my library stamped on it
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Alice Whipple's English class essay on "My Future Career" is due tomorrow! All her friends at Miss Barton's School for Girls know exactly what they want to be when they grow up, but Alice doesn't have a clue. Finally, she decides she'll be a painter, and offers to help her art teacher, Miss Slade. One day, Alice sees the teacher doing some very suspicious things with owls, small packages, and a gold necklace. Could Miss Slade be a jewel thief? Even though her friends think she's being silly, Alice decides to investigate. And that's when Alice discovers her true career - as a world-famous detective!

Review: I decided since I had no computer again (yeah, so much fun) and I was averaging at least two books a day that I'd switch it up a little and also read some older books. So I went onto my bookshelf and since I didn't want to really bend over and dig through a bunch of books, I ended up with 4 books out of the A's and B's that fit together quite nicely into a little themed post. Neato.

Anyways, this is super cute. It is a third book, but it wasn't a big deal. Kids are great at reading random books sometimes with absolutely no respect for how a series should go (hooligans), and it doesn't rely heavily on the reader having too much knowledge of previous books.

Obviously this is dated. The idea of kids having this much freedom in New York City at the age they are is adorable. The computer Alice has and is pretty unique among her friends in having is an Apple IIe which I've never even heard of and the programs are laughably simple compared to nowadays. There are mild 'isms (although it's better than some things these days - the worst is probably using a rude word for little people/dwarfs).

But it's cute. As a kid, I loved mysteries and actually the kid I used to baby-sit would have liked this. There was a hilarious moment talking about bras and in general, it was funny. It's out of print, but as I already own it, I'll keep it, and if you ever found a cheap used copy, totally check it out if you're looking for kid books. It gets to keep its spot on my shelf.

Also I don't know if my copy like never got read or something, but it only has one due-date stamp (from August 25th, 1987!!) and our system generally stopped doing stamps around... maybe eight years ago? Anyways, my copy is like brand new. There's next to no wear and tear. So that's neat. Oh, and I think the cover's cute. It's not WOW, but it's okay and the fashion isn't terrible, plus I like that it shows a scene from the book.

The Copy Cat Mystery by Carol Adorjan

Published: February 1990 by Avon Camelot
Genre: MG Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 119
Part of a series? It's a sequel to The Cat Sitter Mystery
Got via: My library weeded it. Our weeded books get sold. I bought it.
RL: 5
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): As far as Beth Carew was concerned, this summer was a major BOMB - and it was only just getting started. First her friend Paul backed out of their pet-sitting business. Next the sweet old Goodalls next door moved away with their five cats - including Copy, Beth's favourite feline in the whole world.

And then some really creepy things started happening - strange noises in the night, toys starting up all by themselves. Not to mention the mysterious appearance of a stray that looks exactly like Copy Cat. Maybe obnoxious Tiffany Tanner was right. Maybe Mrs. Goodall was a witch who had left a ghost-cat behind to guard her house. And to Beth, that could mean only one thing - cat-astrophe!

Review: This is another cute book. Like I've said, totally loved mysteries as a kid and the animal lovers would like this. It's a little dated (check out the jeans on that cover, baha), but not too bad. It reminds me a little bit of Anastasia At Your Service (and those are all wonderful books, by the way). Beth is clever and responsible and it was an enjoyable read.

It is definitely cute and the writing is solid. I'm totally keeping this one.

(Also I totally cheated and added stuff to goodreads. I couldn't find a picture of the old cover anyways so that's why you get my very bad one. Sorry! Just had to show you those jeans!)

Just As Long As We're Together by Judy Blume

Published: 1987 by Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers (for this edition, there are lots)
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 296
Part of a series? Yes, there's a companian novel
Got via: Garage sale, I think
RL: 4.9
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (goodreads): Rachel is Stephanie's best friend. Since the second grade they have shared all their secrets, good and bad. So when Alison moves in, Stephanie hopes that the three of them can be best friends because Stephanie really likes Alison. After all, they have even more to share now, including seventh grade and Jeremy Dragon, the cutest boy in junior high.

Even though the three of them live in a quiet Connecticut neighborhood, there's a lot going on in their lives. Stephanie wishes her father didn't have to work so far from home and she worries that Rachel's talents will get in the way of their friendship. Rachel and Alison have to deal with the changes in their own lives, yet Stephanie is sure everything will work out fine - just as long as they're together.

Review: I never read this one as a kid. I read every Judy Blume book my school had, but it basically stopped buying books in 1985 (well, not really, but it sure feels that way looking back!) and I just never read this one. So I figured since I had this and the sequel and I had no computer, I'd go for it!

This was really sweet. It's Judy Blume, after all, which says a lot of what you need to know. They're classics for a reason. The things that happen in the book are very realistic. New friends, old friendships changing, parents having marriage problems.

I do think that it kind of fails on the weight front, though. Stephanie is a chubby kid. When her parents tell her they're having a "trial separation", she begins emotionally eating, sometimes to the point of feeling sick. She gains some weight. And the book does not handle it well. A kid in her class calls her "El Chunko" and her mom's response is "You have gained weight". That's not right! When your kid is being bullied, you don't side with the bully.

And then her mom puts her on a "sensible diet" which means cleaning all the cookies, chips, pretzels, etc., out of the house and gives it to Stephanie's cousin Howard. When Stephanie questions since this is about her "health", doesn't her mom care about Howard's health? Well, "Howard is as thin as a flagpole" and that is a direct quote. Later, Stephanie gets a school lunch packed by her mom made of, wait for it, a hardboiled egg and carrot sticks. Sounds incredibly healthy to me!

Need I remind you this is a 12-turning-13-year-old girl? During the book, she gets her first period. Kids going through puberty gain weight. It's normal. You know what isn't normal? Fatshaming your growing daughter and putting her on a super restricted diet.

Here's a quote that really illustrates how infuriating it is. Steph's dad has been away on business/separation in California. Steph and her brother visit him at Christmas, the first time they've seen him since Thanksgiving (American, not Canadian) when they found out that their parents had separated. This is the first day they're there.
Before we went out to dinner that night Dad looked me over and said, "Wow, Steph... you've really been putting it on."
I was hoping he would add something else. Something like, But you still look great to me! When he didn't, I said, "I haven't gained an ounce. You've just forgotten what I look like."

Way to make your daughter feel more self-conscious about her growing and changing body. Not to even mention that tons of kids gain weight right before a growth spurt.

And then when Steph does lose weight after getting her first period, she says she's not as hungry as she used to be and "Mom says my hormones are adjusting." GEE YOU THINK? But congratulations on punishing your kid for growing!

A lot of you probably think this is nitpicking, but this is a RL 4.9. That means that kids in 4th grade, 5th grade, sometimes even younger, are reading this. Those kids are entering puberty. They're most likely going to gain weight as their bodies change to an adult's. Most of them will probably have a growth spurt and as they're starting to grow so fast, they'll need to eat more and they'll probably gain weight from that. It's normal.

If they read this, are they going to come away with the message that their bodies are bad, that they're doing something wrong by eating when they're hungry? By growing? And what about the kids that don't lose weight? That can't? Should they live on carrot sticks and hardboiled eggs for the rest of their lives, never daring to think about a doughnut again, crash dieting, or be condemned to binging out of guilt after not being "good" enough at eating "right?"

The rates of eating disorders in kids are terrifying, and the ages are younger and younger. Things like that quite honestly terrify me. And ideas like this, as far as I'm concerned, don't exactly help.

I love Judy Blume. I thought this book was super sweet and very realistic. And I'll keep it, for sure, but I don't know if I'd recommend it, or, especially, give it to kids because they don't really have the capacity to realize when something like this isn't okay.

The rest of the book is somewhat dated, too. Stephanie wants a phone with a long cord for her room for her birthday. Her house doesn't have cable. "The Orient" is mentioned. Her mom "forgets" that their separation is hard on her (seriously???). Steph has an allergic reaction to a bee sting pre-book and gets 3 pills to put in a locker on a necklace. She has a poster of a young Richard Gere in her room.

Judy Blume books are always very well-loved. In my experience, by the time they're weeded, they're just falling apart. But this one does feel dated in both some of the references and the attitude to some of the issues in the book. Between all of that, I just don't think I would give this to a kid nowadays. It's really more of a nostalgic than anything. I love Judy Blume and I really thought the book was adorable and charming, but it's not... current, I guess. Now, there have been editions released in recent years and I don't know if they updated anything as I do only have my edition. OH WAIT LET ME TRY SOMETHING.

Oh, I can totally do this! Okay, hold on, my library has an ebook copy of this! Okay, the ebook that we have was only released in 2012, so that's great. Okay, I checked a bunch of things and none of them were changed, not even the Richard Gere poster (I'm having a hard time believing kids know who Richard Gere is these days). Well, now that I know that it has not been edited, then I maintain that it's dated and I would not feel comfortable recommending it to a kid this days. Shame, because I am glad I read it and I will keep it on shelves for my personal library, but not to give to kids in my care, say.

Man, this is supposed to be mini! I've had, through it, a doctor's appointment (I'm healthy! B12 deficient, apparently, so I have shiny new pills. But otherwise I'm fine. My cholesterol even went down.), went to the grocery store, got mail, ran out of notebook pages, and my pen died and I had to look through four places to find one I liked. While not wearing pants. As you do.

Moving right along!

Here's to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume

Published: 1993 by Bantom Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 196 pages
Part of a series? Yeah, it's the sequel. Well, they throw around the word companian a lot, but this one is chronologically later than JALAWT
Got via: I think a yard sale, but I've had it forever so I'm not sure
RL: 4.5
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

OKAY I'M TOTALLY CHEATING WITH THE COVER. My version is actually this one, with the blue cover with the three girls on it, but I can't find a decent picture of it, so I'm just going to go with something cute. And it's blue, that counts, right?

But while we're talking covers, can we talk about this one?

This kid is supposed to be like thirteen. That model looks like she's twenty five! What were they thinking? *cackles*

Summary (from... the back of the book because I like that one better than any of the goodreads ones, but they're all pretty similar): Rachel's a straight-A student, on every teacher's wish list for Natural Helpers. She practices the flute forty-five minutes a day. But she grinds her teeth at night and dreads dinnertime now that her troublemaker brother, Charles, has been expelled from boarding school and is back home, acting up to get attention from Rachel's parents.

It's the end of seventh grade and the stress of trying to be perfect is getting to Rachel. Plus she's busy dealing with her sister's acne problem, enjoying her secret crush on her brother's tutor, going on a surprise date with the gorgeous Jeremy Dragon, and keeping her friendship with Stephanie and Allison strong. Could it be that real life is much more interesting than perfect life?

Review: I find it amusing that this is on a lower reading level than the first one, but it handles a lot of much more intense things. There's underage drinking and drug use (like 14 and 15 year olds!), talking about how Accutane can cause birth defects and that, you know, pregnancy is a thing, Rachel's brother making a crack that he could be a lot worse, be a rapist or a serial killer... oh and there's an F-bomb! What a difference six years can make, huh?

I liked this one better, honestly. I think the massive amounts of anxiety Rachel was dealing with between her problem brother, being in advanced classes, extracurriculars, pushing herself to get straight A's, and just in general feeling she needed to be perfect. She grinds her teeth at night and also at one point has an episode that really reads like a panic attack. I honestly think a ton of kids these days could understand that.

But nobody ever seems to realize how stressed Rachel is. They tell her to relax, but the only techniques she has are from a Psychology Today article, and they keep pushing more and more things on her while telling her to relax. At one point, her family starts going to a family counsellor and I love therapy in books, but it's focused on Rachel's brother, really. And at the end of the book, she doesn't have new coping methods for dealing with stress. No one's said, "Hey, you okay?" Even her friends just say she's weird or not normal. She's added at least one more extracurricular for the next school year and is thinking about going for much harder school courses. The book basically ends with her running away to music camp.

It feels unfinished. And honestly, it feels like the kid's going to have a breakdown by fourteen. And she's only thirteen! That's scary and a little sad, frankly.

If this was written now, I think it'd be a much different book. As it is, JALAWT and HTYRR are very different with the six year gap between them. They don't really feel like they really match, either. While I still love Judy Blume books, and this one doesn't have the same dated references as the first, it still does seem somewhat dated. More importantly, I think these two just aren't as relevant today as others of hers can be.

Also through both of these books, there's a character they refer to as "the eighth grade slut". Really, Judy? That more than anything, I think, disappoints me. It's never corrected. The girls never think, "Hey, this is mean." Do we really need to teach kids to slut shame this young? They have the rest of their lives for that.

I will keep this and the other, but again, not one I'd recommend to kids. I also wish there had been an Allison book. This would have made a fun trilogy to have one book from each girls' POV. It's a bummer there never was.

Alright! This got long, wow! Hope you enjoyed it anyways!

Peace and cookies,