I only got through about half of this book, but honestly, I don't think that's anything but a reflection of the fact that I am not Levithan's "Ideal R...moreI only got through about half of this book, but honestly, I don't think that's anything but a reflection of the fact that I am not Levithan's "Ideal Reader," as one of my more diplomatic writing instructors used to say. In theory, I absolutely love the idea of a quasi-realistic high school universe in which the star quarterback is also the prom queen--a universe in which the central problem for a gay teenager is that 'relationships in high school are ultra dramatic, ultra complicated, ultra personal, and ultra sexy,' rather than 'I'm gay.' But, as I elaborated on in my Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist review, I'm simply uninspired by super-hip teenage characters with trendy vocabularies and overly-advanced understandings of themselves and their surroundings.
Again, these characters just seem way too cool to me. Damning praise, I know...(less)
I recently took this book back to parents' house to read to my six-year-old sister. The idea that the world was licked out of a huge block of ice by a...moreI recently took this book back to parents' house to read to my six-year-old sister. The idea that the world was licked out of a huge block of ice by an ethereal cow didn't phase her at all. (less)
Freaks, geeks, new kids, math geniuses, and teenage goths with pictures of Robert Smith in your lockets take heart: there is one place in the world in...moreFreaks, geeks, new kids, math geniuses, and teenage goths with pictures of Robert Smith in your lockets take heart: there is one place in the world in which, during one precious hour of the day night, you will be sublimely cool, entirely autonomous, uniquely talented, and much better informed than everyone you know.
Where is this place, you ask? Oklahoma. Bixby, Oklahoma: a tiny, desert, suburban, blue collar town where time literally stands still. But in a good way.
Explain more, you say--this sounds pretty awesome. (Well, it really is. Delightfully, joyfully awesome.)
So, here's how it goes:
Jessica Day (whose name is both pointedly bland and symbolically appropriate) moves to Bixby from Chicago when her mom gets a job at the aerospace plant just outside of town. Once there, Jessica finds herself adopted into a group of outcasts whose self-proclaimed leader has named them The Midnighters. Each possessing their own particular "talent," (which I won't spoil for you) the Midnighters are a group of teens for whom--by virtue of the fact that they were all born at the stroke of midnight (get it?)--there is actually an additional hour in the day. Normal people in Bixby ("stiffs," or "daylighters," as one character calls them) are suspended in time at midnight, freezing while this small select group of teens has the freedom to pretty much do whatever they want. For an hour.
Of course, it's not all freedom and joyrides and youthful abandon. The Midnighters have to share their 'Secret Hour' with malicious, hungry creatures ("darklings") who can change shape, fly, and pretty much decimate anything that they get the inkling to, unless one knows how to stop them. And, of course, the Midnighters do. And everything is going pretty well until Jessica shows up and the beasts go haywire and suddenly, the peaceful midnight hour becomes a constant battle ground. The group then has to figure out why the darklings have suddenly come out in full force, how to fight them, and what Jessica's midnight talent actually is.
I pretty much put everything else on hold to read this book, which I popped off in a couple of days. I'm a sucker for books with at least marginally uncool characters, teens who may have each other but in the eyes of the rest of the world (their peers) are pretty much complete losers. And beyond the fact that the premise of being able to freely move about unimpeded really appealed to the loner-with-a-wicked-curfew deep in me, Westerfeld does a really nice job in developing a textured (but not overwhelming) alternate reality, a cast of teens with personalized, believable voices, and a plot which moves at a steady pace and maintains suspense throughout.
The Secret Hour has a very Buffy feel to it: a foursome steeped in their own dynamic and isolated from 'normal' people, fighting mystical creatures, and immersed in researching the history of their circumstances. In Desdemona, Westerfeld's clear favorite, you even get a bit of a Willow--she's a "polymath"--basically a math prodigy--who grounds the group with logic, rationality, and a generally empathetic understanding of where everyone is coming from. She's also the character who is best equipped to protect the group, fashioning weapons and wielding tridecalogisms (13 letter words with protective properties) with flair.
My only lingering question--and perhaps this is addressed in one of the other books in the trilogy--is why the darklings don't just creep into people's houses and snack on them while they are all frozen. But other than this point, I really have no complaints. Great fun read.
Another phenomenally entertaining installment in the Midnighters trilogy from Westerfeld. A little darker and more gruesome, Touching Darkness expands...moreAnother phenomenally entertaining installment in the Midnighters trilogy from Westerfeld. A little darker and more gruesome, Touching Darkness expands on the Midnighters' fraught and troubling history, which, it bears noting, is not so far in the past as maybe the group once thought. The book also sheds a little more light on Rex and Melissa--their relationship and their personalities in general. By the end, both seem much more fully realized, and much more sympathetic. Now we can only hope that the last book of the trilogy, Blue Noon, gifts us a little more Desdemona. (less)
Perhaps my expectations were too high for the end of this series, but Blue Noon was a bit of a let down. For one, the prose was a lot less tight--phra...morePerhaps my expectations were too high for the end of this series, but Blue Noon was a bit of a let down. For one, the prose was a lot less tight--phrases and words repeated ad nauseam ("clever","cut from the herd", etc.), situations and circumstances described much less vividly. Which is not, of course, to say that it wasn't still a lot of fun, a lot of drama, and a lot of epic, semi-gross, sci-fi ass kicking. Because it most certainly was. But it was less fresh somehow, as if Westerfeld was a bit overwhelmed by sealing up his little world after only three books. And while Desdemona certainly got her highlights, I was still a little disappointed that she remained so much of a peripheral figure, even commenting herself that she's constantly stuck between two couples...Free the teen-goth-polymath, Westerfeld!
I won't spoil the super dramatic (and strangely emotional?) ending, but again, it felt a little wrong somehow. Not because everything didn't end happy-ever-after, but rather because somehow the complications all came off as a bit forced, a bit predictable even...
At any rate, reading this as I did--between two massive tomes of dense, non-chronological Norwegian fiction--may not have put me in precisely the right mood to enjoy it to its fullest. And all complaints aside, it's still a great series and I have every intention of picking up another of Westerfeld's soon. (less)
Although I've had this book parked on my shelf for awhile, I had been waiting to read it for some time. Westerfeld books are definitely summer reads f...more
Although I've had this book parked on my shelf for awhile, I had been waiting to read it for some time. Westerfeld books are definitely summer reads for me--I tore through the Midnighters series a few years ago like I was getting paid to read those books--and I was looking forward to another infectiously exciting series chock-a-block with interesting (female) characters, vividly imagined alterna-worlds, and irreverent humor.
Uglies has those elements, to be sure, but it didn't hook me in the way that I was expecting. I didn't really take to Tally. She's understandably caught up in the standards of her world--in becoming "Pretty" at 16--but she was a little less self-aware than I would have liked and although people keep telling her throughout the book how special and amazing and different that she is, I didn't exactly see that. Also, the fact that she doesn't reveal that she is a secret spy to anyone in The Smoke for fear that they will reject her is super flimsy reasoning, particularly because she's already seen the way that the residents are easily able to dispose of trackers and other devices the Specials have tried to use against them. I mean, I get it--she feels guilty. But her deception seems like more of a plot device than anything else.
Additionally, the environmental aspect--namely the (partial) backstory of how the Rusties (that's today's humans) destroyed the world with their abuse of nature and dependence on machines is laid on a bit thick. It's a great idea--that the Pretty society was developed because of the mistakes and ignorance and hubris of the previous generations (and the fact that the new, improved society still has such drastic flaws)--but Westerfeld is juggling a lot of balls here. Environmental responsibility, racism, war, obsession with beauty etc, etc. Yes, we have failed on all these counts in our modern day, but the way Tally recites her Rusty history feels something like a cartoonish PSA. It's a little patronizing.
At any rate, I like the twist at the end--Tally's conscious decision to become Pretty in order to test the treatment--and for that, would probably keep reading the series. But I'm not feeling pressed to do so any time soon.
This was one of several light palate cleansers that I ingested while dragging myself to the finish line with a couple of other (very good, but) very t...moreThis was one of several light palate cleansers that I ingested while dragging myself to the finish line with a couple of other (very good, but) very time consuming projects. I picked this up mostly just because I like Savage's column and I only recently found out that he's written a number of books. But, as I find out that more and more of my high school class (all 700 of them) are getting hitched (and getting divorced) in the old west and popping out oodles of babies, my own aversion to the holy state of matrimony is probably becoming a bit overstated. So I thought I take a gander at what the man who coined the terms 'pegging' and 'Santorum' had to say about things.
Dan Savage is, as one might assume, an interesting guy. Not just because he's inflammatory and brash and frank about sex (which is all great), but he also manages to duck stereotypes about just how 'alternative' one truly is/'has' to be if they are going to espouse such viewpoints. Yes, he's a gay man who believes that (under very specific circumstances) it's okay for couples to 'cheat' on each other. But he's also the primary breadwinner of his household, has a partner of 10 years who is a stay-at-home dad, and really, really does believe in the sanctity of marriage. It's telling that such circumstances might feel at first to be incongruous.
My co-worker, an expert in the realm of comics and graphic novels, lent Blankets to me along with Watchmen and I finally got around to reading it. It...moreMy co-worker, an expert in the realm of comics and graphic novels, lent Blankets to me along with Watchmen and I finally got around to reading it. It's a sweet story, well-suited to a lazy-Saturday read in bed, and certainly recommended to anyone for whom the experiences of religious youth expeditions (with their faux bonding, lame gestures at hipness--read: "Contemporary Worship"--and repressed doubt) are distant enough memories to be amusing now. The art was also impressive--varied and imaginative, the panel layouts really helping to move along the narrative in a fluid, yet intimate manner.
It's hard for me to give this a fair review, however, in that I feel so very ill-equipped for absorbing graphic novels. Even when I enjoy them--as I certainly have enjoyed the few I've read--reading 'pictorial' stories is still kind of hard for me to adjust to. I find myself racing through the text and then having to go back and figure out what I skimmed over in the illustrations. It's a fascinating medium, but I still haven't found myself so engrossed in either the art or the story of a graphic novel to feel compelled to seek out others. I'm sure that with enough effort, I'd find myself more receptive to the visual cues and really, language of comics (much in the same manner as I taught myself to watch movies), but I'm not sure that I'm invested enough in the undertaking at this point.
I started listening to the audio book of Glass Houses and got through the first four chapters, but I don't think I'm going to continue. For one, I fou...moreI started listening to the audio book of Glass Houses and got through the first four chapters, but I don't think I'm going to continue. For one, I found the narrator to be a little irksome--she speaks in a sort of clipped, over-enunciated, overly dramatic-effect-for-commercials sort of way, and all of her male characters (with their deeper "man voices") sound like stoners for no apparent reason. But I could have gotten over that had I liked the book better.
From the little I've "read," Glass Houses presented several issues for me. I'll list (I so like lists):
1. The 'mean-girl' dynamic that Caine sets up between her precocious 16 year old brainiac of a protagonist and the town's college-attending, town-terrifying vampires is far more akin to a high school dynamic than one between young women in college. College-age women may still try and humiliate and/or harm other women--especially those perceived as rivals--but I'm not seeing the whole 'we dumped your laundry down the trash chute' thing. This world seems like a boarding school, not a college.
2. Even a stupid vampire should know what World War II was about. Assuming that this is not a brand new vampire (and maybe she is--I may not have gotten far enough), I feel like she should be old enough to remember this. I don't think you prove much about your main character's intelligence by having her show up the vampire by explaining that WWII was "about Pearl Harbor."
3. The fact that Claire is marked at the very beginning of the book as a threat to Monica (the vampire meanie) and is being searched for throughout town, and yet is apparently going to continue to go to class instead of going home is based on extremely flimsy logic that even the characters in the book don't seem to buy into and seems like a cheap way to continue one's plot.
I'll leave it at that, but for the record, I did really like the Goth roommate with her Hot Topic outfits and working-at-the-coffee shop schtick, and general banter with her male roommates. If the book were about her, I might be more inclined to continue. (less)
Such an entertaining book! I read one of the author's (a librarian, I should mention) other YA novels (The Silver Kiss, a vampire romance) and did enj...moreSuch an entertaining book! I read one of the author's (a librarian, I should mention) other YA novels (The Silver Kiss, a vampire romance) and did enjoy it, but I have to say, it was nothing close to Blood and Chocolate. In Vivian, Klause creates a sexy (and sexual), confident, conflicted, and strong willed teenager who embodies her dual wolf/human nature in a extremely well-drawn, compelling way. The pack dynamic of the werewolves in the book--the courting rituals, the choosing of a leader, 'the Law'--are both familiar and surprisingly imaginative at the same time. At times, the dynamic is a bit icky, even--Vivian is courted by the pack's new leader, who was at one point kinda dating her mom--but pretty realistic in terms of the rules that one assumes governs animal behavior.
The one thing I wondered about was the sort of 'moral' that can be drawn from the book's ending. Instead of opting for a more Romeo and Juliet/lovers-from-two-different worlds scenario, Klause eventually has Vivian accept and embrace a member of the pack, one of her own kind who can appreciate her for who she really is. I'm not sure if there is some grand conclusion that should be drawn from this, or it just worked well for the book. But at any rate, I'd highly recommend this one if you're looking for a fast, fun read. (less)
If there is a book that has the potential to provide me with the sort of repeated comfort and enjoyment of say, the BBC mini-series of Pride and Preju...moreIf there is a book that has the potential to provide me with the sort of repeated comfort and enjoyment of say, the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice, I can easily say that this would probably be the book. I'll be writing a long piece on Georgette Heyer within the next few months and so will be taking some time to get my thoughts together about The Masqueraders. For the time being, let it suffice to say that if you are a person who likes any of the following, this book is very much worth tracking down (most likely via inter-library loan: I got my paperback copy from Nebraska):
*Well, obv: Historical British dress-up, society, and manners
*Men dressing as women; women dressing as men. Especially in an era when the clothes for each gender are so very complicated: petticoats, riding jackets, gloves, hoop skirts, waist coats--the lot
*Comedies of Manners with a good dash of irony. Seriously, people are called out for their lack of manners for the whole book, very frequently by the pair of cross-dressing siblings from the title. A favorite quote: “A person of such boorish manners is not fit to remain in the same world with me!”
*Sword fights, particularly duals between dishonorable rakes and playful--yet deadly serious--suitors
*High-jinks of a particularly complicated nature. High-jinks that are basically complicated just for the fun of it.
*Righteously angered men slapping scoundrels ("lightly") in the face with gloves.
*(Female) card sharks and disreputable gamblers made good
*Estimable, capable, and resourceful women
*Men who respect estimable, capable, and resourceful women
*Clever banter and witty dialog
*Historical factoids (on the Jacobite rebellion, say)
*Twisty plots that lead, of course, to happy endings (that were never really in question, of course)
It's not for everyone certainly, but I really loved it. (less)
I read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter my Freshman year of college in what turned out to be a rather disenchanting lit survey course. (In a particularly...moreI read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter my Freshman year of college in what turned out to be a rather disenchanting lit survey course. (In a particularly bad turn, I was accused of plagiarism--wrongly, I might add--because the instructor thought my knowledge of biblical symbolism was somehow 'unlikely.') Even so, this book still managed to strike a really profound chord with me. It's sweet and poetic and vulnerable and observant and tragic and I probably underlined it with embarassingly wild abandon. It truly solidified my love of the gorgeous and romantic genre of the Southern Gothic and had me convinced that if I had not written my Great American Novel by 23--as did Carson McCullers--I would be a complete failure.
Well, turns out, the only thing I had to be by 23 was--in the immortal words of Ethan Hawke--myself, but I still believe that this is one of the best books ever written. Now, granted, I haven't read it since that first time. But I have started a collection of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter paperbacks (they're all so wonderful!), which may actually make it harder for me to re-read it. After all, I'm going to feel pretty silly if I end up with 12 different copies of a book that isn't really that great.