This is officially the longest and most advanced book I have read all the way through in Icelandic. I think this means I'm reading at about a 7th grad...moreThis is officially the longest and most advanced book I have read all the way through in Icelandic. I think this means I'm reading at about a 7th grade level...although certainly not without effort, and not fully fluently. But I have to write a good old fashioned book report (in Icelandic) on the book this week, and am confident that I understood the plot well enough to do so without too much trouble.
My colleague's sixth grade daughter read this Pride and Prejudice adaptation and enjoyed it so much that she's now reading the original Austen. Having...moreMy colleague's sixth grade daughter read this Pride and Prejudice adaptation and enjoyed it so much that she's now reading the original Austen. Having now read it overnight, I can happily say that it is an enjoyable updated rendering to the classic, with some clever parallels.
Setting Epic Fail in a celebrity-infested prep school in LA, LaZebnik here turns Elizabeth Bennett into Elise Benton. Having just moved to LA from Amherst, MA with her three sisters and her parents, she starts at Coral Tree Prep already an outsider before it's even discovered that her mother is the ill-dressed, strict, and not-so-secretly star-struck new principal, and her father the reclusive new math teacher. Darcy is here Derek, the son of an Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt-esque power couple. (The Angelina in this scenario even makes a comment at one point that having only had girls perhaps the Benton family should rectify their brotherlessness. She suggests they should "...adopt one from a Third World country...It's such a wonderful thing to do--you literally save a life." I can only assume this is a sort of wink-wink on LaZebnik's part: her bio says that she lives in LA with a TV-writer husband and four kids.)
LaZebnik sticks to the P&P framework pretty consistently: Derek is stand-offish and rude because he's had so many bad experiences with people just trying to get close to him to get to his parents (this is perhaps overdone a little, but it works). Elise (who, enjoyably, shows up to school on the first day wearing a shirt that says "THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE") doesn't know/care who his parents are, but dislikes his coldness and the fact that he appears to be arbitrarily rude to Webster Grant, who stands in for the charming but rakish George Wickham. (He has a thing for going through celebrity's medicine cabinets and getting their daughters drunk before taking embarrassing photos (of the daughters) that he later sells to tabloids. This is how the back story with Darcy/Derek's sister gets translated here, and there's a similar situation involving Elizabeth/Elise's younger rebellious sister's friend. Here, the younger sister is just a loud, flirt--she's not actually the one in peril.)
There are, obviously, some differences in plot points. I thought it was particularly interesting that LeZebnik chooses to make the breakup between the Charles Bingley/Jane Bennett characters (Chase and Juliana here) the fault of text messages sent from Chase's cell phone from his younger sister, Chelsea. Derek has nothing to do with it, and actually works with Elise to get the couple back together.
Overall, a fun adaptation. It's not too prudish to be believable for contemporary teens: Elise and Juliana have conversations about how 'far' the latter has 'gone' with Chase, although it's not explicitly stated; there is also a reference to a 'condom tree' at a nearby school and sexting. Neither is it too sophisticated: Elise, Juliana, Chase, and Derek all are non-drinkers, even at parties; Derek expresses his disdain for smoking; and there's a whole sweet passage about the glories of hand-holding. ("You wouldn't think the touch of someone's hand could blow your mind. It's nothing right?...But when Derek Edwards took my fingers in his and gently pressed them, first all together and then one by one, I felt that touch set off a wave of firing nerves that flowed up my arm and across my body.") Aw.
I'll probably write a real review of this soon, but for the time being, let me just say that this book is a million times fun. With the pranks, and th...moreI'll probably write a real review of this soon, but for the time being, let me just say that this book is a million times fun. With the pranks, and the cleverness, and the epistolary format, and the wonderful friendship shared by the three female protagonists, I am sold, sold, sold.
I've discovered that the book is one of several in a series about students at the Ashbury and Brookfield high schools, which I was skeptical about--it would be hard to maintain this level of antics and action and wit with the same characters without becoming grating or precious--but as it turns out, each book has a different set of characters. So there's some overlapping with minor characters becoming primary characters elsewhere, but otherwise, the world simply becomes larger and more fully developed. Like real high school, where you might know people, but don't really ever talk to or spend any time with them.
Anyway--a Super Yay for this book. It was a delightful weekend read. (less)
The best thing this book has going for it is atmosphere: the post-Katrina New Orleans that Morris paints feels fully realized, as does the supernatura...moreThe best thing this book has going for it is atmosphere: the post-Katrina New Orleans that Morris paints feels fully realized, as does the supernatural ghostliness that permeates the story. (Morris, it bears noting, currently lives in New Orleans--her bio says she moved there the year before Katrina. Her descriptions of New York City, where her main character Rebecca lives, feel a little more cliche. Rebecca lives in an apartment facing Central Park and wears NYU sweatshirts everywhere. Just like very other New York-based YA character...)
There are some additional pluses: Rebecca is independent and plucky, and Morris doesn't shy away from addressing race and class issues, which are particularly pertinent for the story. There's also a great scene in which Rebecca takes a walk with her friend (the ghost) and sees all the other ghosts who are haunting New Orleans.
Overall, however, this is a 'meh' sort of book. The plot gets way overwrought at the end, but isn't really all that compelling. The secondary characters are also much more two dimensional than Rebecca, particularly her smoldering love interest, Anton Grey (who has a silly, silly name).
Also, although the author likely has nothing to do with this unfortunate choice, Ruined is yet another novel about a black character which features a white person on the cover. The ghost that Rebecca meets is black. But the ghost on the cover is a (blondish) white girl. There was a recent to-do over the white stand-in for a black character on the cover of the YA novel Liar. Clearly, that was not an isolated incident. (less)
I borrowed this on the fly from my friend after she took it out of the library. You're sort of dropped in the middle of this paranormal dog-detective...moreI borrowed this on the fly from my friend after she took it out of the library. You're sort of dropped in the middle of this paranormal dog-detective world (yes, really--and there's also a cat) and then the relationships and real background come together slowly over the course of the inter-connected stories. There's not really a large plot arc, but each story stands on its own and rounds out your sense of the characters. It's suspenseful and a little grody at times (huge frog demon) but lots of fun, and surprisingly heart-wrenching at times. After all, these are adorable dog detectives and they investigate some dangerous stuff (werewolves, evil humans). I got not a little riled up when it looked like one of the main dogs was going to maybe not make it...
Anyhow, yes: Think Buffy, but with dogs (and a cat). (less)
Matthew Loux is going to be a guest at an upcoming comic-themed event I'm programing for the public library I work at, so I wanted to get familiar wit...moreMatthew Loux is going to be a guest at an upcoming comic-themed event I'm programing for the public library I work at, so I wanted to get familiar with some of his work. SideScrollers is a 'one crazy day/night' kind of story, starring a trio of good-hearted but rather aimless guys killing time over the summer before they start college by playing video games, pining after girls they are too shy to hit on, and working at a McDonald's-esque fast food place. When one of the guy's crushes--a new girl who also works at the fast food place--starts dating an eeee-vil football player, the friends decide it's time to stand up to their long-time rival. Hijinks and hilarity ensue, of course, which includes an angry football team looking for blood, overturned lobster tanks in grocery stores, a troop of girl-scouts with a secret talent for Street Fighter games, a 'Satan cat' and a bad ass band.
Loux has a pitch-perfect sense of pop-savvy, ironical, and self-deprecating teenage boy banter. His heroes rag on each other and mock one another's faults and nervousness, but all all-for-one when it comes to someone else picking on one of them. And while SideScrollers is mostly a guy's world, the women who feature in it are rather cool and smart themselves.
Loux also has an interesting drawing style--lots of thick, angular outlines and elongated, yet slouchy figures--and it works well here. What impressed me most, though, was the way he lays out the panels on each page. Some are divided vertically, some diagonally. Some panels are outlined and others kind of bleed into one another. I'm sure there is technical terminology for this that I don't know, but suffice to say, it's a dynamic and visually interesting way of telling a story and I enjoyed it. (less)
This first installment seems to defy genre--it's kind of a fantasy geared at children, it's kind of a satire, it's kind of an adult graphic novel with...moreThis first installment seems to defy genre--it's kind of a fantasy geared at children, it's kind of a satire, it's kind of an adult graphic novel with underlying metaphors about capitalist greed. But mostly, its awesome, and it has an invisible dragon, and the first installment leaves off with a great cliff-hanger.
Waiting for volume two from the library...1 down, 74 to go...(less)
Definitely not light reading, but a compelling story and beautifully illustrated. I could have done with fewer dream sequences and a little more expla...moreDefinitely not light reading, but a compelling story and beautifully illustrated. I could have done with fewer dream sequences and a little more explanation of how Small became a successful artist, but given that the story is specifically about his experience with cancer and his childhood, it does make sense that there isn't more resolution or more of a 'happy' ending.
I have loved this book, devotedly, since I was a child, but I hadn't re-read it in I-don't-know-how-many years. And it was particularly interesting to...moreI have loved this book, devotedly, since I was a child, but I hadn't re-read it in I-don't-know-how-many years. And it was particularly interesting to revisit the book given that (apparently) my most vivid memories of the story are from the TV mini-series with Colleen Dewhurst and Megan Fellows. I can honestly say that the TV adaptation is really wonderful and captures the spirit of the book--and the most memorable episodes--wonderfully, but there are some reasonably significant changes made. Many of these are minor--a change of characters in one scene, combining two others, gently changing the order of small happenings--nothing too big.
But there are some larger changes which overall are not problematic, but do soften things a bit for the TV audience. Marilla, for one, is a lot more reserved and specifically unwilling to share her affection with Anne openly until almost the very end of the book, where in the mini-series, she's a bit more lovey earlier on. Also, Anne's cold-shouldering of Gilbert Blythe actually goes on for five years in the book--and there's really no romance to it at all. In the series, he softens her up a lot earlier (I think right after the Lilly Maid escapade) and the romance comes to the fore a bit more obviously. Neither of these is really a big deal, again, but it was interesting to come across them and realize how my memories of the book have been so wrapped up in the TV version. Sort of like reading Pride and Prejudice finally and then having to compare the written text with the BBC version running through my head.
Aside from my TV-series memories and comparisons, I noticed things about the actual writing in this book that I, of course, didn't when I read this as a child. For one, it is extremely episodic, and structured not unlike a TV show or radio play. Anne's 'scrapes' and escapades each take a chapter of their own, and a lot of time passes between one happening and the next. From Montgomery's asides about time and seasons passing, you also get the feeling that there is a whole world outside of the book that continues and flourishes and you never see. This is most evident in the way that Anne talks of most of her interactions with Matthew, and also the way in which you begin to get a sense of her rivalries at school with Josie Pye and other secondary characters. It's much less the day-to-day chronology that I remember, and much more focused on giving us the highlights of Anne's whimsical existence.
Montgomery also has a very interesting way of shifting back and forth between the past and present right in the middle of a scene. It's a little repetitive in pattern every now and then, but definitely effective. Basically, she'll start a scene--a concert that Anne participated in, for instance--in the present, but then, in order to allow Anne to explain the whole event in her own voice, she'll bring you to the future, where Anne is suddenly explaining what happened to Matthew and Marilla in the past tense. Flipping between three tenses like that should be confusing (it sounds confusing the way I explained it, I'm sure), but Montgomery is able to do it rather seamlessly with her dialog. (When I have the book on hand, I'll try to copy an example in here.)
Dialog is another thing that Montgomery really privileges--and is really rather good at. She gets a voice down pretty much immediately and then is able to really run with it. (This might be because the characters are all pretty consistent in their main traits/beliefs/actions from start to finish, but nevertheless.) I never realized, though, how much of the book is dialog--Anne's wonderful rambling monologues take up pages and pages each chapter.
My last observation was that there is more repetition in the book than I remembered, both in terms of scenes and writing. In some cases, it just seemed like Montgomery liked a conceit so much that she came up with a few fun scenes and couldn't decide between the two, so she picked both. A good example would be the episode in which Anne accidentally 'sets Diana drunk' and later, the 'matter of the linament cake.' In both scenarios, Marilla directs Anne to use something in the pantry (raspberry cordial; vanilla extract) and in both, there's a mix-up because Marilla actually moved or mislabeled the bottle. And Anne doesn't drink the 'cordial' (which is actually wine) because she's fixing tea and she can't smell that the vanilla is actually linament because she has a cold. Hilarity ensues and both are great, but they are basically the same scene. Likewise, long scenes or Anne-dialogs are often ended with Marilla making some joke about how whatever happening hasn't injured Anne's tongue at all, which gets a little punchline-y after awhile.
But honestly, reading this book puts me exactly back where I was when I read it the first time, when I was eight or nine. Anne is so charming and hopeful and ambitious and smart and bold and full of life and earnestness, and the book just breaks your heart for all its sweetness and good-natured mischief-making. (less)
I'll admit that the revelation that Boy Blue is a sword-wielding super soldier and the discovery of the Adversary's identity make this a great install...moreI'll admit that the revelation that Boy Blue is a sword-wielding super soldier and the discovery of the Adversary's identity make this a great installment, but I was still a bit sorry to have left Fabletown for the whole book. But nevertheless, great twists here. Also--the Jack in Hollywood story is great. I wasn't so interested in his side story before, but I'd definitely consider reading his stand-alone series after this episode. (less)
The tangential story lines, sub-plots, and mini-stories continue to keep the momentum of this series going. Every issue feels really fresh, while stil...moreThe tangential story lines, sub-plots, and mini-stories continue to keep the momentum of this series going. Every issue feels really fresh, while still engaging you in the larger plot arc. Plus, epic battles with wooden Men in Suits. (less)
The world in Plain Kate are completely rich and unique while still feeling familiar--it's a place and time that seems medieval and magical without bei...moreThe world in Plain Kate are completely rich and unique while still feeling familiar--it's a place and time that seems medieval and magical without being entirely removed from our own. Kate is a great heroine--independent and self-sufficient while still being a little lost in the ways of the world and unsure how or where to find a place for herself. She's vulnerable without being pathetic and tough while still being likable.
I was a bit surprised at the level of danger and violence that the young women in the book actually face. I was expecting adversity, but there are moments in which I was sincerely troubled and even a bit shocked. I don't want to oversell this angle, but I also don't want to ruin the plot, so suffice to say, when you have a plot which hinges on witch-burning and witch-hunting, teenage girls on their own face some bitter, painful circumstances.
And oh, Taggle! Even the most skeptical non-cat sort of person has to be moved by the laconic sarcasm and total dominating awesomeness of Kate's kitty. But oh god! Put that cat in danger and you just break your reader's heart! I've never been so concerned about a cat's well-being in a book. Made me want a talking cat of my own, too.(less)
This book had been on my radar for quite some time, so I was really happy to have the opportunity to listen to the audiobook while commuting to and fr...moreThis book had been on my radar for quite some time, so I was really happy to have the opportunity to listen to the audiobook while commuting to and from the wilds of Long Island for a library class last week. And I can say pretty definitively that this book was one of the only highlights of an otherwise disappointing experience.
What I Saw and How I Lied takes place in the wake of World War II, when a few years of renewed bounty have many former soldiers vigorously chasing after the American Dream, and most of America is trying to forget things done (and left undone) during the war. For Evie Spooner, who has grown up something of a sheltered and unassertive wallflower in Queens, life during the war meant living under the thumb of her contentious step-grandmother, while her bombshell mother worked full time to support the family selling ties in a menswear boutique. When her stepfather Joe returned unscathed, the family settled into a familiar routine of pre-dinner cocktails, sugar in their coffee, and pot roasts. On the strength of a few loans for servicemen, Joe was even able to start a couple of his own appliance businesses, and things are going well. Or that's how it seems to Evie, at least.
As the summer comes to an end and Evie is preparing to go to high school, Joe unexpectedly takes the family to Palm Beach for a few weeks of vacation. Right from the start, things go badly. The weather is sweltering, the town is deserted in the off-season, and the family finds themselves unexpectedly thrown together with a swanky couple named Grayson from Manhattan and a soldier named Peter from Joe's past. As the weather gets hotter and hurricanes threaten the Florida coast, however, things get much more complicated. Joe and Mr. Grayson begin working on a business deal, and her mother and she spend more and more time with Peter, who Joe unaccountably hates. All the while, Evie is falling head over heels in love with Peter, learning to walk in high heels, and discovering that all of the adults around her have secrets that they are trying to protect her from.
What I Saw and How I Lied (a delicious title if ever I heard one), is basically a classic bildungsroman. In the hands of Blundell, however, what could be a rather simple story becomes wonderfully nuanced, historically evocative, bittersweet, and tense. Since so much of what goes on around Evie escapes her understanding, the reader spends much of the book expecting a disaster that she never sees coming. Evie is something of an unreliable narrator, though certainly not because of any ulterior motive. It's simply a matter of limited perspective. Her transformation from innocent to worldly cynic, from a bystander to an assertive actor, is truly well done. Her inability to recognize the subtext around her, her desperate need to feel grown up without understanding what disappointments that transition will entail, and the stubbornness with which she falls in love--it's all tragic and sweet and very true. And so the reader spends much of the book wishing that she would hurry up and figure out what's going on, while all the same hoping that she won't--because it will be so hurtful.
What I Saw and How I Lied is about love, trust, honesty, lies, sacrifices, family, and learning that no one is ever as good (or bad) as they seem. Highly, highly recommended for adults and teens alike. (less)