How absurd it was that in all seven kingdoms, the weakest and most vulnerable of people--girls, women--went unarFrom the book I just finished reading:
How absurd it was that in all seven kingdoms, the weakest and most vulnerable of people--girls, women--went unarmed and were taught nothing of fighting, while the strong were trained to the highest reaches of their skill.
From the book I just finished listening to:
The counselor suggested competitive team sports as a positive outlet, and pushed Frankie to join the girls' field hockey team.
That was not a productive solution.
It was the girls' team.
Boys didn't even play field hockey.
Boys thought nothing of field hockey.
Frankie was not interested in playing a sport that was rated as nothing by the more powerful half of the population.
But is adding another female judge a direct threat to Paula?
The read: Graceling, by Kristen Cashore -
A fantasy world where a few people happen to be born "graced" with special abilities. Usually they are mundane things like cooking, fishing, athletics, and the like. Katsa, however, is blessed with the ability to kill. Her uncle, one of 7 kings in the area, has carefully developed Katsa to be his personal assassin and enforcer, as she's the deadliest person in the land. But as Katsa is growing into adulthood, she is developing a conscience and a sense of independence. Then a stranger from one of the other kingdoms with his own unique grace enters into Katsa's life and they are both drawn into unexpected international intrigue. A very satisfying fantasy, and not just for teens.
The listen: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart -
Frankie is a sophomore at an elite boarding school in northern Massachussetts. The kind of school where old money families send their kids to build relationships that will form the basis of their business networks for life. Frankie's father went there and still gets more joy and success from his associates in the Loyal Order of Bassett Hounds than anyone else. Frankie starts dating senior Matthew Livingston, whom she learns is the current president of the order. And who dismisses her at the drop of a hat to hang out with his "dogs." Frankie decides she doesn't like being second in his heart and goes about finding a way to infiltrate the order. An excellent book with some of the most believably complex characters I've read and a good heaping of sociological and psychological insight.
Family wealth and social class didn't count on the surface. What those factors did was to lend the boys who had them an almost intangible sense of security regarding their places in the world, which often (thought not always) led to social dominance, which led to induction in the Loyal Order.
It was a secret society, but what precisely for was hard to tell. Senior's reminiscences were largely of campus escapades like posting mysterious coded messages on the message boards or sneaking out after curfew. He and his friends seemed to want Frankie and Zada to know the society existed--and that they'd been members; but they didn't want to answer any direct questions. One night as they all sat looking at the remains of a heavy meal spread out across a soiled white tablecloth, the Old Boys did admit they'd kept a record of their misdeeds in a notebook they called The Disreputable History. But when Frankie asked Mr. Sutton what they'd written in it, he laughed and shook his head. "Now if I told you that, it wouldn't be a secret, would it?"
"But you're telling us about the society," Frankie said, "so how big a secret can it be?"
"Secrets are more powerful when people know you've got them," said Mr. Sutton. "You show them the tiniest edge of your secret, but the rest you keep under wraps."
She felt strangely proud of what she'd done. She had been right about what Porter had really meant, she was certain she had been.
But she also knew she'd acted like a monster.
Frankie hadn't liked herself while she'd been yelling at Porter--but she had admired herself. For not being the littlest one at the table, like she had been all her childhood, depending on the big people (Senior, her mom, Zada), to make sense of the world for her.
For not pouting or grumbling, moping or whining, for not doing any of those behaviors a person engages in when she takes offense but doesn't feel like she has any way to assert herself.
She admired herself for taking charge of the situation, for deciding which way it went. She admired her own verbal abilities, her courage, her dominance.
So I was a monster, she thought. At least I wasn't someone's little sister, someone's girlfriend, some sophomore, some girl--someone whose opinions don't matter.
Frankie walked to her next class, not looking out for Matthew or Trish or anyone. Just feeling the power surging through her, with all its accompanying guilt, righteousness, joy, and fear....more
A fantasy world where a few people happen to be born "graced" with special abilities. Usually they are mundane things like cooking, fishing, athleticsA fantasy world where a few people happen to be born "graced" with special abilities. Usually they are mundane things like cooking, fishing, athletics, and the like. Katsa, however, is blessed with the ability to kill. Her uncle, one of 7 kings in the area, has carefully developed Katsa to be his personal assassin and enforcer, as she's the deadliest person in the land. But as Katsa is growing into adulthood, she is developing a conscience and a sense of independence. Then a stranger from one of the other kingdoms with his own unique grace enters into Katsa's life and they are both drawn into unexpected international intrigue. A very satisfying fantasy....more
Secret Pawnbroker; wonderful profession, that. What is spoken flies, what is written never dies. Sociological study. Starts with a street urchin in aSecret Pawnbroker; wonderful profession, that. What is spoken flies, what is written never dies. Sociological study. Starts with a street urchin in a Dickensian tale, who flees to the countryside. There he is taken in by the newly arrived secret pawnbroker and watches the village change. Really good tale; and not nearly as scattershot as this review.
I needed a 3.5 star option for this one. A really interesting take on the sentient/civilized animals as main characters, with some fairly dark themes.I needed a 3.5 star option for this one. A really interesting take on the sentient/civilized animals as main characters, with some fairly dark themes. I liked it....more
Take a good portion of Lemony Snicket and add some Captain Underpants sensibility and plenty of Eaton's own flavorsOne opinion about The Facttracker:
Take a good portion of Lemony Snicket and add some Captain Underpants sensibility and plenty of Eaton's own flavors to get this mix of intellectual absurdity, all wielded to share an actual story with a definite point to make. This book is a lot of fun and I highly recommend it to 4th-6th grade readers and anyone else attracted to what follows.
A few facts about The Facttracker:
The table of contents takes 6 pages, as there are 50 chapters (plus chapters 2 1/2 and 2 3/4), many with rather long, convoluted titles like: The Answer to a Question That Wasn't Even Asked. And the Question Is This: What Were the Townspeople Up To?
The book opens with: A fictitious friend of mine once told me, "Everyone loves a good explosion." Sadly, he told this to me just moments before he himself exploded, but it was good advice nonetheless.
The protagonist is called the "just small enough boy": [He] was so small that he was almost too small. But not quite. He was just small enough.
Much of the book takes place in the Liebrary.
And one quote from The Facttracker:
The true test of a society isn't how many lies it has; it's how many it believes....more
**spoiler alert** A reading journal of Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath, as captured in emails to a friend who enjoyed it
Subject: Progress Report #1
Once**spoiler alert** A reading journal of Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath, as captured in emails to a friend who enjoyed it
Subject: Progress Report #1
Once the accolades for The Underneath started rolling in and I knew I'd be reading it, I decided to keep my reading experience as pure as possible and started avoiding anything about it. Didn't want too much hype for it to live up to, hadn't read a single plot summary, didn't look at the back of the book or the inside flap of the jacket. Just started it cold at lunch today. First impression: blech. Cats, trees, dogs, ugh. So not interested. To page 26 so far.
Subject: 43 Pages Choked Down
I generally don't quit books as a matter of principle; everything must have something to offer. But the only reason I'm still reading The Underneath is because it's "The Underneath," subject of accolades galore. I don't get it. The writing is awful. Absolutely awful. She's constantly shifting tenses. There's no plot to speak of. No characters to identify with. Enough with the constant mini-chapters alluding to the looming danger of grandmother snake and king alligator--either reveal them with some actual action or shut the @#%& up about them already. I mean, this is an entire chapter?!?
In the deep and muddy Bayou Tartine, the Alligator King floated to the surface. Already today he has eaten a dozen turtles [tense shift!!!:]. Caught them sleeping in the dappled sun atop a cypress root. He was always hungry [tense shift!!!:]. Always. Before the night fell [tense shift!!!:], he would eat a giant bullfrog, a wounded mink, and several fish. Fish are his primary sustenance [tense shift!!!:], the fist-sized perch and bottom-dwelling catfish, but he prefers the creatures of the land. They're not quite so salty.
Beware. [WTF?!? Can you be any less subtle? Ever hear of understatement? Show don't tell?:]
God, this book is atrocious.
Subject: Gotta Figure Out Why People Are Saying Things Like "Best Book in a Decade"
So please don't take this as an attack on your reading tastes for enjoying it. I don't want to detract from your experience. This is just the way it's striking me and I understand that's just me. So if you aren't in the mood for bile, stop reading now.
And I consider myself an absolutely unpretentious English major. I'll defend trash, can't name the majority of grammar rules, believe in stylistic freedom. So when the writing and grammar in a book bother me, I figure something's gotta be up.
Rant from breakfast reading below . . .
Pg. 83: The trees remember them. They do.
They do. They do? Really? Are you sure? Because based on everything else you've written so far, I'm not so sure. Let's see . . . Pg. 82: It's the trees who keep the legends. Pg. 44: A tree's memory is long, stored in its knots and bark and pulp. Ask the trees, and they will take you back a thousand years. Pg. 40: Trees send out their own messages. Here, in the languages of cottonwood and beech, of holly and plum, they announced the names of this new son and this new daughter. Pg 26: No one keeps records. No one but the trees. They do not count the time in years. Pg 25: There, on the wind, are the voices of sugarberry and juniper and maple, all telling you about this hound, this true-blue hound, tied to a post. They have been watching him all these years. Pg. 3: Trees are the keeper of stories. . . . So when you told me, The trees remember them, I wasn't so sure about it, wasn't that inclined to believe you. I had my doubts. Luckily you knew what I was thinking and responded before I could even ask my question with, They do.
Pg. 85: What do you call someone who throws a mother cat and her kitten into a creek, who steals them from the hound who loves them, a hound twisting at his chain wailing, who never even looks back, what do you call someone like that? The trees have a word: evil.
Duh! I think if you just let your story speak for itself, let me focus on the horror of his actions without all this stupid commentary, I'd get that. Do you think I'm stupid? I know throwing cats in the river is evil whether the trees have a word for it or not. Never mind your poorly punctuated run-on sentence, your writing is patronizing and condescending.
Pg. 88: Sabine, descendant of the great lionesses of the Sarahan plains, grandchild of the mother tigers of the Punjab, tiny heiress of the fearsome lynx and cheetah and panther, night hunters all.
Is that supposed to be "poetic?" Because it's a waste of words. Flowery nonsense. Shut the @$#& up and tell the story already. Stupid book.
Subject: Another Meal, Another Ridiculous Character
Like the trees themselves, he knew the songs of wrens and warblers, the Carolina parakeets, the whip-poor-wills and crows and red-cockaded woodpeckers, for wasn't he one of their kind? Wasn't he?
You're asking me? How the @$#& should I know? He's your character in your book and you just introduced him out of the blue. Why the &@$# would you ask me? Stupid, cutesy, little, Despereaux-wannabe devices.
The thing about really good fantasy novels is they have this hugely developed universe, every location, character, and legend has an elaborate back story, but we're never told any of it. The author has it all in his or her head, but they don't waste time telling the stories that aren't this story. Fully-fleshed out people and places are seamlessly integrated into the story naturally without any exposition because they make sense narratively. You learn about them through their actions as they fit into the story with no "voice-over" necessary. This book is all voice-over.
So we have cats and dogs hooking up to raise children, snakes mating with humans, palling around with alligators, and falling for hawks. Apparently interspecies love is an important takeaway lesson. As long as you can sing the right song. When do we get to the lion laying the lamb?
Subject: Weekend Update
About halfway through the book now. At least there's been some storytelling for the last while now. Not that her method of telling the story makes any sense. Despite the mini-chapters that skip all over the place with no rhyme or reason, it seemed pretty clear to me she had set up the calico cat, Ranger, Sabine, and Puck as the main protagonists. But now one is dead, two mainly dropped out of the narrative, and one stagnating with very short chapters that aren't going anywhere, and instead we get the story (the one from a thousand years ago, the one that the trees remember, oh yes they do, those trees remember it, the maple and ash and loblolly pine and aspen and oak and rattler and warbler and oh yes the trees remember you just have to ask because they have long memories and time is different for them and they live millions of years and collect stories and this was just yesterday for them and the trees) of snake girl and bird boy and mean old granny and the glittery little one. So it's new and different and anti-linear/-western/-traditionaldeadwhiteguy and whatever, but it sucks.
So that's the big picture. Repetitive, circular, stagnant, awful. But I was making progress until a number of things in the last chapter just annoyed me so much I had to put it down. Her awful awful awful use of the language. Blech. Just constant cutesy stuff that distracts from the story and makes me want to puke. Like:
Hurry, she thought, I have to hurry. And she walked out of the hut with the jar in her arms, its smooth round surface pressed hard against her chest. It felt cool against her skin. She walked as fast as she could, but the weight of it slowed her down. She had to be careful not to stumble and drop it. Oh, glimmering girl, do not drop this jar that your mother has made for you. Do not. She stepped quickly, carefully, one foot in front of the other, toward the creek.
OK, so I'm reading . . . narrative . . . past tense . . . story, story, reading . . . wait, what? . . . what the @$ was that? Oh, glimmering girl, do not drop this jar that your mother has made for you. Do not. What? Where did that come from? Who said that? What the #$&@ was that? You're interrupting your own story with some stupid interjection that makes no sense? The narrator is telling some story from the past and all of a sudden is so drawn into her own story she becomes a present-tense cheerleader? Gaugh!!! I can't stand the idiocy of it all.
And if a character is disturbed, show it through that character's actions. Maybe add some internal dialogue if you must. But this? It's just wrong:
. . . He called and called for her mother, over and over. Something was wrong. Wrong was here. Wrong sat on the ground in front of her. Wrong kept the birds from singing. Wrong. It crept up her legs and into her chest. She heard her father again. . . .
It might have worked the first time you did something like this with Puck 70 pages ago. I still thought it was bad writing and it pulled me out of my reading experience and into analytical mode, but I could appreciate the novelty of it. The first time. Once and only. But you keep doing it. This is the second time (of three) this chapter. Reading that was . . .