My best friend's mom is a doctor and one of the most patient, compassionate people I've ever met in my life. Whenever I hear about the latest disease,My best friend's mom is a doctor and one of the most patient, compassionate people I've ever met in my life. Whenever I hear about the latest disease, I immediately call her with my deadly symptoms. Now this same woman, after five minutes of watching Lea Michele in Glee, will ask, "What is that bitch doing now?" Lea Michele's character is just one of those people -- she can make people who have devoted their entire lives to helping others want to commit murder.
Now imagine reading 491 pages of Lea Michele's diary.
The first 150 pages, as you may have seen from my SOS masquerading as status updates, were excruciating.
And the thing is, I ended up liking Bindy. I loved her sense of humor. In her Reflections on Glandular Fever (street name: mono) on page 222, she writes:
As for glandular fever, I don't believe in it. I don't think it exists. It's one of those "teenage" ailments that students invent to get themselves extra study time. I have no respect for it.
What I didn't like was the minutiae of her life carefully transcribed on the 200 pages prior. Sure, a lot of what Bindy wrote came into play later, but this isn't a Megan Whalen Turner book here, where every word and choice has meaning. I thought a lot of the first half could be cut. I didn't really start enjoying the novel until page 225, when the gang from The Year of Secret Assignments was mentioned, and then the story went full speed from there. I'll still read The Ghosts of Ashbury High... eventually... but I'm a bit hesitant after Bindy.
Final verdict: 3 stars -- 2 stars for the first half and 4 stars for the second half.
Full disclosure: I've only watched two episodes of Glee, both times against my will. In fairness to Lea Michele, I thought everyone was annoying.
Every four years, I turn into this crazed figure skating fan. I remember the 2002 Winter Olympics in particular because I lived and died with MichelleEvery four years, I turn into this crazed figure skating fan. I remember the 2002 Winter Olympics in particular because I lived and died with Michelle Kwan four years earlier and 2002 was going to be HER year. In the long program, Sarah Hughes (aka Sarah Who?) skated first and threw down a flawless performance. Triple toe loop-triple loop, triple salchow-triple loop -- technically and stylistically, it was pretty damn perfect. However, with Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen and Irina Slutskaya still waiting to skate, I figured Hughes's performance was just the beginning and I was waiting to be blown away by something even greater.
I read The Year of Secret Assignments, aka Finding Cassie Crazy, last year and immediately placed it on my I Have Just Read You and I Love You shelf. This was before Noelle and I started blogging so I rated it 4 stars and moved on to my next read. However, after revisiting Feeling Sorry for Celia last week, I decided to reread and review Secret Assignments. Well, knock me over with a Sarah Hughes triple salchow because not only did it hold up on reread, it was even better than I remembered. I knew it was good, but after a year of blogging and reading too many Sasha Cohens, this time I let myself be blown away by the skill and artistry of Jaclyn Moriarty's writing.
As with Celia, Secret Assignments is written in epistolary form. Mr. Botherit is back spreading the Joy of the Envelope between rival schools Ashbury and Brookfield. Emily, Lydia, and Cassie are Ashfield girls and best friends. Emily, daughter of two lawyers, wants to be a lawyer herself even though she regularly butchers the English language. I nearly spit out my coffee when she wrote, in all seriousness, that something was "non d' scrip." Lydia wants to be a writer and often uses her creative energy on her friends. She's the instigator behind their secret assignments, tasks that they must complete no matter the peril or potential for punishment. Cassie wants to sing, though her stage fright prevents her from singing in front of anyone other than Em and Lyd. She also lost her father last year and she doesn't know why people keep saying "lost" as if he's been misplaced. Em, Lyd, and Cass have been best friends since elementary school and it shows -- learning about one means learning about them all.
I'll get to the Brookfield boys in a minute but first, how much do you love that the girls are characterized by their goals?? The book starts off with an entry from Lydia's notebook. The Notebook™ is supposed to help aspiring writers achieve their dreams. It is so patronizing and ridiculous. It reminded me of all the mind-numbingly tedious assignments I had to do in high school that were supposed to either get me into a good college or prepare me for adult blah blah blah. Lydia gives The Notebook™ the respect it deserves.
Second, I adored the portrayal of the parents, especially Emily's dad and Cassie's mom. The girls all have at least one lawyer parent who is friendly with the others because they attended law school together. Emily's dad routinely calls her down to dinner via a summons delivered by her younger brother. Em's parents are away a lot for work, which she resents, but whenever they are present, they are so clueless but with good intentions that they never fail to crack me up. The memories of Cassie's dad though will squeeze your heart. ("Now you're cooking with gas!")
Are you ready to meet Charlie Taylor and Seb Mantegna? I love good banter and the letters between Charlie and Emily and Seb and Lydia are so witty and fun. The chapters are set up perfectly so you get some scenes with Charlie and Em, then Seb and Lydia, and then Matthew Dunlop and Cass. I put the Charlie and Seb section of my notes above. Considering the notes I usually take, it shows how much I loved them. They are both such decent guys. There's no brooding loner bullshit with them. You will be charmed before you can say VERSHOOM.
There are six different letter writers and six different points of view and each one has an individual voice. I could always tell who was doing the talking/writing without having to flip back. On technical merit, Moriarty is solid.
Presentation is where Moriarty really shines. The letters are such an original and fun way to tell this story. There's so much energy in the story and the characters. She captures the indignities that come with being underaged as well as all the potential for mischief. There is a lot of humor in this book but like the relationship between Emily, Lydia, and Cassie, it is based on heart. You don't need to read Feeling Sorry for Celia to read this book, although Celia is worth a read. The Year of Secret Assignments, though, is a perfectly executed triple-triple combination.
PSA: The paperback is $2.14 on Amazon as of Dec 1, 2016. What are you waiting for? GET IT.
Almost immediately after finishing the first book and leavinPSA: The paperback is $2.14 on Amazon as of Dec 1, 2016. What are you waiting for? GET IT.
Almost immediately after finishing the first book and leaving Shyness, I found myself thinking, "We have to go back!" This Is Shyness (and okay, Wolfboy) pulled me into its trance with its strange, enchanting lullaby and I awoke from the dreamy, all night adventure with a contented smile. When you have a night that special, that magical, it's safer to keep it encased in your memory. There, it's protected and lives forever. But would you rather have one perfect night with Wolfboy or risk shattering that memory for another chance to see him? Me, I'd take that risk every single time and I'm so glad Leanne Hall did as well with Queen of the Night.
Queen of the Night picks up 6 months after Nia left Jethro a note with her number -- 6 months where they haven't seen or spoken to each other. Why am I calling them by their given names instead of the names they gave themselves? Like Jethro says,
"I look at Nia. I can't think of her as Wildgirl now that she's in front of me. That name belongs to that first night."
I love this. It simultaneously acknowledges what was, what isn't now, and what can be. Hopefully. There is a lot of hope and longing in this book, and it isn't just Nia and Jethro's. It's also Paul's, Wolfboy's friend and Wildgirl's dance partner from Shyness. Nia may have left Wildgirl behind with Wolfboy, but she took Wildgirl's take-no-prisoners attitude with her. After 6 months of radio silence from Wolfboy, she says,
"I thought I'd have to wait until I finished school and moved out to change my life, but then I decided to start changing it immediately. [...] I'm sick of being patient, so here's my new theory: boys can go to hell. I'm going to focus on my schoolwork and get the best grades possible. I don't need anyone or anything to interfere with that."
See, girls? This is how you deal with rejection, not with blank pages in your life. Jethro has also recalibrated his life without Nia. However, that doesn't stop him from remembering Wildgirl's advice and reconnecting with Ortolan and his niece, Diana. It also doesn't mean that he's stopped thinking about Wildgirl.
"It seems to be getting more difficult to forget Wildgirl the more time passes by. That's the opposite of what's supposed to happen."
In contrast to Nia and Jethro's mutual longing, you have Paul. Paul broke up with his girlfriend months ago, but unlike Nia and Jethro, he refuses to even try to move on. Also unlike Nia and Jethro, Paul's girlfriend has directly and knowingly rejected him. Unable to accept reality, Paul seeks assistance from the ever present shadier elements of Shyness. Paul retreats further and further into another type of darkness and away from himself. When the story starts, Paul is beyond Jethro's help and thus Jethro finds himself calling once more for Nia -- and actually hitting send after dialing the numbers.
I absolutely loved this book. Whereas Shyness skewed more toward the fantastic, Queen of the Night is an equal blend of reality and dream, hope and disappointment, light and night. It doesn't try to recapture the lulling enchantment that was so special about Shyness, but rather walks you back hand-in-hand while fully conscious. And reality? It can be just as magical and unforgettable as a dream.
Do not be alarmed by how accessible this book is to people living in the States. This does not diminish the awesomeness that we've comDear US readers,
Do not be alarmed by how accessible this book is to people living in the States. This does not diminish the awesomeness that we've come to expect from Australian authors. Nor do you have to jump through hoops or swim through the rings of Fishpond hell to get it!
This book is a series of letters to and from Elizabeth Clarry. Her new English teacher decides to revive the Lost Art of Letter Writing and has his students write letters to the rival high school. Elizabeth's penpal ends up being Christina Kratovac. Through the letters between Elizabeth and Christina, Elizabeth and her mum (THE HILARIOUS ALL CAPS OVER-EXCLAMATION POINTER!!!!), and various unsolicited letters, we get a look into the lives of our characters. The Celia in the title refers to Elizabeth's lifelong best friend and potential missing person -- potential because she often chooses to go missing.
This book was first published in 2000 so there are some dated references, like Walkmans. Remember those? But in this age of Twitter, Goodreads, and blogs, where we (or at least I) spend a good portion of my day chatting, tweeting, and emailing people I've never met but formed solid relationships with, this book is actually rather timely. I totally related to how Elizabeth and Christina's friendship began and grew, how you can feel like you know someone without being able to recognize them on the street. Sometimes I find it's easier to share things with someone you don't have to see everyday. You can also find people who share your very specific interests (Melina Marchetta + San Antonio Spurs + Friday Night Lights + Graffiti Moon + GIFs of waving bears + Tom Hardy's ass), which is an instant basis for friendship.
Basically, I really enjoyed this book. And you can too! Really available, not Fishpond available, at IndieBound, B&N, and Amazon.
Yours sincerely, A dues-paying member of the We ♥ Aussie YA Association
When I first started teaching, I thought I was down with the students... until they asked me if I’d seen High School Musical.
Me: “No, what’s4.5 stars
When I first started teaching, I thought I was down with the students... until they asked me if I’d seen High School Musical.
Me: “No, what’s it called?” Kid: “… High School Musical.” Me, looking at the student like she’s special: “Your high school musical is called ‘High School Musical’?” Kid, looking at me like I’m special: “Are you serious right now?”
One week later, after I’d bought and watched BOTH High School Musicals (because there are TWO of them!), I was leading the kids in “We’re all in this together...”
I think it’s pretty easy to find common ground with kids. Their High School Musical is my Newsies. However, one thing that differentiates 80s babies from this generation is that we never grew up with the constant fear of terrorism. Sure, we had Stranger Danger and Chester the Molester (and fear of rhymes apparently), and there were acts like the Oklahoma City bombing, but we didn’t live with a palpable threat. A fear of flying often carried the descriptor "irrational".
Clara has just finished taking her Year 12 exams in Melbourne and decides to accompany her mom to Washington, DC over summer break. Rather than feeling excited, Clara is anxious and scared. She’s scared of being attacked –- by muggers, by terrorists. She prefers to stay in the apartment watching Gilmore Girls and The West Wing (me on a normal day), but when she does venture out, she makes sure her cell is pre-dialed to 911 in one hand and her keys are sticking out of her fist in the other (me on a normal night). When not watching TV, she’s checking up on her friends back home on Facebook. After her mother suggests she volunteer and do something productive with her time, Clara signs up to volunteer at a soup kitchen and Reading Beyond Bars, an organization that sends books to prisoners. While working, she meets a guy, aka a REAL incentive to get out of the house. Over talks about life and politics, she finds herself leaving her comfort zone both physically and ideologically. This is a coming of age story set on the eve of Obama's inauguration.
Clara in Washington was such a fresh and unique read. For starters, it tackles a topic that I think is too often avoided: politics. Each chapter starts with a quote from a president or a political figure. It's crazy to me that incest (INCEST!) is fair game in YA, while politics seems taboo. I feel like I was more politically aware in high school, with Speech & Debate, JSA, etc, than I am now. Clara has political opinions. Of Obama versus McCain, she says,
"Obama is inspiring and McCain is just blah."
Before you think this is a purely pro-Obama book, the group of anarchists that Clara befriends through volunteering are vociferously anti-Obama. It's interesting that some of the complaints the anarchists have of Obama are issues that are being raised in the current election cycle.
Regardless of your opinion of Obama, his election had an impact beyond the United States. It's fascinating to view the election through the eyes of an Australian, and Penny Tangey describes the celebratory atmosphere the day he won the presidency. Likewise, I loved looking at our nation's capital from the viewpoint of a foreigner. I mean, if you think about it, what is it with our need to take pictures in front of phallic monuments?
While the topic of this book is something I gravitate towards, the tone is different from my usual reads. A lot of the story takes place in Clara's head. She's working through fears, guilt from her fears, doubts about herself and her future. Clara's voice reminded me a lot of Bindy Mackenzie -- they're both straightforward with a dry sense of humor -- but Clara isn't as sure of herself as Bindy. She's always wanted to study law, but she doesn't know if that's what she wants anymore. Whereas I had issues with Bindy, I really liked Clara. She's struggling with a lot in between random TV marathons and Facebook stalking, but her voice is so authentic.
This book made me think of Good Oil and The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, but while I gave both of those books 3 stars, I'm giving Clara in Washington 4.5. The tone, the characters, the setting, the story just worked for me. I loved seeing Clara's development, which was gradual and full of mistakes. I loved lines like this:
"I don't have anything revolutionary but perhaps if I wear all black people will think I'm well-read."
I think this is a timely, thoughtful, bold book. I would've absolutely loved reading this in high school. Having said that, this book is not for everybody. If the word "unpatriotic" is in your daily vocabulary, you will not like this book. If the words "unpatriotic" and "birther" are in your daily vocabulary, you will definitely not like this book. Seriously though, there are a lot of quiet moments where Clara is just thinking. I'm usually the first to roll my eyes when a book is described as being quiet, ie BORING, but this story wasn't boring for me. Clara in Washington is a fresh take on a girl discovering her place in the world during the time of school results, election results, and Facebook.
A few years ago, I watched a delightfully odd Japanese movie that followed a normal young couple until the girl turned into a chair. (A quick Google sA few years ago, I watched a delightfully odd Japanese movie that followed a normal young couple until the girl turned into a chair. (A quick Google search of "Japanese movie where a girl turned into a chair" tells me the movie was Tokyo! Their exclamation.)
There is no human-to-chair transformation in This is Shyness, but it reminded me of Tokyo! in that it starts off like a typical YA story, with an underage girl trying to sneak into a bar with some friends who then spots a broody, hot guy at the end of the bar. And then he howls. This begins a madcap, all night adventure involving tarsiers and kids hopped up on sugar. Oh, and it takes place in a town where the sun doesn't rise.
This is Shyness felt like Graffiti Moon + Before Sunrise after Miyazaki has run it through whatever magic machines they have at Studio Ghibli. It is delightfully odd and surreal, yet grounded in the very real emotions of Wolfboy and Wildgirl. I loved Wolfboy, by the way. I expected the brooding, howling hot guy in black to be a stereotypical alpha male who pulls the tabs off his Foster's with his teeth. Instead, he's the guy who thinks "I'm not sure if I'm looking at her too much or too little" while grasping his beer glass. I cannot wait to read Queen of the (Before Sunset) Night!
What can I say about this book but faith rewarded? How do I begin to talk about a series that turned me onto a new genre?
Marchetta took me on a journeWhat can I say about this book but faith rewarded? How do I begin to talk about a series that turned me onto a new genre?
Marchetta took me on a journey through an unfamiliar genre and story landscape, through curses and the Citavita. Looking back on Finnikin, I couldn't even finish my review because I was so unused to fantasy. I was exhausted by the little I did manage to write. By the time I read Froi, I was better prepared and any exhaustion I felt was due to the emotional ride from the book.
With Quintana, I could talk about how Lucian and Perri should star in their own buddy cop show, or how being in Quintana's head seemed like the most natural place to be. I loved so many of the characters, but for me, this series comes down to two people -- Isaboe and Froi. The things that bond them are at the heart of the series. They are the faces of children of war.
In Isaboe, we see what war does to a once beloved, sheltered child. Her experiences in Sarnak and Sorel shape the fierce queen she’s become. She’s unflinching. However, sometimes that results in a harshness that had me wincing. It's how she survived on her own, but it may not be the best way to ensure her people's survival.
For Froi, it was Sir Topher who prevented him from going down an irreversible path, but that and a belief in a girl with magic, shaped the man he became. His journey of redemption -- never once forgetting what could have been -- is about overcoming all the experiences that can break you and turn you into someone you're not. I loved seeing the person Froi came to be when given love and when he gave his love in return. It was so wholehearted and pure. It was devastating to think what war did to the boy with that much heart.
One character I didn't feel much affection for was Lady Zarah. To quote the great Dionne Warwick, I got your number, hussy!
Quintana of Charyn tested the bounds of loyalty, friendship, and family, and what it meant to be Lumateran, Charynite, Queen, husband, wife, lover, and friend. It's about having faith first, like a boy with cats once did, so it can be rewarded later. I loved being in this world and I hope Marchetta revisits it again, as I know I will.
First, you have Gracie. Kickass soccer superstar on an all boys team. The problem isn't that she knows this, the problem is she knows it and lords her supremacy on the field over her teammates. (Like Ladybugs in reverse without the cross dressing, Catie!) There's a "No I in team" speech here but Cath Crowley is too talented for that. Instead she gives us Martin Knight.
Martin Knight is the captain and Gracie's sole supporter on the team. The first time a timid, young Gracie approaches the team, he tells her, "Stick with me, Faltrain." Me: a puddle of goo. Every time Martin says something, I turn into goo but Gracie, of course, rolls her eyes and then averts them to another guy who may be a jerk.
Nick. As if.
It wouldn't be a Crowley book without kooky, slight-to-moderately dysfunctional parents. Gracie's parents have the most awesome meet-cute ever, but Gracie's dad has been away on business for awhile, longer than necessary now that she thinks about it, and things don't seem so cute anymore.
Then, in addition to team and family tension, Gracie's BFF is moving to London. She's without her support system as she has the most hilariously horrible date ever.
It involves a tongue in the ear.
I loved Gracie & co and I really liked this book. I wouldn't say it's on the same level as Graffiti Moon, and earlier on I wanted less points of view (and I could do without the definitions that start each chapter), but overall it was a solid, enjoyable, funny read, let alone a debut! I just adore the way Cath Crowley writes. Some of my favorite quotes:
He looks like he wants to stuff what he's just said back in his mouth and swallow. I catch a tiny glimpse of his home life, scattered around us like little crumbs of sadness.
I've got a fist in my stomach; whenever I open my mouth it punches out at anyone who gets in my way.
The two best quotes are at the end, but they're a little spoilery so I didn't include them. It may involve a tongue in the ear.
It's always harder for me to talk about books I love, but basically, I was so utterly charmed by this book that I haven't been able to finish a book sIt's always harder for me to talk about books I love, but basically, I was so utterly charmed by this book that I haven't been able to finish a book since. Yes, people, it's that serious.
Nick McGowan was the perfect all-around guy, good looking, popular, and the top of his class. Then something happened over the summer and he dropped his classes and started acting out. Rumors are swirling about what happened, but no one knows the cause. He's a boarder at his school and after his last stunt pulling the fire alarms, he's on the verge of getting kicked out. In steps Rachel Hill's family.
Rachel Hill is a driven overachiever. She has set hours for study, work, and school. She works as a clown at a children's party place, and she even takes her clowning seriously. She has a clown archrival. She lives with her adorable parents who, to her chagrin, can't help but offer to take in Nick McGowan.
I loved all the characters. Nick reminded me of Heath Ledger's character in 10 Things I Hate About You.
Like with Patrick Verona, everyone has some crazy theory about what happened to Nick over the summer. And Rachel? I loved her goody goody ass from the moment she went to the cool record store in the city to buy some Ramones albums after finding out they're Nick's favorite band. When the sales guy asks if she's a Ramones fan, she replies, "Fuck yeah." Cut to the next chapter after she listens to her very first Ramones albums: "I hate the Ramones." I cracked up and remembered the time a really hot French boy told me about his favorite band, Louise Attaque. I went to FNAC feeling all proud and badass, ready to buy some hot French boy music. Now I don't know what I expected hot French boy music to sound like, but French hillbilly fiddle fuckery was not it. My favorite character, though, was Rachel's wacky, loyal best friend, Zoe Budd. When Zoe finds out Nick is moving in, her response is, "This is great. You get to have sex with him!"
I loved how high school this book felt. Rachel is just so busy with all her work and can't believe her parents would risk derailing her academic career by asking her to the dishes. The nerve. Rachel is anal retentive and a perfectionist but she doesn't fall into the unlikable category because she is so endearingly dorky. I mean, she has Kirk Cameron and Huey Lewis posters on her wall! The way Nick and Rachel's friendship developed felt natural as well. It's the inside jokes and little moments that come from sharing a space and constantly bumping into one other whether you want to or not.
When I first got this book, I set it aside after finding out it was set in 1989. Another 80s YA? But it totally works here. The story itself doesn't feel dated at all and the 80s references (acid washed jeans! cassettes!) are amusing rather than annoying. It's funny that I worried pre-read about whether this book would be a ripoff of Megan Meade's Guide to the McGowan Boys. This book is so much better that there's really no comparison.
Just read this book. It's actually available in the States! Rebecca Sparrow writes with such charm and humor that she may temporarily ruin all other books for you, but you'll be cracking up before you know it. You may also find yourself singing, You're just too good to be true...
Joel and Cat, classmates and enemies, are paired together for a tandem writing project. They have to write a story one alternating paragraph at a time. But the first rule of tandem story writing is that you do not talk about tandem story writing. They can't discuss the plot or characters. Any problems? Take it to the page! (Sidenote: No wonder Australian YA is awesome -- their English teachers kick ass. Mr. Ashton reminded me a bit of Mr. Botherit and his Joy of the Envelope.)
The 'enemies who are forced to work together' is one of my favorite tropes. Done well, it leads to great chemistry and banter, and the reader falls in love along with the characters. You already know how I feel about Rebecca Sparrow. (In case you don't, I ADORE her.) There's just something about her writing that I connected to immediately and I loved Nick McGowan from the first page. Imagine my surprise when I didn't connect to Joel and Cat right away. I don't get it. Did I stumble into bad lighting? I put the book down after about 40 pages. A few days later, I decided to pick it up again, and this time, I couldn't put it down until I was done. I didn't stop laughing until a good 30 minutes after I had finished the book. I think the beginning felt a bit disjointed as the characters, the authors, and I got used to the tandem style. Once we were all on the same page (hardy har har), it was so much fun. It's obvious that Rebecca Sparrow and Nick Earls had fun writing this. I can't even mention a scene without cackling like Julia Roberts and wanting to spoiler the hell out of it for you so we can laugh about it together, but I won't!
There's a distinctly Australian feel to the book. I had to google references to Megan Gale, Andrew G, and Mary Kostakidis. I cracked up after looking up 'Ken Done scarf', which is how Cat describes Joel's hippy dippy mother's appearance, because that's exactly how I pictured her. I was surprised that Australia has Sizzlers. Of all the restaurants America could export! There are still a few around LA -- to keep people like my grandma happy. I loved that Sizzler was also a turning point in the book. Seriously, so much fun!
If Sizzler doesn't tempt you to read this book, maybe Cat's dad will. Remember that episode of Friends where Ross goes tanning? "I'm an 8!" Cat's dad takes that as a personal challenge.
When Joel and Cat are first paired up, Joel throws down the gauntlet and challenges Cat with two words: Amaze me. Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow did. They each bring such a charming, unique voice to the story. I'm no Nate Silver, but I predict you will laugh your ass off while reading this book.
Enter Darcy Franz Pele Walker. He's just a regular guy with a regular life -- two parents, some friends, a crush. I think the book was titled Slice: Juicy Moments from My Impossible Life because such normalcy is kind of impossible to find in YA these days. (Seriously, there needs to be a No parents were harmed in the making of this book disclaimer.) I forgot how charming a simple slice of life story can be. I loved Darcy and his smartass comments. I loved his parents and his relationship with them. I want there to be a sequel where Darcy meets Dan Cereill and the greatest bromance since Turk met JD ensues....more