You can find more (non-spoilery) thoughts on "All Summer in a Day" at my blog. . . ....more**spoiler alert** . . . . .
Warning:Everything below is a SPOILER.
You can find more (non-spoilery) thoughts on "All Summer in a Day" at my blog. . . . . .
This is one of the first stories to pop up in my memories of 3rd – 11th grade English. Of course I identified with the quiet girl who was put down whenever she did share her ideas, and of course I hated those little jerkwads for how they treated her.
The last sentence, though, was what stuck in my mind most –
They turned through the doorway to the room in the sound of the storm and thunder, lightning on their faces, blue and terrible. They walked over to the closet door slowly and stood by it. Behind the closet door was only silence. They unlocked the door, even more slowly, and let Margot out. (my emphasis)
I remember getting chills when I first read those last words. It's such a simple, undramatic image, you'd think it was anticlimactic -- here you are at the moment of greatest tension, the hold-your-breath moment (it's like you're watching part of a scary movie. Seriously, you have characters slowly approaching a closed door in a dark room while a storm rages in the background…) … and then Bradbury leaves you hanging! They just…let Margot out of the closet. No dramatic fallout. No getting to see Margot's reaction.
But then, does it really matter? We already know the magnitude of the kids' mistake. They know the magnitude of what they've done. What more is there to say?
On the other hand, there's a detail I hadn't noticed before that takes some of the doom out of the ending. The narrator mentions that Margot's parents, seeing how much her health has deteriorated, might take her back to Earth soon. Suddenly, her missing the sun's appearance doesn't seem so tragic (not that it excuses her classmates' actions), because she won't have to wait seven years to see it again; she'll go back to seeing it all the time on Earth.
The real harm done by the kids is that, by taking away Margot's one chance to regain some health and happiness (assuming that seeing the sun for a few hours could've recharged her enough to keep going for another seven years), by driving Margot away for good, they ruin her family's chance to improve their economic situation ("it would mean the loss of thousands of dollars to her family"). But the story places little emphasis on this point, so we're not sure exactly how big an impact this would have on the family.
But maybe that's the point. Whether or not Margot returns to Earth, her classmates' actions were no less wrong, and her pain no less serious.. (less)
I’m willing to guess that for many people, the name Ursula K Le Guin is associated primarily with her more YA/Adult fantasies like the Earthsea cycle or The Left Hand of Darkness?
For me, Catwings was the first step into Le Guin’s world – a world which, I’m sorry to say, I have yet to really explore further. Since Catwings, I’ve only read her short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”
From the little I know about Le Guin’s main body of work – and please correct me if I’m wrong – it seems to be mainly high fantasy/sci-fi or speculative fantasy, the stories most often set in entirely fictional worlds. Whereas the Catwings stories are set in our world, its specific environments ranging from a typical city, to the woods, to the countryside. All the other characters whom the Catwings encounter are ordinary, recognizable people and creatures; the only element of fantasy, really, is that these four cats happen to have wings.
And even that phenomenon isn’t explored very far – not even their mother knows why Thelma, Harriet, James, and Roger were born with wings. Mrs. Tabby never considers the children’s absent father in connection with their wings, so he must have been an ordinary cat like herself. The only answer she can think of is: “Maybe they have wings because I dreamed, before they were born, that I could fly away from this neighborhood.”
In short, we are simply to accept the existence of four winged cats – and maybe even the possibility that a mother’s dreams could actually affect how her children will be born – in an otherwise familiar world. Magical realism! :-D
I first read this book sometime in high school, and now re-read it for the From the Bowels of Obscurity Book Club (yes, I can hear all your inner 12-year-olds giggling at "bowels" ;-) ) . . . . .
I know. I know, guys. I hate bees. HAAAAATE. THEM. Ok, I’m being dramatic, but in all seriousness, long before I became allergic, the sight of a bee or wasp would put me in panicked flight mode.
These days I’m a leeettle calmer; my reaction to a bee in the house is usually to shout “Hoooooly snap” while backing away slowly and finding someone to please kill it for me thank you I’ll be in the next room with the door closed tell me when it’s over bye.
And yet, I love this book. Maybe it’s because Patience Brewster’s illustrations make the characters look more like faeries than bees – creatures with human faces, bees’ bodies, and long spindly legs. It’s something between whimsical and surreal, and I love it. Oh, and since these illustrations appear at the start of each chapter, she often incorporates the chapter number into whatever’s happening in the drawing. For instance, we see a worker bee fanning away the number 2 as she cools the honeycombs. Or, as sunlight shines on one of the drones, the number 19 stretches shadow-like on the ground beneath him.
The story follows the life cycle of a generation of bees who stay behind when their old Queen leaves to start a new hive. We focus particularly on four characters: gentle, dreamy Thora; practical, no-nonsense Belle; idealistic poet Alfred; and rebel/activist Mo.
The story is partly an allegory for government incompetence/irrelevance, religious fanaticism, and gender relations. It’s humorous and satirical, but sometimes melancholy – the copyright page lists “fatalism” as one of the subjects.
In terms of the nitty-gritty aspects of bee life (i.e. the way their bodies work, from storing nectar, to secreting wax, to mating and giving birth*), Lally is matter-of-fact, using plain technical terms like “progenitive organs” and “fecundation.” She doesn’t skip the harsh aspects, either – the disposal of dead bees, for instance – but her portrayals are never gratuitous or vulgar.
The one thing I didn’t like was the portrayal of Alfred as “a fat, bumbling drone” who blunders around, gorges himself drunk on honey, and generally seems like “an idiot, [though] a nice idiot.” It’s an unfortunate cliché in the media for larger people to be portrayed as silly and/or stupid. At best, Lally’s portrayal of Alfred is lazy characterization, falling back on an overused trope.
Overall, though, A Hive for the Honeybee is just lovely. It’s light-hearted and funny, but also somber and haunting. It’s an allegory, but one that will leave you wondering: what is the message? Are we meant to sympathize with those who want to challenge tradition and promote individual desires, or with those who want to stick with the-way-things-are-done? In my view, there’s no simple answer.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made: Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee; And live alone in the bee-loud glade. …(less)
Elizabeth wakes up from a coma after disobeying her parents and riding a motorcycle with her boyfriend, and of course getting in an accident. Jessica...moreElizabeth wakes up from a coma after disobeying her parents and riding a motorcycle with her boyfriend, and of course getting in an accident. Jessica is so relieved to have her sister back, but something seems off about Liz…
(view spoiler)[The responsible and observant Wakefield parents take note of their daughter's apparent personality change and slipping grades, and wisely take her back to the doctor to see if this might have something to do with her head injury. Also, Jessica realizes what it's like to deal with a selfish, irresponsible sister and resolves never to be selfish or irresponsible again. The End!
. . . Sigh. No, not really.
Here's what actually happens:
Trigger warning - there is an attempted-rape scene near the end.
Jessica and the doctor recite lines from pick-your-least-favorite-medical-soap-opera until Liz wakes up. Suddenly she's interested in fashion and gets flirty with the doctors, but Jessica can't put her finger on what's different about her sister. Oh well, it's probably nothing.
I mean, it's a bit out of character for Lizzie to want to throw a pool party the weekend after she's out of the hospital, and then leave all the work to Jessica while she goes to the mall to buy a new swimsuit. And then flirt with every guy at the party except for her boyfriend, whom she now seems to hate. But it's not really anything to worry about.
Well, ok, it's definitely weird for Elizabeth to blow off homework, and connive to steal another girl's boyfriend, and cheat on a term paper…
Meanwhile, the Wakefield parents are busy with their jobs and stuff, but make sure to pay extra attention to Elizabeth after she's released from the hospital -- just not enough to notice anything different about her behavior, compared to how she's behaved for the past sixteen years. So they are SHOCKED to hear about the plagiarism, and Liz is so grounded. Except, ok, she can go to Lila Fowler's hook-up party as long as she promises to do her homework later. Surely Jessica will keep an eye on her at all times.
But Jessica fails to keep an eye on Liz at all times, and suddenly Liz is flirting with the school's biggest player, who is thrilled to be able to take advantage of the girl who always snubbed him. He gets her very drunk and drives off with her on his motorcycle, but Todd goes after them and forcibly removes Liz from the motorcycle (remember, motorcycles are death machines) and drives her home. But another night she decides to meet up with the wicked Bruce at his place, and he prepares to get her drunk again and then to rape her.
But while Bruce steps out of the room for a moment, Liz trips and hits her head on a table, which immediately resets her personality back to its normal settings, and she runs away down the beach and into the waiting arms of Todd.
Oh yeah, and Jessica does resolve to never be selfish or irresponsible again. But then she remembers her duty to the SVH formula and must nobly sacrifice her dream of character development in favor of maintaining her role as the bad sister.
Listen, Sweet Valley… I think it's time I stopped trying to rekindle our old romance. We had some great times, but I'm just not enjoying this anymore. Not even as mindless nostalgic escapism. I just…can't seem to turn off my brain long enough to accept the flat, cookie-cutter characters (did I mention that the spinoff Kids series actually has more complex characters than all the series' targeted at pre-teens and older?), or the painfully cheesy dialogue, or the contrived plots that hinge on people (especially adults) being as clueless as possible lest they keep the conflict from dragging on as long as possible.
I'm sorry, Sweet Valley. But I really need to move on. (though maybe not from the Kids series…that one's still ok)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
As I said in one of my other BSC reviews, the "it was ok" rating has nothing to do with the book's quality. It's just because I'm no longer in the sam...moreAs I said in one of my other BSC reviews, the "it was ok" rating has nothing to do with the book's quality. It's just because I'm no longer in the same mindset as I was when I read these books regularly, so, while they're still fun to read for nostalgia's sake, they don't have the same impact. Thirteen years ago, just a few years older than Kristy and co., I probably would've felt differently (assuming I would've felt brave enough to be caught still reading BSC books).
Well, ok, I did feel a teensy bit weepy at the end, when they were making the pact. And when I read Ann M. Martin's letter to her readers. And the BSC timeline.
And here's the thing -- Ms. Martin (and/or her ghostwriters) were really quite good at getting into the mindset of grade - middle schoolers, which (naturally) especially shows in the "diary entries" and letters-to-the-future. Reading it in my current mindset, sure, Mary Anne's time capsule letter seems kind of cheesy. But I probably would've written the exact same letter when I was thirteen. I probably did write similar notes about how memories can't be destroyed, and how I feel about friends, and how far away the future seems, and so on.
[Side note: who else totally knew Claire would (view spoiler)[freak out when she realized that putting her beloved teddy bear in a seven-year time capsule would mean she actually wouldn't see it for seven years? ^_^;; …though, cards on the table, there are some childhood toys I still sometimes miss. Like my Lambchop doll. (hide spoiler)]]
It's weird to remember that structured existence, going from one school-year to the next, experiencing everything along with a group of people all more or less the same age, being excited about things like pep rallies and Orientation Days and sleepover retreats. Knowing what to expect of the next year, and the year after that.
Now...if you'll pardon the random science metaphor...it's like I've gone from a solid ice state to a floating air state. Not knowing exactly what I'll be doing next year, or even necessarily what I'll be doing tomorrow.
Huh. That got kind of heavy for a Baby-sitters Club review.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It’s been a while since I’ve read a story that had me thinking, each step of the way: This is amazing! … This is amazi...moreOriginally posted here.
. . . . .
It’s been a while since I’ve read a story that had me thinking, each step of the way: This is amazing! … This is amazing! … This is seriouslyamazing!
It’s a blend of fairy tale(s within a fairy tale), low fantasy, and magical realism –
Fairy tale(s) – the story as a whole is a relatively simple hero’s journey with a clear message. Within that main story, at different points in Minli’s journey, characters will share legends and bits of personal or family history that the text sets apart as stories:
* The Story of Fruitless Mountain * The Story the Girl Told the Green Tiger * Etc.
Low fantasy because there are characters who don’t believe in the supernatural until they see it for themselves;
And magical realism because there are many more characters who, when they do witness something magical/supernatural, either treat it like an ordinary occurrence or are ready to accept it as logical/possible:
She realized she was having a conversation with a goldfish, which was very unusual, so she decided to listen. 
I love how all of these layers fit together, all the interconnections between characters and stories. I love the overall mythic feel of the world as Grace Lin portrays it. And, surprise of surprises, I love descriptions like this:
And with a bow, the goldfish man walked away; his bowls of goldfish cast pieces of rainbows in the air, making him sparkle in the sun. 
I can’t even think of anything else to say at the moment, except that the Newberry was very well deserved. And I’d love to have seen this production
Huh. Lila's actually concerned about Elizabeth. She's being all helpful and nice, and this is all kind of refreshingly strange, and ... oh, wait.
Yeah...moreHuh. Lila's actually concerned about Elizabeth. She's being all helpful and nice, and this is all kind of refreshingly strange, and ... oh, wait.
Yeahhh, that makes more sense.
(view spoiler)[Liz and Olivia's "revenge" is sort of anticlimactic, though. Like, "Boo-yah! We know what you did and we're almost calling you out in front of everyone, but not really! How do you like that,b*tch Class Sneak?" And Lila's just like, "Darn it, foiled again!" (hide spoiler)]
Classic Sweet Valley, how I've missed you ^_^["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I'm teetering between 2.5 and 3… I liked it well enough most of the time…there were some exciting sce...moreEdit 02-28-12: Full review at Postcards
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I'm teetering between 2.5 and 3… I liked it well enough most of the time…there were some exciting scenes…but that's all it really felt like -- a collection of scenes. Still, I hear the next book will be the series finale, so of course I'll be reading that. *nostalgic sigh*
This week in Stoneybrook, our favorite Babysitters get in their biggest fight ever (so far) because Kristy forgets to ask the others if they'd like to...moreThis week in Stoneybrook, our favorite Babysitters get in their biggest fight ever (so far) because Kristy forgets to ask the others if they'd like to babysit their neighbors' adorable new baby before taking the job herself. Names are called. Fight lasts entire book.
Meanwhile, Mary Anne proceeds on a quest to prove she's mature enough to stay out later and quit wearing her hair in braids. (view spoiler)[But has brief relapse at client's kid's birthday party, where she purposely spills fruit punch on best friend. Kid's mom conveniently forgets about "accident" by the time party's over. No consequences for the BSC. (hide spoiler)]
Also, she makes a new friend. (view spoiler)[They watch The Parent Trap together and then make a totally amazing discovery about their own parents. (hide spoiler)]
I mentioned before how much I can relate to Mary Anne, and it was even more clear in this book. Not that my parents were ever near as overbearing as her dad, but I have had my own moments of insecurity re: whether I was as mature or sophisticated as my peers, and whether said peers secretly looked down on me for not having done all the same things they did at or before my age.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This one was a re-read, though I'd forgotten the evil babysitting agency plot was so early in the series; somehow I remembered it as a separate book,...moreThis one was a re-read, though I'd forgotten the evil babysitting agency plot was so early in the series; somehow I remembered it as a separate book, rather than part of Stacey's story. But anyway, another pleasant stay in Stonybrook, complete with the mean girls getting their comeuppance and (view spoiler)[the estranged best friend apologizing. (hide spoiler)]
Also, hey, remember those mail-order clubs? You could get:
* a hot pink digital (OMG, digital!) watch * a cool BSC mood ring! * a name/address book! * a cassette tape with Ann M. Martin's voice!
Or turn the page and -- "Wow! It's really them - the new Baby-sitter's Club dolls!"
Oh, the 80s :)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
One of my neighbors recently set up a Little Free Library in her front yard, and there were some fun nostalgic titles in there -- including a few BSC...moreOne of my neighbors recently set up a Little Free Library in her front yard, and there were some fun nostalgic titles in there -- including a few BSC books.
And it was definitely fun and nostalgic, and I'm going back for the other BSCs. I have to say, this is the one time I was actually glad for the kind of exposition-o-rama Mary Anne gives us in the first few chapters, because I really did need a refresher on who all these characters are and what's happened to them up to this point.
My two-star rating isn't really a reflection of the story quality; it's a very quick, feel-good read. It's just that I'm no longer in the age range when I would've been totally into all the drama -- i.e. how characters react to things (though, at least these pre-teens feel more real than the Sweet Valley gang). When I was +/- 11-13, everything was that big of a deal, both in my real life and in my favorite fictional worlds. When Animorphs #19 (wow, I actually remembered which number it was, before looking it up…that's how big a deal it was) was released, I wrote in my diary: (view spoiler)[CASSIE QUITS!!!!!! (hide spoiler)] (only imagine that in even larger All-Caps and in a 12-year-old's handwriting).
And at that age, I probably would've written a poem exactly like Vanessa's if I had an older sister who was considering going to school in another state. Heck, when I was 16, I cried myself to sleep when I heard my favorite teacher was leaving, even though I was super happy for her (she was having a baby).
And to be fair, I can still very much relate to Mary Anne's overall sensitive nature. Hello, my name is Nerija ("Hello, Nerija"), and I am also a "champion crier."
Jessi, on the other hand... seriously? I can absolutely understand being upset at the thought of your best friend moving away, but calling her a coward for even considering leaving a school where she's constantly bullied? Or for wanting to go to a school with a better writing program -- the thing she loves as much as you love dancing? And you're calling her selfish? If I were Mary Anne I'd have had a much harder time staying impartial and not telling you off.
Phew! Got that out of my system ^_^;;
But anyway, like I said, I'm definitely going back for more Stonybrook shenanigans.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The use of college application essay questions for chapter titles was clever, and fit with the...moreA fast-paced, very plot-driven story.
Points in favor:
The use of college application essay questions for chapter titles was clever, and fit with the story's theme of convention vs. creativity (i.e. how Perry answers such standard questions vs. how the admissions committee might expect students to respond).
The plot is certainly intriguing, and the final scene (no spoilers, I promise) feels like something straight out of a movie. The whole story flows like an action flick -- something like From Paris, with Love.
As a character, Gobija isn't completely pigeonholed by her nationality (despite the stereotypical Old World prom outfit--if you've read the story, you know (view spoiler)[that was just part of her cover… though she's kind of gambling (correctly, it turns out) on neither Perry, nor his family, nor any of Perry's classmates or teachers, knowing anything about how 20th-century Lithuanian teenagers would actually dress for something like prom. (hide spoiler)]); I could understand her motives (once the story finally reveals her motives beyond I'm-an-assassin-it's-my-job) no matter where she's from.
Heh, sheltered kid that I was, I now know some interesting Lithuanian curses.
Points not in favor:
The one-crazy-scene-after-another momentum did get a bit old after the first ten chapters. And toward the end, some things happened, and I wasn't really sure why/how they happened. Like (view spoiler)[why the news people were at Perry's house before it exploded. Apparently, his mom finally decided to believe Perry's warnings and called the bomb squad, and told them all about the fake exchange student who was actually using the house as a base for her elaborate assassination plot? (hide spoiler)]
The running gag of LOL-he's-an-18-year-old-virgin got very old very fast.
This is nitpicky, but I wish Schreiber and his editors had used actual Lithuanian characters when showing Lithuanian speech. Where are those little "v" thingies over the "s" or "z" in certain words? I think, for instance, that Gobija's last name is really Žaksauskas.
It's a mildly enjoyable read if you're just looking for something fast-paced and exciting, with humorous (but kind of cliché) dialogue.
It's a fairly predictable one about being yourself and choosing integrity over popularity, but the characters a...moreI have mixed feelings about this story.
It's a fairly predictable one about being yourself and choosing integrity over popularity, but the characters and setting were unique enough to keep my interest. I loved the way Indie would list fish names to deal with stress, and make fish faces (not just the generic fish, but specific kinds, like trout), and wish on the constellation Pisces. Though, her and Bebe's wishes in the second (?) flashback were too vague to feel realistic for girls that age -- especially Bebe's wish.
I liked the parallel learning curves that Indie and Owen went through, (view spoiler)[each trying to "improve" him- or herself according to someone else's standards, but then realizing their self worth doesn't have to depend on that someone else's approval. (hide spoiler)]
The Chickory parents seemed nice at first, but as the story progressed, they became annoyingly inattentive/out-of-touch, (view spoiler)[and when they did start to see what was going on between Indie and Bebe, their response was infuriatingly unhelpful. At one point, the mom seemed to be punishing Indie for standing up to Bebe. (hide spoiler)]
And while I loved the idea of the tree-boat in and of itself, (view spoiler)[it seemed like an unnecessarily elaborate plan for catching The Lobster Monty Cola. Wouldn't the Coca-Cola-doused trap have been enough? (hide spoiler)]
The story is very fast-paced, and Jamie’s response to his final challenge still seems as clever as it did when I first read the book. The villains are...moreThe story is very fast-paced, and Jamie’s response to his final challenge still seems as clever as it did when I first read the book. The villains are scary enough without being too frightening for young children, and Larsen’s illustrations of the scowling, Grinch-like witches are both spooky and funny.
Little’s descriptions – wind that “skirl[s] like bagpipes” and a witch’s voice that sounds “like the slow grating of chains across a gravel path” – add to the eerie tone.
Other than a few exposition-heavy passages, the dialogue is believable and the descriptions create vivid, tangible scenes.
Back when I wrote my first Nostalgic Review, I mentioned that Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Changeling had a similar story line. I used to think Snyder’...moreBack when I wrote my first Nostalgic Review, I mentioned that Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Changeling had a similar story line. I used to think Snyder’s story was a re-interpretation of Lisle’s, but in fact it’s the other way around, since The Changeling was published in 1970. Not that Lisle was necessarily conscious of the similarities — she describes her inspiration coming from an actual little village a neighbor’s daughter made in her yard — but just reading the jacket summary set the wild echoes flying* for me.
…. I like that neither story tells you absolutely, definitively whether the hints of magic are real or imagined, whether Ivy and Sara-Kate are truly who they say they are, whether these books can be considered fantasies or not. The reader has to decide for her- or himself.
The biggest difference between the two stories is the final tone. Afternoon of the Elves feels much more bittersweet, whereas The Changeling has a more hopeful feeling in the end. I’d forgotten that about Lisle’s story — it’s been over ten years since I last read it. The saddest thing (no spoilers, I promise) is how people talk about Sara-Kate, how they blame her both for being too strong and for being too vulnerable. She’s independent, so she must be conniving and cruel. And yet how can someone so strong be such a failure in other senses? How can she not have asked for help? It’s as though they forget she’s only eleven.
To borrow again the Insatiable Booksluts‘ fun rating style, I give this book somewhere between 3.75 and 4 out of 5 Arabian stallions shipped from the...moreTo borrow again the Insatiable Booksluts‘ fun rating style, I give this book somewhere between 3.75 and 4 out of 5 Arabian stallions shipped from the Persian Gulf to the Suez Canal, through the Mediterranean up to the French Riviera, and then up to Switzerland.
…. Though, at times, Ingrid’s “Bad Girl” personality seemed overdone…I almost rolled my eyes when she mentioned sleeping with one of her teachers back home. Oh yeah, Note: lots of sex talk in this story. ….