Friday, December 31, 2010

Let's give this a try...End of the Year Survey

So, my friend Catherine fills out an end of the year survey (as one would be expected to) every year.  I'm a little more hit or miss when it comes to things like this.  But I thought I'd adapt her survey a little answer some of her original questions and make others a little more book oriented...

-- What new places did you visit in 2010?
Albuquerque?  Wild I know.

Traverse City, MI (sleeping out on the balcony overlooking the waterfront was one of my coolest nights of the year)
Here was the view:

Mackanac Island.  (I was a failure as a former-Michigander because I had never gone before)

Here are a few of pictures from that trip:

-- What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
A job offer?  A publishing deal?  Dare I hope for both?

-- What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting a literary agent after several years of submitting was a pretty dancing-for-joy type of experience.
Ooh, also, (can I do to?) for the first time ever I finished all of my classes at a school with a perfect 4.0.  

-- What was your biggest failure?
I had one of those quarters in the spring where I never seemed to manage to authentically connect with one of my classes (it was slightly tragic, especially since in the quarter before I had a group of students that has stood out as one the most communicative classes EVER).  
Also, I wish I had started working extensively on Dudley the Dissertation sooner.  I'd be less stressed now.

-- Did you suffer illness or injury?

None!  I haven't even had a cold in two years!  (Knock on wood!)  Sometimes it's good to be kinda-germaphobic.

-- What was the best thing you bought?
Books, of course.  And my embosser.  I love being able to put my name in my books (Don't read into that.).
Here are a few of my favorite books for younger readers of the year:

-- How many books did you read in 2010?
I don't know exactly.  It looks like I reviewed about 158ish for the blog this year.  And I read more than that, since I do read some books and decide not to blog about them (usually because I lack the time or because I don't have anything interesting to say about those particular books).

-- What song will always remind you of 2010?
Willow's Whip My Hair.  I used it in a project with my students this last quarter and it amused them greatly.  I'm going to need a new viral pop hit in about six weeks time so I can do the same next quarter.  Just so you know, internetz.

-- Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

Same-ish.  Perhaps a little happier, but I'm also more stressed about the that brings down the higher level of happiness a little...maybe?

b) thinner or fatter?


c) richer or poorer?

Shockingly enough, a little richer.  Working on saving and investing is kind of a no tangible rewards for the foreseeable future kind of way.

-- What do you wish you'd done more of?
Interacting with other humans, probably.

-- What do you wish you'd done less of?
Slacking and avoiding my dissertation for the first nine months of the year.

-- What was your favorite new book series?
I'm probably going to have to go with Matched.  I'm interested to see where it goes next.  The same with the Paranormalcy series.

-- What was the best book you read in 2010?
Honestly, I can't say that I can walk away with one book that rocked my socks off this year more than any other book.  There were a lot of great contenders, but nothing that I remember reading truly got under my skin in a way that'll keep me thinking about it for years and years.  Sad, I know.  
I know I have high standards, though.  But my socks have been rocked in previous years:

This series got me interested in reading when I was six.  I spent the next four or five years deciding if I would be a mouse, a hare or squirrel in the Redwall world.  (A mouse, of course!)

I read Matilda when I was in third grade, I think.  It was the first book that I remember staying up late to read and waking up to discover I had fallen asleep while trying to finish it.  I'm actually assigning it to my students next quarter.

These books are pretty much a highlight of my high school, college and grad school reading.

I found this book so fascinating!  And still, when it's freezing outside, I pretend that I'm walking through the Antarctic when I trudge home from school.

This book made me as excited to read as Harry Potter did.

This was my favorite book of 2009.  I loved the way that it addressed many issues, including gender, virginity, power, rape, etc.

-- How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
Comfortable and kinda-presentable. But mostly comfortable.

-- Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:
Work on your dissertation a little everyday.  For reals.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another 2011 Challenge accepted: "Wish I'd Read That"--Yes, That's right. I am Crazy.

My Love Affair With Books

Some of you out there may declare me crazy for this, but I've decided to participate in another challenge for 2011.  This one is focusing on books that I wished I had read or books in my To Be Read Mountain.  Anyone who has seen the way that I have books squirreled away all throughout my bedroom will know how desperately I need to get to some of these books, some I've been meaning to read for only a couple months, many I've been meaning to pick up for years.

Since I have so many books in my TBR mountains, I decided that I would participate at the top "obsessed" level.  I'll have to read twenty books.  Bring it on!

Since the new year is just around the corner, here are the first couple of books I'm hoping to complete for the challenge:

I first heard about My Life as a Book over the summer.  One of my professors said it was hilarious and a great book for reluctant readers.  I hope to start reading this one within the week!

I'm about half-way through Mr. Monster's prequel, I Am Not a Serial Killer right now.  I'm enjoying it enough that I picked up this book in a bookstore today.  It'll be skipping its way to the top of my To Be Read mountain.

Wish me luck!  And consider joining in.  It's sure to be a good time!

REVIEW: The Sorcerer's Secret

Mebus, S.  Gods of Manhattan:  The Sorcerer's Secret.  New York:  Dutton.

371 pages.

Appetizer:  The third book in the Gods of Manhattan series picks up soon after the second book ends (which means there are spoilers for Sprits in the Park in the following description.  You have been warned!).  The trap that restricted the Munsee Indians to Central Park has fallen and while war has been avoided for the moment, tensions are high.  The villainous and power-hungry god Kieft has stockpiled weapons that can kill other gods and he has begun building an army.

Rory has trouble focusing on the fate of Manahatta though, when his own mother has been poisoned by Typhoid Mary and when his sister is still stuck in her papier-mache body.

When he learns that the key to saving his family may rest in also stopping Kieft, he and his friend embark on a search for information that will take them among the NYC boroughs to understand the history of the city's gods and to know how to defeat Kieft now.

*Glances back at that description* Wow, that's probably pretty incomprehensible if you haven't read either of the first two books in the series.

While I admit, I felt a little meh about the second book, Spirits in the Park, I was once again focused in on the epicness of the story for the third installment.  Bridget was back to her troublemaking ways and I was an entertained reader.  I liked the way the characters were traveling all over the area trying to put the pieces together of why Mannahatta was the way it was.  I also liked that Soka discovered hew own power.

(But having said that, the complaints I made about the first book still stand:  the entire series switches point of view way more often than is typical for children's lit and both Rory and Bridget have the vocabularies and knowledge of well-versed twenty-year-olds as opposed to those of thirteen and nine-year-olds, which is how old their supposed to be.  But they do have some relatable emotions to other children--wondering how much of a role they want their estranged father to have in their lives, wanting to save their mom, and in Rory's case, wanting to ask out a girl.)

Finishing the book, it felt like a strong close to the trilogy (assuming this is only a trilogy.  Am I making an ass out of u and me by saying that?).  The majority of the major conflicts were resolved.  But, of course, there were also some lose ends (like the promise Rory made to a pirate to help him at some point in Sprits in the Park).  It made me wonder if there would be a fourth book?  Another series set in the same world?  Something?  Maybe?  If so, give me a few weeks off before I have to read the next one.  I think I'm Mannahatta-ed out.

Dinner Conversation:

"Cesar Prince had a bad feeling about this.
He'd been called into the bowels of City Hall, deep into the maze of hallways that zigzagged beneath the ancient seat of the gods' power.  All the gods had their own rooms down here, and the older the god, the deeper the room.  Prince's own room was not easy to find, which was just as he liked it.  But even he'd never been this deep before.  The rooms down here were old, so old that most of their owners had faded away, left behind and forgotten as the city above moved ahead without them.  But Willem Kieft never forgot.  (p. 3).

"Imagine it," Kieft whispered, the locket swinging from his hand hypnotically.  "More power than you have any right to possess.  That is what I offer you."
"Are we a band of murderers now?" Mrs. Astor asked in a huff, though her eyes tracked the locket's swing hungrily.
"Not murder," Kieft assured her.  His black eyes glittered in the firelight of the dead god's room.  "I will bring war.  Righteous war against our ancient enemies.  What is more natural than that?" (p. 7).

"The Fortune Teller rose to her full height.  "Van der Donck's trail leads through the five boroughs:  Bronck's Land, which is now the Bronx, Queens, Breuckelen, which you know as Brooklyn, Staaten Eylandt, which is Staten Island, and, of course, Mannahatta.  In each borough you will find a legacy, left behind by your erstwhile God of Justice.  You must gather together the pieces of this trust and it will lead you to the root of everything, where Kieft's treasure waits.  And his treasure is the key to his downfall" (p. 56).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

REVIEW: The Mockingbirds by @DaisyWhitney --The Mockingbirds will "say the word..and if that mockingbird won't sing, Mama's gonna write down everything."

Guys, I can't handle it.  There are too many books with the word "mocking" in their title.  Icannothandleit!  Baaaah!

Who declared this to be the year of the mocking?

First there was what's its name.  You know.  By What'sHerName, Harper Lee?  To Kill a Mockingbird! That came out in 1960.  Then, since it became such an insta-classic, it was like, nobody could touch mockingbirds for forty years.

But the moment 2010 dawned, we had Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (which by the way WON the children's National Book Award!  Huge deal!  And I've read it!  Wowz!).  MockingJAY by Suzanne Collins and now THE MockingbirdS by Daisy Whitney (which does refer heavily to the hush little baby nursery song and To Kill a Mockingbird).

My brain can't handle all of these mockings.  It's like some great force out there in the universe is mocking me.  And very blue.

But it would also seem, that if an author/editor team decide to have mocking in the title, that the book is also required to be pretty awesome.  Because, just like all of the other books mentioned above, Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds is pretty awesome.

Whitney, D.  (2010).  The Mockingbirds.  New York:  Little, Brown and Company.

335 pages.

Appetizer:  When Alex Patrick, a junior, wakes up, she is naked, lying beside a naked boy in his dorm room of their boarding school.  She is uncertain of the boy's name and she can't remember what happened last night.

The opening of The Mockingbirds is so powerful, I didn't want to stop reading after I glanced at the opening lines when my copy first arrived in the mail:

"Three things I know this second:  I have morning breath, I'm naked and I'm waking up next to a boy I don't know. 
And there's a fourth thing now.  It's ridiculously bright in my room.  I drape my forearm over my eyes, blocking out the morning sun beating in through my windows, when it hits me--a fifth thing.
These are not my windows.
Which means this is not my bed." (p. 1)
Yikes, right?

At the sight of two used condom wrappers in this guy--Carver?  Carter's?--room trash, she begins to realize that she was sexually assaulted.  She makes her way to her dorm trying to convince herself that nothing happened.  But due to some perceptive observations from her best friend and one of her roommates, T.S., it becomes clear that she'll have to face the fact that something did happen.

During the next week of school, to make matters worse, Carter, the boy, starts a rumor that Alex is easy.  Desiring the truth to come out, and following her friends urgings, Alex chooses to go to the Mockingbirds, the semi-secret school organization that students can bring their grievances to when they're seeking justice.  It's the only form of justice at the progressive Themis Academy, that refuses to acknowledges their student body can be anything less than perfect.

By speaking up about her experience, Alex learns that she is not alone, that she has friends who support her and as aspects of that horrible night come back to her, she'll also begins to heal and grow beyond her experience.

So, The Mockingbirds is an excellent book to discuss what rape is, how "non-consensual" is defined, and the fact that most people who have been raped are raped by people they knew.  The book also does a great job of speaking back to books that always seem to have a rape-victim feel ostracized and alone.  It was very refreshing.  (But having said that, I did feel like Alex's friends figured out what was going on with her faster than anyone I know would have and I have some perceptive people in my life.  But that could just be me.)  I also thought that although the adults at Themis were so naive and unwilling to acknowledge the obvious problems in front of them that readers would love how willing some of the teens in the novel were to seek justice when the system failed them.

This book is very well-written, it tells an important story and Alex is a very believable and relatable character.  (I liked how she would occasionally describe the things she was imagining in her mind.  I also liked how devoted to her music she was--she's working to make her dream of attending Juilliard a reality and to reclaim the music she loves.)  But as I was reading, I have to admit, there was one major aspect of the book that bothered me...while her school had no way of addressing the crime or prosecuting for offenders, Alex refused to go to the police or to talk to her parents about what had happened.  While I completely understand Alex's reluctance to talk about what happened to her--it's incredibly hard to narrate about any trauma--and I know a teenage girl is more likely to confide in friends her own age than anyone else, but as readers, we don't really see her confide.  When T.S. first suspects the rape, Alex tries to change the subject.  Even later, when Alex is described as telling the Mockingbirds, a friend, the student-judges, etc. her story, we as the readers, are left out of it (most likely because it would feel redundant to us.  On this note, this is also probably why the parents weren't brought in at the end.  They weren't a visible part of the rest of the story, why bring them in at the end?)

Now, there is one exception when the reader does see Alex confide in someone about her experience at the very end of the book.  And by then she is also able to use exact words to describe what happened to her.  And by then, I'd say, she has already taken a great number of steps to begin healing.  But, since that dialogue was finally included, I wanted to see more of her taking steps towards being able to say, "I was date-raped."  After seeing her use the language, I wanted to know how she had told her story to others.  (And I think such additions would have worked well, since there are a several moments throughout the book when Alex is in similar situations to contrast her reactions to different people and to show the difference between having a choice and not having a choice.)

As I read, I did hope at some point, she would tell her parents.  I couldn't help but read the book thinking, how would someone who has experienced date-rape and was still seeking justice read this book?  While the idea of a do-gooder secret organization bent on exacting justice is a wonderful escape and how much support Alex finds among her friends is heartwarming, the vast majority of readers who are dealing with experiences similar to Alex's don't have access to such an awesome semi-secret organization.  They don't have friends who figure it out after asking just a few questions and begin the steps of reaching out for help for their victimized friend.

I found myself just wishing for a moment at the end when Alex would call her parents and say,"Hi, this happened to me.  It sucked.  And with some help, I'm speaking up and moving beyond it."  Now (vague spoiler!) Alex does eventually talk to an adult who she trusts, which is awesome.  I just wanted a bit more of a typical experience interwoven with the super-awesome Mockingbird elements.  I wanted to see Alex trying to find the nerve and the words to tell someone who wasn't abnormally perceptive, who didn't instead tell Alex what had happened to her.  Does that make sense?

Now, since the book is already out in the world, my suggestion to teachers would be to include a list of phone numbers at the end of the book with helplines or of a location where a reader can seek help.  Best of all, a teacher should offer to discuss the content of the book with an interested student and be open to hearing about that student's own concerns.

But still, having lodged this critique, The Mockingbirds opens up a space to dialogue about rape and consensual relationships that may not otherwise be available to some readers.  It definitely is on the side of SPEAK-UP!-YOU-ARE-NOT-ALONE goodness.  I just wanted alternate practical ways of seeking help to be presented for those readers who have been in similar positions to Alex.

Dinner Conversation:

"As I yank up my socks, I notice a trash can teeming with Diet Coke cans.  Carter doesn't even recycle? Way to pick a winner, Alex.  Then I freeze, seeing something worse, far worse.  Two condom wrappers on top of his garbage, each one ripped down the middle, each one empty.
I close my eyes.  I must be seeing things.  It's the morning,it's hazy, the sun is far too bright.
But when I open my eyes the wrappers are still here, Carter's still here, I'm still here.  And nothing adds up the way I want it to" (p. 4).

"I see one more [flyer].
Join the Mockingbirds!  Stand up, sing out!  We're scouting new singers, so run, run, run on your way to our New Nine, where you can learn a simple trick...
Then there's a drawing of a bird on the corner, his watchful eye staring back at me.
It's code--all code--because the Mockingbirds aren't an a cappella singing group, as they pretend to be.  And the most definitely are not having auditions for singers.  No, the Mockingbirds are something much bigger and much quieter too, and it's tryout time for them, as it is at the start of every term.
The Mockingbirds are the law" (p. 14).

"I hear Casey's voice again.  "Alex, did you say yes?  Did you say yes when you had sex with Carter?  Either time?"
Yes, yes, yes.  No, no, no.
I don't know.
I don't know the things about last night that matter.  I don't know what words were said or not said" (p. 39).

"'You have options.  You can go to the police.'
I whip around.  "Are you joking?" I ask, but I don't wait for her to answer.  "Because I would never go to the police.  Not for something like this."
"Why not?" Casey asks.
"Because then Mom and Dad would know, and they'd have a collective meltdown that would burn a hole in the solar system.  Not to mention they wouldn't approve of that whole underage drinking thing.  And there's that little fact of my having to recount the whole experience to the cops, who would insist on a rape kit like on TV, and I can't imagine anything I'd want to do less than that."
"Then, what about the Mockingbirds?  They can help you" (p. 46).

"...'he told them that you were'--she pauses, collects herself--"begging for it."
I jump up.  "That's a lie!"
I won't let him have the last word.
I turn to T.S.  "Take me to the Mockingbirds" (p. 77).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

REVIEW: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever--Will you be in attendance?

Robinson, B.  (1972).  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  New York: HarperTrophy.

80 pages.

Appetizer:  The Herdmans are the worst kids in town.  They smoke cigars, cause trouble in their classes, lie steal and they burned down Mr. Shoemaker's toolhouse (which really worked for them, since they got to steal the police's doughnuts).

It's all Charlie's fault that they wound up involved in the Christmas Pageant though.  The six Herdman children attend church, for the first time ever, looking for extra snacks because of what Charlie said and they wound up auditioning for the pageant because they love movies.  The Herdmans intemidate (or take unwanted roles) and end up with all of the leads in the play.

The pageant may never be the same.

Yet another classic book I never managed to pick up when I was a kid.  (I also don't think I ever watched the made for TV movie.  Is that something I should try to hunt down on Netflix, FBDR?)  I actually don't think I'd ever heard of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  But one of my students reviewed it last quarter and it seemed fun enough that I wanted to pick it up for myself.  Little do my students know, I steal book ideas from them aaaaaall the time.  (Except I tell them that.  I'm horrible at keeping secrets.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is very fun.  It made me laugh several times and put me in the holiday spirit (which is what I was going for.  YAY!).  It's a fast read and would probably make a good pre-Christmas read aloud, for both kids who haven't heard the nativity story before and for those who are so familiar with it they have it memorized, zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I did have trouble turning off my teacher eyes as I was reading though.  The Herdmans' father abandoned them.  Their mother works two jobs (but turned down some welfare money because she'd rather work than spend time with her children).  The kids only pass their classes because the teachers don't want to deal with them for a second year (in which case, they'd also have a younger Herdman brother or sister to also deal with).  Reading all of that made me want to be the siblings' teacher (but possibly not all at once) and, I don't know, intimidate the shiz out of them or something.  No, probably a teacher would have to go a more mothering route...and be super vigilant so he or she wouldn't end up with a surprise clump of worms in his/her pockets or hair.  I'd try a number of different tactics....

You see what I mean!  I couldn't turn off the teacher perspective and just enjoy the book.  But it all ended up being okay, because those kids were super-curious about the story of Jesus, and helped their classmates and town to see the story in a new light.

As I was reading, there was some dated language and some dated gender roles, but I was very interested in the narrator.  Robinson uses an unnamed narrator to tell the story.  It reminded me of The Great Gatsby, in that both have a secondary character sharing the story.

Also, it was particularly fun reading this after having read about this experience with the nativity play over at Hyperbole and a Half.  Enjoy!

Dinner Conversation:

"The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.  They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker's old broken-down toohouse.
The toolhouse burned right down to the ground, and I think that surprised the Herdmans.  They set fire to things all the time, but that was the first time they managed to burn down a whole building" (p. 1).

"They were just so all-around awful you could hardly believe they were real:  Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys--six skinny, stringy-haired kids all alike except for being different sizes and having different black-and-blue places where they had clonked each other.
They lived over a garage at the bottom of Sproul Hill.  Nobody used the garage anymore, but the Herdmans used to bang the door up and down just as fast as they could and try to squash one another--that was their idea of a game.  Where other people had grass in their front yard, the Herdmans had rocks.  And where other people had hydrangea bushes, the Herdmans had poison ivy" (p. 4).

"Mother didn't expect to have anything to do with the Christmas pageant except to make me and my little brother Charlie be in it (we didn't want to) and to make my father go and see it (he didn't want to).
Every year he said the same thing--"I've seen the Christmas pageant."
"You haven't seen this year's Christmas pageant," Mother would tell him.  "Charlie is a shepherd this year."
"Charlie was a shepherd last year. go on and go.  I'm just going to put on my bathrobe and sit by the fire and relax.  There's never anything different about the Christmas pageant."
"There's something different this year," Mother said.
"Charlie is wearing your bathrobe" (pp. 15-16).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Just in case you were wondering, I totally scheduled this post in advance.  In the real world, I'm probably playing with new toys.  Or maybe still unwrapping gifties.  Or possibly still asleep.  Any of the three would be good.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Hush, Hush (The End!)

So, the below post is beeeeeeeeeeeeyond late, few but dear readers.  If I said one of us just didn't want to finish the book because we were so in love with it and with Patch would you believe me?


No, I didn't think so.

Well, on to our concluding thoughts of Hush, Hush.  Keep in mind, spoilers abound!  And also, whether you agree or disagree with what Monica and I have to say about the book, we'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Shel: I don't really understand how I'm supposed to feel about the scene in the women's restroom of the movie theater. Is this a knowledge dump? (*snort* dump in the bathroom.) or is this a romantic couple-y moment? Because the vital information is being given in such an off-hand manner and I'm not feeling the sexual tension....

Monica: I mostly just like how it played out all kidnappy. "Stand up and walk out of the theater," growls Patch. "No funny business, now -- don't make me hurt you!"

No lie, though, I did laugh when the guy sitting by Nora tried to bribe her with his soda, to shut her up. If only it was that easy....

Shel: Dabria disappeared way too easily. Obviously she'll pop up in later books, but still, disappointing.

Monica: What, the phrase "All taken care of" was too pat for you? ;) I was kind of bored of her, no lie, so I guess I don't really mind that we didn't get to see some sort of semi-epic battle between her and Patch, whilst he tore off her wings and she shrieked a lot. Yick.

Shel: And I quote: "I could smell the fear on my breath" (p. 357). How does that work? Is fear something that is sniffable in one's breath? Is this a common human experience? Have I just never been frightened enough to smell fear on my own breath? I'll admit, I'm not big on smelling my own breath, but...Monica, am I an abnormal human being or a normal one in this case?

Monica: Oh my God, I didn't even NOTICE that one! Thank you, thank you for pointing it out -- imagine if I hadn't gotten the opportunity to giggle at Nora once more, before the end.... I imagine that her senses are just SUPER AWESOME. After all, she can already tell that the hallways are radiating a hidden menace, and she can also control the weather so that perfectly-timed shafts of light from the moon keep illuminating key plot points. Smelling her own fear seems like it would be EASY, comparatively.

Shel: So, for the entire scene in which Nora is running around the school, being attacked/looking for Vee, I just kept thinking, "WHERE THE FRAK IS PATCH?" but I was also fully aware that he'd inexplicably show up at just the right moment to save Nora (cause us ladies can't save ourselves).

Monica: Nope! We can scream well, and occasionally run, and every once and a while summon up some tiny spark of rebellion, but apparently in the end we a) always need rescuing and b) always give in to the will of our strong, potentially abusive maybe-boyfriends. Good times.

Shel: When Nora is all, "I wish I had one more minute with Patch, another shared laugh (what laughs?!) on page 378, I couldn't help but want to add "another moment when I thought he was stalking me/trying to kill me. OR BEST OF ALL--BOTH!"

Monica: No laughs. Have they *ever* laughed together? Patch occasionally smiles, but it's always "pinched around the corners" or else it's a "fox smile." Not what I would want more of, to be honest.

But you're right! Perhaps she longs for more moments where she turns around and he's staring at her like a total creeper, or moments where he's forcing her to sleep in the same bed as him, or moments where her mind is screaming, "No, no, I don't like him" but her heart is saying "Well, maybe stalking is how he says he loves me?"

Shel: I know *I'd* want more of those moments. I'm having Twilight flashbacks. Once again we have a girl who thinks she'll save the ones she loves by hurting/killing herself.

Monica: "Gasp!" says Nora. "Jules is right! I am weak! I am easy! I shall sacrifice myself!" Sigh. Thank God, Patch is there to possess her body, just in time to save the day. Because then, you see, it's *like* she is defeating evil, only she doesn't have to do anything, and can use the strength of her creeptastic boyfriend(?) rather than her own.

And then, if that's not enough, one can always throw oneself off the rafters, apparently.....

Shel: Victory for the good guys! Also, it's official. If my guardian angel ever makes a move on me (assuming I *have* a guardian angel), I will fire him/it and sue him/it for sexual harassment. Inappropriate conduct in his/its work place.

Monica: It really makes you long for those foofy little cherubs, doesn't it? At least they probably won't watch you undress as per most of the guardian angels we've read about recently...

Shel: Or at the very least, cherubs are wearing little diapers and could be easily pantsed as I yell, "HOW DO YOU LIKE IT, JERK!"

Monica: I'm sorry, but at least Edward acted like he loved Bella. Do you get *any* sense that Patch cares about Nora, aside from the fact that he apparently didn't accept her Hurled Off The Rafters sacrifice? I get the cat toying with a mouse feeling, but not the omg our love is eternal type of one.

Monica: Okay Shel, admit it. What are your final thoughts? Me, I'm giving this a solid "Meh," coupled with "I'm so glad that this type of book wasn't around during my formative years, because I'm pretty sure my understanding of love, as well as my overall self-esteem, would have suffered."

Shel: No lie? I'm pretty 'meh' myself, coupled with confusion over how many people are going crazy over this series. I'm just not feeling that Patch is in any way sexy. I do think the author does a good job of creating an eerie gothic setting though.

And without further ado, Hush, Hush has been added to our stalker scale:

Monica and I may take a couple of weeks off before our next feast.  We both need to recover from all this stalker craziness.  Plus, I have dissertation related stress.  (So fun!)

Best wishes to you all.  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.  (Or don't feel free...feel required!)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

REVIEW: Matched by @allycondie: Your match banquet has been scheduled!

Condie, A.  (2010).  Matched.  New York:  Dutton Books.

366 pages.

Appetizer:  Set in the future after the world as we know it has ended, seventeen-year-old Cassia is celebrating her birthday AND her Match Banquet, when she'll learn the name of the boy she is to be matched with for the rest of her life.

Her Match is unusual because she is paired with one of her close friends, Xander, a rarity throughout the Society.  But then things get even stranger when she reviews the chip on her match at home and she sees another boy's face appear on the screen, another boy she knows.  But the other boy, Ky, is an Aberration, someone not allowed to be matched.  Has someone played a horrible trick on Cassia or could it be possible that the Society has made a mistake?

Cassia's world is highly regulated.  Their daily intake of nutrients are monitored, her and her family's dreams tracked.  Seventeen-year-olds are matched to produce the strongest children, the most likely to survive.  They are told when their lives must end (at 80, a reality Cassia's grandfather now faces).  Cancer has been wiped out.  There are almost no areas of wilderness left.  Everyone carries around three drug capsules:  The green to calm you, the blue to keep you healthy and the red...well, nobody knows what the red one does.  All for the Society's survival.  But what does it mean if the society has made a mistake in Cassia's Match?  What other mistakes could exist in their Society?

I first head talk of this book aaaaaaaall the way back in the summer.  And from the first mention of it, I've wanted to read this book (the beginning of a trilogy...that already has a movie deal.  Of course!).  And since then, I've had to read rave review after rave review.  Few but dear readers, it was soooo hard to be a good little patient reader.

As I started reading, Matched reminded me strongly of Lois Lowry's The Giver in terms of how regulated the dystopian world is and in terms of how the teens are given specific responsibilities as they age.  Except I feel like Ally Condie must have constantly been consuming sugar to express how cheerful and protected the society is.  Seriously, the cheerful exchanges early on in the book, when the world seemed to be a utopia, practically gave me a cavity.  I had to call The Dentist-Father to make an appointment.

Then, as I kept reading Matched I was reminded of 1984 (one of my all-time, forever and EVER favorite books).  I think it was the way that Ky and Cassia felt most comfortable talking in nature.  But I wasn't the only one to make the connection.  Someone on Twitter (I didn't pay attention to who, oopsie) tweeted something to the effect that Matched was the 1984 for people born after 1984.  Well said.

As I read, I couldn't help but think that the story really showed that Condie used to be a high school English teacher.  She incorporates a lot of excellent poetry into the story and who else but an English teacher would create characters who treasure being able to write in cursive?

The Society Condie has created is great and could start a lot of wonderful conversations in a classroom.  For example, nobody in the Society creates, they're forever restricted to the 100 poems, 100 songs 100 sculptures that were allowed to continue to exist.  I can just picture groups of students trying to pick the 100 poems to represent the human experience (And let's hope that many of those groups would come to the conclusion that more works of art are needed to share all of the human experience, emotions and world).

I have to say, despite all of the hype, I didn't find Matched to be the page-turner that I was expecting.  I found it to be more of a slow build of tensions as Cassia begins to doubt the perfection of her family, her match, the officials and the Society.  As she begins to question some of the rules and the realize that the people in the Society never fight for anything, I found myself wishing to know more of the consequences for misbehaving, to see the dark underbelly of the world, to have more of a sense of the danger.  But then, I do like my dystopians to be dark.

So, I tried looking at Matched as a romance first and a dystopian novel second.  It was interesting, because the tension for Cassia comes down to wanting to choose who to love and choosing between, Xander, the boy next door that she has always known and Ky, the more mysterious boy (who also happens to live just down the street) who has a dark and mysterious past.  (Does poor Xander even stand a chance?!)

I would  definitely recommend this book.  I think it's particularly fitting for middle grade readers who don't know what to pick after loving The Giver or for readers who are a bit weary of dark dystopian novels.

Dinner Conversation:

"I've waited so long for this:  for my Match Banquet.  Where I'll see, for the first time, the face of the boy who will be my Match.  It will be the first time I hear his name" (pp. 3-4).

"I watch and wait, determined that he girl my Match will see on the screen in his City Hall somewhere out there in Society will be poised and calm and lvoely, the very best image of Cassia Maria Reyes that I can present.
But nothing happens.
I stand and look at the screen, and, as the seconds go by, it is all I can do to stay still, all I can do to keep smiling.  Whispers start around me.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see my mother move her hand as if to take mine again, but then she pulls it back.
A girl in a green dress stands waiting, her heart pounding.  Me.
The screen is dark, and it stays dark.
That can only mean one thing" (pp. 13-14).

"I reach up to touch the words Courtship Guidelines on the screen but before I do Xander's face darkens and then disappears.  The postscreen beeps and the voice says again, "Cassia Reyes, the Society is pleased to present you with your Match."
My heart stops, and I can't believe what I see.  A face comes back into view on the port in front of me.
It is not Xander" (pp. 34-35).

"I try to pull my thoughts from the boy who is an Aberration.  I should be thinking about how wonderful it is that everything is back in order.  But instead I think about Ky--how sorry I feel for him, how I wish I didn't have to know this about him and could have gone on thinking he had chosen to be a Single.
"I don't need to remind you to keep the information about Ky Markham confidential, do I?" she asks mildly, but I hear the iron in her voice.  "The only reason I shared it with you was so that you could know without a doubt that he was never intended to be your Match."
"Of course.  I won't say anything to anyone" (p. 47).

"I wanted to know more about this boy who lives among us, but who never truly speaks.  More about what happened before.  I wanted to know more about my mistaken Match.  But now I feel like finding out about him is one of the ways I find out about myself.  I did not expect to love his words.  I did not expect to find myself in them.
Is falling in love with someone's story the same thing as falling in love with the person himself?" (p. 196).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!  (4.5 explanation points, if I could make a .5 explanation point.  A .?  !!!!.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

REVIEW: Spirits in the Park

Mebus, S.  (2009).  Gods of Manhattan:  Spirits in the Park.  New York:  Dutton Children's Books.

372 pages.

Appetizer:  Set one month after the events of Gods of Manhattan, the followers of the scheming Kieft are getting closer and closer to discovering Rory and his family.  Some power hungry gods and spirits are spreading propaganda about the Munsee Indian spirits trapped in Central Park.  Rory's sister, Bridget, is still using her super-strong paper-mache body to save lives in secret.  And (certainly not least) Manhattan has been struck by an earthquake as the trap restricting the Munsees for far too long upsets the balance on the island.

To make matters worse, Kieft's supporters have set loose Bill the Butcher and Typhoid Mary (excuse me, she likes to just be called Mary) to help sidetrack Rory and his friends from stopping them.  A band of gangsters is also posing as Munsees to try to make the spirits fear the release of the Native Americans (which draws attention to the powers of fear, propaganda and story to influence people). The heroes of the story are left wondering if reconciliation is possible.

As I started reading Spirits in the Park, it felt like it took a while for the actual quest/plot/goal of the story to emerge.  But by mid-book, the siblings were separated, with Rory on the search for answers from his father and with Bridget stuck in Central Park looking for information about the secret Kieft has hidden there.

Oh, and Central Park?  It turns out in the spirit realm it's this expansive Middle-Earth like land with a dangerous mountain that Bridget must journey to.  When I realized that, my reaction was pretty much Huh?  I wished that had been set up a little more.

While Spirits in the Park still incorporates small touches of humor and protagonists that, while they appear to be children, act and think like adults, it also digs deeper into the mythic realm of Mannahatta and explores the tensions between the colonist spirits and those of the Native Americans, I found myself preferring the plot of the first book.  I wanted this book to come back to the real New York City a little more.  But that's just me.

Also, I said this with the last book, Gods of Manhattan, but it should be repeated.  Bridget is awesome.  I love her.  She rocks.

That is all.  (Until I read and review the third book in this series, The Sorcerer's Secret.

Dinner Conversation:

"The city was hot, too hot, and had been for weeks now.  101, 102, 103:  the city was running a fever and no one seemed to know when it would break.  The asphalt sizzled under the burning sun, causing the thick, heavy air to shimmer above the sidewalks as if all of Manhattan were one huge mirage" (p. 3).

"Rory Hennessy stepped across the threshold into Central Park, half hoping that this time he would feel something as he passed through the barrier that kept the gods and spirits of Mannahatta out, and the Munsee Indians in.  He sighed.  Nothing.  He'd been sneaking away to the park almost every other day for the past month, but he never felt so much as a tingle as he crossed over.  For something so monumental, so overwhelmingly evil, he should at least get a zap or a shock or a tickle or something.  It just didn't seem right to feel nothing at all" (p. 9).

"And that was when the ground began to shake.
Rory fell backward, wrenching out of the grip of both Munsees as he fell to the ground.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two siblings stumble as well, reaching for the elm to steady themselves as the ground vibrated like the floor of a fun house.  Screams floated by from elsewhere in the park as the world continued to more.  A crack and a crash sounded behind him, but Rory didn't turn to look  He gritted his teeth and waited for the shaking to pass" (p. 24).

"Today's earthquake will not be the last natural disaster to assail us.  The island tries to throw off its shackles, and each attempt will be more violent than the last, until at last everything will lie in rubble at our feet" (p. 54).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

REVIEW: Gods of Manhattan

Mebus, S.  (2008).  Gods of Manhattan.  New York:  Puffin Books.

340 pages.

Appetizer:  When thirteen-year-old  Rory witnesses a magic trick at his little sister's ninth birthday party that can't be explained, he starts to realize that magic is real and that he has the special ability to see magic throughout New York City.

But when a sorcerer, the gods of the city (who are historical figures--Walt Whitman is the god of optimism!), the gods' children, the memory of the Munsee Native Americans who originally inhabited the city and other magical creatures learn that there is a boy with the power to see the many layers of reality, some will try to protect him while others will try to use him for their own purposes.

On top of all that, for the first time ever, someone has found a way to kill the gods as part of a way to grab power.  It falls to Rory and his sister Bridget to figure out who to trust and the best way to maintain balance within the city.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Gods of Manhattan.  At first I was a little suspicious because both Rory and Bridget didn't really feel very child-like to me.  Well, Bridget did feel young.  But no way her voice was that of a nine-year-old.  Plus, the book jumped point of view A LOT.  So, it didn't feel very middle grade or even YA.

But as I kept reading, I really started to like the story.  It reminded me of Harry Potter.  At one point Rory has to break into a bank to steal a magical object, at another point Bridget magically becomes the luckiest girl in the world (and the way her luck works manages to be even more amusing than when Harry takes the Felix Felicis potion in The Half-Blood Prince.

I liked Rory's reaction when he started to realize that magic existed in Manhattan:
He dives "back into the safety of his apartment, his room, his bed, his world--where everything was just as it was supposed to be" (p. 13).
I liked this because this is very similar to my reaction when I encounter something that upsets me:  Take a nap.  Works every time when I feel the need to avoid reality.

And whether like a nine-year-old or not, I absolutely loved Rory's little sister, Bridget.  She was a very fun character.  Intent on protecting her brother, she buys steel toed boots and imagines herself to be a heroine, Malibu Death Barbie.

I also like the way the story attempted to take on the historical mistreatments of the Munsee Indians.  In the spirit world of the story, Mannahatta, the Munsee spirits were trapped in Central Park by the gods of the city.  Throughout the story questions of guilt and reparations are addressed, which could trigger some very thoughtful discussions about American history and the modern implications.  (This aspect of the book has *totally* made it into Dudley the Dissertation.)

This series may not be for everyone.  But if a middle grade reader already waded their way through Rirodan's Percy Jackson epics, chances are good they'll be up to the challenge of taking on Scott Mebus's Manhattan and seeing some figures of New York's history as gods (which can also lead to a lot of googling about the founding of the city.  I know that's what I did.).

On to the second book, Spirits in the Park!

Dinner Conversation:

"Adriaen van der Donck raced over the Henry Hudson Bridge at the northern tip of Manhattan, urging his steaming horse to go faster as he made a break for the Bronx.  Maybe he'd be lucky.  Maybe his enemy had neglected to pick an assassin with the right kind of blood" (p. 3).

"Maybe he'd save his city, though he couldn't save himself.  The assassin sprang, and Adriaen van der Donck stepped forward to meet him, his final trick ready to be played" (p. 4).

"Rory Hennessy, thirteen years old and never fooled, leaned in closer to watch the magician at work.  There had never been a magic trick, or a sleight-of-hand maneuver, or any other so-called illusion, that had not been picked apart, seen through, or laid bare by the eagle eyes of the elder Hennessy.  He could always spy the magician slipping the twenty-dollar bill into the volunteer's pocket.  He unerringly knew where the five of spades was hidden.  He would point to the shell with the marble under it every time.  He couldn't really explain how he knew.  He just did.  Rory would look a magician in the eye and suddenly the performer would no longer be a mystical practitioner of wonder, he'd be a sad little man with a weird hat.  He'd start to stammer, his rabbit would fall out of his sleeve, and he'd press the wrong button and pour water all over his pants.  Rory didn't do it on purpose.  It was just his gift" (p. 5).

"There is a world all around you that most mortals cannot see.  We call it Mannahatta.  Some say it is the spirit world, while others believe it is the city itself dreaming, or rather remembering.  If something or someone was important enough, loved enough, feared enough, imagined enough, remembered enough, then it is reborn here in Mannahatta" (p. 59).

"But I'm giving you another option, a chance to take control of your destiny.  You can do what they're afraid you'll do--ruin all their plans--and then it will be too late for them.  You'll do a great service to our city and protect yourself forever at the same time" (p. 62).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

REVIEW: Anna and the French Kiss by @naturallysteph--I'm booking my flight to Paris now

Perkins, S.  (2010).  Anna and the French Kiss.  New York:  Dutton Books.

372 pages.

Appetizer:  In an effort to seem more worldly, Anna's nouveau rich dad decides to send her to boarding school in Paris for her senior year.  The problem is Anna can't decide if she wants to be there or not.  She doesn't know much French and is afraid to leave the school's campus.  She misses her little brother and her best friend.  Plus, the boy she'd had a crush on in Atlanta, Toph, had finally kissed her on her last day of work at the movie theater.  And now that she's in Paris, Anna is making new friends and may even be crushing on one of those friends, St. Clair.  But he has a girlfriend.  And plus another of their friends, Meredith, also has a crush on him.  And Anna is waiting to be with Toph, right?  No matter where Anna is, romance is proving to be complicated.

Anna and the French Kiss is the type of book in which the character's voice and the author's writing just welcomes you in and you can't find a reason to stop reading to do unnecessary things like watch movies, talk to family, work on your dissertation, eat or go to the bathroom.  Okay, I still took potty breaks.  But I didn't want to stop reading.

Stephanie Perkins does an excellent job of bringing realistic characters and the Parisian setting (or what I can remember of it--my experience of Paris is limited to four days of a European tour) to life.  It's a great fun romantic read.  I was very impressed by how realistic her characters and their emotions were.  So much of this story feel true.  Perkins captures the complicated dynamics of friendship amazingly well, the feelings of being frightened of a living in a foreign city even better.  This is a great escape for young adult readers who know nothing of Paris or for those who are francophiles.

Before I picked this book up, I had VERY high expectations.  It seems that everyone who has ever seen this book has fallen in love with it.  I'll admit, I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It will definitely be at the top of my list as a book recommendation to my students who say they love romance.  But it didn't capture me the way that some other contemporary YA romance books have in the past.  While I chuckled at many points, the story was a bit angsty for me.  Anna kept calling a certain someone beautiful.  And while Anna clung to the hope of a certain someone finally choosing to be with her, I probably would have written the guy off and declared myself "ooover him!"  (So, you can imagine that I found a couple passages in which Anna described being in love with this certain someone to be over the top.  But that's me.  I have, in my day, been accused of being heartless.  And by "in my day," I mean a couple of weeks ago.)

I thought Anna's struggles were relatable.  (I especially liked that she felt trepidation about actually speaking French with French people.  I'm like that too.)  But with all of the stunning reviews in the blogosphere, I had expected the book to have a little more quirk or twistiness to it.  I suppose this is one of those cases where my expectations were to high.  But that's me.  If you're reading this review, then maybe your expectations will be at just the right level to boil and you'll be able to fall in love with the book, no problem.  I, alone, will have to be stuck simmering in "friends with benefits" appreciation for Anna and the French Kiss.  There are much worse places to be.

Dinner Conversation:

"Here is everything I know about France:  Madeline and Amelie and Moulin Rouge.  The Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, although I have no idea what the function of either actually is.  Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, and a lot of kings named Louis.  I'm not sure what they did either, but I think it has something to do with the French Revolution, which has something to do with Bastille Day.  The art museum is called the Louvre and it's shaped like a pyramid and the Mona Lisa lives there along with the statue of the woman missing her arms.  And there are cafes or bistros or whatever they call them on every street corner.  And mimes.  The food is supposed to be good, and the people drink a lot of wine and smoke a lot of cigarettes.
I've heard they don't like Americans, and they don't like white sneakers" (p. 3).

"And then my mother does something that, even after all of the paperwork and plane tickets and presentations, I don't see coming.  Something that would've happened in a year anyway, once I left for college, but that no matter how many days or months or years I've yearned for it, I am still not prepared for when it actually happens.
My mother leaves.  I am alone" (p. 8).

"The beautiful boy gives an amused grin.  His teeth are lovely--straight on top and crooked on the bottom, with a touch of overbite.  I'm a sucker for smiles like this, due to my own lack of orthodontia.  I have a gap between my front teeth the size of a raisin.
"Etienne," he says.  "I live one floor up."
"I live here."  I point dumbly at my room while my mind whirs:  French name, English accent, American school.  Anna confused" (p. 16).

"I want to go home, but I have to admit I've enjoyed tonight.  And what if this is the only time in my entire life I visit Paris?  I know I just told St. Clair that I don't want to be here, but there's a part of me--a teeny, tiny part--that's curious.  If my father called tomorrow and ordered me home, I might be disappointed.  I still haven't seen the Mona Lisa.  Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Walked beneath the Arc de Triomphe.
So what else do I want?
I want to feel Toph's lips again.  I want him to wait.  But there's another part of me, a part I really, really hate, that knows even if we do make it, I'd still move away for college next year.  So I'd see him this Christmas and next summer, and then...would that be it?
And then there's the other thing.
The thing I'm trying to ignore.  The thing I shouldn't want, the thing I can't have.
And he's standing in front of me right now" (pp. 86-87).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

REVIEW: @dpeterfreund's Ascendant--Don't get gored

Peterfreund, D.  (2010).  Ascendant.  New York:  HarperTeen.

392 pages.

Appetizer:  About a month after the events of Rampant, Astrid, a self-described "celibate unicorn hunter living in a nunnery" (p. 29) and the rest of the Order of the Lioness are still at work in Italy, hunting down violent unicorns.  But, it soon becomes clear not all is well.  Cory seems to be losing her ability to sense and fight the unicorns.  Astrid's boyfriend, Giovanni, has to return to the United States to go back to college.  The Catholic church is trying to establish rules of conduct for the order members (including awful nun habit-like uniforms) and Neil and Cory are still looking for the guy who was hired to rape Phil.  The search for him will lead Astrid to France and to an opportunity to be free of killing unicorns if she's only try to contain a herd for testing to find the elusive remedy that can cure almost any illness.

I'll admit, I had a lot of trouble getting into Ascendant at first.  Since I'd read Rampant over a year ago, I could not keep most of the characters straight.  While Peterfreund did a good job of providing backstory into the events of Rampant, I felt like I was just expected to know who was who.  And that didn't work for me.

Shel + Remembering Names = BAD!!!!!!!

Eventually, as the story continued, I eased back in.  (Still don't quiz me on who did what in the previous book and how it connects to this one, because I won't be able to answer.)  The scene when the girls first tried on their new modified, camouflage uniforms was a big help:
"I'm wearing a camouflage habit."
"But a cute one," Phil pointed out.
All up and down the dorm hallway, I could hear the other hunters groaning as they tried on our new hunting uniforms.  The outfit consisted of thick, polyester, camouflage-patterned split skirts that fell all the way to our ankles, a long camo head scarf, and matching long-sleeved, high-necked jackets.  (p. 44)
I tried to find a picture to pair with this quote.  But it turns out googling, "camouflage nun habit" didn't churn up much in terms of camouflaged nun clothing.  I did wind up with images that could be analyzed as a paper on gender studies:

So I had to imagine for myself exactly how awful these outfits were:

Buffy would never put up with this!

I have to say, while Rampant was literally my favorite book of 2009, I'm less passionate about Ascendant.  I still loved Astrid and her dialogue with other characters, I enjoyed the questions over the morality of killing unicorns and over the ethics of animal testing.  Peterfreund's writing is still great and she does an amazing job of raising questions over large issues in a way that doesn't feel forced.

I just didn't like the trajectory of Astrid's journey.  She spent a lot of this novel alone, watching over a herd of unicorns.  While the plot was still interesting, I missed the battles of Rampant, I missed the dialogue exchanges that Astrid would have with other hunters.  *Vague spoiler*  Then, about three-quarters of the way through the novel *someone* is seriously injured.  I did not like that.  It wasn't as terrible as, say, the ending of Mockingjay which had be shouting "Seriously?  Seriously?!" as I finished the book, but stuff happened that I did not want to happen.

And I'm left wondering if there will be a third book.  Because while Ascendant does offer some resolution to some of the major conflicts in the series, there are still other questions left unresolved.

Dinner Conversation:

"The unicorn drew its last breath.  Within its chest, its heart shuddered and stopped.  Twenty yards away, I felt it die, and the world settled into normality.  Fire and flood ebbed, the tunnel widened, and my thoughts became my own" (p. 1).

"When I took a unicorn, it was more out of reflex than anything else.  The magic took over.  It was just me, my prey, and my weapon.  There was no discussion with the other hunters about whose "turn" it was.  Hesitation might result in one of us ending up dead.  A unicorn moved too fast for us to stop and think about how many kills we'd each gotten.  If I had a shot, I'd take it.  The alternative was a horn in the gut.
I knew that all too well" (p. 3).

"Dating Giovanni was my only taste of normalcy, the only part of me that remained tethered to my old life, the old Astrid.  Giovanni reminded me that hands could be used for holding people, not swords, and that my heart could pound when I wasn't in pursuit of prey.  He took me outside the Cloisters for art, not battle, and used my hunting knife to cut cheese.  Giovanni had helped to make me a warrior, but he knew that I was also a girl.  If he left, what would be left of me?" (p. 30).

"I wanted to take part in the search for the Remedy.  I wanted to fulfill my duty as a unicorn hunter, but I hated life at the Cloisters.  I hated being stuck there, polishing weapons and wearing habits and traveling around killing wild animals.  Here, I could protect people from the threat of killer unicorns without necessarily having to kill them.  It was win-win" (pp. 144-145).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Hush, Hush (Chapters 19-24)

Hey all! We're back, with our second-to-last installment of Hush, Hush, which, I have to tell you, Shel and I are just loving.


And by "loving," I mean we keep asking ourselves, "Is there a new way for us to express how creepy we find everyone? Or should we just not reiterate it, and try to bluff our way through the rest of the novel?"

Bluffing aside, however, our comments on chapters 19 - 24 are below. Feel free to jump in with comments of your own -- we may be the only people on earth who loathe this book, so definitely try to convince us otherwise if you're a fan. ;)

Shel: At first I felt like Nora got to the "Patch's scars match those of the fallen angel in that mural I saw that one time" place too quickly, but then I remembered being so annoyed that it took Bella sooooooo long to figure out Edward was a vampire in Twilight. How did you feel about it?

Monica: I... yes. I think it's okay. It was a *little* fast, but honestly, can you think of a way that she would have learned about it? At least Bella had websites and stuff; I think the likelihood of Nora being able to google "funny shoulder marks" and learn about fallen angels is a slimmer one. So murals it is!

Shel: Of course, she did still find the exactly right information on falling angels on the first website she visited.

Monica: ::: laughs ::: Her search engine must be epic, because when *I* type in "angel wing scars," my first five links are to tattoo websites, and the sixth is to a review of Hush, Hush. Once again, deus ex machina saves the daaaaay!

On the other hand, at least we're FINALLY getting somewhere with the angels. Were you getting as frustrated as me, Shel, waiting for them to pop up? It's the danger of having a fallen angel in both the cover and the tag line -- we have to wait to get into the action until Nora finally figures it out....

Shel: I know, I was excited to finally have a little angle action. Not that I think of angels as being action-oriented. This is what? The second book we've read about romantically inclined angels? I still have trouble viewing angels as sexual beasties.

On another tangent, Nora's trip to Portland turned tragic fast. On the plus side, Portland, Maine seems to be home to ladies with attitude. I'll have to keep that in mind if I ever travel there.

Monica: Looking to pick up your own tragically fallen angel? Who... will basically force you into the shower? Yick. I think I would have rather stayed in my soaking wet clothes, instead of going through the drama of Patch In The Dark. What do you think?

Shel: I don't know, Monica, when I face potential rapists/killers in a sleazy hotel room, I think the only way to do it is in undies and a camisole. Duh. Movies taught me that much.

Monica: Just don't kiss on the mouth! That way lies tragedy and Richard Gere!

Shel: Nothing says "sexy" like "when we first met, I was trying to kill you.

Monica: Ah, welcome to the world of paranormal romance. If the threat of death isn't ever present, the relationship has absolutely no chance of working out.

Okay kids -- let's get this over with. Our comments on chapters 25 onwards will be up on Wednesday. Read, read if you still have it in you! Perhaps the finale will redeem itself!?!?


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