Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Eternal (pp. 74-152)

Hey all! Welcome to the second update in our most recent Literary Feast -- Eternal, by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

As always, reader beware! There are spoilers below! ;)

Shel: Reading about Zachary eating egg rolls made me want some of my own. Why don't any of my local Chinese restaurants deliver? *Weeps*

Monica: See, I’m officially off food after having read that oh-so-delicious description of Miranda dipping pumpkin bread in the wannabe Slayer’s blood, fancy-restaurant style. Yick.

Shel: What's that now? I'd been blocking out that lovely image. But, it's interesting. There's still a lot of humor throughout this book, but because of the initial surprising dark turn (and the following dark spots) I can't seem to bring myself to laugh at any of the funny moments. Are you doing any better?

Monica: Oh, heck no. I mean yes, there are a few funny moments here and there, but you never know when it’s going to suddenly take a horrible, horrible turn for the worse. (“Why do they need tongues anyway,” anyone?) I’m definitely reading the entire book in a state of semi-terror, because I’m just *waiting* for Miranda to go all crazy and bite the face off a baby, or something. Maybe with Zachary in the picture, things will tone down / lighten up?

Shel: We can only hope. I do have a point of trepidation...maybe this will be revealed later, but why would Harrison let Zachary through knowing he'd had a stake. I don't understand!

Monica: THANK YOU FOR ASKING! I was so confused. Harrison’s just all, “Oh, stake. Aha. Not this time.” Maybe he assumes that anyone who doesn’t come armed is an idiot, but that doesn’t mean he’ll allow anyone to bring weapons in past the entryway? Maybe he’s just not all that dedicated to his job and doesn’t have the energy to throw stake-wielding people out of the house? Maybe – gasp! – he *wants* someone to assassinate Miranda? No, that makes no sense…. I’m going with not all that dedicated.

Shel: We shall seeeeeeee! Hmmm, Zachary handled seeing vampified-Miranda much better than I would have expected. I'd been envisioning double-takes, open-mouthed staring and stuttering.

Monica: He might still be hung over. I think a six-month bender takes a while to wear off.

Shel: Hahahaha! I really like that Zachary isn't afraid of her (not that he'd have reason to be). Vamps--excuse me--ETERNALS really do go on massive ego trips, no matter the story. It'd be nice to see more characters that put them back in their places.

Monica: I did have to laugh, though (for pretty much the first time so far) when Joshua materialized and had to almost physically restrain him from keeping the insults going. “No, Zachary. You are supposed to become besties with her. Not alienate her permanently.” Because let’s be honest, it would really stink if he got eaten this early on. I wonder what angel blood tastes like, PS? Or do you think he’s all human in the veins?

Shel: I think there's still a bit of angel in his veins. I bet angel blood would taste annoyingly sweet. It'd probably give a drinker a sugar-high. Mmmm, sugar. Well, I'm off to watch some old episodes of True Blood. Cause I can!

Monica: True Blood pah. Nothing beats Angel. ;)

Shel: Pah, if I want Joss at his best, I'll hit up Buffy.

Well, that's it for today, friends. Be sure to drop by on Saturday, when we'll be discussing the next section (pages 153-233). Can't wait to see what y'all think!

Monday, March 29, 2010

REVIEW: What I Wore to Save the World

What I Wore to Save the WorldWood, M.  (2009).  What I Wore to Save the World.  New York:  Berkley Jam.


276 Pages.

Appetizer:  It's been three months since the events of How I Found the Perfect Dress and Morgan and her friends and family have been struck by the (very annoying) college-stress-what's-your-future-freak-out stick.  Morgan has no idea what she wants to do, but a discussion with a strange councilor named Cornelius Phineas opens up the possibility that even though Morgan has been quite the slacker in the grades department, she still has a chance at studying Irish mythology at Oxford.

As Morgan entertains the possibility as a chance to bring her closer to non-boyfriend and love, Colin, she receives a cryptic message from him, asking her to fly to England NOW.  And, of course, she does.  She winds up in Wales and reunited with Colin, but must find a way to save the world while deciding whether to tell Colin the truth about who she is.

I don't think I could have read this book as a junior or senior in high school (and not just because it wasn't published yet).  As a teen who was freaking out about colleges and acceptance letters, I don't think I would have done well to read about a character in a similar situation.  No, that's not true.  I would not have wanted to read about a character who was a slacker in school, yet still had a magical option to attend Oxford, when I'd worked my bum-bum off and still had to deal with a rejection from my first choice public university that made me question my self-worth.  (Grade obsessed?  Who me?  Not so much anymore, I swear.)

Of course, the story eventually becomes less focused on Oxford as--you know--Morgan has to find a way to save the world.  But I just think I would have had trouble with that.

There is a positive to all this college talk though.  Morgan is quick to realize that choosing a college is about HER and what she wants for her life.  Since so many college-planning high schoolers have to deal with family pressures and expectations this discussion in the book can serve as a nice reminder of who should be the focus when choosing colleges.  (Of course, this lesson has the potential to be lost, since Morgan's choice is still so dependent on being close to Colin.  A fact I take issue with since the first book of the series was about her recovering from loosing herself in a guy in a previous relationship.  From my perspective, it started to feel like Morgan lost herself again.)

I also wanted to briefly go back to the covers:

Why I Let My Hair Grow OutHow I Found the Perfect DressWhat I Wore to Save the World

Overall, I do like them even though three different models represent one character.  I also like the blending of reality and fantasy by taking a photo and imposing fantasy elements on top of it.  But I do have one problem.  The hair.  In all three books, Morgan's hair ranges from shaved to a pixie cut.  Is it beyond the realm of possibility to have a model with short hair on the cover of a book?

Now that I've been more than a wee-bit critical.  Let me point out a very entertaining and positive aspect of this book:

There are cheerleading unicorns!

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien figure as minor characters.

Does that strike your fancy?

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious HowlingI've also found out that Maryrose Wood has started another series.  The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place is drawing comparisons to A Series of Unfortunate Events.  But this time around, the young characters were raised by wolves and the series itself will actually focus on the teenage girl who is helping to raise them.

Interesting, yes?

Dinner Conversation:

"And so, in the immortal words of Polonius--"
"In the words of Shakespeare, he means," Sarah hissed in my year.  "Polonius was fictional!  God, that ex-boyfriend of yours is such a dweeb--" (p. 1).

"My point is, it's not just about you."
"Mom, I hate to tell you this."
She started to say something else, then stopped.  "What?"
"My choosing a college?  My choosing a career?  Me choosing what I want to do with my life?"
"It is about me."
I liked the sound of that as soon as I'd said it, so I said it again.  "It's about me.  It really is."

"So what is it, then?"I was running out of patience.
"You're worried [Oxford]'ll be too expensive?  You're afraid I'll come back with a funny accent?  What?"
Dad shook his head.  Mom just hmmmed and mmmmed.
"They don't think you're smart enough to get in," Tammy said cheerfully.  "Can I have more bread?"
But then even Tammy shut up, so we could all inhale the pungent stink bomb of truth the kid had lobbed into the living area.
Major.  Awkward.  Silence" (p. 26).

"I wanted it all:  Oxford and the cute Irish boyfriend (okay, one of those things I actually wanted more than the other).  And I knew there must be some kind of half-goddess destiny in store for me.  But was I supposed to wait for it to show up and ring the doorbell?  Or was I supposed to go looking for it?
And how do you go looking for something when you don't know what it is?" (p.39).

"I stared at the envelope, not wanting to open it in front of my mother in case Tinker Bell flew out of it, trailing a stream of magic sparkle-dust" (p. 50).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Eternal (pp. 1-73)

EternalHi Cool Cats!  Welcome to our new literary feast.  This time around we're enjoying Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith and it looks like this book is going to dish out some surprises.

Our thoughts on the first 73 pages are below.  If you get a chance to pick up this book, we'd love to read your thoughts.

Also, keep in mind that there are spoilers for the book below.

ETERNAL (1-73)

Shel:  Monica, I was entertained from page one.  I have to admit, I've never given guardian angels much though.  I guess I always thought if they existed, they only show up in emergencies.  But now, I have creepy crawly skin.  Is one watching me while I type this?  *glances around*  While I sleep?

Monica:  Oh my word, DITTO on the terrifying fears of guardian angels watching my every move.  I think it wouldn't have been so bad, if they didn't immediately pull out the whole, "that one blessed weekend" where "she spent a full day in bed buck naked."  Zachary, that is creepy as anything.  Not only is she your guardian angel charge, but you've known her literally since she was born!  You have watched her every moment of her life, from infancy to now!  That not just stalkerish, that's... well, I was about to say incesty, but I think that's too harsh a term.  Definitely stalkerish though.

Shel:  It is icky, Twilight falling-in-love-with-a-baby-let-me-watch-you-sleep-without-permission stalker level.  We need a flashing red stalker warning to go with our posts.

Shel: Let's go in a less creepy do you feel about the shifting point of views?

Monica:  I like it, although I have to tell you -- my OCD is not having an easy time coping with the fact that sometimes a character's point of view repeats (like, a Miranda chapter and then another Miranda chapter).  I sort of feel like if they were going to do a back-and-forth, it should... stay back and forth.  Know what I mean?

Shel: I completely understand.  As I was reading, I found a trouble point as well.  I wish the story would have hinted about vampires existing sooner.  I would have liked that touch of world building from page one.

Monica:  Oh definitely.  Shifters too -- although I don't know if they'll play a particularly big role in this book.

Shel: Okay, I'm starting to get True Blood/Southern Vampire Mystery series flashes.  Am I alone in this?

Monica:  Why sugarplum, I have no ideah what you're talking about!

Shel: Hmm, this story has taken a dark turn.  I'd expected Miranda to remain human much longer.  Since I was so certain of that expectation, the reality feels a little disappointing.

Monica:  I'm not going to lie -- this book has completely thrown me for a loop.  I was thinking the whole vampire (I mean, eternal) thing would be more... romanticized.  And instead, there she is, snapping waiters' necks against a wall so she can get a better angle on the vein, and waxing eloquent on the visual effects of dropping people into fountains of holy water.  Yick.

Shel:  I guess it's a good contrast to some of the other paranormal romances out there....

Monica:  So, is it just me, or is Father getting increasingly creepified?

Shel:  Way creepified!  Normally I'd want Miranda to stand up and kick vampy-ass right about now.  But as the case may be, I guess I'm going to have to hope the stalker guardian angel starts stalking again.

Well, we'll have to see where Eternal takes us on Wednesday.  Then we'll discuss pages 74-152.  Hope to see you then.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Confess...

Other bloggers have typed about this, so I know the sides that other readers have taken and I know that I'm about to speak for the minority's perspective.

I read the end of a book before I finish the story.  And I love doing it.

Alcatraz Versus The Evil LibrariansMy people are often discriminated against for doing this.  By other readers.  Even by books.  At the end of Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (which has a false ending, for those of you who read ahead like me) Alcatraz writes that people like me are undeserving of a party, that we reach the last page in the Smedry Un-approved way.

Well, I think it's our choice to read the endings of books.  People like me get to enjoy texts in a different way.

In fact, if I don't skip ahead to see how a book ends, it means something is wrong:  Namely, that I hate the stupid book.

EternalIt's often the case that the more I'm enjoying the beginning of a book, the sooner I'll read the ending to find out how it ends.  It would actually be a great indicator of my interest level in my book reviews just to report when I turned to read each book's ending.  For example, with all the books in the Harry Potter series, I flipped to read the ending after going through the first paragraph.  With Eternal (HINT--this will be our next literary discussion, in case you want to join) I turned to the end around page seven.  Which is pretty good.

I've tried to think about why I do this.  It's not the fear of dying without knowing how the book ends, as Billy Crystal articulated when he played Harry in When Harry Met Sally.  Although there is comfort in knowing how things end.  It helps me to relax and enjoy the journey of getting to that ending point.  (And yes, that does mean that I could live life quite happily knowing when and how I will someday die.  And no, that is not an invite for very specific murder threats or suicide pacts.)

The same is true for the way I write as well.  When I start a story, I begin with the beginning.  Then I write the ending.  Lastly, I'm left to deal with connecting the points with the difficult middle.

I guess this is just the way my mind works.  How about you, my few but dear readers?  Will any of step forward and admit in the comments that you too read ahead?  Pretty please.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

REVIEW: How I Found the Perfect Dress

How I Found the Perfect DressWood, M.  (2008).  How I Found the Perfect Dress.  New York:  Berkley Jam.


231 pages.

Appetizer:  It's winter and several months after Morgan's bike trip across Ireland (See Why I Let My Hair Grow Out for that particular adventure).  She and Colin still email one another, but Colin's notes are arriving less and less often.  That is of course, until an email reporting that he'll be visiting Morgan in a few weeks arrives. But his arrival is not exactly the ideal reunion, because Colin spends each night being whisked away to dance at fairy balls against his will.  Morgan must find a way to save Colin from his perpetual exhaustion.  But to do that, she'll have to figure out if leprechauns and gnomes really exist and find a date and a dress for the junior prom.

I found that I really liked Morgan's voice as she narrated.  It is consistent with Why I Let My Hair Grow Out, but for some reason, I found her to be funnier in this novel.  While I was amused with the first book, this one actually made me chuckle a few times.

While present in the first book, How I Found the Perfect Dress explores the way femininity is presented more extensively.  Morgan is still dealing with the fact that she is part goddess.  Her little sister is obsessed with Disney princesses.  Her best friend is a witch--excuse me--a 'wich basketball player.  Plus, a less than happy Morgan finds herself dressed as a princess with glass slippers and all.

This book also reflects the current economic climate.  Morgan's father has been laid off from his job at a bank and isn't having any luck in finding a new job.

I enjoyed How I Found the Perfect Dress.  I still find that I have an unanswered question or two.  For starters, how exactly is Morgan the daughter of a Fairy Queen when her supposed father is dead centuries ago and she has two mortal parents?  I don't get it.  Perhaps the answer will be in the third book in Morgan's series, What I Wore to Save the World (to be reviewed in the not so distant future).

Dinner Conversation:

"Tinker bell pajamas!" My sister Tammy was the happiest girl in the world.  "Look, Morgan! Look what Santa brung me!"
"That's 'brought,' Tammy.  Look what Santa brought me."
Even on four hours' sleep, my mom could hear bad grammar coming a mile away.  It was Christmas morning, six a.m. Mom was catatonic on the sofa in her bathrobe, dark circles under her eyes, mumbling about verbs.  I was in a similarly groggy condition, except I was on the floor and couldn't care less about verbs.  My dad was in the kitchen, making coffee with the desperation of a bomb-squad guy dismantling a detonator that was already ticking:  five-four-three-two-
"Snow White!" Tammy shrieked" (p. 1).

"True.  I loved Lamb Chop as a kid.
"Exactly!"  Mom would not be stopped.  "Lamb Chop was age-appropriate.  It wasn't a show about a giggly princess whose goal in life is to twirl around in a flowy pink dress, waiting for some muscle-bound princes to show up."
No, I though, it was a show about a middle-aged woman who kept a sock on her hand for company" (p. 6).

"Was this a good time to tell the junior prom planning committee that I was part goddess?  How might that news go over?  I helped myself to a Cheez Doodle.
Cheez Doodle, Snack of the Goddess.  That idea made me crack up.  Sarah must've thought I was have a breakdown" (p. 12-13).

"The way Dad explained it to me, the whole original purpose of driver's ed was to make new drivers safer. Then someone figured out that the way to make new drivers safer is to make them older, since eighteen year olds have far fewer accidents than sixteen and seventeen year olds.  So the school canceled the classes in the hopes that sixteen and seventeen year olds would continue to take the bus and nag their parents for rides until senior year, at least.
Follow the logic, if you dare:  There's no driver's ed in my high school anymore, because the whole original purpose of driver's ed can best be achieved by not having it.  Proof that logic does not always make sense" (p. 23).

To Go with the Meal:

This is a humorous and (more than a little) absurd novel can be a fun recommendation, especially for teens that can relate to having a long distance relationship, running into a dreaded ex, listening to their parents fighting or being described as a princess or half-goddess (happened to me aaaaaaaall the time!  Truth.).

In terms of discussion of themes, a teacher could focus on the way logic, subversiveness and femininity are presented.

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Fat Cat (pp. 251 to the end!)

Fat CatWell, it's been quite the meal!  The final course of our discussion of Fat Cat is below.  

Shel:  Finally an answer to the Cat-Matt grudge!  And it was close to what I expected, but also not quite as bad as I expected.

Monica:  I am a little disappointed.  On the one hand, I can definitely relate to a classmate saying something horrible which proceeds to destroy your feelings of self-worth, to drive you out of your grade school and to haunt you for years after the fact, but in this case… I was hoping for something more than the wretched complacency of middle-school boys.  (That’s not to say it doesn’t work in the context of the story – I can tooootally imagine Cat reacting exactly the way she does.)

Shel:  Yeah, my nightmare scenario was that he was speaking to a science fair judge, trying to get her disqualified from winning.  Of course, that wouldn't address the way he perceived Cat's body.  But it would have been a truly jerky move.

 Shel:  Moving on, what do you think of all this "imprinting" talk.  Instead of my mind going to cute little ducklings, I keep having creepy Breaking Dawn flashbacks too Jacob falling in love with a baby.  *twitch*

Monica:  Aah!  AAH!  I *had* been thinking of ducklings, dragons of Pern, and of that Bruce Coville book where he hatches an alligator (that was Bruce Coville, wasn’t it?) and other adorable things, and now I’m trapped in Breaking Dawn.  Glaaah.  That part, where he chews open her stomach to get the baby out?  Chews with his *teeth*!?  Yick.

Shel: But despite the Twilight trips, I like the language on page 313:  "The heart is a muscle, too.  And I've been training mine since I was a kid to fall in love with one particular person."  Aww.

Monica:  And that person… is Johnny Depp.  Johnny!  Call me!

Shel: Poor Matt, wait until he decides to get his advanced degree in the sciences and learns how political research is.  Me thinks the boy needs a back-up plan.

Monica:  Shh.  He’s still young and idealistic.  Don’t ruin it for him!  Seriously, though, were you surprised that no one won at all?  *I* was surprised that no one won at all.  Although I suppose when you get right down to it, Cat’s research was sort of all over the place.  (Gotta give her props, though.  I’m impressed she managed to work “Dressing up all hot and going to a dance and making out with a sexy dashing genius man of mystery” into the project with a straight face.)

Shel:  So, how you feeling?  Ready to suffer through our own experiment based off of an ancient civilization?  I claim walking like an Egyptian everywhere!

Monica:  I’ll be right here, photographing you as you go…  ;)

Shel:  As long as you design an Amanda-worthy poster to share the pictures.

Monica:  Now Shel, let me know overall – did you like the book?  Thumbs up or down, gladiator style?  I ended up being fairly fond of it; it was like fluff and teenage angst wrapped in a delicious vegan pastry with honey drizzled on top!

Shel:  I'm going to go thumb up.  I was definitely amused (which is what I was hoping for).  Plus, it made me think about my own eating habits, for better or worse.

EternalHow about you dear readers?  Thumb up or thumb down?  If you have something to say about it, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

We'll being diving right into our next literary discussion on Saturday, when we'll be picking up Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith.  

From what I've read so far, I'd describe Eternal as the story of a guardian angel named Zachary who is in love with the girl, Miranda, he is guarding.  But Miranda is going to keep her angel super busy since, she is about to meet her first vampires.

To learn more about the author, you can check out her blog, here.

Cynthia is on the children's creative writing staff at Vermont College (I actually considered going there, but the acceptance letter came a week after I'd already moved to Pittsburgh to attend Chatham).

So, join us on Saturday when Monica and I discuss the first 73 pages of Eternal.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Fat Cat (pp. 167-250)

Fat CatWelcome back, readers!  Monica and I our still enjoying our Fat Cat feast.  Our discussion is below, but keep in mind, there will be some spoilers below.  Also, keep in mind that we'd love to hear your voices and opinions as our discussion continues.

Shel:  Where's my local vegetarian cafe that also does weekly poetry readings?

Monica:  Remember, it’s a sucky local vegetarian café, and in order to properly enjoy it we’d need to have a ridiculously talented and kind best friend who not only is supportive in everything we do, but also rocks out verses about inanimate objects.  I’m pretty sure we’d need that last part to enjoy ourselves as much as Cat does.

 Shel:  I still wants it...ah, of course, we have come to the dance night transformation from uncaring nerd into a head turning beauty.  Did we suddenly switch over to a teen movie?

Monica:  Yes.  Yes we did.  But remember, it’s okay, because Amanda hooked her up with the dress!  Amanda can do anything!  Really, though, I’m kind of shocked with her behavior with Nick.  I’m all for the girl getting ravaged, but doesn’t it seem to be awfully wham-bam considering that prior to this the only person she’d kissed was scummy whats-his-face?

Shel:  Ah-ha, ah-ha.  So, tell me, what do you REALLY think of Nick?

Monica:  I’m so torn about him.  I mean, I love him love him love him, but he is one of the first characters so far who seems just *incredibly* unrealistic.  (I’m ignoring Amanda, because as I mentioned last post, she has already been relegated to My Future Bestie.  She is way too perfect, but I’m okay with it.)  Anyway, Nick – He’s a genius, but he’s a super-hot player, but he tosses women to the curb as soon as school starts up again, and he recognizes that he and Catare nothing but lust bunnies and he’s completely okay with not pursuing her, and he’s… seventeen?  I realize that Prince  Harry was probably like this, but given that we’re in a Miscellaneous Suburb in America, he seems too improbable.

Shel:  I agree.  But he does amuse me.  I suppose it's good that Brande is going through different types of relationships.  First we have the pressured boy that she doesn't really like.  Now we have the lust without love.  I'm starting to feel like I'm being hit over the head a little (in terms of relationships and eating habits).  Luckily, I have a hard head, cause I also don't want to stop reading.

Monica:  I’ve decided not to think too hard about any of it, and just enjoy the ride.  If I focus on this apparent town full of genius-level, vegetarian, dieting, published-at-seventeen, witty, athletic, suave high school students, I’m going to end up with a major complex.

 Shel:  Haha, well put.

Tune in next Tuesday for our conversation of the end of the book.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

REVIEW: The 39 Clues (Book Five)

The 39 Clues Book 5: The Black CircleCarman, P.  (2009).  The 39 Clues:  The black circle.  New York:  Scholastic Inc.


168 Pages.

Appetizer:  Amy and Dan wake to discover they've received a telegram that resumes their hunt for the clues and sends them to the Cairo Airport and on to Russia where they'll uncover secrets related to Rasputin, Anastasia, the Lucian branch.

This time around, the siblings are given planted clues, disguises and money from an unknown ally, called NRR.  Cautioned that they may be heading for a trap, Amy and Dan follow the unusual clues and form an alliance with Hamilton Holt.  This turn was a bit surprising to me.  Mostly because, in the previous books, Reagan Holt was the only member of the Holt family that seemed sympathetic.  So, I had a difficult time liking the Holts.  Part of this could be because I'm still not over the booger flicking scene in the previous book.  Cringe and ick.  Ick and cringe.

There were a few moments were I also had trouble suspending disbelief with this addition to the series.  Amy and Dan are given disguises early on in this book that allow them to pass for adults.  I had a little trouble believing that.  Mainly with Dan.  His disguise involved a goatee.  And in my mind, the result of an eleven year old wandering around with a goatee is ridiculous, not believable.

Ghost In The Machine (Skeleton Creek)Skeleton CreekSo, I'm betting Patrick Carman has been a busy, busy guy these last few years.  Not only did his addition to the 39 Clues come out in 2009, but he also had The Skeleton Creek series come out last year too.  It just so happens, that series is also a multi-media literature series as well, with every few chapters being paired with a video for viewers to follow another point of view of the ghost story.

Dinner Conversation:

"Amy Cahill liked to be the first one up in the morning.  But not if it was because someone was screaming outside her hotel-room door" (p. 1).

"Most of the time, Dan Cahill would rather show up to school in his underwear than get involved in his sister's love life.  But this was different" (p. 10).

"She watched as he looked at it, his attention riveted on the black-and-white image of a couple, young and clearly in love, standing in front of the American embassy in Russia.
"It's really them, isn't it?" asked Dan.
"You bet it is," Amy answered.
In Paris, Dan had lost his only picture of their parents and Amy knew what having a new one meant to him.  But it had also sent them both into a tailspin.
Mom, Dad, what were you doing in Russia?" (pp. 20-21).

"That's the best story you've told me in your whole life," said Dan.  "I don't even care if it's true or not."
"Dan, I think it is true.  We of all people should believe it, even if history buffs don't buy it.  Rasputin was a Cahill!  Maybe we're even from the same branch of the family!"
"Like we could be superheroes!?!" Dan's eyes bugged out."

"Does he always talk that way?"  NRR asked Amy, clearly amused.
"He does.  It's a problem."
"He'll grow out of it."
Dan's head swiveled back and forth.  They had formed some sort of girl alliance!" (p. 137).

To Go with the Meal:

A teacher could capitalize on this book and share some of the history of Russia and the USSR.  Also, I'd argue that it might even be necessary to show students an image of The Motherland Calls statue.  There's a whole scene that involves the giant monument and it's very hard to visualize if you don't know what it looks like.  But why stop there?  A teacher could provide images on a lot of other Russian and Siberian landmarks as well.

A teacher can also go into the history about Levin and the Russian Revolution.  (Although, it's also worth noting, the book pretty much avoids mentioning the change over to communism completely.  Intentional?  I don't know.)

I think kids would also love to focus in on the legends and truths about Rasputin and Anastasia.  When I was in ninth grade, I went through a long phrase where I tried to find out everything I could about Anastasia and I know I'm not alone.  So, this book could be a jumping off point for other kids to do the same.

A more science-y topic would be to discuss hemophilia.  It could lead to a lesson about blood.  Or a teacher could also focus on the materials and elements that make up the clues that the Cahills are searching for.

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Literary Feast: Fat Cat (ch.21-43)

Friends! Romans! Countrymen! It's time for the second installment of Fat Cat, my current favorite book ever to include both dating and dieting and science geeks!

Shel and I will chat for a while -- but jump right in on the comments section, if you have thoughts of your own!

Ready? Onward!

Monica: I have decided, Shel, that we need to start cooking. The next time I come over, can we create a little living-room café with homemade menus and food with honey drizzled on it? Every description I read is making me drool like one of Pavlov’s dogs....

Shel: Let's do it! I'm all about it. I've already begun with the cooking. I tried roasted asparagus, from a recipe on a blog and it was delicious. Then, I kinda-sorta-accidentally tweeted about my experiment and Fat Cat author, Robin Brande, saw. So she recommended roasting cut-up potatoes in water with salt and pepper on top. We have to try that. ROBIN RECOMMENDS!

Monica: I would not trust your food choices as far as I could throw you, but if Robin recommends something, I'm all over it! Off to find potatoes!

Shel: Getting away from the food and turning to the exercise, I'm excited Cat swam butterfly. I liked her before, but now she's going to have to be my literary buddy. FLYERS are the toughest!

Monica: You are nuts. Cat is nuts. Butterfly is nuts. I am only able to swim breaststroke, and even then I’m one of those slow people who swims two inches and has to stop to push hair out of her face and take huge gulps of air.

Shel: We'll have to invest in a swim cap for you. Then at least you'll look hardcore. So, back to the book, what do you think of Greg? I am not a fan. Their date is so awkward. But I'm glad the author is exploring that relationship based on peer pressure and "hey, a guy actually likes me. Guess, I'll date him." I had one of those in high school.

Monica: Greg is so, so scummy. SO SCUMMY. How can anyone think Cat dating him is a good idea? During the “So, I hear you’re really smart, maybe you can do my homework, ha ha just kidding, but no, really, do my science assignment” I thought I was going to die of horror. I do definitely agree with the peer pressure relationship being accurately reflected, though. Nothing worse than thinking if you don’t date this guy, you may never date in high school, ever.

Shel: I'm also finding Cat's relationship with Amanda interesting. I feel like Amanda is both a source for support and pressure. And that she's taking on the role of Mom to Cat more than most friends would.

Monica: Amanda, if she were a robot, would be a walking talking example of Deus ex machina. Seriously, could anyone be more perfect? To be honest, though, I’m impressed with Cat. I’m too shallow to be able to have a friend who is pretty, smart, in the most wonderful relationship ever with someone who is also pretty and smart, *and* who is completely modest and unassuming. I’d want to beat her with a frying pan just to make myself feel better. And that, friends, is violence, and violence is never a good idea.

Shel: *Wipes brow* I'm so glad I'm not a perfect person. Otherwise, I'd have to fear you a little. (Monica: Psh -- you transcend my petty jealousy through your sheer awesomeness.) Seriously though. This book is making me feel guilty for wanting to eat my potato chips. I am a snack type person who can barely boil water. I can't live like Cat.

Monica: Not gonna lie – As I was reading the part about her making whole grain bread and whatnot… I was eating ramen. Oh, the shame! But it is so delicious and sodium-ish! Really, though, I do have to keep tamping down vegetarian desires. I know you’re one, Shel, and I obviously was one for more than a decade, and good Lord but this book is making me think I should become one again.

Then, of course, I come to my senses.

Bacon. Yum.

Shel: Monica, the facon is calling to you! Join team veggie! Mmmm, facon.

Shel: I don't understand why Cat doesn't get this. MATT LIKES YOU! Figure it out soon, kay?

Monica: Girl please. We have half a book left. If she figures it out too quickly, all my drama will be ruined! CAT! STAY OBLIVIOUS!! It’s much more conducive to the plot, after all.

That's all for today, friends -- we can't wait to hear your thoughts on this section, so post away! Next up will be chapters 44-65, which we'll be discussing on Friday. So in the meantime, enjoy the book, and practice your butter-free sugar-free guilt-free cooking!


Related Posts with Thumbnails