Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Heist Society (Chapters 20-28)

Hello again, Campers.  Those of you actually keeping track of things may notice that this post is a day late.  For that, I apologize.  Would you believe I get the days of the week confused?

Any-hoo, let's dive in!

Heist SocietyShel:  I like that Kat is being more sneaky.  It entertains me.  It's strange, but I suppose I'm pro-having her father arrested.  And I think there's a potential love match with the Interpol lady.

Monica:  Seriously, when he got hauled off, I was cheering.  I felt sort of bad, because aww, her poor father… but at the same time, whoa.  How many kids would be ballsy enough to have their father thrown in jail?  That’s like the ultimate teenage coup!  (I’d be grounded for always and eternity afterwards, of course, but obviously she’s not that worried.)

Shel:  I'm also liking the potential love triangle.  It makes me happy.  But how much do you want to bet that Nick is either going to betray Kat or is going to turn out to be Visily Romani?

Monica:  He’s too smarmy to be Visily Romani, I think… and you’d also have to hope that The Greatest Thief Evah OMG wouldn’t be able to have his pockets picked by some cute girl off the street.  

Shel:  Good point!

Monica:  HOWEVER!  I am 100% pro him being a betrayer.  It’s kind of obligatory, since he’s a) not the guy she’s supposed to end up with, b) not part of the Family, c) too smart for his own good and d) kind of oozing betrayal all over the place. 

Then again, this book has been keeping me somewhat on my toes, so I guess there’s a chance the two of them could elope and live happily ever after?

Shel:  None of this eloping business.  I'm fine with a stolen kiss in an air duct over a forged painting.  

Monica:  And then they fall through the grate, and the alarm goes off, and they get locked in jail, and have to communicate with each other via passenger pigeon, but their love never dies!!!  Best plan ever.

Shel:  Kay, so the narration keeps calling characters "children" or "boy."  See, when I think of the word "children" it calls to mind wee itsy-bitsy seven-year-olds.  So, when the teenage thieves are mixed among the "children" like on pages 185-186, it creates some very confusing images.  Can we please call teens "teens"?  For the benefit of my brain and it not sputtering at crazy images?

Monica:  I’d noticed it too.  I was playing around with the idea that “children,” etc. are supposed to represent the way that most people are seeing them – whereas us, who are reading the book, are seeing them pretty much like they’re adults.  (Like what Kat says, about how she knows that she’s just as good a thief as anyone older than her, except her body is better suited to crawling through small air ducts.)  Except… that only sort of works….  Yeah.  I’m down with using “teens.”  Shall we suggest it to the author?

Shel:  So, I'm pretty amused with the night of tangoing and morning of explosives and smoke.  Some funny mental images!  Oh, Gabrielle, Marcus and...those...other two.  "Excuse me, miss, but the young gentlemen say that you cannot get smoke without the boom, and they would like your advice on how to proceed" (p. 212).  You all amuse me.

Monica:  Don’t they remind you of the two brothers in Gone in 60 Seconds?  The ones you see at the beginning of the movie racing cars?  (I’m having serious trouble with this book because of the way it keeps linking up with films in my brain.  People being sneaky and pickpockety?  Elaborate plan to rob secure building?  Obviously it’s like Ocean’s Eleven!  Or The Sting!  Or maybe National Treasure!)

Shel:  It's fun that we're having this problem.  Cause apparently the powers that be want to turn this book into a movie (which begs the question of how original will the movie be if the book keeps giving us movie flashbacks?).

Monica:  Really?  I mean, that’s awesome for the author, because heaven knows it’s a nice source of revenue, but… boo.  I’m enjoying this book, and I so rarely enjoy books after they’ve been made into somewhat regrettable movies.  Although on the upside, I think the sort of nebulous evil Tarturro is supposed to be emanating might translate better on screen.  I’m *still* not all that impressed with him as a bad guy….

OH!  And Spy Kids!  We forgot about Spy Kids

Shel:  Aww, I like the Gabrielle-Kat bonding.  I still think "He's a count.  I think.  Or maybe a duke....which one's better?" is one of my favorite lines in the book.  P.S.  which one is better?

Monica:  Marquis, obviously.  The spelling is more fun, it has links to Puss in Boots and Neverwhere, and it can’t double as a verb (which let’s face it, can sometimes get confusing).

Shel:  But I'll have trouble remembering how to spell Marquis.

Monica:  Where are the *rest* of the adults?  Are there just one or two miscellaneous uncles, and Kat’s dad?  Do none of these people have visible maternal figures!?  (Or is that not one of the questions we’re supposed to ask?)

Shel:  I think after a certain age all the lady thieves must die off.  That or disappear.  I'm betting at some point the death of Kat's mom is going to be raised (Book Two, anyone?) that or she'll have been wandering around all this time (Alias, anyone?).  Technically, Gabrielle's mom is off somewhere engaged to a duke/count/marquis.

Monica:  Also, no lie, I’d even like more back story on Hale and Kat’s early relationship.  But then, I’m just a sucker for people being cute and adorable.  Nick had better step it up, or Hale might not get jealous enough to try anything!

Shel:  I'm with you there.  For a moment, at the start of the chapter where Kat is suddenly in the garden, I thought it was going to be a flashback.

Monica: Oh well.  There’s still time – we’ve got one more section left!!

One section it is!  For Saturday (notice how much time I've given myself there.  This is all in the hope that I won't be late with the post, but we shall see!), we'll be finishing up the rest of Heist Society.  In the mean time, feel free to let us know how you're enjoying the book.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

REVIEW: Warriors in the Crossfire

Okay, so normally I'd do a 3-day post on Warriors in the Crossfire like a good little blogger.

But it would seem for this round of the blog tour I will only be posting one day.

It'd be easy to say I've been busy.

But I haven't been.  Not really.  I've been avoiding work and wouldn't blogging be the perfect avoidance?

I think so.

But I haven't been blogging.

I've been distracted.

By Netflix Instant View.

Why must they have entire seasons of some of my favorite shows?

But, I've turned off the TV now and finished Warriors in the Crossfire.  So, let's get the review!

Warriors in the CrossfireFlood, N.B.  (2010).  Warriors in the Crossfire.  Honesdale, PA:  Front Street.


141 Pages.

Appetizer:  Joseph, his family and his tribe live on the island of Saipan in 1944.  The island has already been under the control of the Japanese for the duration of the war, and many of the tribe's freedoms stripped away.  As the American forces grow close, the Japanese military's presence also increases, taking the last vestiges of freedom and replacing it with the certainty that the island will be bombed.

When Joseph's father is forced to leave to do manual labor for the Japanese, it falls to Joseph to lead his family to safety in the island caves, despite the fact that the rest of the islanders don't think anyone will be safe there.

As you can probably guess, this book is a laugh riot.

But seriously, there are a few moments of brevity, mixed in among the many tensions between the natives and the japanese, boyhood and manhood, loyalty and betrayal, imprisonment and freedom.  It's a lot to take on.  And Nancy Bo Flood manages to do so with a lot of poetic language.

Flood does a stunning job of describing the setting.  Her writing helped me to picture the island, but still left me wanting more.  As a teacher, if I used this book in a social studies classroom, I would be sure to try to include some photos of Saipan (in the 1940s and now--Flood notes that the island is now home to many hotels and resorts) to support and really bring home the setting and sorrows of the story.  However, when taking on such a project, while I would of incorporate this photo, and this one, I might leave this one out, depending upon the messages I wanted to share with young impressionable minds.

As I read more and more, I found that while the book was a mere 140 pages, and a relatively quick read, I still had to take some breaks from some of the content.  While there's nothing that is graphically upsetting, Joseph has to deal with a lot of tough emotional realities, fears and responsibilities in a time and place that is often ignored by the standard issue history textbooks, making this an important but also intense read.

Dinner Conversation:

"They're coming.  Get down.  Now!" I stared into the darkness at the black curved beach.  Soldiers should not have been patrolling so early.  The last group usually finished their round at midnight.  Waves lapped against the wet sand.  Palm fonds clattered.  I heard the sounds of hard leather military boots stomping across loose coral and rock" (p. 9).

"We flew up, over the outer edge of the reef, and were free.  Free of the rules, the restrictions, the always watching, patrolling soldiers.  The Japanese may have taken our stores, our schools, even our lands, but they could not take this.  Not the ocean" (p. 14).

"The new Japanese rules forbade us--any native--to use a canoe or fish outside the lagoon.  We were all suspected of being spies, of sending information to the American military.  We were not allowed to have a radio--none--in the entire village.  No newspapers.  Nothing printed.  Each week brought new restrictions, earlier curfews, more arrests" (p. 25).

"The cave is up there.  As soon as I am certain no one has followed us, we will climb to it."
"I don't understand--"
"Remember the turtle.  Joseph.  When the shark smells blood, he attacks.  The turtle pulls in his head, waits...survives.  Joseph, survive.  Bring our family here" (p. 59).

Tasty Rating: !!!

You can also find out more about Warriors in the Crossfire and the book's author, Nancy Bo Flood, by checking out the rest of the book tour:

Whispers of Dawn

Cafe of Dreams

The Hungry Readers

My Own Little Corner of the World

Reading is My Superpower

5 Minutes for Books

Becky’s Book Reviews

Fireside Musings

My Utopia

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Heist Society (pp. 73-151)

Heist Society
Hello dear readers!  Welcome back.  How are you enjoying Heist Society?  Our thoughts are below.

Shel:  Aww, I had another Veronica Mars moment when Taccone asked Kat about back up.  How cool would it be to have a well-trained (but raging) dog run into the room?

Monica:  Pretty epic, but I have the feeling they only keep dogs for cons – like, what was the one they mentioned?  That they’re using the Dalmatian for?  Keeping dogs for *pets* is probably one of those things that thieves aren’t allowed to do, since they move around so much….

Shel:  That's no fun.  Dogs could be kick-bum thieves.  I would read that book.  I feel like I need more evidence of Taccone's supposed evilness.  Sure sleeked-back hair is icky and burns are no fun, but I need more.

Monica:  The lack of real explanation of his evil has led me to the following obvious conclusion:  I’ve decided he must be a good guy!  Or at least a sort-of-good guy.  If we continue the Veronica Mars shout-outs, he’s like Logan!  Only, please God, without the eventual romantic interest?

Shel:  I doubt he's a Logan.  But, heck, I'd take a creepy love interest at this point. 

Monica: Can we pause and reflect for a moment, though, on the subject of Taccone – how completely epic was that walk into his house?  When I got to the part that mentioned how the story would be told and retold and embellished and reembellished, I had to laugh.  ;)

Shel:  I was entertained by that as well.  Why aren't any of these characters jet lagged?  I'm vaguely tired just trying to keep track of all the countries.

Monica:  It’s another thief trick, I’m sure.  They have taught themselves to survive on only one hour of sleep a night.  Honestly, that would probably make us totally SET for thiefdom.  Grad school is a harsh mistress, but she does teach you to go without adequate rest….

Shel:  Why isn't Kat's dad doing something to save himself?  I mean, if movies or TV shows have taught me anything, Interpol should be easy to get rid of, yes?

Monica:  Heck, I think Houdini managed to break out of Scotland Yard with nothing but a bobby pin!  And he wasn’t even a master criminal!

Shel:  Monica, now I need help with the German...

Monica:  Okay, I’m equally lost there.  My only German comes from black and white WWII-era movies, and most of what I picked up wasn’t particularly flattering….

Shel:  I took Spanish!  Can they please go to Spain!

Shel:  So, I'm trying to figure out how to be a thief here.  So far, I've got the rules 1) Don't make noise 2)  Stand still 3) Delegate 4) Don't try to steal time.  Do you think I'm ready?

Monica:  You’re forgetting 5) Have connections with people who know how to build high-tech boats and 6) Crush on your partner.  I’m not completely sure about that last one, but it seems like it might be sort of important.

Shel:  How could I forget those two?!  I suppose I was distracted by how the days were just flying by.

Monica: Girl, they're on a timeline! They've only got eight days! No, wait, seven! SIX!!

Shel: I'm liking this Visily Romani. I think I'd like to hear his/her story. It'd probably be a good time.

Monica: He's done everything! He's like magic! I was sort of sad that they didn't go more into his/her stories, really. When they had that bit about how "Uncle Eddie could totally have told Kat all of these awesome stories about Visily Romani stealing the pope's hat and mastering the secrets of invisibility and baking a perfect tres leches cake... but he's not going to," I was ridiculously bummed. 

Shel:  That would have been fun!

Okay, cool cats, that's it for the time being.  We'll be back on Monday with comments on chapters 20 to 28.  I hope you'll join us and leave your thoughts in the comments!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New ALA Banned Book Lists

Within the past several days (week-ish?), the lists of most challenged books have been updated on the American Library Association's (ALA's) website.

Not only is the new 2009 list up, but there's now a listing for the 2000-2009 decade.

Call me a nerd, but I am super excited about this.  Since the only decade previously complied was 1990-1999, for the first time I'll be able to compare lists.  (YAYZ!!!!) But what's more, there were also some books in unexpected spots in the rankings.

This is causing me to also feel more than a wee-bit disoriented.

And Tango Makes ThreeNow I have to do some re-learning.  Like how And Tango Makes Three was number one on the yearly list for the last three years.  Not so for 2009.  It is number two.  The TTYL series has stolen it's spot.  (But still, I can't help but wonder if ALA makes any consideration for whether a number of books that make up a series are being challenged individually, meaning the series over all challenged numbers would be higher than a stand alone book like Tango.  Anyone, anyone, have an answer?)

I was also surprised by the number of classics on the 2009 list.  But it was kind of exciting to see Twilight there (number five, my friends).

For the 2000-2009 decade, it probably won't surprise anyone that Harry Potter took number one.  Anyone surprised, anyone?

Is anyone else out there reeling from the changes or am I alone in this?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Literary Feast Discussion: Heist Society (pp. 1-72)

Heist SocietyHello Feast Attendees!  Sorry this post is a little late.  There were homeworkz issues.

But Monica and I have dressed in black, put on gloves and masks have have collected our lock-picks, rope...and other thievery gear and are ready to take on Heist Society.  Here are our thoughts for the first quarter of the book.

Shel: The opening of the book reminded me of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks. Those trickster sophomore girls and prestigious boarding schools.

Monica: See, and I was imagining the scene in Veronica Mars where Weevil and Logan put their teacher's car through the flagpole. I think my literary street cred was ruined with that one.

Shel: Not at all! I love that episode. Logan and the boots! Oh, Veronica Mars, I miss you so.

Monica: I'm sensing a marathon night coming up the next time you're in town..... ;)

Shel: You're on!  I feel like I want to know more about Hale as a character. Aside from the occasional "handsome" or reference to cute clothes, he feels blank to me.

Monica: He seems *old*. Am I the only one who feels that? As they were speeding off in the car and she said something about him being sixteen, I had a moment of really? The cousin I can believe, but he's not working, age-wise, for me.

Shel: I was okay with believing he was young. Especially with the superman jammies and tousled hair. But beyond that, he still seems so blank. I'm not buying him as a love interest. There's no obvious spark. I was also wondering about Marcus, Hale's man servant. Can a servant really be that good. I mean, Butler from Artemis Fowl at least spent all of his life training to be that awesome.

Monica: He's a gentleman's gentleman! He's every manservant out of every trashy regency romance novel ever written! He's polite and smart and unobtrusive and incredibly helpful and knows everything just a little bit before it happens, and (when you get right down to it) he's probably a way better character than most everyone else in the book, but we'll never get to see that side of him. Poor Marcus.... Someone write him into a romantic lead so I feel better.

Shel: To the fantiction-mo-bile!

Shel: Moooooonica, I neeeed help with the French!

Monica: Désolé chérie. Je parle français comme un enfant de trois ans. Ou peut-être comme un perroquet très talentueux.

Shel: But, but...that doesn't help me...*weeps...but only a little*  All of these thieves are legacy thieves or well established. How am I supposed to learn how to break into the biz this way?!

Monica: They'd probably view you the way the first class passengers on the Titanic viewed Molly Brown, what with her being all loud and uncultured and nouveau riche. On the other hand, I have total faith that you could be a completely awesome art thief -- so I say try to break in, if that's your dream!

Shel: Oh my gosh, I just saw that musical on DVD for the first time last week. What ARE the chances?! I just don't want to get caught. I think I'd also have trouble with the whole "Never live anyplace you can't walk away from. Never own anything you can't leave behind" thing. I have two cats. I can't leave them behind. Do you know how hard it is to travel with two cats, one of whom is a control freak with a heart murmur who pants and meows incessantly when he's in any type of vehicle? Plus, what about all my books?! I love my books! I think I'm doomed before I even start my career of crime.

Monica: Yeah, you do have to hope that by the end of the book, she hasn't become completely bitter and crazy at being pulled away from her "normal" life -- if I'd managed to get my heart set on having regular friends and pets and few-to-none run-ins with the law, I'd be pretty upset with my fam.

So, dear readers and fellow potential thieves, what did you think?  Leave your observations in the comments and make another appearance on Thursday, when Monica and I will be discussing chapters 9-19.


Monday, April 19, 2010

REVIEW: Dusssie

DusssieSpringer, Nancy.  (2007).  Dusssie.  New York:  Walker & Company.


166 pages.

Appetizer:  The morning after Dusie gets her first period she wakes to discover her hair has transformed into snakes (luckily, none of them are poisonous!).  While this causes a wee-bit of a panic for thirteen-year-old Dusie, her mom doesn't seem to be surprised.  In fact, it would seem her mother may have dreaded this.  But even her mom is surprised when Dusie realizes she can hear the thoughts of all her new 27 snakes on her head.

The shocking change on the top of her head leads Dusie to uncover the secrets her mother has been keeping from her all Dusie's life and she'll embark on a journey of self-discovery (as opposed to a mythological quest) to find a way to undo the magic curse.

With both references to fairy tales and Greek Myths, it'd be easy to think of Dusssie as a "girl-version" of the Percy Jackson series.  Dusssie is more focused on emotions and a potential romance than adventure.  Dusie wants to feel loved, but she's not certain she can find love with 27 snakes slithering on top of her head.  While there is a hint of a prophecy (or riddle, as the case may be) this book is more rooted in the personal, instead of a nation-saving quest.  It feels a lot like an allegory, exploring a lot of the tensions of femininity and girl-becoming-womanhood-ness.  Stuff.

I thought Springer did an excllent job of putting the reader (me!) in the mind-set of what it would be like to have...snakes for hair.  An early scene shows the snakes feeling threated when Dusie tries to return to school.  How do the snakes attempt to deal with their fear?  Well....

"Deploy musssk!  Deploy fecesss!" (p. 19).

The horror.  And, ewwwww (but also hilarious!).  That would be a very not fun condition to deal with.  It made me so thankful that my hair was an ordinary bunch of dead cells.  Thank you, world, for that.

The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes MysteryPreviously, I'd read Springer's first Enola Holmes mystery, The Case of the Missing Marquess.  I absolutely LOVED the feminist twists she presented in Victorian England by giving Sherlock Holmes a super clever little sister.  And that sense of female empowerment is also in Dusssie (which, personally, makes me want to do a little feminist happy dance.  What does a feminist happy dance look like?  It may or may not involve a lot of bending and flexing of muscles.  That's all I'll possibly (not) reveal).

As I was reading, I felt that Dusie's maturation from a girl into a woman and coming to terms with who her mother was and is seemed to be the heart of the story.  Of course, others may disagree.  (I would, of course, love to read your interpretations in the comments!)

Some one else may want to focus on the way beauty is perceived.  A teacher could also use this book with a lesson on the snakes that are commonly found in the U.S.A.  To better understand her condtion, Dusie researches what the types of snakes are on her head (and this serves as a metaphor for her getting to know herself as well).

But now, having been so positive for all these paragraphs, let's take a moment to look at the book cover once more:



I don't like it.  While it definitely made me think of Medusa, nothing about the girl's face would want to make me pick the book up.  Plus, I didn't get that the middle 's' was being spelled with a snake at first.  (This is especially confusing because the character's actual name is Dusie.  Only the snakes call her Dusssie.)

I think the cover is too literal.  It doesn't make me want to pick up this story.  Ya know?  In my head, I see more of an outline of a Medusa head.  Or maybe an image that would be more symbolic.  But since I have no art skills, I can't actually show you what I'm thinking.

What do you-all think?

Dinner Conversation:

"Color me stupid, but I was thirteen before I understood why my mother always wore a turban.  I thought it was just part of her artistic weirdness.  I had no clue until my own hair turned into snakes" (p. 1).

"Mom's name hadn't meant a thing to me.  I mean, who knows what a gorgon is anymore?  Mom hadn't told me until today that under the turban her hair was vipers, under the polish her fingernails were bronze, under the caps her teeth were fangs.  She hadn't told me that she'd had wings surgically removed by a doctor who could be blackmailed to keep quiet.  She had told me, years ago, that she'd named me after her dead sister, but she hadn't told me that Dusie was a nickname--short for Medusa" (pp. 7-8).

"A coldly regal voice said in my mind, we prefer to be addresssed as ssserpentsss.
"I would prefer if you would shut up!"
I heard a hissy murmur from the crowd, and the regal one said, Be polite.  We bite" (p. 13).

"He never got  to say any more.  If looks could kill...but mine could.  I didn't realize in time, but I felt it happen as anger blazed in me, my snakes thrashed and struck at the air, my eyes flared fire, and Troy...Troy turned to white stone" (p. 20).

"My mother had been lying to me.  All my life.  She'd let me think that while I was in school she spent her days at some studio somewhere, chipping away like Michelangelo, when really...really she was a serial killer, sort of" (p. 24).

"I am going to get rid of you, " I told my snakes...
Go ahead, said the scarlet king snake, and all the others gave a hissy titter, sss-sss-sss.  They didn't act like I was scaring them.  Not at all.  They seemed completely sure I couldn't do it.
Or maybe they knew something I didn't" (pp. 77-78).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Operation Teen Book Drop

Guys, how come none of you told me about this?  Were you conspiring to keep it a secret?  I would have loved to have been a part of this mission of super-awesomeness.

Even if it would have meant parting with one or several of my beloved books so that a teen might have had a chance at finding a book that interested them.

And now it looks like I'm going to have to wait a whole year for the next one.

I'm not that patient.

(I suppose I could always just start leaving random selections from my library around campus...but knowing my luck, I'd be accused of littering.  I can already picture the one proactive student chasing me down, yelling, "Miss, Miss, you dropped your book."  That or I'd forget that I decided to give a book away and then would do a mad search of my office trying to find a book that is no longer there--It has happened before!)

In case you are still wondering what I'm rambling about, Operation Teen Book Drop is essentially a drive that works in two ways:

1.  There's a wishlist of books that individuals can donate to to help improve the libraries of specific schools.

2.  There are individuals (authors/bloggers/librarians/cool peeps) who leave YA books around their towns in places where they think young adults may happen upon them.  The teens that find the books can make the books their own, if they so choose.

Here's the video that outlines the book drop for this year:

I would have loved to leave books hidden on campus.  Some twitterers and authors were even providing clues of how to find the books they had dropped.

So much fun!

I had to share about it.

In fact, I've also developed a short powerpoint presentation of some of the photos participants took to show my students.  Prepare to be rambled at, kiddie lit readers.  For I am an excited rambler!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

REVIEW: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will GraysonGreen, J. , & Levithan D.  (2010).  Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  New York:  Dutton.


310 pages

Appetizer:  Set in Chicago, this novel goes back-and-forth, sharing the story of two teenage boys named Will Grayson.  In the odd-numbered chapters, John Green writes the story of the first Will Grayson, who lives life by two simple rules:  1)  Don't care to much and 2) Shut up.  But his friend Tiny Cooper (who is HUGE, gay and plays football and is writing a play about Will and him) makes it difficult for Will One to stick to his rules and he soon finds himself forced to help with Tiny's musical production of his life story, while resisting a girl named Jane who he both likes and doesn't like.

David Levithan's Will Grayson--of the even chapters--is struggling with his depression.  The one bright spot in his life is his love for a boy named Isaac who lives in Ohio.  But Will won't admit that he's in love with Isaac to anyone.  He won't even tell his only friend Maura that Isaac exists.  As Will and Isaac plan to meet for the first time, Will prepares to go to Chicago, a trip that will send him to run into the other Will Grayson.  Both will find that their lives are changed by their meeting and following interactions.

As far as co-written experiments go, I really loved this one.  The two Wills' have very distinct voices and Levithan's Will only narrates in lower case and presents dialogue in script format.  Green's Will is also often referred to as Grayson instead of by his first name, which helps to keep the already very-distinct voices separate and clear with just a glance at the page.

I absolutely loved Green's writing.  It was him at his best--super quirky and humorous. He still hasn't really wandered away from his tendency to write from the perspective of a tall, skinny, upper-class white guy with a best friend who is somehow marked or marginalized.  But, while a limited perspective, he writes what he writes WELL.  I found that I enjoyed his Will Grayson much more than I kinda-sorta liked the first half of Quentin in PaperTowns.

Although, I still have to admit, I found that my passion did fade in the last third of the book.  Maybe there was a little less humor, maybe Green's Will Grayson was kind of squared away and the story began to belong to Tiny and Levithan's Will.  But there were fewer chuckles on my part.

Boy Meets Boy
Wide AwakeI was surprised by Levithan's writing.  The only books I'd previously read by him was Boy Meets Boy (which is wonderful, humorous LUV! and sticks to the fluffier-side of life as a homosexual teen) and Wide Awake (which I felt 'eeh' about).  So, it was very surprising to start chapter two and read the dark voice of his Will Grayson.  Startling, in fact.  But as I kept reading, I started to like that Will Grayson more, as he became more rounded than just the consuming depression and anger that initially surprised me.

The character, Tiny Cooper has a central role in both Will Graysons' lives, helping to make this book extend beyond being about romantic love, to being about all love, (but particularly friendship love!).  But, after finishing the book, I still felt I didn't completely know Tiny.  Yeah, I thought both authors did a fair job of presenting his character consistently, but I still felt I only understood Tiny at the surface level.  Part of my problem could be how outgoing and energetic Tiny was as a character.  I'm more of the withdrawn, silent type, and I still have trouble understanding what makes talkative people tick when they're real and I can actually ask them "hey, what makes you tick?"  I have yet to get an answer that is sensical or that doesn't make me feel exhausted just listening.

I'm glad this book came out when it did, because next week I plan to do a lesson on stories that are co-constructed.  While I'd planned to focus in part on Chester (in which a character battles his author for power over the story) and on the awesomeness that is mad libs (oh girl scout camp in fourth and fifth grade, you will always being associated with these and my childhood deep-rooted fear of forgetting what an adverb is), this will add a nice YA touch to the talk.

Dinner Conversation:

"When I was little, my dad used to tell me, "Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose."  This seemed like a reasonably astute observation to me when I was eight, but it turns out to be incorrect on a few levels.  To begin with, you cannot possibly pick your friends, or else I never would have ended up with Tiny Cooper" (p. 1).

"i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me.
those seem to be the two choices.  everything else is just killing time" (p. 22).

"This is a great picture of you.  This is what you look like," I tell her.  And it's true.  That's the problem:  so many things are true.  It's true that I want to smother her with compliments and true that I want to keep my distance.  True that I want her to like me and true that I don't.  The stupid endless truth speaking out of both sides of its big, stupid mouth.  It's what keeps me, stupidly, talking.  "Like, you can't know what you look like, right?  Whenever you see yourself in the mirror, you know you're looking at you, so you can't help but pose a little.  So you never really know.  But this--that's what you look like" (pp. 53-54).

"still, i can't help thinking that 'getting a life' is something only a complete idiot could believe.  like you can just drive to a store and get a life.  see it in its shiny box and look inside the plastic window and catch a glimpse of yourself in a new life and say, 'wow, i look much happier--i think this is the life i need to get!' take it to the counter, ring it up, put it on your credit card.  if getting a life was that easy, we'd be one blissed-out race.  but we're not.  so it's like, mom, your life isn't out there waiting, so don't think all you have to do is find it and get it.  no, your life is right here.  and, yeah, it sucks.  lives usually do.  so if you want things to change, you don't need to get a life.  you need to get off your ass" (p. 65).

"There aren't that many Will Graysons," he says.  "It's gotta mean something, one Will Grayson meeting another Will Grayson in a random porn store where neither Will Grayson belongs."
"Are you suggesting that God brought two of Chicago-land's underage Will Graysons into Frenchy's at the same time?"
"No, asshole," he says, "but I mean, it must mean something."
"Yeah," I say.  "It's hard to believe in coincidence, but it's even harder to believe in anything else" (p. 114).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Heist SocietyAlso, just in case you missed the announcement during the readathon (let's be honest, there was a lot of posting going down that day.  It's perfectly understandable if one slipped by without notice), Monica and I will be starting our next literary feast of Heist Society on Saturday.  We'll being going through the first nine chapters.

I hope you can join us!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Monica: Readathon Update 6

Hey guys!

Congrats on making it this far, if you're still awake, at least sort of upright, and semi-coherent! =)

I've been working my way through Assassination Vacation by my new best friend Sarah Vowell -- that woman is ridiculous. Who writes books that make their readers super-interested in presidential assassinations? Who has that kind of power!? (Also, guys, lesson learned -- if you're president, don't let Robert Todd Lincoln touch you with a 39-and-a-half foot pole. That guy jinxes everything he touches.)

This may be my last update of the night, though, as a warning. I'm not suggesting that I'm currently curled up in bed with the gentle light of my bedside table lamp shining on me and a dog asleep on my feet, but... it's entirely possible. Given this -- and the fact that my Red Bull supply ran out an hour ago -- I can't guarantee that I'll hold on to consciousness. Oh, pillow, you are soft and wonderful....

So on the offchance that I don't reappear, thanks to everyone who has stopped by to participate in the Mini Challenge, or to cheerlead, or just to say hi! And, of course, thanks to all the ridiculously fantastic people over at the Readathon itself. Today has been an absolute blast -- Shel and I are already talking about how we'll work the next one!

Shel: #Readathon Update Nine

Thanks to everyone who participated in our challenge!  It was really difficult to choose a winner.  Some of you were hilarious, others were so thoughtful and still others showed us pictures (I don't know about Monica, but my brain was all about a lack of words at this late hour).

I am feeling vaguely surprised to see all of the healthy foods you are all enjoying out there.  

No, "surprise" is not the right word. 

To be frank, I am shocked you are all so healthy.  Were you all raised to be this way?  Was I the only one taught to think gobbling coffee ice cream doused in chocolate and fruit served beside a Milky Way bar smeared with peanut butter was good brain food?  Whose family failed whom here?  Cause, let me tell you, I feel like a winner.

I also feel shocked that there are readers who have drunk more coffee than me.  I did not know that was possible.  You guys don't by any chance have heart palpitations too, do you?

But more than anything, your rich descriptions of foods and drinks have made me both hungry and thirsty once more.

But I'm going to ignore the last feelings and instead finally take that little nap I've been thinking about for the last five hours.

And by "little nap" I mean that the DON'T YOU DARE DISTURB ME, PUNKS, OR I JUST MIGHT BEHEAD YOU USING ONLY MY DULL COFFEE-STAINED TEETH!!!!!!1! sign is metaphorically up.

Sweet reading dreams, internetzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

The Hungry Readers #Readathon Challenge

Hello again, Readathoners!

It's nice to see that all-ya-alls are still up and reading!

For this challenge, we want to read about or see the foods and drinks that are keeping you awake and reading. Possibilities include answering one or a few of the following questions. What's your reading fuel? And how much of this food or drink have you consumed during the readathon? Do you have a story of how you've had to work to get your page-turning hands on that food or drink? Have a picture to post about the disgusting, satisfying and secret munchie that's keeping your eyes open? Have you recruited a family member to be your food servant? Are you actually considering using an IV of caffeine?

Another approach would be to tell us about the foods that are being described in some of the books that you are reading. Is there anything that seems particularly appetizing?

To participate just leave your answer/story in the comments below or include a link to your blog where we can find your response or picture.

In terms of winning the challenge and getting the chance two choose from two of the readathon prize books or a prize pack, we'll be looking for the most humorous or outrageous foods and drinks. But, Monica and I are also a bit loopy due to lack of sleep (and we'll be even more so by the end when we choose the winner) so a little bit of randomness may enter into the judging process.

(Monica: No, seriously guys. I'm pretty much gnawing on the walls at this point, I'm so loopy. Use caps if you want to get my attention... oh, and bribing me with more Red Bull is always an option.....)

Happy reading photo-taking and writing, readers!

Shel: #Readathon Update Eight

Oh, why must reading be such a sedentary practice?  And why must I love to read in bed?  Oh, WHY?!

I would be tempted to venture off to my complex's gym so I can ride on a bike or walk on a treadmill while I read.  But the gym is a whole five minute walk away.  And I'm lazy.  Plus, it's dark out.  And, you know, the gym would be closed this late. 

 I suppose this may be why I'm prone to choosing sedentary hobbies. 

 I'm reading on, taking a small risk by retiring to my bed with my books, but still there's definite reading happening.  Comprehension?  That remains to be seen.  You'll have to quiz me tomorrow afternoon. 

 Plus, Monica and I are gearing up for our own challenge (starting in less than an hour now!). So, dear readers, you must down some more caffeine and stick around for that. 

P.S.  Can't help but notice more intense editing is necessary for these late night posts.  I keep replacing "for" with "four" and other silly mistakes that don't plague me when I'm more awake.

Response to Early Favorites #readathon Mini-Challenge

Redwall (Redwall, Book 1)The first book that I remember truly falling in love with, imagining that I was a part of the world, friends with the characters was Redwall by Brian Jacques.  I was six.  That book ruined me for life.

This was back in the *mumble* grrrug time, when the Redwall series only had two or three books to its name, before Jacques had written any picturebooks.  So, my teacher had few choices over what she could read to us to prepare us for the visit.  She told us Brian Jacques would travel all the way from England to come to our school.  That meant nothing to me, until my teacher introduced me to Clooney the Scourge and Redwall Abbey.

Let's be honest.  I was WAY too young for this book.  At the time, I was actually a struggling reader.  My parents had taken me to an intervention specialist.  But when my teacher started reading Redwall aloud to the first, second and third graders, I loved the idea of wielding a sword beside Martin or Matthias.  I made my parents buy all the books.  I struggled through them, at first struggling along as my teacher read aloud, but eventually working ahead.

We were only about one-third of the way through the book when it came time for Jacques to spend the morning with my class.  He did a dramatic read aloud for us.  I remember being very angry, because even though my teacher had shown him the exact spot where she'd left off reading to us, Jacques began reading a portion we'd already heard.  Sure, he stood, did the voices and included some arm motions, but I wanted to hear what happened next.

I also remember being insanely jealous, because as I got my copy of Redwall signed, Jacques didn't really say anything to me.  But he had told my friend Catherine that if she lived in the Redwall world, she would have been a squirrel.  What injustice!  What animal would I be, Brian?  I still don't know.

I'll admit that there while there was a time I was completely on-top of reading all of the books in the series.  It was around seventh grade that I stopped reading Jacques.  But he still has my imagination.

I actually attended an author visit he did to Cover to Cover bookstore last year.  While he, rounder.  His voice was still the same one that had read the wrong passage of Redwall to me when I was six.

Monica: Readathon Mini Challenge ("Title Teasers")

Happy just-after-midnight, y'all! I'm on my second can of Red Bull -- how are the rest of you holding up, dear readers?

To try and hang on to consciousness, here's a Complete The Title mini challenge from Write for a Reader.

1. The Dark Divine
2. An Irish Country Girl
3. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
4. Necessary Heartbreak
5. She's So Dead to Us
6. Fireworks Over Toccoa
7. Beautiful Dead
8. Scones & Sensibility
9. All Unquiet Things
10. Beautiful Creatures
11. Perchance to Dream
12. The Dead-Tossed Waves
13. I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It
14. Prophecy of the Sisters
15. Very LeFreak (Actually, there were a couple I thought this one might be...)
16. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
17. Marriage and Other Acts of Charity
18. Making Toast
19. White Cat
20. Letters to My Daughter

Prophecy of the Sisters, as an aside, was a wicked-cool book... although it did make me a little nervous around my siblings for a while afterwards....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Response to Once Upon a Reading #readathon Mini-Challenge

Okay, so this is a tad bit forced, but here is my response to Bookjourney's challenge:

The old woman leaned forward, the light from the fake crystal ball on the table cast horrendous shadows on her thin face. “Who Killed My Daughter?” she asked Lindsey.

“Umm.” When Lindsey had signed up to cover the fortune telling booth at the middle school’s annual Cirque du Freak she hadn’t expected to be asked a question like that one. She’d expected sixth grade girls asking about first kisses. Maybe an annoying seventh grade guy asking, "Why Can’t you Make Them Behave, King George?” or “Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?” while trying to get her to forge a parent’s signature for a failing test. Or asking about Killing Mr. Griffin, the meanest teacher at school. Lindsey had suffered through having two classes with him the year before herself. She’d even prepared a fake answer in case a slacker boy eighth grader asked How to Steal a Car. Boys were so immature.

The old woman was still staring at Lindsey. Was this woman kidding?  Lindsey needed to do something to get this woman out of the booth quick.  “I Am the Messenger!” Lindsey exclaimed, making sure to gesture wildly. Her drama teacher would be proud. “And I proclaim, that there is a Demon in My View preventing my sight. It stands In the Forest of the Night, blocking me from reaching the Greenwitch in The Forest of Hands and Teeth…which, ah, is, umm, where my answers usually come from.” Lindsey made a show of slumping her shoulders. “I am sorry. I cannot help you.”

The woman didn’t seem surprised by Lindsey’s response. “I had hoped you had The Third Eye or perhaps A Gift of Magic.”

Nope, only a gift for the dramatic. But Lindsey didn’t say that out loud. As she watched the old woman push herself out of the folding chair, Lindsey did hope the woman found an answer. Somewhere that wasn’t a middle school cafeteria.

Shel: #Readathon Update Seven

Wow, I really feel like I'm accomplishing a lot of reading today/tonight...and probably tomorrow morning.

Heist SocietyI may even jump ahead and start Heist Society.  Monica and I are going to be taking a closer look at it over the next few weeks for our literary feast.

It looks like a lot of fun.  With lots of intrigue.  And thievery.  I'm entertained by fictional thefts.

On the off chance any of you out there will want to participate with us, we'll start by discussing the first eight chapters next Saturday.  We'd more than welcome your opinions of the book in our comments sections.  (In fact, some happy dances may be involved if you do check back in to share your thoughts.)

Kay, back to the books!

P.S.  Is anybody else's backside vaguely sore from sitting too long?  Yes?  No?  Nobody else willing to admit to that problem?


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