Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BSC Super Special #1 Baby-sitters on Board!

Baby-Sitters on Board! (Baby-Sitters Club Super Special, 1)

Plot:
As part of the most generous contest in history, Mr. Pike wins a prize at work to take his family on a four day cruise in the Bahamas and a three day trip to Disney World. Apparently, this contest did not have a disclaimer stating it was good for a trip for four. Nope. The Pikes cash in the tickets for their family of ten. And remember how the Pikes can't care for their own children? Yep--Stacey and Mary Anne get to come along, too.

But wait! Waston "The Real-Life Millionaire" Brewer can't be outdone. So add Watson, Elizabeth-Originally-Called-Edie, Sam, Charlie, Kristy, David Michael, Karen, and Andrew to the roster!

But wait! These are the residents of Stoneybrook! They couldn't possibly leave a member of the BSC behind, right? So Watson pays for Claudia and Dawn to tag along! (Strangely, there is no mention of Jessi being left behind. Jessi who?)

No one realizes how completely unrealistic this vacation is. Most of us non-millionaires don't get to take our four closest friends on a cruise and trip to Disney. Nope. My friends are lucky when I drive them to Meijer.

Our next brush with BSCland comes with the departure of the cruise. It's a four day cruise. Four days. But when the ship departs, people are crying and yelling. It was like it was 1754 and the ship was a one-way trans-Atlantic cruise and the people would never see each other again. Seriously, BSC. It's a four day cruise.

Of course, the BSC & Company are involved in various shenanigans and hullabaloo and brouhaha on the ship.

There's a kid, Marc, that befriends Stacey. Marc-with-a-C is in a wheelchair and has an oxygen tank for an unspecified heart condition. Kristy becomes friends with an elderly widow, Mr. Stapes. Claudia has a secret admirer and a vacation boy toy on the side. Dawn has a not-so secret admirer. Mary Anne befriends Alexandra Carmody--a charming girl that has told different BSCers that 1) she's traveling alone, 2) her parents are dead, 3) she's traveling with her brother, and 4) Oh, yeah! Do you want to meet her parents? Byron and the other-juvenile-travelers-with-penises think that they have a treasure map. And, of course, the BSC wants to make the perfect travel gift for the Pikes and Brewers.

Dudes, get ready for some spoilers. I know, you're pissed. You hate spoilers. You were waiting to read all the BSC books on your own. After twenty-two years, it was time to read! You were ready. You had the fourteen books published before this one at the top of your to-read pile. You had your BSC-readin' game face on. Well, tough shit.

  1. Marc-with-a-C has a post-Disney open heart surgery. He survives. Miraculously, he makes a full recovery and no longer needs a wheelchair or an oxygen tank. Huh.
  2. Without considering the fact that Mr. Stapes is on the trip shortly after his wife died, Kristy decides to hook him up with Nannie. Why? 'Cause they're both old. Age as a common denominator is the only thing people need to have a successful relationship. Kristy really should be a matchmaker.
  3. Claudia's secret admirer is really her new boy Timothy. He kisses her under the fireworks and it's magical.
  4. Dawn meets this guy Parker and makes a big deal about what-kind-of-name-is-Parker? Judgmental much? Yep. That doesn't stop her from following him around like a stalker-ish puppy until he becomes her vacation boyfriend. They complete their little family by baby-sitting Parker's two step-brothers at Disney.
  5. Mary Anne's new BFF Alexandra lies to make things interesting. Okay. Mary Anne decides she could never be friends with Alexandra because she could never trust her. Dude, you've spoken to the girl...three times? and you're planning your long-term friendship? And when did she say she wanted to keep in touch with you? Or be life long friends with you?
  6. Byron & Company never find their treasure. They do find the bracelet that Dawn lost at Disney the day before. On the plane ride home, they meet a Dutch man with a very stereotypical accent that suggests to me that Annie doesn't understand that many, many, many Europeans speak better English than we do. The Dutch dude tells the boys that their treasure map is---how you say---a diagram of the innards of a copy machine. Something tells me that a diagram of a copy machine looks a little different than a map of an island. Well, that's an embarrassing mistake.
  7. The BSC makes giant photo albums and travel diaries for the Brewers and Pikes to thank them for the trip. The trip that was free for the Pikes. The trip that Stacey and Mary Anne performed slave labor for.
  • How has Kristy never left Connecticut? It's a teeny state. It's 1/50 of the size of Michigan. Seriously. You walk over to your neighbor's house and BAM! you're in a new state. And what kind of craziness for travel was her eighth grade year? The other Super Specials have her hitting Hawaii, Europe, New York, and a cross-country road trip.
  • Dawn is a big, fat traveling know-it-all. She's flown cross-country eleven times. That's nice, Dawn. That still doesn't mean that anyone likes you.
  • This book was published in 1988. The younger kids all get to go into the cockpit. Ah, how times have changed.
  • Kristy took Karen into the airplane bathroom. How big is that bathroom? Any airplane bathroom I've ever been in has been uncomfortably small for just me. Karen is six. I think she's old enough that she could use the bathroom by herself while Kristy waited outside.
  • It is definitely mentioned that Stacey and Mary Anne are working for their vacation while Dawn and Claudia are on an all-expenses paid trip. Impoverished bastards.
    • Kristy: It was awfully nice of Watson and Mom and the Pikes to take us on this trip--I mean, even if two of us are along as baby-sitters and sort of have to work for it.
    • Okay, why didn't the whole club rotate who was watching the mini-Pikes? Stacey and Mary Anne are only getting an hour or two off per day. Doesn't the BSC want to spend any real time together? Don't they want to baby-sit? Or do Kristy, Claudia, and Dawn enjoy going on vacation to watch their friends slave away for less than minimum wage?
      • Did I mention that Stacey and Mary Anne's hour break is spent at a BSC meeting? Kristy is holding meetings everyday so they can talk about the kids. Uh, only two of you are interacting with any kids.
        • And who is taking care of the kids in Stoneybrook while the BSC is on vacation? Are Stoneybrook parents actually...taking care of their own kids? Do they know how to do that?
  • Everyone's reactions when the ship leaves irritate me. Did Annie M. ever go on a cruise as "research"? Did she really think that people would be hysterical over the departure of a four day cruise?
  • Alexandra is obnoxious. Traveling alone is a "bore." Because then she hast to make appointments for herself and talk to the purser herself. Dude, you're on a four day cruise!
  • Why would there be a stowaway on a four day cruise. A four day cruise that is returning to the same spot it left from!
  • Stacey is pissing me off. (Imagine me saying that with the Brooklyn accent I reserve for being pissed off.) She compares her diabetes to Marc-with-a-C's heart condition. Hm. Watching what you eat and taking insulin shots...or sitting in a wheelchair, hauling around an oxygen tank, and having life-threatening surgery. Yep, basically the same.
  • On board the ship, Stacey has a diet pop while Claire and Margo scarf ice cream.
    • Some brittle diabetic she is. Your pancreas is conditioned to react to flavors, not sugar content. Stacey's pancreas would react in the same way for a diet Coke as it would for a regular Coke. She's not doing herself any favors by switching to diet. That's science, dudes.
  • Spider, a member of the superawesome band Insects, is on board! Too bad a spider isn't an insect. It's an arachnid.
  • Why would the salon let Karen, a six-year-old by herself, charge a manicure to her cabin? Why would they let her get a manicure without a parent's permission? Oh, how times have changed.
  • Why does Annie M. consider "needlework" to be a normal activity for thirteen-year-olds? It's not that common of a hobby! Even Laura Ingalls hated it! The BSC is the only time I've read about a character that went, "Oh, gee! Needlepoint! Now that sounds like a great Saturday night!"
  • Claudia's secret admirer is more like a stalker. Much like in BSC #2, Claudia is completely unconcerned about this. If I found out who a stalker was, I assure you that my reaction would not be to make out with him at a parade.
  • Someone else will have to tell me if Disney World is really as magical as the BSC makes it out to be. Because I haven't been to Disney since 1990. At the time, I was so busy trying to crawl and mastering the art of consuming semi-solid foods, that I forgot to make any life-long memories.
  • Alexandra Carmody's parents are Viv and Vern Carmody! Whoa!
    • Apparently, they're a famous singing duo. I picture them as more of the Donnie and Marie (except married and not siblings...) type than Johnny and June type or Sonny and Cher type. I get a hokey country western vibe from them.
  • Karen gets lost at Disney for like ten minutes. Sadly, the popcorn vendor helps her find Watson and Elizabeth rather than shoving her under the monorail.
    • Elizabeth says something about how she thought Karen would find her way to the carousel. Really? You lose a six-year-old at Disney and you just assume she's going to find you? 
  • I don't like when fictional characters go to Disney World. Mainly '90s television characters. ABC, I understand that you're owned by Disney. Does that mean that you had to send Corey Matthews, Steve Urkel, Michelle Tanner, and those kids from Step by Step there? And now, the BSC has to go there, too? Aren't any of these characters running into each other?
    • Okay. I was honestly surprised that Karen didn't end up being the princess of the parade or whatever it was that Michelle Tanner was.
  • What is with Dawn and Claudia getting vacation boyfriends? Vacation boyfriends that they're getting all hot and heavy with for only two days? Clearly, that's the beginning of two long-lasting long-term relationships.
  • Where the hell were Sam and Charlie during this whole vacation? I bet they were those teenage boys I remember from the cruise I took--Walking around and asking women in thong bikinis (eww!) if they could get a picture together. Classy.
  • Oh, goodness. The illustrations. Later Super Specials have some cheesy drawings. This book's illustrations were supposed to be photographs that the girls take. We know this from the Click! that is thrown into the middle of random paragraphs. Apparently, the BSC does not share Claudia's talent. None of the pictures show anything. There is one that shows a "flying"  banana. There's a quality vacation memory.
P.S. Thank you for your sweet condolences on the loss of my little pupperoni. I'm adjusting to sleeping alone and not chattering to her all day. She will definitely be missed.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    I Feel Ya, David Michael.

    Remember that one time I read Kristy and the Snobs and was devastated by the death of Louie Thomas?


    Well, sad news, kiddos.

    My own incarnation of Carrot Johanssen, Ms. Lili Noel VonSchnauzer-Dziesinski*, passed away last night from a suspected case of instesinal cancer which led to a perforated intestine and liver failure**. She just celebrated her eighth birthday on June 27.

    She enjoyed walks, eating jelly beans, pooping, riding in the cars, wearing her bumblebee and skunk costumes***, having her toenails painted, killing the occasional baby bunny, and answering to various aliases****.

    She was preceded in death by her husband, Leon Delbert Dziesinski. Lili leaves behind her human family, a pitbull-lab nephew, and a much loved stuffed cow.







    Now excuse me while I go sob hysterically.


    *Don't judge. You know your dog has it's own last name. And if your dog was a modern woman, like Lili, you wouldn't be surprised when she chose to hyphenate her last name with her late husband's last name.
    **That's code for the saddest, most pitiful death ever. One that was brought on in less than twenty-four hours.
    ***Okay, that's a lie. The costumes brought out her I-hate-you-for-making-me-wear-this-costume-so-I'm-going-to-poop-in-the-yard-right-where-you'll-step look. I thought she was cute, though.
    ****Known aliases: Puppy Longstocking, Lil Cosby, Lillary Clinton, Pupperoni, the Bearded Lady, Lilliputian, et c.

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    The Bell Jar



    "I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart:
    I am, I am, I am."



    P.S. A new film adaptation is in pre-production! Julia Stiles will play Esther. If I do recall correctly, this is Stiles' favorite book. You can even see her reading it in a scene from 10 Things I Hate About You.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    According to Amazon: Baby-sitters on Board

    Coming soon! BSC Super Special #1 Baby-sitters on Board!


    But what?

    Amazon had some much better reviews than I could ever write.


    First and Best Super Special
    "I loved the parts about Disney World, even though I've never been there I've been to Disneyland a million times, and loved how Ann Martin captured the 'feel' of Disneyland."


    You've been to Disneyland a million times? Is your name Dawn Schafer? 'Cause she's been to Disneyland a million times! You poor bastards that have never been to Disneyland a million times!


    "I'm sure that these books are dated by todays standards (kids are so much OLDER now than they were when I was a kid), but I still love these books, and pick them up and read them when I need a break from the stress and worry of being an 'old' adult. :-)"


    Do you see the problem? Besides the emoticon. Kids are so much OLDER now than when this reviewer was a kid. Actually, kids haven't changed in age. You might say that they're more mature now. Meh, maybe. But what you're saying is that kids are older than when you were a kid. Are they older than you are now? I'm confused by your logic.


    Cool1


    Ah, yes. It's Cool1. Not to be confused with Cool2.


    "Kristy, Mary Anne and Stacey have some friends."


    Bahahaa. Socially awkward freaks!


    No Better Book!


    "If I could, I would rate it a thousand stars. BUY THIS BOOK TODAY! YOU'RE CRAZY IF YOU DON'T!!!!!!!!!"


    Dude. No need to yell. I already did buy the book.


    A Coooool Book!!!!!!!!!!


    "...and Karen Brewer gets a MANICURE!"




    I'm with this reviewer. Karen's manicure was the highlight of this book for me, too. Not!


    Baby-sitters on Board


    "Mary Anne was something else when she told off Alex."


    Grandma, I think the word you're looking for is "bitch."


    "Bryon wasn't in any other books. How weird."


    What kind of BSC fan are you? First off, his name is Byron not Bryon. And the BSC has sat for the Pikes before, and Mallory is a junior member now. You really don't remember hearing once about those crazy fertile Pikes who have not one, not two, but three triplets? Really?


    A Great Super Special!


    "And they still have time for what they like best of all--baby-sitting!"


    Dude. You just stole this line from the back cover of the book.


    One of the Best


    "this must be one of the best books i ever read."


    Do tell. What else have you read?


    "And ofcoures even the BSC has fun in disney world."


    I love how this reviewer channels Claudia here but it's such a Kristy comment. Of course, the BSC does have fun, too! BSC: They're just like us!


    Not Bad. Good Book is Phantom of the Oprah by Gaston Leroux.


    Way to throw in a shameless plug for Ms. Winfrey's newest production. Actually, it sounds like the name of a porn. Like Who's Eating Gilbert Grape? or Forrest Hump



    Make up your own Big O pun. 


    "It wasn;t that bad but I've read better books.By the way the reading level is for 4th graders"


    That's the whole review. Really. And how great is it? It was posted twice. Sadly 0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.


    It wasn't that bad? Are you suggesting that it was bad? Blasphemy!


    And so what if it has a fourth grade reading level? Shut up, Judgy McJudgerson!


    This review will tell you how good Baby-Sitters on Board is


    "This book was the best book I've read in a long time.Realistic stuff happend on board and in Disney World. Keep up the great work Ann. I love all of your books I read them all the time!"


    Well, you got me there. You did tell me how great this book is. Right, right? No.


    Great plot with and real feeling you are there


    " Kristy's Step father{watson} finds out Kristy hasn't been on a hoilday out of the connecticut so since he is a millionaire he did some quick planning so he could take Kristy and her family and the rest of the BSC as well and this book is about the adventres they have when they are on hoilday."


    Watson's a millionaire?! When did that happen?


    And I didn't know that quick planning is a trait that comes with being a millionaire. Us poor folk can only plan in advance, apparently.


    The Best BSC book ever!!


    "I loved this book and think it's the best one yet! I absolutely loved it! I own all and have read all books at least twice and I think that it's definitly the best! Some have come close though! I have read this book 18 times - I keep a diary of the times I read the books. And I am SURE that I will read it many more times!!"


    A full collection? Who are you and how can we be friends?


    Wait. You read this book 18 times?! Uh...nevermind?


    A really fantastic book!


    "Great stuff happens to all of the characters, including Karen Brewer and Byron Pike, who do not have chapters in any of the other Super Specials."


    Now, usually, only bad things happen to Karen Brewer as they should. Sadly, this Super Special did not involve Karen getting attacked by a mountain lion or falling down an elevator shaft. That would have bumped this book up from merely "fantastic" to "orgasmic."


    An adult's look at a children's book


    "The Babysitter's Club is off on an vacation they'll never forget. From their cruise through the Bahamas, to their stay at Disney World, adventures run wild. Will Claudia's secret admirer reveal himself? Will Kristy make a pest of herself the whole time? The first of many great super specials about the Baby Sitter's Club"


    I'm imagining this review being the cliffhanger to a comic book. Will Karen defuse the pipe bomb in time? Will Claudia survive after eating that expired Ho-Ho? Will Stacey's family file for bankruptcy because her mounting credit card debt? Dun dun dunnnn.



    4 1/2 stars! You know it!




      Tuesday, July 20, 2010

      A Great and Terrible Beauty



      As part of the worst Super Sweet 16 ever, Gemma Doyle has a vision that shows her mother killing herself rather than allowing a shadowy thing to get her. And then, the vision comes true. In a cruel twist, the death of her mother gives Gemma just what she's always wanted--to leave India for finishing school in Britain.

      Once at school, Gemma falls in with the two most powerful girls at school, Felicity and Pippa. In order for them to gain her, though, Gemma makes them also take her homely, scholarship roommate, Ann. The four girls begin to explore the occult while having secret meetings in a cave.

      After a while, Gemma reveals her visions to the group. They find that they can travel together to a place where dreams take place. It is there that Gemma finds her mother and learns more about her visions. The girls all skip around making up their hearts' desire. (This realm is considerably better than Harry's Mirror of Erised.) Felicity spends her time hunting with a nude archeress, Pippa hangs out with her perfect knight, and Ann is truly beautiful. In real life, Felicity's father won't take her hunting, Pippa's family is trying to marry her off before her epilepsy is revealed to her suitor, and Ann is just...not pretty.

      The girls become addicted to going to the Realms. They're always pushing Gemma to take them. When she refuses, they mutiny and say that they'll go on their own. Bitches. Gemma gives in and takes them. Life in the Realms is so perfect that Pippa decides to stay for eternity with her knight and to avoid her impending marriage to a middle-aged, overweight suitor.

      Turns out, not all is well in the Realms, though. Much like the queen in Narnia, the Realms has it's own frigid, power hungry girl, Circe. Circe was the last person to go the Realms before Gemma, twenty years prior. She'd performed a human sacrifice in hopes of always being able to go. Since then, the Realms have been locked up tight with no one wanting to reopen them and allow her free access to the magic.. Way to go, Gemma. Of course, Circe is all-around evil and trying to rule the world with magic. No biggie, right?

      No fears, kids. This is a trilogy. Gemma has two more books to find and destroy that bitch Circe.
      • I love the cover. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Corsets kept women down. It kept them from taking a full breath. Yeah, they sucked. But they're also gorgeous. I tried one on before...and let me just say daaaayuuum
      • Why did I start reading another series? Do I hate myself? Am I going to be happy if it takes me six months to read the next book?
      • In high school, some of my friends had feelings about this book that were comparable to the 14 and under crowd's feelings about Twilight. Except for the desire to actually be a part of the story. (My friends have a very firm grip on the reality vs. fiction situation. It's one of their better traits.)
        • One friend said she planned to name a child Gemma. Or, if the gender did not agree, Jem in honor of Scout's big brother. That dedicated.
      • "We aren't supposed to feel. We're British."
        • So true, so true. Unless you're reading this from Yorknorfolkessexshire. In which case, I commend you for being an emotional human being.
      • "One could argue that it's romantic to die for love. Of course, then you're dead and unable to take that honeymoon trip to the Alps with all the other fashionable young couples, which is a shame."
        • I always forget that British people are funny. Who knew that was hiding behind the tea and crumpets addiction?
      • Felicity, Pippa, and Ann initially freak out a little about being transported to another realm and then peacefully accept it. Like those that found their way to another realm through Sabrina's linen closet, these girls' reactions are completely unrealistic. If you transport me to another realm, I assure you that there is no way in hell I'm going to quickly get over that and casually embrace that I am in another realm. Uh-uh. I am more than likely going to flip the hell out. And look forward to my frequent and creative use of the f-bomb. And me possibly fastening my own weapon so I can hold you at rock-point until you get me back to my own realm. After that, consider our relationship over.
      • When Pippa had a seizure, they shove a wooden spoon down in her mouth so she wouldn't bite her tongue. Dudes, don't do this. It's definitely on Things-You-Shouldn't-Do-When-Your-Friend-Is-Having-a-Seizure list. I checked.
      • Gemma asks Ann to stop cutting herself. And just like that Ann stops cutting herself. I thought it was a little harder than that. Or the book Cut filled my head with lies.
      • This is supposed to be made into a movie! But that was announced in 2006. And the film company is run by Mel Gibson. Due to current events (and the four-year waiting period), I suspect that this project is up in the air. Crap.

      Monday, July 19, 2010

      In Which I Ramble (Somewhat) Aimlessly (Although Briefly) About the Secret Life of Bees


      Do I need to summarize this?

      No?

      Good. I am quite possibly the last person in an industrialized nation to read this book. I don't know if that's a good thing. If nothing else, it means that y'all are at least minimally familiar with the book. Or the movie.

      Edit: Apparently everyone hasn't read this. Crap. 

      Real quick: It's 1960s Georgia. Basically Lily's dad is abusive and her nanny-with-the-skin-tone-of-Jessi-Ramsey pissed off some racists. The duo haul ass out of town to search out the source of a honey label, one of the only things Lily has from her mother. They find August Boatwright, the beekeeper that produced the honey and the label. August takes them in to live with her and her sisters May and June.

      So why did I resist so long? I hate when books are shoved down my throat by bestseller lists and movie adaptations and non-readers reading them. That doesn't make me want to read them!

      And to all you non-readers out there (in which case, this a very strange blog for you to be reading): 

      Yeah, yeah. It's great that you used that library card for the first time in twelve years, but I'm not going to be taking your book recommendations. Why? Because you're only reading what everyone else is reading and there's probably a reason why it's appealing to the masses and I want no part in that. I just hate when books try to go all Jim Jones on my ass. (This is not a firm rule, kids.)

      And yet I caved. (See? Not a firm rule.)

      Shit.

      Without further ado, here are my major issues with this book:
      • Dakota Fanning, you ruined this book for me. I haven't seen the movie version, but you still ruined it for me. The book clearly says that Lily is a brunette. You are not. It doesn't help that I still picture you all adorable and cute and toothless in I Am Sam instead of Kristen Stewart's accomplice in defiling the songs of my childhood in The Runaways.
      • What is with Southerners and grits? I've never had them, but I think they look disgusting. It looks like baby food and cream of wheat. And you can make cheese grits? Cheese is one of those foods that causes my gag reflex to kick in. Yum.
      • The Boatwright sisters are May, June, and August. April committed suicide as a teenager.
        • I'm not one for cutesy names. I hate name alliteration (Damn you, Duggars!!) and names that form a set. Like months.
        • This does not mean that I didn't get upset that there wasn't another sister or brother named July. You can't just skip a month like that! If you're going to pick a pattern, don't half-ass it! Follow through!
      • I'm a little put off by how August took Lily in without much question. Someone you don't know knocks on your door. Do you let them stay at your house? Or do you even answer the door?
        • Maybe it's because I'm not a warm-hearted Southerner. Yeah, I'm from the North, therefore, I have boundaries. Like not letting strangers into my house. Or blessing  people's hearts.
      • When August was teaching Lily about beehives, I was all, 'Mmmhmmm. That's just what Ms. Frizzle said in that one Magic School Bus book.' I suspect that August was in Ms. Frizzle's class back in the day.
      • I hate when books with movie adaptations use movie screenshots for the cover. I will have no part in that!
      • And do you know what? I have a problem with the title. It's about the secret life of bees. That's not so secret. Again, Ms. Frizzle covered the basics. Where were the killer African bees or the bees that killed that kid in My Girl? Those are the bees whose secret lives I want to know about.

                Saturday, July 17, 2010

                BSC on PostSecret?



                Clever, isn't it?

                It's clearly a picture of Stacey McGill, but it's the PostSecret of Miss Claudia Kishi.
                Janine must have proofread this for her, though. Claudia would never use the right their/there/they're on her own.

                Thursday, July 15, 2010

                Juliet

                Fun Fact: I won this ARC on Goodreads. Go me! It'll be released August 17, 2010.

                Juliet

                This is yet another historical-mystery-romance. But this time, I can legit say that I liked it.

                Juliet Jacobs has just heard that her great-aunt Rose has passed away. Rose raised Juliet and her twin sister Janice after their parents were killed in a car accident back in Italy. After the funeral, the will is read--Janice is left the family mansion and all of Aunt Rose's assets. Juliet is left a few pictures, an old key, and a letter from Aunt Rose insisting that Juliet head back to Italy to find the family treasure that Juliet's mother had hidden just before her death.

                Getting shafted in the will doesn't bother Juliet so much. She's more of the bohemian pacifist type to Janice's gold digging, promiscuous ways. What bothers Juliet are the instructions to return to Italy. Since leaving as a toddler, Juliet has returned to Italy once--As a college student protesting Italy's involvement in Iraq. That trip led to an out of control demonstration, tear gas, a night in a Roman jail, and instructions to never return to Italy again. Just your regular Italian vacation.

                Never fear, though. Umberto is prepared for this sticky situation. He presents Juliet with a passport that has her real name on it. What, what? Apparently, Aunt Rose changed Juliet and Janice's names when she brought them to America to help them avoid misspellings. Seriously. Juliet Jacobs is really Guiletta Tolomei. Huh.

                Soon enough, Julie is headed to Italy. In the airport, she meets a wealthy woman, Eva Maria. Eva Maria starts to fill Julie's head with tales of their connecting family histories. Apparently, Eva Maria and Julie's families were enemies in the Middle Ages.

                The history between the families is told in chapters that alternate with the chapters that Julie narrates. There is a lot going on there. Trust me, it's easier if you just go read yourself. But because I trust that many of you are lazy, I'll try. A little--

                There's a Guiletta Tolomei that lived 600 years ago. She came to Siena, Italy to live with her uncle after her family's enemies slaughtered her family. Of course, she falls in love with Romeo Marsecotti, the local playboy. Only problem? Her uncle plans to marry her off to his middle aged frenemy. Problem! The boys decide to fight it out in the Palio, a horse race. Of course, Romeo wins. Of course, he's framed for murdering Guiletta's cousin during the race and has to flee Siena with Friar Lorenzo.

                Guiletta ends up marrying the old dude but the Virgin Mary protects her from consummating the marriage. Guiletta gets sent to the country with her husband's son--who is her age. Nino, her stepson, has instructions to get Juliet pregnant. Fast. Nino plans to get it on with his step-mom, though, Romeo shows up. What, what! Too bad Juliet ODed on sleeping potion Marilyn Monroe style. Romeo dies. (Sorry for that little spoiler! Who knew that Romeo wouldn't survive?)

                Juliet's mission is to find Romeo and Guiletta's grave. Legend (and her mama's research) says that the plague on both their houses can only be lifted by Juliet awakening in Romeo's arms. So besides finding the grave, she has to find Romeo.

                Which is all fine and dandy, except for that obnoxious hunka burnin' police captain love Alessandro. And Juliet's sister Janice showing up to reveal that Aunt Rose was bankrupt. And that the letter Umberto gave Julie was a forgery. And that Umberto is really Luciano, the man suspected of killing their parents. And that Eva Maria appears to be trying to run Julie's life. And some of gang gets kidnapped by mobsters with guns and power tools. No biggie.


                That last paragraph takes about 300 pages--so conclusion? Read it yourself. It's worth it.

                • For whatever reason, I get a total Nancy Drew vibe from this book. And I can't say I'm hating it.
                  • Someone adapt Nancy Drew for grown-ups. Please.
                • I've had the book since May, but I just read it now. I think I was really scared off by the story being seeped in Shakespeare. Who doesn't have flashbacks of countless literary analyses on a few lines of Shakespeare? I'm looking at you, Hamlet. Thanks for making second semester of senior year awesome.
                • For as hardcore of a Romeo and Juliet fan as Julie is, I have a hard time believing that she didn't know that Shakespeare was not the original author of the tragedy. I'm not that big of a fan, and I knew that. It was covered in the very basic introduction to R&J in high school.
                • In some books, the alternating between two voices in two different time periods feels forced. This worked beautifully.
                • After learning that Juliet is really Guiletta Tolomei, I kept thinking of Marisa Tomei. Different last name, I realize. Still, it's close. Last names evolve over time, so maybe Juliet/Guiletta and Marisa are really cousins.
                • How is that Juliet and Alessandro went from hating each other to being madly in love? And getting married? AFTER KNOWING EACH OTHER TWO WEEKS! Who does that?
                P.S. What's up with the teeny font? That is not my doing!

                Wednesday, July 14, 2010

                Uglies


                It's at least 300 years in the future. Apparently, good looks have ruined our present, their past. (Haters!) The obvious solution is to give everyone radical plastic surgery so that everyone is considered "pretty." Your 16th birthday marks the day that you receive the surgery.

                Tally, our leading lady, is all jazzed about the surgery. Can I get a 'Hell yeah!' to the prolonged anesthesia, having your skin peeled off you, bones broken and reshaped, and the skin smoothed back on. No? Ah, well.

                Tally's BFF Peris has already had the surgery. He's moved over to New Prettytown. 'Cause you can't be beautiful and creative with your city names. It's too much to ask! Anyway, it's partypartyparty for the New Pretties. Basically, they put my very party hard campus to shame. And I suspect they're more the Assholes on a Yacht party type than White Trash Bash party type. Ahh. Culture. Of course, Tally wants to be with Peris in New Prettytown.

                Without Peris in Uglyville, Tally has a pretty (Hah!) pitiful social life. It's a pleasant surprise when she meets Shay while trying to sneak out of New Prettytown. She and Shay are both hiding from a warden in a garden after Tally set off a fire alarm and stole a bungee jacket to jump off a roof to avoid being found outside of Uglyville. In the kind of friendship that only happens in books, the girls become insta-best friends. Tally is all, Peris who?

                Shay starts sneaking Tally out of the city. (Everyone has to wear rings that track their location and so inanimate objects can operate for them. They pop the ring off and trick the objects into letting them out without alarm bells.) The girlies head out to the Rusties' (us!) town. They cruise around on their hoverboards and ride a roller coaster on them. Fun, fun, fun. Shay signals to her friend, David. Tally is appalled by the idea that David lives on the outside. You know, the outside where you don't willingly wear a tracking device. Or alter your appearance for society. David is a life-long Ugly, too. The horror!

                A week before their 16th birthdays, Shay tells Tally that's she's running away. She's going to live in David's town, the Smoke. And P.S., she wants Tally to come with her. Tally, of course, flips out. She's known Shay for three months! And everyone wants to be Pretty, right? Right? Shay heads out on her merry way. A wrench in Shay's plan, though, is that, uh, people noticed that she went missing. And that she was BFFs with Tally. Huh.



                On her 16th birthday, Tally heads to the hospital for her surgery. Just as she's about to head on in, she gets yanked out by the freakiest looking Pretty she's ever seen. Turns out, this person is a Special--a whole other unit of people. The Specials are like the CIA of the world. They play hardball with Tally. She's given an ultimatum--find Shay and the Smoke or never get the Pretty surgery. Ever.

                In no time, Tally is headed to the Smoke using the coded directions that Shay left for her in case she changed her mind. Tally has a government issue hoverboard that goes faster than her hoverboard. Because she's a week behind Shay, she'll have no time to lose and still have to fudge her departure date a little. After a few days, Tally finds the Smoke. There, she reunites with Shay, meets the infamous David, and finds out that the Smoke is really a small town.

                Tally toddles around the Smoke for a few weeks rather than activating the tracking device the Specials gave her. Instead, she realizes that she likes the Smoke. And she likes David. Even though Shay already thought he was her hunka' burnin' love.

                David even takes Tally to meet his parents. Turns out Davey's parents were doctors that performed the surgery--until they started to question why people had post-op brain lesions. Well, that does seem like a problem. David's parents ran away from the town to begin there own non-Pretty, non-Ugly town. They even developed pills to reverse the surgery. They're not fooling around.

                Tally finally decides that she wants to stay in the Smoke forever. She's actually...working. So, she throws the unactivated tracking device into the fire. Funny thing, though. The Specials were prepared for that. They programmed the device to go off if it were destroyed. So Tally awakens late the next morning to find that the Specials had arrested everyone while at breakfast. She and David, who went for a morning walk, were the only escapees. Convenient.

                Tally and David concoct this plan to free the Smokies from their cells in the Specials' headquarters. The place has ground sensors and shiz, so I like to imagine them descending from the ceiling ninja style.




                Or they just hack in through an air duct. I'll just keep my little fantasy.

                Easily enough, David and Tally find Scooby and the gang. Unfortunately, Shay has already had the surgery because she was the closest to the "safe" age of 16. And David's father has died at the hands of the Specials. The remaining Smokies head out to the Rusties where they hide out and reorganize.

                The book concludes with David's mom finally finding a cure for the brain lesions. The only problem is that she doesn't have a Pretty that will agree to take the pills. Shay has the lesions, so she isn't of a sound enough mind to make that decision. In a cliffhanger I saw coming from a mile away, Tally volunteers to become a Pretty so that there is a willing volunteer that agrees to the pill before the lesions are made.

                Dun dun dunnn.
                • I hate reading series. I don't know if y'all picked up on it from the BSC situation, but I have to finish the series. I can't half-ass it. I now have three more books to read in this series.
                • I'm surprised I actually read this. Besides the series situation, it's futuristic/sci-fi. You don't want to be anywhere near me if there is a book or movie remotely sci-fi-ish. I slept through Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and feel that I missed nothing.
                  • Dudes, Harry Potter and Narnia are as far from reality that I've strayed. Ever.
                    • I lied. In elementary school, I read Escape to Witch Mountain.
                    • And there was that dark, dark time when I read Twilight to see what all the hullabaloo was about.
                • This book kind of reminds me of The Giver. Set in the future. Utopian society. Artificial lives. Kid trying to break out of that artificial life.
                  • Add The Giver to my list of non-reality based books I've read. That's sums up the whole list. I'm sure this time.
                • A part of me feels like it would be really easy and really hard to write a fantasy/sci-fi book. You can make anything up. Nothing is illogical because, hey, it's going on in your world. But then again, you have to come up with a lot of details from scratch.
                • This is random, but my biggest reason for never wanting to be a Pretty would be that they'd probably mess with my toes. Everyone in my mom's family has crazy long toes (think thumb length!) and the second toes is longer. Everyone. If that were changed, I'd miss it.
                  • But don't think I'm 100% anti-plastic surgery. To each their own. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't occasionally despise my white girl, pancake booty.
                • I'm seeing a lot of similarities between the Pretty society and the society in Waterworld. I don't know if that's a good thing.
                  • Not helping, right?
                • How does this society support itself? People don't start working until mid to late-20s. There's all this swag and shiz everywhere--hoverboards, bungee jackets, hovering buildings. Who's footing the bill for that?
                • All books and pictures and magazines that show people (us!) happy being Uglies have been destroyed in an intense bout of censorship. So the Pretties are like Nazis? Or Communist Russians? Or China in general?
                • I just read another blogger's review about this book. She compared it to Stephenie Meyer's The Host. Ahh, hell no! I have no idea what The Host is about, but now I'm sad.

                Saturday, July 10, 2010

                BSC #14 Hello, Mallory

                Hey, BSC! It's been awhile, eh? And, unfortunately, it might be a bit longer. I'm only two books away from the first gap in my BSC collection. 'Cause Lord knows I have BSC #131 The Fire at Mary Anne's House but I can't find BSC #17 Mary Anne's Bad Luck Mystery for the life of me. I even swallowed my pride and checked at the library. Since my childhood, the BSC books have taken a huge hit in numbers there. The catalog shows them having three BSC books. Three. And that's after checking the libraries of four or five surrounding counties.



                Cover:

                • The image is from Mallory's test job at the Perkins. Funny, I don't remember the Perkins girls doing Mallory's hair. Or Claudia having a clipboard.
                • My grandmother's living room used to be painted the same pink as the Perkins' living room. That's not an easy color on the eyes.
                  • At least my grandma didn't have an orange couch, too. My retinas are burning.
                • Why is Mallory dressed like a Sunday school teacher?

                Plot:
                At the end of BSC #13 Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye, the BSC invites Mallory to take Stacey's place. Mallory is so excited about this.

                In the early BSC days, the club got duped by The Baby-Sitting Agency.

                For you less dedicated fans, a little reminder--The BSA was made up of high school girls and boys. People were hiring them, though, because they were relieved. The BSC has a 8pm curfew (9pm on weekends!), so it was nice to have available baby-sitters that could baby-sit after dark.

                In an attempt at eliminating the competition, the BSA got two of its sitters to act as moles within the BSC. They were allowed into the BSC without urine tests or background searches and purposely ditched jobs to give the BSC a bad reputation. Why so competitive and catty, BSA?

                Some of the BSA were legit bad baby-sitters. They didn't shit themselves with joy over taking care of someone else's kids. They talked on the phone. They smoked. And someone let Jamie Newton play in the front yard. By himself. WITHOUT MITTENS! 'Cause a lack of mittens is way worse than the four-year-old possibly getting hit by a car or kidnapped. But still, it was the lack of mittens that allowed the BSC to bring down the BSA.

                Because of post-BSA paranoia, the BSC decides to give Mallory a test before she can join. (A test that wasn't given to (1) Stacey, (2) Dawn, (3) Logan, or (4) Shannon.) Mallory has to draw a picture of the digestive system, or as Claudia would say the divestive system. There's questions about colic and tourniquets and other ridiculousness.

                Mallory fails the test miserably. The test job doesn't go any better. She lets the Perkins' dog into the house despite being told not to. (I recall that Claudia took the same dog for a walk. It then ran away for the afternoon.) She asks the girls what they want for a snack rather than force feeding them. Unlike some official BSCers, though, Mallory didn't lose a kid. *coughDawncough* No one recognizes this achievement though.

                Is Mallory really a terrible baby-sitter? The BSC seems to think so. Especially since her brother Nicky broke his finger while under Mallory's care. 'Cause God knows Mallory didn't leap in front of that volley ball and protect darling Nicky's finger from getting smashed. Next time, Mallory, make sure that you keep Nicky from being a normal kid and having any kind of fun. He'll thank you one day.

                Because the BSC runs the universe, Mallory is devastated. She goes so far as to confide in the new girl in her class. The new girl that Mallory decided would be her best friend before even speaking to her. The new girl with the cocoa legs that must be a dancer.

                Jessi and Mallory decide to start their own Baby-sitters Club. They'll call it Kids Incorporated. Now...why does that name sound familiar?
                OriginalCast.jpg image by cr9245

                The BSC finds out about Kids, Inc. after the new business steals some of the BSC's precious, precious business. How much business? you ask. Two jobs. Two. Sitting for Mallory's siblings and Jessi's siblings. Clearly Kids, Inc. is destroying the BSC's monopoly on Stoneybrook childcare. The BSC WILL NOT HAVE IT!


                So obviously the best solution is to propose a merger. Except that Mallory and Jessi retain none of the rights to their business. And they have to listen to Kristy.

                The BSC finally calls Kids, Inc. during a meeting to ask Mallory to come back. Of course, I took some creative license but in general, it went something like this:

                Mallory: Kids, Inc where we offer questionable childcare until the streetlights come on! This is Mallory speaking!

                Kristy: We made a mistake, Mallory. The BSC wants you to be our token ginger. Like Claudia is our token cognitively impaired Asian. Or Dawn is our token uptight bitch that's not so California Casual with that stick up her ass. Or I'm the BSC's token sexually confused softball player.

                Mallory: Ohmygod! Even though you rejected me before on the basis of an unfairly constructed test, you want  me to join the club? Yes! Double fist pumps.

                Jessi: Errr...What about me?

                Mallory: Oh, yeah. You have to take Jessi, too. According to Perez Hilton, we're the new 'it' couple. We're a packaged deal. Like Brangelina or TomKat. We just don't have an annoying nickname because we share no vowels.

                Kristy: The BSC doesn't know Jessi, though.

                Mallory: Jessi's new here. She has cocoa legs and dances. She's black, but I don't care about race. She's just Jessi-with-the-complexion-of-cocoa to me. She's makes up for skin pigmentation what I lack. I don't care about race, though. Really.

                Kristy: Our racial minority quota is filled with Claudia. She has these gorgeous almond eyes, you know. And her sister is a real, live genius because it would be impossible to have an Asian character of a normal intelligence level. Claudia would tell you about it herself, but she's looking for that hollow set of encyclopedias she hid her bong in.

                Mallory: Do you want a token ginger or not, bitch?

                Kristy: You drive a hard bargain, Pike. We'll take Jessi. You two can be junior members. You'll get paid half as much and you'll have to share jobs. Also, you guys will have to split Ring Dings. That shit ain't cheap.

                And so, another adventure in the land of BSC ends.
                • Remember a couple months ago when there was that Washington Post article? After an amusing e-mail (if I do say so myself), I was called for a phone interview. Monica Hesse, the reporter, asked me which BSC character I was. I assured her I was a non-diabetic Stacey. Even though I rocked the frizzy hair, glasses, orthodontia, burning desire to be a novelist, and all-around social awkwardness during my tween years that screamed "I'm a Mallory!" Yeah. That pretty well sums me up.
                  • And dudes. I was a Mallory. As a child waiting to be old enough to start my own BSC, I looked up to Mallory. She was a baby-sitter, wrote stories, and rocked it out as a hair minority.
                • There is another mention of "three of them are triplets" when describing Mallory's family. This high on the list of statements I despise. Of course three of them will be triplets! That's how many kids make up a set of TRIplets. If Jordan got hit by a train, you might specify how many of the remaining kids are part of the triplets. Otherwise, no. Just no.
                • Mallory explains that her dad is a corporate lawyer. This explains the funding for eight spawn. Mallory's mom stays at home with the kiddos. This does not explain the constant need for a baby-sitter.
                  • My mom stayed at home until I was seven or eight. This may be shocking to you residents of Stoneybrook out there, but she took us with her when she ran errands. Take a minute and digest divest that. How does a person that willingly squeezed a couple kids out for the sole purpose of spending time with the little buggers actually take them anywhere? Can kids go places? Kids are automatically travel sized, but does that mean that they are capable of riding in the car? Are they allowed in the grocery stores and post offices of Stoneybrook, Connecticut?
                • Mallory is such a BSC fangirl. It is kind of embarrassing. Like how she gushes about them being older. Or how she is "so flattered" that they asked her to join.
                  • Although if the BSC were real and they asked me to join right now, I'd go all fangirl on their asses. Nevermind that I'm seven years older than them. Nah. We went to 8th grade together. My first time, their nineteenth.
                • There's a girl in Mallory's class named Rachel Robinson. Judy Blume shout out? Or do I just see Judy references everywhere?
                • Dude. Did you know that Kristy lives in a mansion?
                • The only benefit I can see for trading Stacey for Mallory-Jessi is that you don't have to hear about Stacey's diabetes. Not that I don't love to be reminded of how Stacey's pancreas is shittin' out on her.
                • We do have to trade the diabeetus for Jessi's cocoa legs, though. Did you know that Jessi's black? Race is such a non-issue for Mallory, that I'm sure we'll never hear about that again.
                  • "Also, she was black." I know, I know. You can feel Mallory's shock, too. There are non-Caucasian people in this world? That would never happen in Stoneybrook. No, no, no.
                • Stoneybrook's 6th grade branch of the KKK is kind of terrible. These 12-year-old girls are going on about how Jessi "doesn't belong here." Jessi "must have moved from Africa."
                  • Yes, 12-year-olds. Africa is the only place Jessi could be from. Your originality stuns me.
                  • And girlies, go speak with your local Native American tribe about how Jessi "doesn't belong here." I'm curious about what they'd say about that.
                • When Mallory overdresses for the BSC meeting, Kristy corrects her. According to Kristy, Mallory doesn't need to get all dressed up for the meetings. According to Alison, Kristy is not someone to be taking fashion advice from.
                • It's really awkward how Jessi's mom calls Mallory 'Mal' the first time she meets her. Sure, Jessi told her that that was Mallory's nickname. But she just met Mallory. And I don't remember anyone else outside of Mallory's family calling her 'Mal.'
                  • Okay, yes. I come from a strongly anti-nickname family. My mother is quick to let people know that if she wanted me to be called Ali, she would have goddamned named me that. This is coming from a woman that uses a nickname herself.
                • Oh, sweet Lord. Look at what I found. It's Mallory's favorite shirt.


                  • Which brings me to something: I would freaking love to dress up as the BSC for Halloween. Sadly, my friends were not dedicated BSC readers and questioned my sanity the day the bulk lot of BSC arrived in the mail. And I don't know anyone that would be able to recognize the BSC. So--Long Term Plan: I'll become financially independent and have the funding to meet up with some of y'all. We'll dress up as the BSC and go somewhere that people will actually recognize our witty and creative costumes. Right now, we're look at Halloween 2013 or 2014 at least. Also in order to entice people, I'd be willing to dress up as Dawn Schafer. I could be casual and bitchy at the same time.
                • How can you look at someone at think "Oh, her legs look like they belong to a dancer?" I have long legs, but that doesn't mean that I'm a dancer!
                  • Mallory also assumed that Jessi's parents wouldn't let her get her ears pierced because they weren't already pierced. Mallory, not everyone wants their ears pierced. Get over it.
                    • Okay, except I do remember begging to get the second holes. The third ones were on a whim. And the industrial took five years of persuasion/begging and a lie of omission. I'm relating to Mallory more than I'd like right now.
                • It drives me crazy that Jessi's family calls her little brother Squirt because he was a five pound baby. Thus far, my family has produced two babies half that size. Guess what, Ramsey family! Previous experience has taught me that small babies grow into mostly normal sized people. Shocker, right?
                • Why would Annie have Mallory and Jessi name their club Kids Incorporated? Isn't part of being a children's author about being connected to your audience? And knowing things, like that Kids Incorporated was a TV show?

                Monday, July 5, 2010

                Geek Love


                I don't even know how to summarize this book.

                1. People with a carnival drug the wife when she's pregnant in order to have their children double as their sideshow acts.
                2. Arturo  (Arty), the son with flippers, feels superior to the rest of the family because his show is the most successful.
                3. Fortunato, nicknamed Chick, can control things with his mind.
                4. The twins, Iphy and Elly, run a lucrative prostitution business. That is until they get pregnant. The resulting baby is enormous
                5. A cult builds around Arty. People have all of their limbs amputated in order to be more like Arty and to be "free." Chick controls the followers' pain levels so that they never experience any discomfort from their surgeries.
                6. Olympia (Oly) has Chick move some of Arty's sperm into her (without Arty's knowledge) to impregnate her in a sick attempt at gaining her brother's favor. Oly gives up the baby, Miranda, to a convent. Not long afterward, a fire destroys the carnival and kills the entire family except for Oly and her mother.
                7. Oly basically stalks her daughter/niece, Miranda, who is being courted by Miss Lick, a wealthy woman interested in paying Miranda great sums of money to amputate her tail and otherwise disfigure herself.
                8. In an attempt to keep Miss Lick's disfiguring paws off of Miranda, Oly befriends her. Then, after a late night swim at the club, Oly kills them both with chlorine gas.
                • I had a hard time getting into this book. The whole first page made no sense to me. It was about dreamlets and geeking and dreaming dreams. Don't make me decode anything when I'm first starting the book!
                  • I think the kids' names were what made this hard to get into. Olympia. Electra. Iphemgia. Fortunato. Arturo. Someone was reading Beyond Jennifer and Jason.
                • What is geeking? I think it involves biting the head off of a live chicken. Doin' it Ozzy style. Yum.
                • The scholar in me is going to question the family's methods for breeding children. So, Mom gets doped up on different illegal drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs, and poisons while she is trying to conceive and is pregnant. Despite the teratogenic cocktail, none of the kids have any kind of cognitive impairment. Hmmm...
                  • A sick part of me is wondering why they didn't try to get their hands on any Thalidomide. That seems like a pretty easy way to get the, uh, desired end result.
                • There is no explanation on how Fortunato got the nickname Chick.
                • I think the whole book really screams dysfunctional family! Oly having Fortunato Chick impregnate her with Arty's sperm just takes that one step further. Ewww. Just ewww.
                • There is so much going on this book. It felt like every other page had a new plot. While, yes, I do like the build-up to new events, this might have been too much.
                • I feel really indifferent about this book, which is weird. I freakin' love anything to do with (1) medical oddities, (2) birth defects, and (3) cults. Stating this makes me realize how creepy I sound. Not. Creepy. Merely a victim of educational television.

                Thursday, July 1, 2010

                Probably the Best Media Coverage I've Seen.

                My feelings for Twilight are pretty similar to those for Nicholas Sparks.





                And thus, the world needs its reporters to take a page from Ben Gleib.