Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Nice So Smart

Do you ever read the second book of a set and convince yourself that maybe you’ve forgotten to read a book? Like maybe you’re really reading the third one in the series? I just finished Crossed, the second book in Allie Condor’s Matched trilogy, and I was sure that I had skipped something. It hasn’t been that long since I read the first one, and I usually hold the details of a book for a very long time, but she would talk about something that had happened and I had no memory of what she was talking about. A piece of the book is about taking a pill to forget what has happened in the past and I sort of got paranoid that Condor had implanted one into the book. That way her characters could say, “Oh, yeah, remember how I already told you about this pivotal plot point?” I should have known that anything billing itself from the first moment as a trilogy wasn’t going to solve any giant questions in the second book, but it was a nice fast read. These are the books I’m overjoyed to get from the library for free – You read them in a day and (apparently) forget about them just as fast.

I did the opposite with MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and Undermined. It’s the latest of the Queen Betsy books, which I love. (Very funny vampire series.) So Davidson starts off the prologue talking about her fans thinking she was crazy after the last book and time travel (Jazz Hands!), but I can’t remember anything too odd about the last book. So I start reading and I have no idea what they are referencing in the book. I decided it was a long whatever you call the prologue thing where the end of the book is at the front and then the rest of the book is how they reached that point. (There’s probably a word for that, huh?) I got about 50 pages in before I gave up and checked on Amazon to find that I had missed a book. I’m the reading genius this week!

Happy New Year! Get ready for the 100 book challenge!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Words Can’t Bring Me Down

I meant to write at least two posts every single week, but the holidays have knocked me back to one. I could blame it all on the work obligations (true) and social whirl (maybe a little less than advertised), but the real culprit is obvious. It’s stupid Words with Friends. I’m not an addict or anything. I don’t play in church or at the dinner table and that only has a medium amount to do with the fact that I can’t ever remember to turn off the popping bubble sound effects and my preacher and/or mother would take away my phone. I do have a lot of games going at once, though. I’m convinced that I’ll learn something new about people by playing them, so I mostly choose opponents I’d like to know better. So far, I’ve only learned who’ll apologize for playing ‘tooters’ and who’ll admit that they have no idea what a word means, but the computer accepted it, so it’s their new favorite ‘q’ word. No one ever trash talks, though, so I either have extra nice friends or we’re secretly Canadian. 

I have been reading, though. I’ve recently finished Entwined, a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Apparently. This wasn’t a fairy tale I knew, so I just looked it up and it’s got some parts that link up, certainly. In any case, the 12 princesses are thrown into mourning at the death of their mother and not allowed to dance for one year. They are angry at their father, who is distant in grief, and determined to keep their spirits high during the year of mourning. A secret passage leads to a magic ballroom where the girls can dance all night. A man named “Keeper” controls the ballroom and would like to have the princesses under his control, as well. The parts of the book that aren’t full of fairy-tale darkness and danger are mostly concerned with the girls’ love lives. No one is in love with whom they should be, but all will be well. All will be exceedingly well.

I read The Julian Game, too. The cover with the blue-wigged girl and the freaky gloves. Popular girl uses nerd girl to help punish a hot boy they both like. The hot boy likes the nerd girl for a whole week or two before he goes back to his default boy-tramp mode. Popular girl punishes nerd girl with cyber bullying during her week of bliss. Nerd girl overcomes all with the knowledge that popular girl isn’t really that happy after all. Blurg. I know I shouldn’t be encouraging impressionable young people to take revenge, (It’s only for adults, like Kahlua), but COME ON. Nerd girl has popular girl’s computer password and can smack popular girl into civility, even if she can’t force her to be sorry, but it’s enough to know that popular girl is only mean because she’s unhappy? Like fun it is. Loser.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Add It Up

A few years ago, I kept track of every book I read for an entire year. In pure book-nerd fashion, I noted how many pages, start and finish dates, and whether I had read the book before. Goodreads gets some of that out of my system, but even with that tracker I’m constantly updating the title list after I’ve already finished the books. I came to blogging too late last year to join in any of the awesome book tracker programs last year (and I know you don’t think I could participate for partial credit and let someone think that my half-year tally was the total I read this year). Anyway, this year I’m getting in on January 1.

I’m planning to participate in the 100 books in 2012, YA of the 80s and 90s, (Could that one be more up my alley? I have a valid reason to re-buy all the Wildfire Teen books of my youth. Actually, a commitment.), and the 2012 eBook Challenge. I’m still trying to figure out how to add the buttons to my site, because I’m the wrong kind of nerd, but you can watch for them in the sidebar and play along. You can also treat the challenge like a game of Donkey Kong and throw distractions in my way, like vacations and party invitations, to keep me from reaching my goal.

If you can’t beat me, join me. 

100 Books in 2012 is hosted by Book Chick City, Sarah at Workaday Reads is hosting the 2012 eBook Challenge and the Book Vixen hosted YA of the 80s and 90s last year, so I’m hoping she’ll do it again this year. You don’t have to have a blog to participate and you can sign up well into next year. I’m all excited about those little tracker things to mark my progress, but I might wind up having to add little hash marks to the bottom of my posts, instead.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This Time Tomorrow

More Time Travel! I just finished The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler and R.J. Anderson’s Ultraviolet this week. I was waiting so impatiently for The Future of Us and I wasn’t completely disappointed, but it wasn’t as much fun as I was hoping it would be. I loved Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, as depressing as the subject of teen suicide is. The idea of someone committing suicide and saying, “You. You made this happen and here’s what you did.” was kind of fascinating in a voyeuristic way. In The Future of Us, the central premise is just as engrossing.

It’s 1995 and a girl gets her first personal computer. Her next-door neighbor and former best friend-boy brings over an AOL CD with 100 free hours of internet time. (If I looked hard enough, I probably could find one or two of those disks in my storage box.) She signs up for AOL and manages to open Facebook, 15 years in the future. She can see who she marries and where she lives and has enough hints from her status updates to judge that maybe she’s not so happy in the future. So, she starts actively changing the present to affect the way her life will turn out, with instant results to her future Facebook profile. Her neighbor, on the other hand, has the future life he’s always dreamed of, and he’s desperate for her not to mess it up. I really did love the idea of this book, but I did hope it would come down to more than a sub-plot in the traditional boy/girl Y.A. love story.

Ultraviolet was a different kind of story. Alison wakes up in a mental hospital, remembering only that Tori, the most popular girl in her high school, disintegrated during their fight. She’s not sure if she killed Tori and went into a fugue state or if she’s truly crazy. Complicating the issue is that Alison has severe synesthesia, where one sense triggers another. Letters have specific colors and tastes, visual cues have sounds associated with them, words have personalities. She’s convinced that her synesthesia means that she’s schizophrenic, anyway, so she’s not really sure that she didn’t kill Tori. There’s not much else I can tell you about the book without giving away major plot points, but just allow me to say, Time Travel!!! (Imagine it with jazz hands and an Oprah lilt for the full effect.)

I don’t think the next book in the stack has any time travel, but you have to see this cover. It’s weirdly fetish-like for a Y.A. novel, but I don’t think it has anything to do with latex. I’ve been wrong before, of course, but that would be an interesting new genre to fall into, wouldn’t it?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

You’re My Best Friend

Does it count as time travel if a character disappears as a child, then reappears as a 17 year old? If not, then maybe my unexpected time travel streak has been broken! I just finished Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr, where Jenna’s former best friend Cameron shows up after a multi-year absence. In those days, Jenna was Jennifer, overweight and outcast, and Cameron was her only friend. (Cameron is a boy, of course. Not because the name is gender specific, but it’s a YA novel, so it had to be a boy) Jennifer was alone most of the time and forced to raise herself while her mother worked full time and went to nursing school. Jennifer’s life was difficult, but Cameron’s life was a nightmare. Cameron’s father physically and mentally abused his wife and children, and after a life-changing incident with Cameron and Jennifer, their link was permanent.

Jennifer’s mother finished school, married a truly kind and gentle man, and, as their circumstances changed, Jennifer changed herself. With rigid self-control, Jennifer became Jenna – a happy, normal girl who has never known isolation or humiliation. The lines between Jenna and Jennifer blur and knit when Cameron suddenly reappears (like time travel!) on her 17th birthday. Jenna has to figure out which parts of her old life she needs to acknowledge to become (in total YA-speak) truly herself.

Cameron’s dad was a monster and, since I had a Mike Brady dad (but with 60% less hipness), I always hope that these horrible abusive dads are exaggerated for effect. I know they’re not. There are parents out there who make The Great Santini look like Mike Brady, himself.

I was really fascinated by the way Zarr treated the relationship between Jenna and her mom. Jenna understood why her mother had gone to school full-time while working full-time, also, but there’s a deep vein of resentment. She never says anything to her mother about being alone so much, but she deeply resented her mother not being there to help her fit in better. She recounts her mother’s often-told  story of how they had survived the lean years with pluck and good humor with near-contempt, but it’s all internal. That anger doesn’t fit what she thinks of as Jenna, and she remembers Jennifer as being too mousy and scared to complain, so that rage has nowhere to go and all Jenna can do is suppress it. Those old Campbell soup commercials where the kid brings his going-back-to-school mom a bowl of soup because he’s worried about her working too hard have taken on a new nuance. He may have poisoned her soup so she’ll have to stay home and do laundry for once.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spooky Little Girl Like You

Surprise! The idealistic young lawyer (IYL) in John Grisham’s The Litigators failed miserably. His clients all end up much worse for having met him and they all die in abject poverty. Uh-huh. You know they all wound up rich and happy because IYL touched their lives. Grisham is getting tired, though. This one was a paint by numbers of legal thrillers, so shallow that you barely notice when a major character dies.

Ramsom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was not paint-by-numbers. The Goodreads summary -

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

I get on kicks sometimes where it seems like every book I pick up will have a common theme or motif, even if there’s no mention of it on the back flap. I went through a period where every book I read had a Young-Jewish-Boy-Coming-of-Age. It didn’t matter what the main book topic was, there was a YJBCoA in there, somewhere. I’m apparently in a time-travel loop right now. (And a cliff-hanger loop, but that’s not so much a motif as a maddening cheap shot by authors who haven’t figured out how to properly close a book while still leaving room to continue the adventure.)

Anyway, there’s time travel in Miss Peregrine’s. The story concept was truly original and fascinating, but the book wavered in places. The themes were decidedly adult, but Riggs didn’t treat them with the depth of an adult novel. I think when people complain about Young Adult novels, they’re often remarking on the shallowness of theme treatment. The book would have been much, much richer if more time had been spent examining Jacob’s torn loyalties and adolescent impulses from a slight remove or an adult perspective.

The vintage photographs make this book. I read Miss Peregrine’s on my phone and, for the first time, was glad that it was difficult to skip back and forth to the photos. I waited with anticipation for another illustrative photo to appear and then was forced to leave them and continue on with the story. If they had been on the page, I would have surely spent more time poring over the photographs and missed the narrative thread of the story. There was a fascinating note at the end of the book that none of the photos were created for the book, They actually existed and were loaned to the author by various collectors, and the characters had been written around the images.

I highly recommend the book. I think it’s possible that you, as the reader, may ponder some of the morality issues raised in the book more deeply than did the author, but that’s good practice for when we write our own bestsellers.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Time in a Bottle

The Christmas frenzy started early this year, so my reading has suffered. I did finish Rebecca Stead’s Y.A. book When You Reach Me this week and I’m halfway through the new John Grisham, but I finally have Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and I'm resenting every delay from getting to read it. I’ve finished my friend gifts and most of my family gifts, but I still have to do the work gifts. I wonder if they would accept book reviews in lieu of hot pepper crackers?

When You Reach Me was an odd book about friendships.. and time travel. It was a lot like an old-school Judy Blume book – Why can’t boys and girls be friends? What do I do when my best friend starts hanging out with other people? My mom is dating and I don’t know if I want a new dad. But, then, in the middle of this perfectly normal stuff, Miranda starts finding these notes about the future and the neighborhood crazy man starts to talk to her like they’re friends. At the same time, Miranda does make a new friend, one who tells her about the possibilities of time travel and how you wouldn’t know the person, even if you saw them together current and future, because of the age difference. Will there be time travel? Did someone come back in time to save someone’s life? I would never dream of spoiling it for you.

The Grisham is a Grisham. They’re fun and fast to read, but I got away from legal thrillers a few years ago, so I’m not overly involved. I’ll let you know if there’s a giant twist and the idealistic young lawyer loses the case! I’m reading as fast as I can to get to Miss Peregrine’s and Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case. How AWESOME is that one going to be?!?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pac-Man Fever

On the back cover of Ready Player One, the reviewer blurbs are full of people I’ve never heard of, who have written books I’ve never seen. But, the first review is from Charlaine Harris, who wrote the Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood books. I don’t have the book in front of me, but her blurb says something like, “I don’t know anything about video games and I loved this book!” It’s an obvious bid to woo the ladies to read the book, but I’m with Charlaine.

The book focuses on a not-so-distant future, when everyone is plugged into a virtual world for most of the day and the real world has become a Mad Max kind of place. The creator of the virtual world, James Halliday, has died and his fortune is held in escrow until a gamer manages to find three keys and go through three gates. Halliday is obsessed with the 1980’s, so almost everyone in the world has become an expert on the decade. That, of course, was the hook for me. I wasn’t lost during the focus on gaming, but I certainly wasn’t enough of a geek to know programmer trivia or cheat codes for Pac-Man and I really don’t know much more about Dungeons and Dragons than the basics.

I’m going to tell you that the book was pretty long, and it focused on one main gamer who didn’t go outside for weeks at a time, his best friends who he’s never met in person, and an evil corporation determined to win Halliday’s inheritance and control of the virtual world. There’s endless 80’s pop culture references and the vast majority of the book is descriptions of a virtual landscape or games within the game. Ignore all that and read it anyway. It’s as engrossing as any adventure movie and moves just as fast.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dancer

She was only two-foot eight-inches tall, but her legend reaches out to us more than a century later. As a child, Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to the immortal impresario P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and transformed into the world’s most unexpected celebrity.

                                           - from the Goodreads summary

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel was outstanding. Using the bare bones of Mrs. Tom Thumb’s actual memoir, Melanie Benjamin turns tiny Vinnie Warren into a fully articulated person. Far from being an exploited sideshow attraction, Vinnie actively pursues a life on stage, joining forces with P.T. Barnum to create insatiable public interest in her life. Benjamin’s thesis is that Vinnie is deeply in love with Barnum and, understanding that they will never marry, is mostly content to be his confidante and equal. For Barnum, she is willing to marry General Tom Thumb, whose fame and size are his only recommendations. Vinnie persuades her shy and na├»ve sister Minnie to join her on tour, completing a quartet of “little people” for the public’s amazement. Smarter than almost everyone around her (with the notable exception of Barnum), Vinnie convinces herself that what she does, she does for the good of all, but she, like Barnum, has an addiction to manipulation.

Vinnie and Minnie were both born normal-sized, and grew normally until the age of two, when they simply stopped getting taller. They were perfectly proportioned, just tiny. I knew from the prologue that Minnie had died in childbirth, and that was one of the most interesting parts of the story. Vinnie had always refused to consummate her marriage to Tom Thumb, fearing that pregnancy would likely produce a full-sized infant, since she was 6 pounds at birth. Minnie convinced herself that two small people would certainly have a “fairy-sized” baby and got pregnant. She weighed less than 30 pounds and stood less than 30 inches and carried the baby to term. Doctors only attempted C-sections after the mother was past saving, so Minnie labored until she died and then they cut the baby out of her and it didn’t survive. The doctors had recommended that Minnie abort the baby and she had refused. I boggled at the logistics of carrying and delivering a baby that weighed 1/5th of your body weight and was more than 1/2 of your length. I do believe that YIKES is the only correct term I can use in a family-friendly spot like this. (Yes, C-sections, giant baby heads and little tiny pelvic areas, and little cows being torn apart are totally family-friendly, so hush.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Papa Don’t Preach

When I was a teenager, Norma Klein wrote Young Adult books featuring savvy New York kids who were about 15 years more sophisticated than anyone I knew. These kids talked like the people in Woody Allen movies, and talked about stuff that the teenagers I knew wouldn’t have said out loud even for the promise of a new Benetton sweater. They talked frankly to each other and their parents about the decision to have sex and, since we’ve firmly established how repressed I happily am, you guys know it was always awkward even to read. I don’t think these super-literate and rational teenagers really existed outside of Norma Klein’s head and I watched enough NYC Prep to confirm that. There’s a veneer of sophistication to these kids, but they still have bad skin and a ladleful of hormone soup to swim through.

I just finished Catherine Greenman’s Hooked and she might have grown up on the same Norma Klein books as I did. Thea falls in love with Will in her junior year of high school and gets pregnant as a senior. They decide to keep the baby and move in together. Sounds simple, right? This book is so foreign to anything I can imagine happening if I had gotten pregnant in high school that it feels like science fiction.

Will’s parents only care that he stay in college. Thea’s mother doesn’t care much about any of it and her usually distant father is the only one who seems to care about Thea or the baby. The parents all kick in money to allow Thea and Will to sub-let an apartment while Will goes to school and Thea stays at home with the baby. An accident happens with the baby (nothing too traumatic, I promise) and all the people drift back apart as if they had never met. It’s a strange story, with some subplots written clearly and movingly and other, more major plot points half-drawn and abandoned before they develop real meaning. I still don’t have any idea whether Greenman meant to portray Thea as a good mother or as a little girl making a grownup mistake.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Young Turks

When I was annoyed about Divergent ending on a cliffhanger the other day, it was probably the equivalent of complaining about names with extra Y’s and apostrophes – the trend appears to be sticking.* I just finished Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go and it ended even more abruptly than Divergent. Literally, it stopped the middle of a scene, with a preview from book two. Dudes, you’re not writing Harry Potter. She earned those cliffhangers. I almost put down The Knife of Never Letting Go early on, because large pieces of the dialogue were written in dialect. I’m not a fan of accent dialogue in any case, it’s usually a cheap character marker, but a lot of this stuff was completely unnecessary. The lead character, Todd, doesn’t have much education and is barely able to read. So why, exactly, would that make his thoughts misspelled? Especially when they are spelled out phonetically, so they would be pronounced exactly the same. Direkshuns? Really? Were you writing The Color Purple of teenage dystopian novels?

I’m glad I stuck with it, because it totally is a roller coaster of a book. The energy builds from the introduction of Todd, the last “boy” in a village of only men. Todd’s village is the last in the world and viruses have killed all the women, given animals the ability to speak, and made it so that all thoughts are audible. Todd will turn 13 in one month and become a full-fledged member of his group, but his discovery of a girl in the woods turns everything he thinks he know upside down. The action is relentless and one character is seriously more resilient than Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. I guess there’s a whole generation unclear on the concept that you always make sure the villain is really dead.


*And as soon as I wrote that, I looked at the book on Amazon and saw that it came out 3 years ago. So really, this is more like me complaining that video killed the radio star. In any case, I blame it all on Stephanie Meyers and Twilight.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blame the Machines

I’m dabbling in the idea of getting  a real Kindle. I haven’t stuck much of a foot in yet, right now I’m just working with the Kindle app on my phone. I’ve played a little bit with the free classics on Amazon, but I’ve read most of what I want off of that list. (There are several classics I would like to have already read, but am not willing to actually put in the effort to read, Moby Dick.) Anyway, my beloved library has started loaning out e-books, so I’ve eased into the experiment with an Amanda Quick trashy book. (I was sure to tell the library that I was checking it out for my mother.) I had high hopes that I wouldn’t just wander away in boredom and forget about the book altogether. It’s okay, but I’m not sure yet that I’ll love it $200 worth. (Or $79 or $139 – There are so many choices and what if I pick wrong? The first-world would come screeching to a halt!) It’s harder to pick up and start reading at a stoplight, but according to my local policemen, that might be a good thing. Anti-continuing-education spoilsports.  I am a lot more worried about dropping my expensive phone in the tub than I ever was a book, so there is that drawback.

I’ve always been a fierce supporter of paper. I like the feel of them in my hands, the fresh woodsy smell of new books and the slightly musty smell of used ones. But then I get a giant book like Everybody Loves Our Town and my hands get so tired. Stephen King has a new book coming out and that thing is 849 pages long. My hands are hurting in anticipation. I want to support authors and publishers, but I don’t have any idea of the economics of e-books. Are they more profitable for authors & publishers than print? It seems crazy how constricted the ability to loan an e-book is right now, but I’m sure they’re still feeling their way in the darkness. I’m going to be a little ugly now, but there is one thing I hate about e-books. It shouldn’t be this easy to self-publish. You had to pay a chunk to self-publish a print book and then you didn’t have a way to market it, so it stayed in boxes in your garage where it belonged.

Julia Child once said something along the lines of “If you’re the first person to ever think of putting those ingredients together in that way, there’s probably a reason why it’s not already been done.” Asparagus applesauce may well become the next big thing, but there probably is an outstanding reason why your debut novel about a vampire hamster who shape-shifts into a pollution-fighting pigeon was turned down by the one publisher you sent it to. Your book isn’t good. Apparently first books rarely are and “debut” novels are often the 3rd or 4th books written. I feel bad that authors who work for years and get proposals approved, rewrite, edit, and rewrite again are lumped in with the idiots who complete National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and decide that they have created a complete and perfect book.

A bunch of the authors at the Texas Book Festival named their editors as the most important partner in the success of a book, and it makes sense. An editor can see the details inside your big story, but has enough of a remove to ruthlessly cut the parts that don’t work. Self-published means self-edited and that’s not a good thing. That’s never a good thing. I think self-published should have a disclaimer prominently displayed, but they could pick which one applied: 1) The American Publishing Industry has become a staid monopoly, interested only in blockbuster series and unable to see the untapped genius of works like Raging Hamster & Dirty Bird; 2) I choose to disassociate myself from big business, refusing to alter my vision or dilute the twin messages of animal rights & pollution; 3) I just wanted to tell chicks I was a published author.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Page in My Diary

There is a section on Goodreads where you can enter to win books and the only thing better than a book is a FREE book, of course, so I enter often. I was lucky enough to win a copy of Post-it Note Diaries: 20 Stories of Youthful Abandon, Embarrassing Mishaps, and Everyday Adventure,  edited and illustrated by Arthur Jones. The idea for the book started when Jones used drawings on post-it notes to illustrate a story he was presenting at a literary event. The event took off and became a series, and the stories in the book are from those readings.

I like graphic novels, but I’m always afraid that I’m not getting my money’s worth. I read so fast that books + illustrations usually mean that I’m done in an hour, and it’s hard to justify a $15 list price for an hour of reading. Post-It Note Diaries was a little different, though.

I found myself going back to certain stories several times. There’s a poignant story called “Big Black Bird” by Jeff Simmermon about testicular cancer that brought me close to tears, but was in no way maudlin or tear-jerky. Jones doesn’t say if the story writers have input into the illustrations, but I’m hoping that the Indian man in the story had a grin just like he’s pictured. Oh, and Mary Roach’s behind-the-celebrity-interview story How to “Not Have Sex with Nicolas Cage”? The perfect blend of funny words and funny illustrations elevate both to something much higher than thought possible. I can’t show you the illustrations, but one part of her story reads, “For the first time since we’d met, Mr. Cage seemed happy. Though without actually smiling.” I love this. I equally love her hope that she and Nicolas might stay up all night talking, illustrated by Nicolas Cage braiding her hair, cigarette hanging out of his mouth and hairy chest on full view in his undershirt, while she chatters happily.

I’ve pulled the book out three or four times to show someone a story since it arrived in the mail and I’ve talked enough about the story and the concept to know that it would be worth the cover price. Fans of This American Life will love Post-It Note Diaries.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Santa Baby*

I heard the first Christmas carols of the season today and realized I would have to make my wish list. I’m so filling the list with books! Here are a few of the ones I’m longing for – We’ll see if I make it to Christmas without snapping them up.

*Okay, I name all the posts after song lyrics or titles, (Just like Degrassi!), but I so hate Santa Baby. Why in the world would mothers dress their little girls up and have them sing this? Trashy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Come As You Are

When I was in high school, a chunk of my friends were skater boys. In the mid- 1980’s, skater boys in our town were typically middle-class and generally pretty sunny in disposition and future. They were going to college and going to wind up lawyers and doctors just like their fathers. One of my friends, with red hair and the sweetest boy smile I had ever seen, went to Seattle and he died.

We’ve never quite known what happened to John. I’ve always had a hundred, thousand questions about his last two years, but there’s no one to ask. His family shut that door firmly, not even posting an obituary that any of us can find, so all that we have is speculation and rumors. I’ve always wanted to know if he was in college or working, was he a junkie? We’ve always heard that heroin was involved, but that can mean too many things to be any answer.

I’m reading Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge this week and I’m not sure why. I mean, I really will read an oral history on almost any topic, but grunge is not my music. Grunge really isn’t a music at all, just a label slapped on bands from a specific place and time. And, while I am from that time, I’m not from that place.
Seattle in the 1990’s is a dark, violent place. The musicians profiled in the book talk a lot of about how fun it was in the early days, in the 1980’s, but by the time the Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden are getting big, the scene doesn’t sound so fun anymore. (Guns ‘N’ Roses toured with Soundgarden and nicknamed them Frowngarden.) 

I guess when a handful of your friends get famous, it’s normal to think that it should be you getting the money and the record deals. And by the time Nirvana has come and gone, everyone is a cannibal. A surprising number of people in the book blame all the problems of Seattle on Courtney Love, which is kind of fascinating to read. It’s like she’s the Yoko Ono of an entire region, creating factions and isolations and death. She could have gone so many ways with her widowhood, becoming the beatific saint of musicians gone too soon, but I guess she really could only be what she is – too damaged and self-promoting and angry to do anything but lash out.

Oh, the deaths. The first few are shocking to Seattle musicians and they still remember that rawness these 20 years later. As the ‘90’s wear on, the scattered names of the dead become a roll call, with no surprise left. There are only a small handful of musicians profiled who didn’t die at some point. Apparently there are lots of ways to revive a dead man and the people in Seattle learned them all the hard way. They didn’t all come back to life, though, and I’m reading this account thinking that there must be dozens of dead audience members for every dead musician. There are people just like my friend in every concert photo. Kids who though moving to Seattle would fill some empty space in them and didn’t get to grow up. I guess that’s why I’m reading intensely - I’m looking for John on every page.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Here’s Your Future

I finished Divergent this week and I thought I really liked it. Silly me. The more I thought about it, the madder I got. (As mad as I can get about a free book from the library that took me a day to read, I mean, so mildly irked and shaking my fist a little.) The book was pretty tightly written for a first novel, and the plot was enough different from The Hunger Games to keep me interested.  Veronica Roth’s creation is a community made up of factions, essentially the brave, smart, honest, self-sacrificing, and those who value peace & harmony are separated into separate groups. It’s a little Harry Potter, in that you know they’ll eventually learn that they have to band together to survive. (Dum. Dum. Duuuuummmmm.)

The main character fits into more than one category, and that makes her dangerous to the leaders, since they won’t be able to suppress her instincts into a single faction style. There are obvious influences to contemporary Y.A. literature in Divergent, with a heavy sprinkling (“sprinkling” being like those giant chocolate chunks in the cookies at the mall) of the dystopian themes of The Hunger Games. The part of Roth’s premise that I think might actually be better than the separation of districts in Hunger Games and houses in Harry Potter is that it has nothing to do with your birth or training.

The world had a mighty battle and if you thought that wars were caused by selfishness, you joined the faction that values self-sacrifice and service to others. You could make your own choice and choose a destiny, based on your natural inclinations and talents. As the years went on, the original reason for the factions to train and were twisted, until factions became more important than family and group-think was the only thought allowed. So, the people who fit equally into more than one faction, who could see more than one side to a situation, became increasingly dangerous.

The book was well-written and the premise was thought provoking, so why am I complaining? It’s written with a sequel in mind. And not like Harry Potter, where the book ends and the story is wrapped up, but further adventures await! No, this one just ends, leaving all kinds of trailing story lines behind it to get caught in the door. Could she not figure out how to end the thing? What if something happens to her and she can’t write more books? Are we going to end up with a Twin Peaks thing where they have to come back with some summary later to tell you who dies? Really, that’s just bad practice and I’m hoping it doesn’t become widely accepted. Each book needs to stand alone as it builds to a rich series, not end like an episode of Knot’s Landing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paperback Writer

The Texas Book Festival was fantastic. I missed much more than I got to see, but that’s always the case with an event this large. I heard from several authors in panels that a writer writes because they have to, they have no choice. Dudes, I’m totally not a writer. I have no pretensions to a well-crafted sentence or deep scholarly thoughts. It’s just fun. I read books and I like to talk about them and no one will stand still long enough to do it face to face. If I ever get delusions of grandeur about my need to express myself, just hand me a copy of Faulkner and tell me to shut up. One funny-mean thing that happened at a panel during the Q & A session was that the very, very literary lady who wrote Lord of Misrule asked the really fun lady who wrote Swamplandia! “what it feels like to be heavily edited. I mean, I’ve never had my works sent back with very many revisions, so I’m just interested to know what it’s like to have a manuscript come back all covered in red ink.” That’s literary bullying, y’all. The Swamplandia! lady is probably still rocking in the corner with her hair covering her face.

They did something new at the book festival this year, with night time events around Austin. I went to the Lit Crawl at the Texas State Cemetery. It was obvious that the Cemetery Historians/tour guides were expecting about 30 people, but there had to be 300 or 400. They split us into two groups, but even half that crowd was too large and ungainly to do much more than trot from stone to stone and hear a short story about the body therein or there-under. The stories were really interesting, though, and I would have loved to take the tour that they had planned. The Young Adult authors had their meet and greet at the cemetery after the tour, but I had to miss it. I was dragging my parents with me and my dad was halfway to the car before I could tell him it wasn’t over. There were a couple of Y.A. authors I would have loved to meet, but after you’ve told them that their book was super-great and stood around nodding like a bobble-head for a while, what’s left to say?

I did get to meet Gwendolyn Zepeda at the book festival and I felt about as idiotic as I sound above. I told her I had been reading her blog for a million years, but it’s a million years in blog-time. I know I’ve read her blog for more than 12 years, which is forever. I thought later about the stuff I know about her life and the changes she’s made over the last dozen years and wondered if she ever catalogues how many amazing turns her life has taken? And by taken, I mean that she’s worked really hard and jumped bravely into some unknown opportunities and made them pay off. If you drop even a few pieces about your life into a blog, and you’re as good a writer as Gwendolyn is, at the end of a decade, your readers know more about you than they do many of their real-life friends. She’s a real writer – I just talk about stuff.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Put Your Records On

This will not be a post about reading, because I haven’t managed to finish a single book since my book frenzy on Monday morning. I’ve been to the movies, I’ve watched large percentage amounts from my DVR, and I’ve driven to Austin for the weekend, so I’ve been busy. I don’t think I’ve stopped for weeks now, and I’m still in motion. It’s kind of slow-motion, but I’m moving.
My dad collects vinyl records and I’m the official driver, so I’ve chauffeured him to the twice-annual Austin Record Convention. (Bi-annual? Semi-annual? I never can remember which one is twice a year and which one is every other year. This one is the former no matter how many times I wish it were the latter.)It’s going on until Sunday at 5 in the old convention center on Lamar, if you’d like to stop by. I, however, will not be there. I’m leaving the lunatics with their records and going to hang out with the book lunatics at the Texas Book Festival downtown. Because what better way to celebrate the finish of a giant special event than to go volunteer at another one? At least the most important question I’ll get this weekend is for directions to the bathroom.
One funny aside about the record guys (not entirely, but at least 99% guys, with a handful of long-suffering wives and girlfriends and one woman who brings a doll with her every year and sets it on a chair and carries it around like a baby. I used to think she was bonkers, but the more bored I get at this thing the more tempted I am to bring my cat in a Beatles outfit and pretend that it’s perfectly normal. I think she may just be screwing with us for her own amusement. Sorry, that was an aside about the aside!) One year the record show fell during South by Southwest and they put the record guys and the poster guys in the same building. Both groups openly scoffed at the other side like they couldn’t believe that any idiot would collect something so stupid. And they all thought the people in town to actually hear live bands were crazy. Why on earth would you want to hear a live band when you could listen to a scratchy Hank Williams record as you sat under your black-light Elvis poster. It was a hilarious stand-off all weekend. This year is sadly more record-centric, with no outlanders in the building.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If I Die Young

Last post, I asked for boy book recommendations – I’ve got one to recommend to you.

I finished my work project this weekend and then I finally slept. Sunday night I went to bed at 8:00 p.m. and popped up at 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning, but I was still that sick kind of groggy, so I hung out in bed and started reading a new book. Just in Case by Meg Rosoff. I read that book in an hour and a half and cried for about half that time.

This 15 year old kid, David Case, has a baby brother who almost falls out of the window trying to fly. The near-miss shocks David into a nervous breakdown, realizing that life is a series of near-misses and believing that fate has marked him for doom. He begins a mission to hide from fate, changing his name to Justin – a tougher sounding name. (And the jarring coyness of naming your character Justin Case is one of the few missteps Meg Rosoff makes here.). In changing his style, he meets an older girl who is capable of using Justin for her own needs, photographing him in the midst of tragedy to further her career, but not capable of saving him from his madness.

Or maybe it’s not madness. Maybe he is marked for disaster. People die around him. Planes crash where he stood minutes before. Maybe fate is playing a game with Justin, just to see how he’ll react.

If the characters in Just in Case are often archetypes, like the distant parents and the distracted teachers at school, Rosoff has populated Justin’s world with spiritual guides, too. His best friend Peter and Peter’s little sister, Justin’s own baby brother, these participate in Justin’s inner world while trying to draw him back to them. Trying to communicate enough understanding and solidarity to keep Justin from simply giving up and letting fate win.

For Justin, the radical act of defying and respecting fate is to decide that he will live. With whatever time he’s allowed, he’ll live it. So good.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Smart in a Stupid Way

We’re trying to figure out a way to start a small summer library for the kids associated with my work, so I’ve been really interested in Y.A. “boy” books lately. I have a top ten set of favorite books about teenage boys and I think it will be interested to see if actual teenage boys like them as much as I do. I picked up The Accidental Genius of Weasel High by Rick Detorie the other day because it reminded me of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I love those books. Accidental Genius is a mix of text and comic strip style illustration and it was fantastic.

Larkin Pace is in love with his best friend. He thought she was his girlfriend until she asked him one day if there were any girls at school he was interested in and he realized that she didn’t know they were dating. They weren’t. He has a great taciturn friend who never says Larkin’s name, or much of anything, really, but Larkin’s mission is to make Freddie say his name. Freddie’s sole interest is making wallets out of duct tape. His older sister is awesomely bad. She wears a bump-it and is in full scale teenage angst. She howls and rages against the indignities of life and demands rewards for having to suffer her family. The more I talk about this book, the more surreal it seems. I loved it.

If you know more boy books for me to check out, let me know. The kids will thank you this summer!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Can’t Always Get What You Want

I’m a few days away from a huge work project, so I’m not getting a lot of reading done right now. I’ve worked my way through 3 or 4 Mediator books in the last week, but they are super-quick reads. Meg Cabot’s Y.A. series focuses on a teenage girl who is able to see ghosts. She tries to help them right whatever wrong is keeping them anchored to earth, like not having been able to tell the kids where the secret savings was hidden or to make sure that a family antique gets to the right person. It’s not always that easy, of course, and some ghosts don’t want to go. They want revenge, or justice, or just a chance to come back and do it all over again.

I think there are 6 of these books and I’m missing #5, so now I have to decide whether to just read the end and then go back and fill in later or track down the missing link. I’m sure you’re all waiting with bated breath to hear what I’ll decide, so I’ll be sure and let you know.

I’m still playing with Goodreads and piling up the to-read stack. My friend Gina accused me of being too ashamed to rate the Amanda Quick romance novels I read, but I showed her! I also added the complete oeuvre of Judith Krantz and Tori Spelling to my list. Thinking about it now, though, I’m not sure that I didn’t fall into her trap to make her list look more literary in comparison. Gina likes romance novels, books about animals, and vampire stories, so we decided one day that her perfect book would feature a vampire dolphin in love with a human. I think we made a cover and everything. That still cracks me up to think about, but we should have gotten on the Twilight train and written them. We would be millionaires and we couldn’t have been any worse at writing than Stephanie Meyers.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Girl Next Door

I just finished Meg Cabot’s How to Be Popular, about a high school girl who finds an old book detailing how to be more popular and uses the tips contained therein to almost ruin her life until she realizes that she’s happier with her current friends and station in life. There’s a nerd boy who turns out to be just right for her and a popular boy who turns out to be a shallow jerk and the world rolls merrily along. I don’t mean to paint the book as boring – It’s not. Meg Cabot really could make a grocery list entertaining, and there are some really fun details in this book that set the lead character apart from generic leading women.  Cabot’s women/girls are smart and funny and well capable of getting along just fine without a man. They also aren’t immune to a nice set of abs, but they aren’t going to settle for cute without nice, funny, and smart.

How to Be Popular reminded me of one of my favorite books from when I was young, succinctly named The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations: A Novel, by Ellen Conford. Man, I loved Ellen Conford’s books. Just like Meg Cabot, Conford wrote Young Adult books that followed the standards of Young Adult, while twisting the genre enough to make you feel like more of a grown-up by reading them.

The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations: A Novel features Julie, a high schooler trying to get through the year. She’s a straight man in a sea of absolute lunatics.  The student handbook talks about the importance of joining school clubs, so she tries to get her poems published in the school literary magazine, but the editor dismisses her efforts as too sunny, too conventional. She finally manages to write some piece of drivel that gets him truly excited, (if I recall correctly, it was about black and death, and the torture of the soul.), and when he wanted to publish it, she snorted at him and took the poem back. At a time when most Young Adult characters were simpering saps, Julie was a real person you wanted to be friends with.

Cabot is always a fun read - I’ll stand in line to buy anything she’s writing – but you should try and track down one of Ellen Conford’s YA books. I’m going to start rebuilding my collection right now.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Take a Look. It's in a Book.

I started an account on Goodreads this week and I think I’m maybe a little obsessed. You can list the books you’ve read, the ones you’re reading, and the ones you’d like to read. It throws lists of recommendations at you and you just click them into the appropriate categories, including “not interested.” At the time I’m writing, I have 1,371 in my read pile and 72 in my want to read pile. I haven’t even really started to list my books, and I’m a little traumatized because they don’t seem to have all the Wildfire Y.A. books from the 80’s even listed, so it won’t ever be complete. 

Really, if I could turn half of this energy towards cleaning my house I might invite people over more often. I picked up the The Manolo Matrix last week, companion to the The Givenchy Code (and, apparently, the The Prada Paradox, but I didn’t know this book existed and had to stop and add it to my shopping cart in Amazon.). The book is about people getting sucked into an online Gotcha!* kind of game called Play.Survive.Win. that moves from the computer into real life. The victims are sent elaborate clues & riddles to solve in order to save their lives and end the games. In the Givenchy Code, the clues related to codes and I think I had just read some Dan Brown book about codes, so I had some idea what in the world the clues were referencing, but in the Manolo Matrix all the clues were about the theater. I couldn’t even pretend to follow the reasoning behind the clues. It was like when I play old-school Trivial Pursuit and answer every sports question with Wayne Gretzky or Sea Biscuit. This strategy works pretty well, actually, to get that little pie wedge, but, strangely enough, the answer to every clue in this book was neither Cats nor Starlight Express**.  Maybe in Prada Paradox the clues will be about Little Debbie's eponymous snack food line. 

Julie Kenner also has an outstanding series of books under the Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom heading. They’re Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets married and moves to the suburbs, and they’re super funny and sly. And I see from her Wikipedia page that she lives in Texas, now, so I’m even happier to recommend her books. I also see that I haven’t entered the rest of her titles into my Goodread account, so I’ll be headed down that rabbit-hole for the rest of the night. Heaven forbid I not get credit for a book I’ve read.

*Gotcha is an awesome 1985 movie with Anthony Edwards where a campus-wide game of paintball gets real, y’all, when some spies need some secret information that Linda Fiorentino has planted on him. Mostly memorable because Czechoslovakian spy Sasha (Linda) is really CIA agent Cheryl from Pittsburgh and the weariness in her voice when she drops the (really, really bad) Czechoslovakian accent and says “Fine, it’s Cheryl.” in this beautifully flat voice, it’s the equivalent of coming home after work and taking your bra off.

**Starlight Express is about a train that comes to life. And the actors are on roller skates. And Wikipedia says, “It is the most popular musical show in Germany.” I don’t know why this wouldn't be the answer to every question about musical theater, do you?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Walk Away

I almost never just don’t finish a book. It’s some weird Puritan need for closure that absences itself when I’m cleaning or ironing, but pops to the forefront when it comes to finishing a book or making sure there are no ice cream bars hidden in the back of the freezer. 

I have seen Flipped in the Young Adult section of bookstores for years, now, and it always looked like a cute story. The concept is that the story of boy meets girl is told by both parties, with their alternating view. This boy is an ass. The girl is goofy and smart and has deep meaning behind everything she does and sees the best in the boy, who is an ass. He is so mean to her, constantly and consistently, but you know what’s coming, right? He’s going to fall in love with her and she’s going to be okay with him being such an ass for so many years.  I just skipped to the end and *surprise*, it’s all going to be okay! What a great story for teens! I’m not finishing it.

On the much more fun side, I read a blog called Forever Young Adult and a photo popped up in a post about used bookstores.

Is it sad or AWESOME that, with no context, I knew that this was the Young Adult section at the Pea Picker bookstore? You’re right – It is AWESOME. She posted a video of her visit to Tyler and it showed the sign. I think some of the books in that pile used to be mine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pictures of You

Do you think when writers finish a book that they worry about what readers will take away from the stories? I read a few author blogs online and it seems likely that all they care about after finishing a book is not having to work on the book any more, but when a few months pass, the reviews on Amazon that say “You’re reading it all wrong!1!” may belong to the author. I’m always left pondering the weirdest stuff when I finish a biography – some throwaway line can keep me captivated for days. I’m probably supposed to be thinking about the author’s conversion from man into woman, and the political and social ramifications thereof, but days later I’m still pondering whether he/she is right about the difference in price between men and women’s haircuts mean that women are just suckers.

In Notes from the Underwire: Adventures from My Awkward and Lovely Life, former child star, Quinn Cummings (from Family and The Goodbye Girl writes about her life after acting. As fine an actress as she was, I’m kind of glad she doesn’t do it anymore, because active actors don’t get to be as honest about the industry as Quinn is here and they don’t usually have the time to have a family life, much less examine it so closely. Quinn Cummings talks about her daughter a lot, which only makes sense in a book of essays about her life. She mentions at one point that, as they live in a very small house, they are hyper-aware of each other’s faults and tics. Her husband has a habit of singing one line of a song over and over, they all follow her into the bathroom, she has her own quirks. And then she gets to her daughter and say’s something like, “Alice has annoying habits, too, but since they mostly came from us, and are thusly our fault, we love them as much as we love her.” I’m totally paraphrasing, but that’s the gist. What an elegant way around the fact that her child is going to read this book one day and know that she was a normal kid with normal horrible crazy-making habits, and that she was loved both in spite of and because of them.

I read a LOT of mommy blogs, as one does when one is childless and not altogether sorry about that state. I don’t know what the bloggers think their intention is, but I am usually not left with the takeaway that having children is so delightful. Of course, it may be the mommybloggers that I choose to read, but it’s miles more fun to hear (from way afar) about the children that hit and bite and burn things. They rarely are able to create such a loving connection on the page and I’m always left thinking that this blogger’s child is an angel and that one is the devil on earth. Despite the constant mommyblogger refrain, simply putting words on paper (or screen) doesn’t make you a Real Writer, capable of depicting fully-rounded characters. Quinn Cummings is a Real Writer, and a really funny one, too.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

With a Little Help from My Friends

With thanks to my local library, I just finished Uncommon Criminals . It’s part of the Heist Society series by the same lady who wrote the Gallagher Girl’s Spy Series, Ally Carter. That set is about a school for teenage girl spies to learn their craft. They’re fast to read, with clever twists, and this series is equally fun. The Heist Society series is about a young girl descended from a long line of thieves and con men/women. Some of them have stolen for profit, some for fun, and some of them are righting wrongs by re-stealing objects of art and returning them to the original owners. (I’m sure the author didn’t mean anything sinister when she made the characters who are stealing for fun and profit so much more entertaining than the ones stealing for the greater good.)

Kat has a group of friends and relatives who help in her big capers. They’re the next generation of this ancient family of thieves and they’re learning to put the years of con-man knowledge they’ve absorbed into practice. The author has fun with the ruses, having characters throw out cons named the Anne Boleyn and Oscar the Grouch. It’s a little like the teenage set Ocean's Eleven , which is never a bad thing. There aren’t 11 hot boys in Kat’s group, but one can’t expect George Clooney to appear in every teen novel.

In the first book, Heist Society , Kat’s hidden herself away at boarding school trying to find a normal life. (Because boarding school is so normal. Girl should have enrolled in a 5A public school if she wanted to get lost in the system.) Her dad gets framed for stealing some paintings and the guy they were stolen from wants them back. Kat and her gang decide the only way to fix the problem is to find the paintings and steal them again.

InUncommon Criminals , Kat gets cocky and she gets conned by an older, savvier version of herself. She doubts herself and her abilities, but she pulls the job with the help of her friends. (What? You were expecting that she would fail?) The books really are twisty and fun and what more can you ask from a summer read

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Woman's Work

There’s a new book out by Soleil Moon Frye called Happy Chaos: From Punky to Parenting and My Perfectly Imperfect Adventures in Between . I picked it up at the library and got about half-way through before it dawned on me that I was a childless woman reading a book of parenting advice from Punky Brewster. And not even deep parenting advice. It’s all, do what feels right and tomorrow’s another day. She does talk a little bit about the refrigerator episode of Punky, so that’s a point in her favor.

It’s a sweet little book, culled from her blog and filled in with anecdotes about her hippie childhood, but she must have been defiantly uncurious about childbirth before her first child. She mentions being shocked about several parts of childbirth & rearing that I would have thought were pretty common knowledge, like the fact that some women poop during delivery. I don’t know why her friends didn’t fill her in on that tidbit, because my friends have always listed it as one of the top talking points when discussing labor.

And I know I’m probably not going to ever have to make this call, but I’m not thinking that I want a football team worth of people in a delivery room with me. Soleil did, of course, including family and old friends and her birthing coaches Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. Demi Moore apparently gives a great leg massage during labor. I’m thinking I’ll use Ricki Lake for my doula and Demi for my labor coach and George Clooney can be my focus object. And Soleil talked about music for the labor, how you would want tribal music for the hard labor and soft music for the resting times, but it seems like it would be hard to switch them on and off during contractions, so I think I’ll need Jane’s Addiction and James Taylor in the room with me playing live as the mood dictates. I’m sure the doctor can fit in there somewhere. My (hypothetical) husband can watch the game in the lobby – From that distance; I won’t be able to bite him (Hi, Gina. (((Waving)))).