Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Crazy Horse

Isn’t it funny how your weirdness standards migrate? I’m reading the third Chaos Walking book, Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking: Book Three, and I’ve apparently come to terms with the concept that men’s thoughts are broadcast into the air, and that the main character can’t read so he thinks phonetically. In the first chapter of this one, though, they are attacked by creatures riding giant white one-horned animals and I thought, “Oh, please. White wooly mammoths with a rhino horn? Give me a break.” That’s the part that was a step too far. The book is rollicking right along, though, so I must have overcome my skepticism.

I finished the second Ghost and the Goth book, too, and liked it, but less than the first one. It set up a bunch of stories, but isn’t capable of standing on its own as a book and that’s a trend I’ll be glad to see vanish. Is this another thing I can blame on Twilight? Harry Potter books were serialized, but they also (mostly) stood alone, if I’m remembering right, but Twilight were more set up like an old-school Charles Dickens serial novel, just really, really long. Was there another series that did this before Twilight that set up Y.A. authors to think that ending each book in the middle of a scene was the way to maximize the money?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Let’s Talk About Sex

Recently a friend gave me a passel of books, including some that had been on my wish list for ages. (Thanks, friend!) Right now I’m reading the Charlaine Harris Grave series and I have a few observations. Most of them boil down to wondering what kind of super-freak she must be in real life. She looks so sweet in her author photo.

She has a series about vampires, the True Blood set. There’s a few about Shakespeare's Landlord, a housekeeper who solves mysteries and becomes a private eye. Aurora Teagarden is a small-town librarian who solves mysteries. And the set I’m reading, the Harper Connelly series is about a woman who was struck by lightening and can tell where dead people are and how they died.

I’m used to the darker genres, the shape shifters and vampires and were-whatnots. I’m not disturbed by mysteries where half the population of a small town gets murdered in any given year, although I’ve never seen a book address that issue as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer did in multiple episodes.  But, Harris? That woman has got to have a freak-streak a mile wide.

She seems to have a small issue with sex. That housekeeper in the Shakespeare series? Well, she was brutally raped and attacked and is covered with scars (mentally and literally) from the event. She won’t ever recover from that damage. True Blood? People are beguiled into sex, used as pets, blood-bound into relationships. Aurora Teagarden, a librarian spinster, finds love, has sex, and her husband dies.

The Grave series, in a way, is more disturbing than any of the other sets. I’m fascinated by Harper’s ability to find bodies, but her personal life is much weirder than her profession. She’s accompanied by her stepbrother/manager, Tolliver. They survived a brutal upbringing together, with Tolliver’s brother, Harper’s sister, and their two younger mutual sisters. Harper and Tolliver are together non-stop for years and then it gets a little Flowers in The Attic-y. They aren’t technically brother and sister, but it’s the same as if Marsha and Greg Brady decided to get married. And she writes about their sex acts like Siri replaced all the dirty words with technical ones. I grew up on a steady diet of Judith Krantz love scenes and these scenes are awful and jarring and feel like they belong in a different book all together. She really would have done better to say, “They had sex. It was great.” The books are good, too, when you skip quickly past those sections, humming tunelessly to distract yourself.

I’m not sure I thought I would ever spend a whole post talking about weird sex scenes or wondering whether Charlaine Harris has a good therapist, but here you go. I recommend any of the series sets, but be forewarned that she has a much harder time writing about love than she does death.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I dropped everything I was reading for a day to re-read an old favorite, Daddy-Long-Legs (Puffin Classics). It was first published in 1912 by Jean Webster, but I have the terrifying 1960’s cover with stupid Leslie Caron on it. (Okay, I don’t hate her in other things, but she’s so terribly wrong for this character that I have to pretend the movie doesn’t exist.) One of the little collections I have is girl-goes-to-college books from the early 1900’s. I have no idea what sparked this interest, but I can tell you more about the social customs and mores of women’s colleges circa 1910 than you would ever want to know. And you may think that you’d reach that level of want-to-know pretty fast, but you’ll be sorry when you miss the paper chase instructions (It’s a real thing! Not just an awesome law-school series!) and don’t get to eat waffles and lobster afterwards. (Also a real thing! I don’t know why!)

Sorry, I got a little sidetracked by the sheer joy of college books, but this one is extra special. Most of these feature girls all from the same (upper) social class, since girls going to college wasn’t so common, but this one has orphan Jerusha Abbott, sponsored by a rich trustee to attend college, with the only stipulation being that she write him a letter once a month, to sharpen her writing skills. Jerusha is a marvelous character, a blend of whimsical and practical, but she’s had too much hardship to ever be silly or frivolous. There are small heartbreaks in her letters to the trustee, who she names Daddy-Long-Legs since all she knows about him is that he’s tall and rich and it seems rude to name him after his money. When she rechristens herself as Judy, it’s an attempt to shake off the orphanage, but she knows she’s only pretending.

I wish Mrs. Lippett would use a little more ingenuity about choosing babies names. She gets the last names out of the telephone book – you’ll find Abbott on the first page – and she picks the Christian names up anywhere; she got Jerusha from a tombstone. I’ve always hated it; but I rather like Judy. It’s such a silly name. It belongs to the kind of girl I’m not – a sweet little blue-eyed thing, petted and spoiled by all the family, who romps her way through life without any cares. Wouldn’t it be nice to be like that? What-ever faults I may have, no one can ever accuse me of being spoiled by my family! But it’s sort of fun to pretend I’ve been.

We only see Judy’s side of the correspondence, as she grows to love this guardian as a trusted advisor and her only family, and it’s funny. And, because it’s the 1910’s version of a Young Adult novel, Judy has grown very fond of another man, too - the surprisingly tall and rich uncle of her college friend, Sally. I don’t even have to wink, wink for you to guess this one, right?

There’s a sequel to Daddy-Long-Legs called Dear Enemy, where Sally from college is sent to the orphanage to completely renovate it and remove all the things that Judy hated so much about growing up there, and I love it just as much. Keep your eyes out for a copy of both and let me know if you find Daddy-Long-Legs in hardback. I would love to get that simpering French chick off my cover.

Ooooh, are you guys in LUCK! I just went to Amazon to link to the book and they are all free on Kindle and Kindle apps. Go here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rock Me Tonite (sic)

Did you know that Billy Squier blames the end of his career on our favorite drunkle (drunk-uncle) and So You Think You Can Dance-Dance-Dance choreographer Kenny Ortega? Squier was riding high, with three platinum albums, when Ortega directed his Rock Me Tonite video. It is, to be generous, a short film about a man in a pink tank top prancing around a bedroom set. Literal prancing. Billy Squier used to do this thing with his legs like he was goose-step dancing. Add in the satin sheets and smoke machine and it was pretty bad. I wouldn’t have thought it was bad enough to end his career – I mean, I’ve seen Prince’s “Bat Dance” video – but Squier is convinced that it destroyed him almost overnight.

I’m in the middle of two oral histories right now – I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution and R.E.M. : Talk About the Passion : An Oral History. I Want My MTV is HUGE, so I’m keeping it at home and reading it at night while I drag smaller books around with me. The MTV was one I was looking so forward to, and it’s good, but I find myself slowing down to hit the red lights and get a chance to read a page or two from the R.E.M. book. I’m not learning anything groundbreaking about the band, but it’s making me think a lot about what it feels like when your band becomes everybody’s band.

I’m old enough now that if I’ve heard of a band, there’s a certain level of popularity assumed, but it used to feel like a record was a present. There were the bands that were on the radio all the time and everyone owned them, but the bands you had to find on your own belonged to you and you didn’t really want them to get to stadium level popularity. I saw R.E.M. move from Bronco Bowl to stadiums, but I never saw them in a tiny club, so, while I had the early albums and loved them dearly, I wasn’t part of the first wave. I do remember the audience switch when “The One I Love” hit big and I do remember getting really frustrated at the sorority girls linking arms and singing lustily to “Eat for Two” by 10,000 Maniacs because they thought it was a love song. That still bugs me, actually, now that I think about it. Idiots.

I’m still reading both the books, but I’ll let you know if I get to anything earthshaking (And your feet are shaking ‘cause the earth is shaking). I’ll give them both a preliminary thumbs up for now.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


It’s not often that my books have songs for titles, but Alissa Grosso’s Popular saved me a step. And I’m just now noticing the author’s name, but I’m going to bet that Grosso was not the best name to survive high school with. Anyway, Grosso’s book features Hamilton Best, teen queen extraordinaire, and her clique, Olivia, Shelly, Nordica and Zelda. The story of senior year plays out in alternating chapters, each presented by a different member of the group, with the final chapters featuring Alex, Hamilton’s boyfriend.

There’s twists in them there chapters and I don’t want to ruin the shock for you, so it’s difficult to talk much about the book. But, on the other hand, I don’t really want to recommend that you read the book. Without the twist, Popular is a pretty shallow story about the fears of leaving the safety of high school and moving into the unknowns of college and adulthood. I have to admire Grosso’s imagination, though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this particular plot in a Young Adult novel before.

Oh, whatever. 


There’s no clique. Hamilton Best has multiple personalities and all the girls are really her. Which I should have known because the girls had such stupid names. Nordica Freemingle. Uh-huh. Alex is so excited to be dating the prettiest girl in school that he’s driving himself insane trying to protect Hamilton’s secret. He doesn’t need to bother at all, though, because the entire school is so besotted with Hamilton that they don’t even care that she frequently eats lunch completely alone at a large table, argues with herself out loud, or switches personalities in the blink of an eye. Apparently, once you’re popular, you’re popular forever. I’ll be sure and tell Cabbage Patch Dolls and Leif Garrett.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Secret Lovers

In case you missed it last time, I’m going to direct you once again to Old Love. I don’t have anything to do with it, which is a real shame. I follow it like it’s my night job, so it would be lovely if I got a kick-back. Did you know that Tori Spelling and Julian Lennon dated? That kills me. And this week there has been a mighty series of Rod Stewart/Britt Ekland shots where Rod is wearing an orange and grey tankini. He has a matching tank top and bikini bottom/speedo thing and there is nothing now that I don’t know about Rod Stewart’s anatomy. Oh, and on January 30th? There’s a shot of Diane Lane and Christopher Atkins and they both have the most odd, sweaty, painful looking camel-toes I have ever seen.

I have been doing more than staring at the crotches of celebrities this week, of course. (Don’t act so self-righteous. I know you just spent 10 minutes trying to figure out the deal with Christopher Atkins pants, too.) I might have maybe read a book or two. The only problem is that they weren’t very memorable. I usually read three or four books for every one I talk about here, but I’ve either hit a chunk of duds or I’m too busy to give them the thought and attention they so richly deserve. When something deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s certainly more likely to be me than a lifeless lump of paper, so let’s just say that several authors wasted months of their lives and I am just fine. Let’s all just go back to looking at photos of Liza Minnelli & Mikhail Baryshnikov, shall we? We’ll try this book review thing again a little later in the week.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Yipes! To my whole week, yipes! My house was broken into this week and my computer was stolen. The cats and I are fine and the burglar(s) was very considerate with very little taken and very little damage. Then my boss took me out for a belated birthday lunch and I got food poisoning. Does that seem like a kind thing to have happened? I’m watching over my shoulder for the 3rd thing to hit and hoping it’s gentle.

In the not gentle category, I got around to the second book in the Chaos Walking series, The Ask and the Answer. I complained about the cliffhanger ending for the first book, but Ness earned it in this one. By the time I finally started it, the book was due back to the library in a couple of days, so I thought I’d start it and see if it was worth renewing. I think I finished it in a few straight hours and would have loved to have the third, Monsters of Men, on hand to keep reading.

If you’ve forgotten the first one, The Knife of Never Letting Go Todd lives in a place where there are no women and everyone’s thoughts are audible. He’s the only boy left who hasn’t gone through a ritual to become a man and his guardians are determined to get him out of the village before that day comes. He meets a girl in the forest, a survivor from a spaceship sent to scout the area for colonization, and they set off together to save both of their lives. They’re trying to reach a town that might not even be real, but it’s their only hope of safety.

Todd (who still speaks phonetically and that still bugs me, but much less this round) and Viola are prisoners of the place they hoped would be safe haven. Todd is held in a bell tower by the Mayor of his former hometown, who wants him to join in the new regime. Viola is across town in a healer house, with no way to contact Todd or the ships bringing more of her people to the area. Forced into opposite sides of the battle for control, they never lose their connection to each other, even when their faith is shaken. The world of The Ask and The Answer is in constant flux, where allies and enemies aren’t and nobody can be completely trusted. Everyone has an agenda, including Todd and Viola, and the only way to win is to risk everything.

That last part sounded so much like the back blurb for a romance novel that I made myself laugh. I’ve noticed that when I like a book, I turn all earnest reviewer. “You simply must read it, Edith. It’s a thrill-a-minute joy-ride with real-world consequences.” So go to it, Edith. Start reading.