Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road

Oh, do not wait to get your hands on Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir). Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, has written a book that is, indeed, funnier than the Bible. Like the Bible, while I was reading it I sometimes had to put my head down on the pillow and rest for a while, but in this case it was because I was giggling too hard to keep my head up. I paid full price for this thing, and I haven’t paid full price for a book in years. I don’t think I have any recommendation greater than that, guys.

I am so glad that her family didn’t live next door to me, because they were messed up. It’s awesome to read about her dad using dead squirrels as hand puppets and tossing live bobcats on her boyfriend, but I probably wouldn’t have known how great Jenny is because she would have just been that girl I wasn’t allowed to play with or talk to. I can hear my mother right now calling for me to get back in my own yard and not touch that dead deer.

I’m giving you a chunk of the introduction as a test. If it doesn’t crack you up, then this is not the book for you. And that’s great, somebody’s got to read The Vow and all those other Nicholas Sparks books, just don’t tell me if it’s you.

This book is totally true, except for the parts that aren’t. It’s basically like Little House on the Prairie but with more cursing. And I know, you’re thinking, “But Little House on the Prairie was totally true!” and no, I’m sorry, but it wasn’t. Laura Ingalls was a compulsive liar with no fact-checker, and probably if she was still alive today her mom would be saying, “I don’t know how Laura came up with this whole ‘I’m-a-small-girl-on-the-prairie’ story. We lived in New Jersey with her aunt Frieda and our dog, Mary, who was blinded when Laura tried to bleach a lightning bolt on her forehead. I have no idea where she got the ‘and we lived in a dugout’ thing, although we did take her to Carlsbad Caverns once.”


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Psycho Killer

The Body Finder is about a girl who can sense murdered bodies – each one gives out a distinct signal and the signal is also present on the killer. There are all sorts of people with the “mark” on them, policemen, soldiers, and sometimes nurses. How intriguing is that idea? You would be able to sense that people you met had killed someone, but you wouldn’t know what the circumstances might be. And you’d be keeping your secret power secret, so you couldn’t exactly ask the mailman if he was in the Army or a gang.  In the case of the nurse, Violet’s mother quietly tells her that sometimes it’s hard to watch someone die in pain. So, that added a whole other twist to the idea of people who have killed and has made me watch people with squinted eyes to see if I can feel their signal. And, just in case you have the same question I did, hunters do have the mark and so do animals that kill other animals.

There’s a serial killer on the loose and Violet is the one who can catch him. Her uncle is chief of police, so at least she doesn’t have to explain how she knows when someone is the killer or exactly why she finds all these bodies. The real plot of the book is that Violet is in love with her best friend and she isn’t sure that he reciprocates. I guess you have to have the love interest in Young Adult, but it was a little annoying to go from Violet being terrified by a killer to really hyped that Jay touched her arm. Nancy Drew conveniently lost Ned whenever she was on the case and I think we all agree that she was a highly efficient crime-fighting machine.

Violet’s super-wimpy about her “gift,” which annoyed me quite a bit but then made me realize that, duh, of course she was. Even though other books always have heroines standing up to the killer, that’s not what’s going to happen. In real life, you’re going to hide behind your boyfriend, hole up in your room, and whimper a lot. And if you’re the kind of girl who wouldn’t? I’m going to be hiding behind you, too, for extra barrier protection.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

She’s Having My Baby

Wendy McClure’s book Don't Trade the Baby for a Horse: And Other Ways to Make Your Life a Little More Laura Ingalls Wilder was slim, but awesome, which is something most of us would die to have said on our behalf. I also sped through Bumped, which was so strange. Apparently the premise came from someone off-handedly wondering about a world where only teenagers could get pregnant. Some teens turn pro, with agents to broker their surrogacy terms, while others stay amateur, get pregnant by any means necessary, and then sell the baby to the highest bidder. The religious few get married at 13 and become traditional wives & mothers.

The leads of Bumped, Harmony & Melody, are identical twins, abandoned at birth and raised very differently. Harmony is a pro, waiting for her contract to kick in, and Melody has run away from her sheltered church community to find Harmony and convince her to find God. There’s a lot of interesting commentary to be made about children having babies and about how even empowered girls are only valued as property, but McCafferty doesn’t really dwell on the philosophical, focusing more on the cool imaginary parts, drugs that compel the girls to pro-create but never grow any attachment to the babies and t-shirts that shrink and grow to emulate pregnancy bumps.

It’s not a book I recommend highly – knowing the premise is as good as reading the whole thing – but it was a quick read. After I finished it, I ran back to 1903 and Jean Webster’s When Patty Went to College. It was a refreshing glimpse of ankle after the neverending bumping of Bumped.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Everybody Have Fun Tonight

I swear to you that when I finish this Stephen King book I am going to read the lightest, funniest book I can find. I’ve got Wendy McClure’s Don't Trade the Baby for a Horse: And Other Ways to Make Your Life a Little More Laura Ingalls Wilder queued up on the booklist and I am waiting impatiently for Jenny Lawson’s Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) to release on April 17th. Wil Wheaton says it’s funnier than the Bible. (Go ahead. Click the link. It’s the Bloggess – You know it’s going to be funny.)

Wendy McClure’s book is a companion piece to The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, which came out in paperback this week and is so good. Wendy and I are about the same age and I wish she would move to Texas from Chicago so we could talk about Laurie Ingalls Wilder for hours and hours. I’ve been reading her blog for a really long time and she has several other excellent books out if you’re not interested in Little House on the Prairie, although you are missing out.

What are are you reading and is it fun?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

London Calling

Oddest book this week – Meg Rosloff’s How I Live Now. A teen girl is sent from New York to her relatives in England just as a world war breaks out. The family adults are travelling and can’t get back into England. Their large country house is requisitioned for the military and the kids are split to different farms to foster. It’s a perfectly normal WWII novel, except it’s based in present day. So, in the middle of discussing rations and victory gardens and rubber shortages, they’ll mention emails or cell phones. Very strange and I don’t know why she bothered.

I’m not going to spoil this one for you, but the synopsis on Goodreads

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

doesn’t even come close to the point of the book. I don’t know if you’ll enjoy it or not – I’m not sure whether I did. The writing was descriptive and masterful, but the premise was strange in the way of F. Scott Fitzgerald books, where damaged men love and are loved by damaged women.

I did love the almost throwaway premise that the invaders had taken over London in a surprise coup. They thought it would be a suicide mission and  are so surprised to have succeeded that they don’t really have any plans for what to do with their victory. War memoirists often write of boredom in the middle of terror – that you can’t sustain that high level of fear for very long. I remember a lecturer telling one time about adventuring in the rain forest, where every insect can kill you. He talked about how you become blasé about fear, brushing off deadly spiders and tramping past predators, and then, when you come back out of the forest, striding across roads with cars speeding everywhere because you’ve lost the ability to fear death. I guess it’s the ones who can’t calm the fear who break in war – You can’t sustain the tension, but you can’t release it, either, so you snap.

Speaking of snapping, I’m reading Stephen King’s The Talisman right now. It is so long that we’ll see if I can hold this sustained level of tension through the whole thing or if the next review will be Hop on Pop.