Sunday, May 29, 2005

Of possible (nay, probable) interest to my readers, I have here a link passed on by Arleen, who swears she reads this blog.

Rex Murphy's Cross Country Checkup

It's apparently a biennial list of really good books from Listeners Like You. Suggested drinking game in honor of Arleen: take a slug every time you come across a book you've read, or even heard of.

I'm going to start doing stuff like this from now on, trying to update more often. Even I have a life beyond books, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No, I'm not sick. I've just gotten the chance to read some great books lately. Also the free time to blog. Very important conjunction there.

Book: 24 Girls in 7 Days
Author: Alex Bradley
Published: 2005

With all the books out there about girls wigging out over prom, it's an unexpected and charming reversal to find one about a guy doing the same. Jack Grammar has been shot down by the one girl he got up the guts to ask, and is now convinced that the so-called best night of his life is going to be anything but. That's before his best friends put up a personal ad just for him on the school website, and suddenly he's the hottest commodity at his high school. With seven days to go until prom, he somehow has to pick one girl to go with, which means twenty-four dates to find the girl of his dreams. And who's this mysterious FancyPants who keeps emailing? Hope he took his vitamins.

While this seems like a dumb romantic comedy from the premise, Alex Bradley has put a lot of thought into his characters. Jack is probably the biggest sweetheart that it's possible for a senior in high school to be, and definitely the biggest one I've ever read. Thoughtful, intelligent, and (when it comes to girls) posessing all the finesse of a Hereford on acid, he's the kind of guy who was probably all over my high school, except I was too busy being a high school girl to notice. His two best friends are generous of heart and not too swift of mind (at least when it comes to their little plot) but really do mean well.

Our hero, searching for that one perfect girl, does not (as most romantic comedy writers would do) have a string of the worst dates known to man. Actually, many of them are pretty good. The focus is squarely on Jack, the development of his ideas about relationships, and his gradual understanding that he's the only one who can make prom night special. If he gets to share it with a really special girl, well, that's a bonus. For a book that's sweet, funny, and (most importantly) avoids or overturns expectations, pick up 24 Girls in 7 Days. You too, guys. You know you want to.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Look! Another update! Omygaw!!!!

Book: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: 2002

Books like Coraline regularly get banned for being too dark for young kids. Which is crap, because this is the kind of freaked-out, completely creepy book that kids eat up with a spoon. The problem is, it's too dark for their parents.

Coraline's got an okay life . . . not really ideal, though. She's just moved into a new flat (apartment, for us Yanks) and she doesn't know anyone but her parents and the neighbors. The two old ladies downstairs can't stop talking about their acting days, and the old man upstairs is training up a mouse circus. And they all insist on calling her "Caroline" . . . ugh. To make things worse, her parents (while affectionate) work at home all day long, and tell her to make her own fun. Sigh. So she explores.

The first time she opens the weird little door in the middle of the sitting room, it's bricked up. The second time, though, it's not. Instead, it leads to . . . somewhere else. Somewhere where there is another mother, and another father, who look just like hers but give her everything she wants. Normal food instead of her real father's weird recipes, all the coolest toys instead of "make your own fun." At first, the black buttons they have in place of eyes don't even bother her.

But soon she gets the feeling something's seriously wrong, especially when she goes back to the real world and discovers that her real mum and dad are missing. Who is the other mother? And why is she so insistent on keeping Coraline in the non-world, where everything beyond her house vanishes into mist?

Coraline doesn't know, nor does she know how she's going to beat the other mother and get her real parents back. But she's about to find out.

Coraline is the kind of no-nonsense, cool-headed kid we'd all love to be. Even though she initially follows the siren call of an ideal life, she's got the sense to see when things aren't what they seem, and to wonder why. The book is somewhat slow-moving, but that's deceptive. It's very hard to stop reading, mostly because of the creepy factor, which crawls up your spine and lodges itself in the deepest corner of your mind, the one that still knows there are things under your bed unless the lights are on. The angular pen-and-ink illustrations by Dave McKean help this along. I defy anyone not to be creeped out by the drawing of the other mother. Urrrgh!!

You have to read this book to the end. Don't put it down in the middle, or it will haunt you the rest of your life. Yes, it makes all the hairs on your body stand on end, but when you reach "THE END" you have the most incredibly satisfied feeling. Neil Gaiman is good at what he does.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Yes, I know. I am a rotten excuse for a blogger. I have not updated in two months. I prostrate myself in shame. Shame, shame, shame. I flay myself with wet noodles. Flay, flay, flay.

Okay, that's over with.

And so is my second semester of library school. Woohoo! It was one that just about killed me dead, for reasons I could not and cannot fathom. Anyhoo, it's over now. Not that I actually disliked reading all those kids' books, but the pressure's off.

So in celebration of having time to waste on fluff, here is some of my favorite fluff.

TV Show: Sex and the City
Creator: Darren Star
Airdates: 1998-2004

Darren Star did good when he named this show, because its two preoccupations literally are: sex, and New York City, and an unabashed enjoyment of both. This isn't thea-tah, folks, or avant-garde film. This is a fun, funny, frank show about sex and relationships that doesn't pretend to be great art, and thank god for it.

The premise is simple. Take four single gals, add them to New York City, and stir in men. Lots of men. Bake for six years. At the end, they're still almost as mixed up about life and relationships as they were in the beginning, but it's been a fun trip all the same, and one that strikes a lot of chords. Everyone's got their favorite SATC gal, and mine is cynical, take-no-shit Miranda. Bad-choice-poster-girl Carrie has her fans, as do slutty-and-proud-of-it Samantha, and prim, idealistic Charlotte.

It gets some flak for talking about *gasp!* sex, but come on, it's part of life, and women do talk about it. Sorry to burst your bubble. It also uses New York City as almost a fifth main character, highlighting her flaws and her charms evenhandedly. It almost makes me want to move there, but I don't have the money.

The show has its flaws, sure enough. Does anyone else regularly want to smack Carrie until her head spins? Uh-huh, raise those hands high. And there are some character continuity nitpicks I have that may drive me bananas. Still, this is a show with some incredibly quotable lines, like:

(upon seeing some naval fellows on the street)
Samantha: Ladies! Seamen, twelve o'clock!
Miranda: I pray when I turn around that there are sailors, because with her, you never know.

Talk all you want about Mr. Big, Steve Brady, Trey MacDougal, or any of the other guys that spin in and out of these womens' lives, but for my money, the most important love story in this show is the four-way relationship between the main characters. Even when they disagree (which happens plenty), they're there for each other with flowers, sympathy, alcohol, chocolate, and if need be, dildos.

I watch this show when I have some time to fill up and I just want to have fun. Sanitized episodes are airing on TBS, but go to your local library or Blockbuster to find the DVDs instead.

And I will try to update more often.