Monthly Archives: June 2009

Infinite Jest Page 95

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I am right on schedule with Infinite Summer, reaching page 95 today in Infinite Jest. So far, I’m enjoying it. There have been some paragraphs where I kind of let my mind wander, or let my eyes skim. I am hoping I haven’t missed anything important, but one of the writers over at IS said you never can catch everything on the first read through anyway. I am particularly interested in the characters of Hal and Katherine Ann Gompert, and this mysterious cartridge. DFW introduces a lot of characters and story lines, which I can only assume will eventually start to merge together. I’m very glad to have IS to remind me of who different characters are, and the forums for any questions. I haven’t posted there yet, just lurked, but they are beneficial.

Thus far, I have been able to balance IJ with other books – reading it in chunks for an hour or so, and then reading the “lighter” YA lit I so love the rest of the time. (I put lighter in quotes since YA lit is not always a light subject matter, it just tends to be light in terms of physical book weight, pace, and vocab.) I’m currently reading Susane Colasanti’s Take Me There which I will review eventually, but will say right now that I have had mixed feelings about.

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Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle

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It’s the end of summer, and Carly has returned from spending several months roughing it and doing community service in Lauren Myracle’s new book, Peace, Love and Baby Ducks. She is riding a high from spending the summer focusing on what really matters in life, but the wealthy Atlanta suburb where she resides with her family is a completely different world. Making things seem more wonky, her little sister Anna sprouted breasts over the summer and is spending a lot of time with Carly’s best friend, Peyton.

Carly wants to make sure that the difference she is feeling inside is reflected on the outside as school starts, so over the school year she puts together outfits of handmade t-shirts, tie dye, and a dashiki. She also begins to vocalize her criticisms of everyone else, which pushes her sister and friends away. It’s one thing to be an individual, but what happens when your need to be so starts to hurt others?

There is a lot going on in Peace, Love and Baby Ducks but Myracle makes it all fit. The sibling relationship between Carly and Anna is relatable for anyone who has felt need the need to be a unique person mixed with the comfort of having someone who gets you because you grew up together. Every reader will understand Carly’s desire to express her individuality. The romance is just enough of the story to be enjoyable without overshadowing the rest of the story. Myracle even brings in religion – Carly attends a religious school and while she doesn’t agree with everything she hears, she does not doubt that God is found in the way music makes her feel.

Myracle has crafted a couple great characters – I loved Carly and Vonzelle, and you can see that Peyton must be a lot of fun to hang out with. Buckhead, the Atlanta suburb, is even a character of its own. Some of the other characters aren’t as developed. I found myself wishing I could get to know Anna a little bit more, and their mother feels extremely shallow.

The cover is a lot of fun, and Peace, Love and Baby Ducks lives up to it.

3 and 1/2 stars

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Dark Angel by V. C. Andrews

Book 7 in:

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Ah, V. C. Andrews. Nothing like killing some brain cells before starting Infinite Jest.

Dark Angel is the second in the Casteel series. It picks up where Heaven left off, with Heaven flying to Boston to meet her dead mother’s family. She dreams of a perfect family but is greeted by anything but. Her grandmother is desperately clinging to her youth, and insists that Heaven call her by her first name, Jillian, so no one discovers she is old enough to have a grandchild. Her grandfather had died, and she has a step-grandfather who wants to have a relationship with her but insists on a very strict set of rules, including never speaking to her WVA family again.

Heaven begins attending a local boarding school, staying there during the week and coming home on weekends. The other students are not very friendly towards her, so she looks forward to coming home on the weekends. Her grandparents are often traveling though, and Jillian ignores her when she is home, so she develops a friendship with her step-grandfather’s brother, Troy. (The family trees in these books get a little ridiculous at times.) This is something she was forbidden from doing by her grandparents so it must be kept a secret. She is further driven towards Troy when she tries to reconnect with her childhood love, Logan, and is rejected again for being a slutty slut slut and sleeping with Cal Dennison (in the previous book). (That Logan is a swell guy. Heaven eventually realizes that he only likes her when he can rescue her, but this doesn’t ever make her stop running to him.) By the time she graduates from high school, Heaven is head over heels for Troy, and after spending several romantic days together, they end up in bed.

Of course, they immediately decide to marry, like you do, and break the news to her step-grandfather Tony. He’s actually excited, and Heaven decides that before she marries, she needs to see all her siblings again. She flies off to visit Keith and Our Jane, who have a meltdown when they see her and claim to not know her. She then goes to see Tom, who is working for a circus with her father. This depresses her and she runs off to see Fanny. Fanny is basically a hooker, and just wants Heaven to give her money and get her baby back. So Heaven returns to WVA to try to get Fanny’s baby. This doesn’t go well, and she tries to return to her family’s old cabin to check on her grandfather. Her car breaks down in a storm, and Logan magically appears to rescue her. They reach the cabin, which has been rebuilt into a nice and sturdy house. Heaven is suddenly struck with a terrible illness, and Logan spends days nursing her back to health in the house while waiting for the storm to pass.

Eventually, Heaven is able to return home and step-grandfather Tony is angry with her for abandoning Troy. Tony then reveals to her that years ago, he repeatedly raped her mother and Heaven is actually the product of the rape and not a Casteel at all. This also means she cannot marry Troy, who is now her uncle. (V. C. Andrews loves the uncle/niece love.) Grandma Jillian is the one to break the news to Troy, who leaves town with a broken heart.

Time moves uneventfully as it does in V. C. Andrews’ books when she wants to just get to the point of someone being a certain age. Jillian lost her mind when Heaven confronted her about letting Tony repeatedly rape her mother, so now it’s just Heaven and Tony hanging out when she isn’t attending college. He tries to be all fatherly to her and takes her on lots of trips. During one summer, he brings Keith and Our Jane to the mansion, with their adoptive parents. It turns out that Troy wrote to the adoptive parents and revealed that Heaven is rich now and just wants to know her siblings, not take them away. Money changes everything, of course, and now everyone is friends. Heaven is touched that Troy did that for her and wishes she knew where he was.

Eventually she graduates from college and heads out alone on some random trip. When she returns home, Tony tells her that Troy returned home while she was gone, but died when a horse he was riding freaked out and rode him into the sea. At this, Heaven decides to return to her hometown in WVA and become a teacher. When she learns that her Casteel Pa’s circus is in town, she dyes her hair to better resemble her dead mother, and puts on an old outfit of her mother’s. She visits the circus, and when Pa sees her, he thinks he is seeing a ghost and freaks out. This causes some chaos in the circus ring, which results in a lion mauling her brother Tom to death. Poor Tom. Grandpa kicks the bucket soon after, and Heaven is left with good ol’ Logan, who loves her again since she’s needy. They reunite and decide to marry.

End of Dark Angel, which I’ve read was the last book in the Casteel series that Andrews actually wrote. The weird obsession she has with rape and incest is present in this book. Heaven also fixates on Our Jane’s breasts when she sees her, much like Cathy did with Cindy in Seeds of Yesterday. I still find this creepy.

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Why read YA lit?

Thanks to Librarilly Blonde for pointing out this article: “Grown Up Girls Come Out of the YA Book Closet.” I’m asked occasionally why I like YA lit so much and Sarah Ockler provides a lot of the reasons better than I can. It’s frustrating when people tend to assume that all YA lit is exactly like Twilight – shallow characters, hacking writing, etc. There are so many books out there that are of such a higher quality, I only hope adults stop writing it off.

By the way, the author of that article, Sarah Ockler, has a new book that is in my TBR pile – Twenty Boy Summer. I’ve heard good things so far!

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The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

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David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife alternates between a historical fiction take on Ann Eliza Young and the modern day mystery in which Jordan Scott finds himself. Ann Eliza Young was a wife of Brigham Young, leader of the Mormon church in the late 1800’s. Her story is told through an imagined memoir she wrote, starting with how her mother came to join the Mormon church and their move westward. The reader watches Ann Eliza grow up in the church and eventually becoming a wife of Young. It is not a happy marriage, though, and she makes national headlines when she sues Young for a divorce.

Meanwhile, Jordan Scott, who grew up in a fundamentalist sect but was kicked out at a young age, learns that his mother has been arrested for killing his father. Jordan doesn’t believe his mother is capable of murder. Because she is the 19th wife in the polygamist household, Jordan suspects that there could be others with a motive to kill his father, and journeys from LA to Utah to dig deeper.

The 19th Wife is a fascinating read. I loved the character of Jordan and his sidekick dog, Elektra. While he has his personal flaws, the reader understands how much he has grown since his mother abandoned him on the side of a road. The people he meets and his inability to abandon them despite his past gives him a depth not easily found in fictional characters. I admit that I found myself wishing that more of the book focused on his character and less on Ann Eliza Young. The historical fiction part appears to be well-researched, and I find myself interested in knowing how much was fact and how much was imagined. The book’s website has the real memoir Ann Eliza wrote, Wife No. 19, available as a pdf. I would like to find the time to peruse it.

I did feel like the ending was wrapped up a little too quickly. As I approached the end of the book, watching the number of pages grow smaller, I wondered how it could possibly be resolved. Ebershoff ends it well, it just felt a little rushed.

I plan to add this to my school library this fall. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in the FLDS sects or murder mysteries.

4 stars

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Odds and Ends to Kick Off Summer

My summer break officially began today. I’ve gotten very behind in posting but now that summer is here, I should catch up in no time! I’ll start off today with some short notes:

  • I did see Up in 3D and it is fantastic! I highly recommend it for everyone. The dog, Dug, is my favorite part, but I might be biased since he reminded me of my dog (up in the masthead). The short story of Carl’s marriage at the beginning is beautiful. Bring tissues – I was crying halfway through it. The movie is about among other things, learning to move on, and be loved, and how you can have fun no matter where you are if you are with people you love, which is a lesson I think a lot of people can always stand to re-learn. Up is funny and heartwarming and made me cry a few times. It’s the best movie I have seen this year and I will be awfully sad if it isn’t a contender for Best Picture, despite the fact that it’s an animated film. Definitely one of my favorite Pixar movies.
  • Reading Challenge current standings: I finished the 2009 YA Challenge, and have read 6 of the 11 books needed for the V. C. Andrews challenge. This Sunday starts Infinite Summer, which I guess could be classified as a reading challenge. I’m hoping that I can keep up with the page deadlines for it and still read other stuff along the way, but we’ll see how that goes.
  • My summer TBR pile is growing and growing. I brought home a stack of books from school to catch up on, along with a huge stack of professional journals that I got behind on this year. I already have a stack of books checked out from the public library. I made a list off the top of my head of what I actually want to read, and it’s already a page long! Between this list and Infinite Jest, and other projects in my non-reading life, I guess it’s going to be a busy 2 months!

Regular posting should resume in the next day or so. I have posts coming on The 19th Wife, Handle With Care, The School for Dangerous Girls, and Same Difference.

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Not Everyone Wants To Be a Princess

I’m planning to see the new Pixar film Up today. I hadn’t wanted to see it, despite my love for most of Pixar’s films, but once I started reading reviews, it won me over. The dog, the replay of the old man’s marriage, the bird…it all sounds appealing being described by reviewers. I haven’t decided whether to see it in 3-D or not yet. It will probably be decided by what time is best for me to get to.

NPR posted this article in their Facebook feed the other day, and I’ve been passing it on. Linda Holmes is asking Pixar to please make a movie with a lead female character who is not a princess. If Ms. Holmes was circulating a petition, I would add my name to it as fast as I could sign. Despite how far society has come with gender equality (although never far enough), it is disheartening that when it comes to children’s movies, the majority of main female characters are princesses. I remember loving all those Disney movies as a kid, and playing my fair share of dress up, but I don’t remember princesses being such a big focus as they are now with the whole Disney princess merchandising. I also remember wanting to dance like Nancy in Oliver! and wear handkerchiefs on my head like the daughters in Fiddler on the Roof. (Yes, musicals were a big form of entertainment in my childhood.) I wonder who little girls look to now besides the princesses. Hannah Montana? Still a bit of a modern princess with her fame and money. I’d love to see Pixar (or Disney or anyone else) do a family/children’s movie with a lead female who isn’t a princess. And don’t remake Harriet the Spy – it’s been made once, let’s be more original.

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I am sorry posting has been so light the past month. Once of those times when life just gets in the way. School is over in 2 weeks, and it couldn’t happen soon enough. I hope to catch up on posts soon; I’m running 4 books behind on reviews.

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Summer Goal – Infinite Jest

Years ago, when it first came out, I bought Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and then never got around to reading it. Thanks to this site, I now have a goal to accomplish this summer.

It’s not YA lit, but is anyone else going to join?

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