A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness

March 20, 2011 - 3 Responses

Are you guys surprised to hear that this book has been called “Twilight for Adults”?

I know, I know, it seems like all it takes to get me to read a book is to call it “the new Twilight” or “Twilight for grown-ups”. I’m easy like that. But, I seriously didn’t know that people were comparing this book to Twilight until I had already started reading it. Of course, after hearing the comparison, I was hyper-vigilant for Twilight references. I have to say, the comparing was exhausting and eventually boring and at a certain point, I just abandoned it and just read the story.

While I see why people compare the books, but I don’t know that I would have made the comparison on my own. Every book with a vampire isn’t Twilight you guys, and I kind of wish that people would stop comparing every vampire book with Twilight. (When I say “people”, I obviously don’t include myself and I will continue to compare things to Twilight as I see fit. So there. 😛 )

A Discovery of Witches is the story of Diana Bishop, a scholar of alchemical literature who falls in love with a vampire. Unlike Twilight, that is the least complicated part of the story. It’s really about secret books and secret societies and secret powers.

For a girl who has been reading YA books almost exclusively for years now, it was also really long. I kind of liked that despite reading almost every day, it still took me weeks to read this book. Usually, I get obsessed with a book, and read it all in a few days, and then its over and I’m sad. In this case, I was obsessed, but it was really long and I really couldn’t just read it in a day.

I heard through the book grapevine that my dear friend Vampire Susan read this book and commented that it was very science-y and she had to skip some parts. I love Vampire Susan, and totally understand how the science could be boring, but I secretly love science, so I kind of liked the science stuff. It was also very history-ish, and I am not as good at history, so I felt like maybe there were history jokes being made and I didn’t get them. Also, I read the About The Author part on the back of the book and found out that author – Deborah E. Harkness –  is a professor of history, and I honestly felt a little intimidated.  However, she is also really into wine so I felt like she couldn’t be too scary.

I was actually quite swept away by the romance and intrigue and science and history of the story. One evening,  I missed part of Jersey Shore because I was so captivated. I don’t know what else I could tell you that would communicate how good this book is.

Please be forewarned that this book is intended to be the first of a series, scheduled to continue in 2012. While its clear when you reach the end of the book that it will continue, it isn’t a terrible cliffhanger. That being said, I am really interested in finding out what happens next and will surely read the sequel as soon as its released.

As you guys know, I am OBSESSED with book covers. Little do you know, I am also really into book titles. The cover of this book is just words and symbols, but the spine contains a pretty picture of Oxford. However, I don’t really like the title of the book, and feel like it should have been called Spellbound. Read the book and tell me if you agree!

 

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Friday

March 12, 2011 - Leave a Response

So, this video just blew my f*cking mind.

Behold:

A lot of stuff just happened here, so allow me to help you process what you just saw.

Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years has obviously built her own time machine and has traveled forward in time to 2011. She’s wearing an obscene amount of make up. In addition, its Friday. Furthermore, yesterday was Thursday and tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterward.

Friday is good because of its proximity to the weekend, which is fun. Fun is difficult to define, but YOU know what it is.

Finally, each day of the week has a song. I was NOT aware of this! Now that I know, I have written them here, so as not to forget:

Sunday: Another Plesant Valley Sunday

Monday: Manic Monday

Tuesday: Tuesday’s Gone With the Wind

Wednesday: Listen to Wednesday’s Song

Thursday: I Am Thursday’s Child

Friday: Friday I’m In Love

(I checked the internet and all of those appear to be actual songs)

Caitlin – The Love Trilogy – #2 – Love Lost

February 11, 2011 - 3 Responses

Obviously, you should read my review of The Love Trilogy #1  Loving before you go any further.

When last we met our heroine, the RAVEN HAIRED Caitlin Ryan, she was blissfully in love with cleft-chinned cowboy Jed Michaels, but burdened with the guilty secret of her unintentional role in The Accident.

The Accident is a huge part of Loving and I probably should have explained it in more detail earlier, but it is so convoluted and ridiculous that I was hoping it would go away.  But no, The Accident is here to stay. Apparently, it cannot be contained by only one book! So, I will do my best to explain it to you, but please know in advance,  it is not going to make any sense. Because it actually doesn’t. Just go with it!

Here goes: Caitlin Ryan, RAVEN HAIRED rich bitch extraordinaire falls in love at first sight with Jed Michaels. Caitlin throws herself at Jed, but he isn’t interested because he thinks Caitlin is a bitch and Jed’s mother is a bitch and he just doesn’t like bitches.  Besides he’s already dating a scholarship girl named Diana. Jed is really into Diana, because she’s really poor and helpless and fragile and totally reminds him of his sister and apparently he’s into that kind of thing.   Meanwhile, Caitlin is producing a drag show at school – for charity of course – and needed a shovel for a prop. She uses this as a pretext to lurk over to the dean’s house – where Diana is babysitting – to see if Jed and Diana are making out or studying or something.  When Caitlin arrives at the house, Diana is inside answering the phone and the dean’s 6-year-old son Ian is contentedly playing in the yard by himself. Jed is nowhere to be found. No one sees Caitlin as she sneaks into the backyard and unlocks the shed to take a shovel. She’s in such a hurry to leave that she forgets to lock the shed. As soon as Caitlin is out of sight, Ian immediately wanders over to the shed, goes inside and eats a bunch of pesticides. He wanders back out and then falls down, hits his head and slips into a coma. Eventually, he wakes up, but he’s mysteriously paralyzed from the waist down.

Everyone blames The Accident on Diana, because she wasn’t watching Ian and must have left the shed unlocked. Even thought Diana knows she locked the shed, she also knows no one else could have left it unlocked. But, no one knows that Caitlin was there, and of course Caitlin doesn’t confess. Confessing is for poor people! Diana feels extremely guilty about The Accident and drops out of school and breaks up with Jed and disappears.  Caitlin also feels really bad for her role in The Accident, and also for letting Diana take the fall, but not bad enough to keep her from scooping up Jed and making him her own.

When we rejoin this saga, Caitlin and Jed have been desperately and beautifully in love for months now.  The only thing that mars their perfect coupling is the secret of Caitlin’s role in The Accident.

Jed’s love has TOTALLY changed Caitlin! Nowadays, she spends her afternoons helping poor, paralyzed Ian learn to walk again. She tells herself that if she can help Ian walk again it will balance out her culpability. She’s like a miracle worker!  Ian loves her, his family loves her and even the professional medical staff is impressed by Caitlin’s almost supernatural healing abilities. Its like she was born to tend to sick people! Like it is in her genes or something (hint, hint)!

When she isn’t making miracles, Caitlin is kinda obsessed with the fate of Diana.  She asks around about her and eventually finds out that Diana is anorexic now and has been hospitalized. For some reason, everyone calls it “anorectic”, which is an official word but I don’t think it applies in this case. (Clearly, A LOT of medical research has gone into The Trilogies).  One of the best/worst parts of this epic tale is the misinformation about anorexia. Of course, Caitlin knows that this anorexia was caused by the guilt Diana feels about The Accident, and The Accident was really Caitlin’s fault and therefore Caitlin caused Diana’s anorexia! Of course she did! Because that’s totally how anorexia works! (It isn’t.)

Jed Michaels: Creepy Cleft-Chinned Cowboy

Remember how Caitlin wrote Jed a letter confessing her role in The Accident, but decided not to give it to him and instead hid the letter in book? Remember how that seemed like a bad idea? It totally was, because Jed finds the letter and he is PISSED. He actually wants to kill Caitlin, but decides that maybe he will just rape her instead. Seriously.

Thankfully, he decides at the last minute that while Caitlin deserved to be raped, he just couldn’t do it, so he just goes back to Montana for the summer.

Confused and hurt, Caitlin knows that she can’t live without Jed so she decides she needs to do something to prove to Jed how sorry she is for lying about The Accident. I mean, a girl can’t just give up on a guy just because he tries to rape her, right?

Its pretty obvious what Caitlin needs to do to make things right. She immediately tracks down Diana at the Eating Disorder Hospital and – using a fake name and wearing a disguise – she signs up as a volunteer.

This is not just any disguise, you guys.

It isn’t like she just puts on glasses with a fake nose and mustache attached and calls it good. No, this is a serious disguise. Caitlin slicks her hair back, uses makeup to make herself pale and tired looking, gets some frumpy clothes, puts on a pair of glasses and – presto-chango! – she is unrecognizable!

Having basically morphed into someone else, Caitlin becomes a volunteer at the hospital, passing out magazines and books to the patients.  When she finds Diana catatonic and refusing to eat, she requests that the hospital allow her to try to help the girl. Obviously, they agree.  How could they not? Who wouldn’t allow a random teenager unfettered access to a severely mentally ill patient?

So, armed with a couple of library books on anorexia and a little elbow grease,  Caitlin cures Diana of anorexia!

Initially, Caitlin’s treatment plan of  holding Diana’s hand and whispering generic encouragement in her ear doesn’t work. In desperation, she whispers to Diana that the accident wasn’t her fault and that someone else had left the shed unlocked. Obviously, this totally does the trick and Diana wakes up and starts eating again.

All of the doctors and  hospital staff are thrilled and impressed by Caitlin. She’s like The Anorexia Whisperer!

At first, Diana doesn’t recognize Caitlin. How could she? Caitlin does have her hair in a bun and is wearing glasses. She thinks that Caitlin is just a random traveling miracle worker named “Karen Martin”. But, as Caitlin’s anorexia treatments continue, Diana starts to think that she recognizes Caitlin’s voice. Unsure of herself, Diana invites Laurence, another Highgate Student who knows both girls to help her decide if “Karen Martin” is really Caitlin Ryan. Laurence, who must have x-ray vision or something to see through Caitlin’s brilliant disguise, immediately recognizes her.

But, instead of immediately confronting “Karen”, Laurence and Diana just play along with the charade. Well, that’s probably easier. It might be awkward to point out that Caitlin is wearing a disguise and pretending to be a different person while performing amateur eating disorder treatments.

Meanwhile, Diana’s doctor – the handsome, dark-haired Dr. Westlake – also recognizes Caitlin. After taking to Diana, who tells him that “Karen Martin” = Caitlin Ryan, Dr. Westlake realizes that Caitlin is the daughter of a girl who he had loved and lost 17 years ago – a girl named Laura Ryan (DUN DUN DUN!). Dr Westlake remembers meeting Regina Ryan (AKA Mean Old Grandma) back in the day and decides to pay her a visit to talk about her amazing granddaughter, The Anorexia Whisperer.

Mean Old Grandma remembers Dr. Westlake and immediately announces that he is Caitlin’s father.

Of course he is.

Apparently Dr. Westlake and Laura had fallen in love in college, but Mean Old Grandma didn’t approve, and forbid them to be together. Before she could tear Laura away from the then-struggling medical student, Laura got knocked up. Mean Old Grandma forced Laura to leave without out even saying goodbye to her love, and Dr. Westlake never heard from them again.  Laura died giving birth to Caitlin and Mean Old Grandma became her guardian. For convenience’s sake, Mean Old Grandma lied to Caitlin and told her that her father intentionally abandoned her. But in truth, Dr. Westlake didn’t even know she existed.

Now, Dr. Westlake is all excited to tell Miracle Worker Caitlin Ryan that he’s her father.

But, instead of being happy, Caitlin is furious. She thinks Dr. Westlake is lying and that he did abandon her and she hates him. Mean Old Grandma would never lie to her! (BTW, she TOTALLY would.)

But, now that her cover is blown by her super-sleuting secret father, Caitlin has to confess to Diana who she really is and the real reason that she is there at the hospital. In disguise. Curing anorexia. AWKWARD!

Love Lost circa 1991

But, Diana isn’t mad at Caitlin at all!  She forgives Caitlin for her role in The Accident and they become really good friends. At the end of the summer, Diana leaves the hospital and moves away, but she and Caitlin vow to be BFFs. Oh and Caitlin starts dating Diana’s friend Laurence, but she just can’t forget about Jed. How could she? Yes, he’s a douchebag with an Oedipus complex, but he does have a cleft chin and rides horses so Caitlin can’t just let a guy like that go!

What will happen when Caitlin and Jed return to Highgate Academy in the fall? Stay tuned for True Love.

Awesome Outfit: Violet Ball gown with a scooped neck and puffed sleeves ending at a row of buttons at the wrist

Cover Art: The original cover of this book (featured at the top of this post) is one of the best of the series. The 1990s reissue of the series to your left is also amazing in its awfulness.

Sunset High – #1 – Getting Experienced

February 2, 2011 - 2 Responses

As you can see from the image to your left, this is yet another YA nostalgia read. One day, I will read another modern book – I swear! – but its going to be difficult. What with the Trilogy of Trilogies and my latest muse, Sunset High.

Perhaps I’m just dizzy from the low expectations set by my previous read – Loving – but I seriously think these books are freaking awesome.

Oh. Is that doubt I’m sensing?

Before we go any further, I think you should know something: Joan Collins makes a cameo appearance in this book.

That’s correct. JOAN F*CKING COLLINS. Of Dynasty and general 80s fabulousness!

She has actual lines and interacts with Nadia Laurence – Sunset High’s resident Poor Little Rich Girl.

Now, I know that Caitlin Ryan is RAVEN HAIRED and lives part time in a house with a name (Ryan Acres).  I haven’t finished the trilogies, but I’m pretty damn sure that JOAN F*CKING COLLINS dosen’t appear even once.

Nadia Laurence is a bitch of epic proportions, as well as super-rich and neglected by a busy parental figure.  But instead of organizing a drag show/costume contest like Caitlin Ryan – she attends the Academy Awards and hangs out with  JOAN F*CKING COLLINS.

So right off the bat, Nadia kicks Caitlin’s ass.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Our heroine, Kristin Sullivan, and her family have just moved to Beverly Hills from Minnesota. So she’s kind of like a non-bitchy, twin-less  Brenda Walsh!  Kristin is athletic, fun and freckle-faced. She’s one of those unpretentiously pretty girls, who dosen’t even know she’s pretty. I know, right? Gag.

But, its hard to hate Kristin because she’s really nice and has a normal relationship with her parents and the world in general. While she has episodes of self doubt, she has an actual personality and dosen’t even seem to despise herself. How refreshing!

At her old school, Kristin was a fearlessly popular cheerleader, who had a million friends and everybody loved her. In Beverly Hills, she’s just a boring old farm girl. Its like a totally different world in the 90210. For one, there’s no cheerleading! WTF?  At Sunset High, no one give a shit about sports, but there is a media class where the students make elaborate music videos. Kristin’s dancing skills make a great addition to the music video being produced by dark haired, blue eyed Grady Larkin. Grady clearly loves Kristin on sight and she feels tingly whenever he’s near.

Kristin also befriends Monica Miller, a 16 year old washed up child star trying to rekindle her career, without much success. As a child, Monica was on a show called The Twain Family, which seems similar to Little House On The Prairie.  But she hasn’t worked in years, despite auditioning religiously. Also, Monica has a mullet, wears pink overalls and high heels and rides a motor scooter. But that’s not weird or anything.

OMG. Camp Beverly Hills. Its like a drug flashback, right?

Things are going great with Grady and Kristin. They go on the cutest date EVER to a movie screening. Kristin is feeling insecure about being so Minnesota in Beverly Hills, so she buys a weird ass outfit from the store Camp Beverly Hills. It involves a scarf wrapped around her shoulders and it makes it hard to use her arms. Perfect date outfit, right? Kristin tries acting aloof and cool, and Grady is clearly confused by her insane outfit and attitude change. The date is soooooo awkward, until they stop at a batting cage and Kristin ditches the scarf and hikes up her skirt and they have a great time hitting balls for hours. (Not like that, Pervs!)

BUT, one night after drinking a beer Kristin almost goes too far with Grady and things get weird between them. (Teenage drinking! Bonus Points!) Oh, also – according to Grady, all Beverly Hills parents let their teenagers drink beer. So, Beverly Hills is officially teenage heaven!

Meanwhile, Nadia’s insecure attention is divided between attending the Academy Awards and trying to star in Grady’s music video.

Nadia’s dad is a famous movie producer whose movie The Last Stranger has been nominated for Best Picture. Nadia ‘s parents aren’t getting along so Nadia gets to be his date for the Oscars. This is very cool and Nadia buys a lovely white gown from Giorgio of Beverly Hills and is understandably really excited.

Please keep in mind that Nadia is also batshit crazy. She’s a bit of a pathological liar who is waaaaaay too into going on a date with her dad. She is apparently afflicted with both OCD and such dramatically low self worth that every weekend she uses her personalized stationary to score and graph the popularity of all the girls at school. Sadly, Nadia always comes up short. That’s pretty much low self esteem personified, isn’t it? She invented the scoring system and she assigns the scores, but she loses every week.

None of this matters, because while at the Academy Awards, Nadia and her father encounter JOAN F*CKING COLLINS. Miss Collins recalls a movie she made with Nadia’s father and calls Nadia “a stunner” before wandering off. Other famous actors of the 80s are spotted at the awards, like Cher and Ryan O’Neal and Sally Field, but they are not cool enough to have actual lines.

Chilling with JOAN F*CKING COLLINS and (**Spoiler Alert!**) watching her dad win an Oscar isn’t good enough for our stunning little sociopath. At the awards, Nadia is seated next to fictional movie star Scott Sawyer. She manages to spin this brief interaction into a whole fake relationship and tells everyone at school that they totally hooked up and are in love and he’s gonna be her date to the school dance.

At the same time, Nadia is positively sick with jealousy every time she sees Kristin.  So, in an attempt to destroy her perceived competition, she capitalizes on the awkwardness between Kristin and Grady and convinces Kristin that Grady is cheating on her.

But then, Kristin finds out that Nadia invented her romance with Scott Sawyer and she calls her out on it. Nadia begs Kristin not to tell anyone about her ridiculous lie . In a rookie move, Nadia tries to gain Kristin’s loyalty by admitting that Grady wasn’t cheating on her. But, Kristin wasn’t going to tell anyone about Nadia’s psychotic lies anyway. Kristin gets back together with Grady and everything turns out just lovely.

What random celebrity shout-outs and confusing fashion choices await us in Sunset High Book # 2 – A Chance to Make It? Stay tuned and find out!

Awesome outfits:

  • Form fitting khaki jumpsuit
  • Aforementioned pink overalls/high heels/mullet
  • Huge blouse, giant belt, fringed scarf wrapped weirdly around shoulders topped off with pink bobby socks and high heeled pumps

Cover Art:

I don’t have to say anything, do I? Just look at it.

Caitlin: The Love Trilogy: Loving (#1)

January 30, 2011 - 2 Responses

God, that’s a long title for a book.

It does sound fancy though dosen’t it? And this book is nothing if not fancy!

On the surface, Caitlin Ryan is your standard issue Poor Little Rich Girl. She’s raven haired, beautiful and unapologetically bitchy and cruel.  Despite being worshiped by not just the students of Highgate Academy – the super-fancy boarding school that she attends – but pretty much the world in general, Caitlin is sad and lonely. She’s vaguely an orphan and lives with her Mean Old Grandma, Regina Ryan. Regina owns a coal mine, and is terribly wealthy and cold-hearted. Despite being old, she’s a super-modern liberated woman who is too busy being rich to  tolerate her granddaughter so she has sent her to a nearby boarding school.

Regina’s only interest in Caitlin is as something she can parade in front of mining industry people, to further her Mean Old Mining agenda. Its a little weird how much the mining industry is discussed in this book, considering that most of the characters don’t even receive physical descriptions. As I recall, the later books actually delve into the mortality behind treatment of mine workers and the environmental impact of strip mining.

Seriously.

We are supposed to hate Mean Old Grandma, but its hard.  Highgate Academy is freaking awesome. This may be where my Boarding School obsession began. Set in the rolling hills of Virginia, there are stables and riding paths and the dining hall is like the fanciest country club ever!  It features mahogany paneling and crystal chandeliers and everything! Caitlin’s dorm room is even awesomer than the rest of the school because her Mean Old Grandma tricked it out with mahogany bookshelves, a stereo and custom made drapes.

I also don’t see how we can feel sorry for Caitlin – she is living the teenage dream. She’s the richest rich girl ever and lives a life blissfully free from meddling parents or financial limitations. She has her own horses and when not at fancy-fancy Highgate Academy, she lives right around the corner at her grandmother’s resort-like palatial estate – Ryan Acres.  That’s right, a house with a name! (This is something I discovered with Gone With The Wind, and I have never really let go of. If I could get away with naming my house, I would TOTALLY do it!)

Plus she has RAVEN HAIR and sparkly blue eyes and is driven around in a sick Bentley by a chauffeur named Rollins.

I think we are supposed to be learning a lesson about how money dosen’t buy love, but I’m not learning shit because life is pretty awesome for Caitlin. When she wants to attract the attention of a boy at school, she just invites a dozen of her closest friends back to Ryan Acres for a fabulous weekend riding horses and lounging in luxury.

When Caitlin hears an awesome idea for a school fundraiser, she blatantly steals it. The girl she steals it from is named Tenny, and she dosen’t even bother to protest. That’s right, her name is Tenny. What is Tenny short for? Tennis? Tennessee? We will never know.

But, its not just any idea that Caitlin is stealing. Tenny has suggested that they sell tickets to a boys beauty pageant, where the boys dress in drag. Clearly, Caitlin cannot allow a girl named Tenny to take credit for an idea of that caliber. And even though you might think that a drag show starring wealthy teen-aged soccer players might be in questionable taste – everyone loves the idea initially.

When the boys have a moment to consider the ramifications of prancing around on stage in drag, they protest weakly, and Caitlin brilliantly twists the idea so that boys can also dress in costumes like napoleon and superman. Um, ok…. Whatever. This pageant is all window dressing for the real story here: the insane and dysfunctional love story of Caitlin and Jed Michaels.

Jed is a really hot cowboy from Montana with wavy hair and a hot body. Caitlin thinks its revolutionary that  Jed wears cowboy clothes. Its just so edgy! Also, his pants are tight. Jed is is new to Highgate, and Caitlin is immediately smitten. They bond over horseback riding and dysfunctional families.

Jed, however, has taken an interest in a scholarship girl named Diana. Caitlin is understandably horrified that Jed would take an interest in a poor person, who doesn’t even ride horses! Diana is from a trashy family and has to babysit for a teacher to afford to stay at the fancy school.

Despite Caitlin’s almost magical powers of manipulation, she is unable to distract Jed from Diana. Until, through a confusing series of events, Caitlin’s negligence results in the kid Diana babysits getting poisoned, and Diana is blamed.  Diana drops of out school and disappears.

Caitlin’s Mean Old Grandma forgets her birthday and dosen’t show up to watch the cross-dressing costume pageant. In addition, she feels really guilty for her part in the accidental poisoning  – oh that somehow leads to the kid being paralyzed, which really dosen’t make much sense, but whatever. Distraught, Caitlin dramatically rides her horse off in the rain, crying about how everywhere she goes, misery and death follow. She realizes that the reason Mean Old Grandma avoids her birthday is that Caitlin’s mother died giving birth to her, and even her birthday is shrouded in darkness and death.

Being emo and riding horses in the rain leads to Caitlin contracting pneumonia, and having to stay in bed at Ryan Acres for weeks, wishing she had died. Its totally melodramatic and dark and I know I loved it when I read this book back in the day.

The whole pneumonia/kid poisoning episode TOTALLY CHANGES Caitlin, and when she returns to school she has become an old lady who hates parties and just wants to sit in the corner. Well, this was the best move ever because Jed LOVES girls that sit in corners and he immediately wants to get all up on her.

With Diana gone, Jed – who apparently has a fetish for sad girls – falls for Caitlin.

Jed tells Caitlin that he never really loved Diana. He realizes now that he was just into her because she was quiet and sad and reminded him of his sister. He also tells Caitlin he didn’t like her initially because he thought she was shallow, manipulative and flirtatious, which reminded him of his mother. But, now that Caitlin is sad and broody he’s totally into her. Um. Is it just me, or does Jed have a thing for his sister???

Oh who cares if its creepy, because the love of Jed Michaels changes Caitlin into a totally different person who is happy and nice and actually cares about other people. You see, all Caitlin needed to be human was the love of a sexy cowboy in tight corduroy jeans.

Only one thing mars the perfection that is the icky love of Jed Michaels,  and that is the teeny tiny secret that it was really Caitlin who caused the accident that paralyzed the kid and drove Diana back to the trailer park. Caitlin decides that she cannot keep the secret any longer and writes Jed a letter confessing her part in the accident. But, she just can’t bring herself to give him the letter, because she fears that he will stop loving her and obviously the world will end. So she does what anyone would do. She hides the letter in a book of love poems that she places upon the mahogany bookshelf in her dorm room.

You guys don’t think that someone is going find that letter in The Love Trilogy #2 – Love Lost, do you???

Let’s talk cover art. I was pretty sad when my copy of this book arrived from amazon, as did not feature the epic painting you see above. Instead, I received a version so bizarre that I can’t even find it on the internet. Apparently these books were re-issued in the early 90s and they decided to use a cover model. She kind of looks like Jamie Gertz and its wearing leather gloves and holding a riding crop. Its awful.

Finally, the best part about reading 1980s era YA is the awesome outfits. Caitlin wears such fashionable items as a pink and magenta taffeta dress, an indigo jumpsuit and a black leather pants suit. Oh if only these books came with pictures!

Up next: Love Lost.

Caitlin: A Trilogy of Trilogies

January 30, 2011 - Leave a Response

Man, I love a trilogy.

Francine Pascal loves trilogies too. Perhaps more than even I, because in the late 80s she decided that one trilogy was not enough to contain a heroine as bitchy and dark as that beautiful demoness Caitlin Ryan.

Of course, as with that magnum opus Sweet Valley High, Francine dosen’t love these books enough to write them herself. That lowly task falls to ghostwriters, but its Francine’s name emblazoned across the cover.

Obviously, I loved Sweet Valley High back in the day. I was an active fan and sought the books out at the library and bookstores as they were published, and it seemed for a while like new books would come out at least once a month. I don’t remember when I first saw the Caitlin Series, but I imagine that it was advertised in the backs of SVH books. I loved these book covers. The drawings of Caitlin Ryan’s raven hair, pale skin and blue eyes captivated and inspired  me in my burgeoning interest in black hair dye.

Francine was in rare form when she conceived Caitlin’s tale. A regular old “series” wasn’t epic enough to contain this sweeping tale of 80s fashion, horses and the mining industry. It was a story suited only for a trilogy – but still too vast for just ONE trilogy. No.

Only a Trilogy of Trilogies can do this legend justice.

The Love Trilogy: Loving, Love Lost, True Love

The Promise Trilogy: Tender Promises, Promises Broken, A New Promise

The Forever Trilogy: Dreams of Forever, Forever & Always, Together Forever

I read and loved them all. Perhaps more than even SVH, because they were dark. Caitlin wasn’t just rich, beautiful and cruel – she was self destructive, sociopathic and lonely.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to dig around at garage sales to locate these fabulous books. Through the wonder of technology that even super-rich Caitlin didn’t have access to back in the day (i.e. Amazon.com), over the next few weeks I plan to read them and report back. It is my gift to you, Interwebs. You are welcome.

Matched By Ally Condie

January 2, 2011 - Leave a Response

Everyone keeps saying that angels are the Next Big Thing (NBT) in YA fiction.

I seriously hope not, because angels are lame.

One day, I will tell you about Fallen, which is the only angel book I’ve been able to stomach so far. It was lame, but featured the prettiest book cover ever, so I’m still kind of a fan.

Anyway, I don’t think angels are the NBT, partly because all the YA angels I’ve encountered seem to be vampires with wings, which is stupid. The NBT has to be something different from the Last Big Thing, or else its just Twilight 2: Electric Boogaloo.

After reading Matched, I feel that its time to close the polls: Dystopia is the NBT. Go home angels.

Apparently inspired by The Hunger Games (which is beyond awesome), it seems like everyone is writing a book about how much the future sucks.

Matched is one of those books.

It is the story of Cassia Reyes, a 17 year old girl living in a futuristic society – conveniently called The Society – that has eradicated disease, eliminated hunger and appears devoid of crime and all around messiness. Being a bit of a control freak  myself, I didn’t initially find the Society all that objectionable. What’s wrong with a little scheduling, people?

Unfortunately, the Society has achieved its perfection by mandating genetically ordained arranged marriages, and controlling every aspect of each citizen’s life with a combination of  propaganda, pharmaceuticals and fear. Oh and destroying all but the “top 100” poems, songs and paintings of the extinct civilization that preceded it. An extinct civilization that is unmistakeably ours.

This book could have been called Freedom, if that title wasn’t already taken, as much of the story concerns Cassia longing for the freedom to choose her own boyfriend, eat pie for breakfast, listen to her own music, keep her own secrets and write her own poems. She longs for the freedom to be her own person, and not the person predicted by the science and experience of authority.

My inner 15 year old loves this book as it is a perfect metaphor for adolescent angst. Where Cassia loves and respects her parents, its the government controlling and destroying her chosen life, for every other teenager, its their parents harshing their mellow.

Cassia begins the story as an obedient goody-goody who doesn’t even think rebellious thoughts. But the government-scheduled death of her grandfather (Heads up Tea Partiers!) and a subversive love triangle tend to change a girl. Before too long, she’s smuggling banned Dylan Thomas poems and kissing a mysterious boy named Ky.

I am always happy to see contemporary YA authors reference classic poetry and literature, because it encourages Kids These Days to seek out the authors and poets and artists referenced. This is probably because today’s Best Selling YA author, is yesterday’s high school English teacher, and that’s probably not a coincidence.

Oh and the cover art – sublime. I love when a book cover references the story, and this one looks beautiful and means something.

Firelight By Sophie Jordan

January 2, 2011 - Leave a Response

I started hearing about this book several months ago when it was included in lists of YA novels considered to be “The Next Twilight”.

I feel I must disclose something right off the bat: I love the Twilight Saga. I love it with so much sincerity and intensity I don’t even feel embarrassed about it, even though I realize that I probably should. However, my love for those books is not because I prefer my heroines infuriating and my vampires sparkly. Its because they were my first.

I don’t mean, of course, that they were the first YA books I ever read. But they were, however, the first  YA books of my adult life. The experience of reading them seemed to have flipped a switch inside of me, that I am unwilling and unable to flip back.  Before reading those books, I had almost convinced myself that having reaching my early 30s, I was an adult and I read magazines and internet articles. Occasionally, I read a novel like “The Lovely Bones” or “She’s Come Undone”. Primarily, something Oprah selected and affixed her big O sticker to the front of. I did not read books about teen-aged vampires. But as it turns out, I love books about teenagers – almost exclusively these days, and if the teenagers are immortal or have magical powers, then all the better.

We might not all be proud of our first loves, but we still love them.

So I love Twilight, despite its flaws, and its unattractive metamorphosis into a global juggernaut. I love Twilight because of and in spite of all of all that. Some people are Diabetic or Hypertensive.  I’m Twilight. Its who I am. Its my condition.  Deal with it.

So, like a drug addict, when people say something is “The Next Twilight”, I pay attention.  I still don’t  know if it was the function of a publishing promotional machine, or if there was actual buzz about Firelight, but well before it was released, even Little Old Me knew it was the Next Big Thing.

Even so, I was really surprised at how much I liked this book, and not just because it was kind of like Extreme Twilight Makeover: Dragon Edition.

Firelight is the story of Jacinda, a teen-aged shape-shifting dragon who is new at school because she is on the run from her dragon tribe and its ancient rituals of forced marriage and physical mutilation. Of course, while at high school she meets a superhot dragon slayer named Will, and they promptly fall into my favorite brand of YA love.

Stalker-love!

Patented by Edward Cullen, Stalker-love is where the characters are instantly and completely enthralled with each other, and engage in generally inappropriate and illegal activities designed to express to each other that they care. They tend to break into each others houses, steal personal items and perform surveillance on each other. When they catch each other sulking around, nobody is horrified or worried. There’s no talk of setting “healthy boundaries”  or “restraining orders”. Instead, everybody’s flattered and lovestruck – including me. Its totally unrealistic, and sends a terrible message to Those Kids Today about appropriate relationship conduct. Unfortunately, its very romantic and exciting, and its really easy for naive readers like myself to get sucked in.

Something in Will literally ignites the dragon inside of Jacinda, and whenever they are together she almost can’t stop herself from transforming and breathing fire all over him and burning his face off. But, if mysterious dragon-slayer Will and his family realize that Jacinda is a dragon in disguise, they may kill her and threaten her tribe.

Many aspects of this story remind me of Twilight – the new girl in school meets a beautiful but dangerous boy with whom she immediately discovers an instant chemistry. However, in Firelight, it is the girl who wants to kiss the boy, but worries she might kill him.

Jacinda is a much more respectable female protagonist than Twilight’s oft-despised Bella Swan, in that she isn’t always fainting or falling down or gazing mutely at her dangerously beautiful boyfriend. Instead, Jacinda is a fire-breathing dragon who can fly. So suck on that, Bella Swan.

These parallels strike me more as a homage to Twilight, than an attempt to imitate it. I find that a lot of Post-Twilight YA novels seem to make a point of differentiating themselves  from The Saga, while refusing to acknowledge it.  Firelight, on the other hand, seems to intentionally acknowledge the Twilight archetype, before slyly turning it on its head.

You know how you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover? Yeah, well, I do it all the time. I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for a beautiful book cover.  Cover design is an embarrassingly important factor in my feelings about a book. So its an added bonus that the cover of my edition of Firelight is very pretty and the girl on the cover has hair that is the most beautiful shade of red. I kept holding the book up to my face to see how the color would look on me. Oh and the cool dragon eyes don’t hurt either.

Sweet Valley High #32 – The New Jessica (Or The Wakefield Twins are SO Emo!)

May 8, 2010 - Leave a Response

I’m embarrassed to admit that this book heavily influenced me way back in the 6th grade, and continues its influence this very day.

6th grade was the first time I tried dyeing my naturally blond hair black, and effectively launching me my lifelong love affair with being an emo girl. Back in the day, we called it “goth”, but I am modern and relevant and I will call it emo. Of course, being only in the 6th grade, my mean mother refused to buy me permanent black hair dye, because it was, you know, permanent and I was 11. Of course, this just made me more angsty and emo.  So, as much as I’d like to believe that my interest in dark hair was because I was the edgiest 11 year old on earth, reading this book reminded me that while I certainly was edgy, I was also easily influenced by bad YA fiction. Not much has changed in 20 years…

Please note that while Jessica obviously looks like a dude on the cover of this book, I did not notice that at all when I was 11. I thought she looked beautiful and exotic and cool. Obviously, I needed an eye exam.

Our story begins with Jessica feeling suddenly SO OVER being an identical twin. After borrowing the silky, peach dress that Grandma Wakefield gave Elizabeth for her birthday, Jessica is SO MAD that she is mistaken for Elizabeth one more time. (I’m sorry but this dress sounds like people were more likely to mistake Jessica for her grandmother, but what do I know about fashion.) This unexpected apocalypse forces Jessica to retreat to the most awkwardly named department store on earth – Lytton and Brown – with Lila Fowler. Lytton and Brown sounds more like a funeral home, which is totally apropos because it is there that Jessica hatches her brilliant emo scheme to put an end to this identity crisis shit for ever! She will dye her hair black, pretend to be European and change her name to Jessa Fields! OF COURSE!

Can I say something about the imaginary black hair dye that Jessica utilizes to make her transformation to Jessa Fields? If you are in 6th grade, and hoping to locate this fabulous shampoo-in hair dye that makes your hair silky and beautiful and rinses right out when you get bored with your transformation…get ready for heartbreak. As a certified home hair dye specialist, with over 20 years of experience fucking up my own hair, I can tell you that this shit DOES NOT exist. I’m still a little sad about it too. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t invent hair dye like this?

Also, despite what SVH will have you believe, changing your hair color does not make you look like a different person. Of course you would never know this based upon the reaction that Jessica receives when she arrives at school with her new black hair. Maybe it was heavy make-up and the uber-stylish olive green leather skirt and lacy tights that did the trick, because even her teachers don’t recognize her!

While Jessica is becoming the continental emo hipster Jessa Fields, Elizabeth is moodily writing in her journal. No, seriously, she really is. Elizabeth writes in her journal about how FACINATING her new boyfriend Jeffery French is, even though we never find out what is so amazing about him except that his eyes crinkle up when he smiles. Oooh! Wrinkles. HOT!  Oh, also his voice gets “husky” sometimes, which confuses me. Isn’t husky a style of jeans for chunky boys?

Anyway, Elizabeth is totally losing her shit about Jessica dyeing her hair. And I mean TOTALLY losing her shit. She writes in her journal, “I don’t want to make too big a thing out of this, but I really feel lost every time I look at her and see a stranger staring back.” Seriously? Your sister used temporary dye to change her hair color, its not like she’s Heidi Montag and she had a face transplant!

Its like Jessica is Clark Kent or something. She has darker hair, new clothes and a fakeass British accent and everyone’s like “Who is that?”

I cannot tell you how many times I showed up at school (and maybe even work) with a radically different hair color, only to be met with apathy and only the occasional comment like, “Hey, did you dye your hair?” No sensation. No teachers asking if I was a new student. Thanks, Sweet Valley High for unreasonably raising my expectations, only to leave me let down and disappointed…..AGAIN.

Elizabeth continues her downward spiral toward suicide because she loses her journal, which is filled with secrets like “Jeffery is sooooo cute” and “I’m sad that Jessica dyed her hair”. The trauma seems to make her delusional, because she decides that Jeffery is really in love with Jessica and her new look. She’s also convinced that someone intentionally stole her stupid journal. Would someone get this girl a Prozac please?

Jessica is too busy pretending to like espresso and read Paris Match to notice any of this. But when Elizabeth gets all emo and tells Jessica that Jeffery is totally into her new look, she does what anyone would do and tries to hook up with him. Apparently, Jessica thinks that the way into a boy’s pants is through his mouth, because she buys a bunch of food for him in the school cafeteria in an attempt to woo him. But, Jeffery only gets husky for Elizabeth, so he totally rejects Jessica’s advances.

Jessica meets a modeling scout who tries to get her a job modeling in the Lytton and Brown department store fashion show. Sadly, the owner of the store is not into her edgy, emo look but is totally hot for Elizabeth. He refuses to believe that Jessica and Elizabeth are twins because Jessica’s hair is black and she is so “unconventional and stylized”. He literally insists that Elizabeth come and model in the fashion show. So, Jessica just rinses that black hair dye out (because that’s totally how hair dye works) and both she and Elizabeth wind up in the fashion show!

Oh and Elizabeth finds her stupid journal and she and Jeffery gaze into each other’s eyes and they get all husky together, and I throw up in my mouth a little.

THE END!

Sweet Valley High #7 – Dear Sister (or Head Injuries 101)

April 27, 2010 - Leave a Response

This was literally one of my favorite books growing up.

It starts out with Elizabeth Wakefield glamorously coma-struck following a motorcycle accident. I was probably 10 when I read this book, and OH MY GOD how I wanted to be in a coma. My in-depth medical knowledge told me that it was like sleeping, but with all kinds of dramatics like hospitals and doctors and stuff. Also, when you wake up and start acting just like your identical twin sister – and polar opposite – Jessica, no one really blinks an eye. Your parents totally buy you a sexy nightgown and a new green bikini and other neat outfits. Also, you have permission to be a sudden slut and plagiarist, ignore all your responsibilities and use your gossip column in the school newspaper to forward your suddenly slutty agenda.

So, who else could use a little Sweet Valley High coma right now?

But I digress.

While Elizabeth is whoring around the school, ignoring her nerdfriends and super-loyal boyfriend Todd, our resident sociopath Jessica is forced into performing household chores! It doesn’t stop there, either! Apparently there is some kind of Sweet Valley city ordinance stating that only one Wakefield twin at a time can be slutty and self-obsessed. This cruel twist of fate forces Jessica to pretend to care about someone other than herself and *gasp* wear conservative outfits!

Comas are all kinds of fun until someone gets hurt, aren’t they??

The true message in this story is one of balance. For every slut who wears a low-cut blouse and allows herself to be groped drunkenly by Bruce Patman, another girl must cover her breasts, abstain from alcohol and chastely perform household chores. There cannot be two drunken sluts at any given time. Ok, just kidding. The cast of Jersey Shore totally disproved THAT theory!

Anyhow, everything turns out OK. We learn the time-tested cure for blunt force trauma-induced personality disorders… You know, another smack on the head reverses it. Also, to protect the fragile virgin mind of Elizabeth Wakefield, she totally doesn’t remember how she was about to do the nasty with Bruce Patman! She also doesn’t remember that drinking is fun. Bummer.

I loved this book, and you will too!