Monday, May 21, 2012

To Read Shelf Challenge: Croak by Gina Damico

Croak by Gina Damico 
#132 of 158 on To Read Shelf 

What You Need to Know:  This title is a refreshing break from paranormal romances, but suffers from an overabundance of quirkiness and strange tonal shifts.

Summary:  Lexington (aka Lex) is pissed off.  All the time.  At everybody.  Her incessant brawling has led to numerous near suspensions and her parents have had enough.  She is being sent to her Uncle Mort's farm in upstate New York for the summer.  Far from being the dozy farmer Lex is expecting, Mort is a motorcycle riding mad scientist, with a very strange profession.  You see, Uncle Mort is a Grim, as in reaper, and says that Lex has the potential to be one too.  Lex takes to Killing quickly, but the town of Croak, with it's cobblestone streets, bad death puns and eccentric inhabitants takes more adjustment.  Adding to the stress are the slew of unexplained deaths the Grims are seeing.  Her partner Driggs wants to investigate, but Lex isn't so sure, as the dead are not the best of humanity.

What Worked:  Teenage Grim Reapers is a hell of a concept. and Damico comes very close to pulling it off.   Lex and the other teen Grims are very believable: awkward, annoying and completely stoked to be part of the world of Croak.   It's nice to see a paranormal title that is not focused on a love triangle and where the main characters are reasonably angst free.  

The inevitable romance worked well here too, not being of the love at first sight/destined forever variety.The relationship grew organically, and came across as simultaneously awkward and amazing, as teen relationships are wont to do.     I do have a caveat. (See below)

What Didn't:  The puns.  Good Lord, the puns.  The main drag in Croak is Slain Lane.  The local drink is a Yorrick.  The diner is run by Pandora, the bar by her husband, Corpp.  The butcher's is Dead Meat.  The overabundance of cutesy death references went from clever to twee in no time.

Remember my caveat about the romance?  Well, here it is.  I detest "The I've loved you from afar" trope almost as much as the "I found my soulmate before I graduated high school trope" and it pops up here.

Also, it felt like the author couldn't figure out what book she wanted to write.  Is it a lighthearted look at a death-focused society?  Is it a coming of age novel?  Is it a serious suspense/mystery?  It tries to be all three, and the disparate parts never form a cohesive narrative, leading to some weird tonal shifts, and changes in mood.

Who Would I Give this Book To:  Oddly enough, I think this book as some appeal to both girls and guys.  The cover is killer, and would attract readers.  Fans of quirky humor or someone looking for a break from fallen angels and handsome fairies might enjoy this.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The To Read Shelf Challenge: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Title:  Why We Broke Up 
#150 of 158 on the Too Read Shelf
By Daniel Handler and Maria Kalman

I feel really bad about this, but I couldn't finish this book.  It's a Printz Honor!  It's illustrated!  It's an award winner teens would actually want to read!  I should be supporting it.

This is a total, "It's not you, it's me" situation.   I am not a Daniel Handler fan.  I found the Series of Unfortunate Events too precious and repetitive.  And, I found this book to be more of the same.

The book is one long letter, written by Min, a drama girl, to Ed a brainy jock, after their big split.  It tells the story of their relationship and of course, why it ended.   Problem was, I didn't like either of these people very much, so spending time with them was a chore.

When a book becomes a chore, I put it down.

This book has many passionate fans.  I can see the appeal.  Handler gives this temporary relationship all the drama and gravitas a real-live teen would.  Kalman's illustrations are charming.   But, Min is a manic pixie dream girl of the highest degree, and I didn't care about her enough to see her story to the end.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Kinda Watched Movie Review: Midnight in Paris

So, here is a new, randomly occurring feature on the MeridethSays blog, the "Sort of Watched" Review.

Often, my husband and/or child will choose a movie or show that doesn't really appeal to me, but they want me to "stay!" and watch it with them. Typically, I work on something else crochet or read while they partake of their chosen entertainment, and only watch with half an eye.

The latest movie I sort of watched was Midnight in Paris.

A short summary: Gil, a dissatisfied American writer travels back to 1920's Paris, meets his literary idols, and falls in love.

I was ambivalent about this movie from the start. Why? Well, first off, Woody Allen. I don't get his appeal. I don't think his stammering, nebbishy heroes are appealing. I sort of want to slap him (or his movie stand in) every time they start with the rambling. Also, Hemingway. Hemingway is a sexist jerk. And, Owen Wilson. He just bugs me.

However -- this movie might have well as been subtitled "American Literature Crack". My husband, who has a degree in American Lit, has been wanting to see it forever. The DVD was in at the library, so, I was a good wife.

My opinion from kind of watching it?  It was O.K. If I had been giving it my full attention, I probably would have lost it at the characterization of Zelda Fitzgerald (jealous of her husband's talent). Also, the manic pixie dream girl played by Marion Cotilliard would have rankled. But with half an eye, these things didn't bug me too much. Paris is a beautiful city, the jazz soundtrack is nice, the costumes were pretty and Kathy Bates is awesome as Gertrude Stein.

What did bother me was the relationship between Wilson and his American fiance, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams). These are two people who obviously can't stand each other, so why are they engaged? I get that Gil is a doormat, and people have a hard time ending things, but seriously? They got to engaged without noticing they have nothing in common and really don't like each other?

I could go on, noting that every character but Gil is a caricature or a stereotype. But, I'm not that invested.

Overall, I would say the movie is sentimental and does exactly what you expect it to do. If you like Woody Allen, you'll like this.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Yes, I am going to talk about the Hunger Games Movie.

Like every other teen literature professional on earth, I have be anxiously awaiting The Hunger Games film release. 

Actually, to be honest, I was looking forward to it not just because I wanted to see it, but because I planned 3 programs, helped a little with a scavenger hunt, oversaw a bulletin board, designed and created a chalkboard display, created a book list all based around the The Hunger Games series, and I was re-reading it with my 10 year old and husband.  So, I wanted the movie to come out so that I could quit thinking about The Hunger Games for a little while.  I am Panem-ed out.  I started to hate both Gale and Peeta, just a little bit.  

Overall, I did enjoy the film.  Seeing the world that Suzanne Collins created made real was really thrilling. That being said, I do have some comments.  

Now, please be aware, there are spoilers ahead.  Proceed at your own risk. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Excuse Me While I Freak Out Quietly Over Here.... And a New Challenge

So, It's been more than 6 weeks since my last post.  That's bad.

However, I have a good excuse!  Namely, I've been quietly freaking out over the fact that I might not have a day job anymore.   My city is facing "draconian" budget cuts.  The library looks to be taking a huge hit, following the other huge hit we took 2 years ago.

I would love to tell you more, give you specifics, but I must be discreet.   My city is very sensitive, and I live in a hire-at-will state.  How much would it suck to not get laid off, but then get terminated for shooting my mouth off?

And I am really good at shooting my mouth off.  So, as much as it galls me,  I can't really say much.  So as much as I want to have a big old-fashioned-breath holding hissyfit, I can't.

So, to distract myself, I am setting a new challenge.

My GoodReads "To Read" Shelf just spiked at over 150 books.  That is a lot of books.

I will clear off this shelf by the end of 2012.  

Here are the rules:

  • I will attempt to read every book marked To Read on my GoodReads shelf by December 31, 2012.  
  • The 50 page rule still applies.  If any book I pick up does not work for me in the first 50 pages, I reserve the right to abandon it. 
  • Audio books count. 
  • To choose what I read, I will set the sort to random, and read the first thing I can get a hold of.  
  • I will blog about each book.  
  • Only books added before March 17, 2012 are eligible for the challenge.  I'm sure my "To Read" List will continue to grow, but I'm human, damn it. 
To start, I will read The Girl of Fire and Thorns and Why We Broke Up. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

Over at the blog for my "day job" I wrote a love letter to John Green's latest The Fault In Our Stars.   A snippet:

  I don't love you, love you, because you're 17 and fictional and that would be creepy.

Hit the link to read the whole thing.