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Viewing Blog: Bookshelves of Doom, Most Recent at Top
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"Book reviews, book news, my life and anything else I think is interesting."
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26. Yesterday @KirkusReviews...

Say what you will Say what you will...I put together a list of upcoming YA romances that I've got my eye on.

Anything I should add to it?

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27. LeVar Burton is MAD WITH POWER.

The Kickstarter is up to almost 3.5 million!

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28. Wait, the 48HBC is THIS WEEKEND??

I'd better pick out some books!

What about you?

Are you participating?

Do you, unlike me, already have a pile of books set aside?

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29. LitRock: Editorial Delay.

Erin Murphy's Dog Performs "Editorial Delay" from e.E. Charlton-Trujillo on Vimeo.

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30. Four-and-a-half books about the Rwandan Genocide.

Mira in the present tense Artichoke hearts

Putting this list together, oddly enough, was inspired by a sweet, sad, lovely coming-of-age story about Mira Levenson, a twelve-year-old British girl of Indian and Jewish descent who's journaling the last month of her beloved grandmother's life (among many other things). 

Mira in the Present Tense (Artichoke Hearts in the UK), by Sita Brahmachari 

Although the Rwandan Genocide wasn't the primary focus of the book, it was an integral part of Mira's new, more complex understanding of the world (not to mention her crush, Jidé), her discovery and exploration of it was a huge part of her coming-of-age journey, and the scenes of her doing research made me wonder what fiction was out there. (Hence, as I said above, this list.)

In addition to all of the book's other virtues—seriously, it's so, so good—there's also a really nice thread about how her PARENTS react to and deal with Mira's maturation. On the one hand, they want to protect her from the horrors in the world, but on the other, they realize that she's growing up, and that learning about and understanding these hard things (as much as understanding is possible, anyway) is a part of that process. It's just really nicely handled.

I'm so very much looking forward to the sequel, which is out in September.

Broken Memory: A Novel of Rwanda, by Elizabeth Combres Broken memory

This one is heavily based on interviews with Rwandan refugees, and chronicles the life of a young Tutsi girl who witnessed her mother's murder when she was five years old. Now fourteen, living with the Hutu woman who took her in, still wracked by nightmares, she has to decide whether or not to testify in Gacaca court. According to the reviews I've read, the prose is quite spare, but Combres doesn't pull punches about the subject matter.

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You, by Hanna Jansen

This fictionalized biography, translated from the original German, got multiple starred reviews as well as a Batchelder Award. It's about eight-year-old Jeanne d'Arc Umubyeyi, who was ultimately her Tutsi family's only survivor. The book doesn't only chronicle the violence, but the regular life leading up to it, and oddly enough, every review I've read has made me think of Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now, because the book is narrated by a child who is experiencing all of the trauma of a horrific event, but without any real understanding of the political situation that lead up to it.

Shattered, by Eric Walters
I Learned a New Word Today... Genocide, by Elizabeth Hankins

The descriptions of these sound somewhat didactic to me (the Hankins title alone is pretty cringeworthy), but they both seem to have had decently positive receptions, so, onto the list they go. The Walters is about a fifteen-year-old boy who develops a friendship with a homeless soldier whose last mission was as a peacekeeper stationed in Rwanda; the Hankins is about a fifth grader who discovers genocide isn't just something that affects far away people—it's something that has touched people he knows. These two and the Combres were originally published in Canada.

Others?

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31. Challenge update: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

Curious incident of the dog in the night-timeFrom the Lebanon Democrat:

The book in question, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time,” was banned from the reading list at the board’s May 5 meeting and was removed from the possession of students soon after. However, the books were given back to students on the advice of school board attorney Mike Jennings due to a possible conflict with a board policy.

“The word ban was a bad choice of words. I wanted it removed from the reading list, but instead we go out and start removing books from libraries and kids arms and they couldn’t do reports. That was not the intent of that,” said board member Wayne McNeese, who made the original motion.

After going back and reading the previous articles multiple times, comparing McNeese's comments here to his comments a few weeks ago... I have written and erased so many snarky responses that I've lost track. Because it seems to me that he wants it both ways: for the book not to be in use at the school, AND for people to not see him as a censor.

I just figure if you're going to go for it, OWN IT.

Previously.

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32. Challenged in NC: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

ParttimeindianFrom Star News Online:

Wood is disturbed by profanity and sexual references in the book, written from the perspective of a Native American teenager. She cites her religious beliefs and "good morals" as to why she wants it off library shelves and out of students' hands.

"I'm Christian, OK? This is disgusting to me. It's very undesirable for our children to be reading, much less being taught, this kind of thing in a classroom." Wood said. "We don't use these words in Christian homes. I object to these words. I object to the masturbation."

While she has no children of her own enrolled in the district, Wood asked, "Is not every adult on this Earth responsible for the souls of all our children?"

What she seems to be suggesting here is that everyone in the world should conform to her exact same value system and worldview.

Which, obviously, doesn't work for me.

She also seems to assume that she's speaking for all Christians, everywhere, which I'm pretty sure is inaccurate.

Anyway. We shall see what happens.

In case the school district sounds familiar to you: It's the same place where The Color Purple was challenged (and retained) earlier this year.

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33. The 2014 Lambda Awards...

Two boys kissing Two boys kissing...have been announced.

The Children's/YA LGBT prize went to:

Sara Farizan, for If You Could Be Mine AND
David Levithan, for Two Boys Kissing

Click here for the other winners, the other Children's/YA finalists, and the full list of other finalists.

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34. Today @KirkusReviews...

Jex malone...I wrote about Jex Malone, a book I thought I would like a whole lot more than I did:

But, as Kirkus and I don’t always agree, I went ahead and read it anyway. The premise ALONE demanded that I read it; knowing it included quotes from famous girl detectives ranging from Jessica Fletcher to V.I. Warshawski to Jane Marple to Nancy Drew was just icing on the cake. Sadly, underneath that lovely frosting, the cake was lumpy and underdone. As I have a tendency to let metaphors get away from me, I’ll just say it flat-out: Kirkus was right about this one.

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35. If There Be Thorns, Part Two: Dollanganger #3 -- V.C. Andrews

If there be thornsRomantic Incest 101: Flowers in the AtticPetals on the Wind, and If There Be Thorns: Part One.

p71. PART TWO.

p73-86. JORY. 

Okay, things are ramping up: Jory takes issue with Bart being a puke to Cathy, Bart escalates by TAKING A SWING AT JORY'S HEAD WITH A BASEBALL BAT, they wrestle.

Also, Bart now knows that his biological father was Bart Winslow (duh) and not Doctor Paul.

Jory tries to get Corinne to stop spending time with Bart.

Also, he knows he's super-handsome, but knows that talent is what matters, because beauty fades. (But he still digs beauty.)

Why was she telling me her life story? I didn't care. [ME EITHER, KID. ME EITHER.]

...

"I married for a second time. My four children hated me for it. [Yes, Corrine, THAT'S why they hated you. HOW DID SHE GET OUT OF THE ASYLUM? She must have escaped, because she is CLEARLY STILL BANANAS.] ... "Children always think adults have it so easy. That's not always true. Children think a widowed mother doesn't need anyone but them." She sighed. "They think they can give her enough love, because they don't understand there are all kinds of love, and it's hard for a woman to live without a man once she's been married."[Oh, Corinne, Chris and Cathy are WELL-ACQUAINTED with the type of love to which you're referring, assuming that you're talking about RAPEY SEX LOVE.]

These characters seem to think as long as you SIGH OFTEN ENOUGH, you can convince ANYONE OF ANYTHING.

Also, Corinne gets WAAAAY TMI with Jory about her past.

Including marrying her uncle. OH, EXCUSE ME, HER "HALF UNCLE".

AND SHE CONSIDERS CORY'S DEATH 'ACCIDENTAL'. YES, CORINNE, I'M SURE THAT YOU 'ACCIDENTALLY' DUSTED THOSE DOUGHNUTS WITH ARSENIC. THESE THINGS JUST HAPPEN SOMETIMES.

He gave her a smoldering look of resentment and hobbled into his hole, wherever that was.[AHAHAHA, okay, you get points for that one, Jory.]

After getting her to promise not to hang out with Bart any more, Jory witnesses the UNVEILING OF A PAINTING (because V.C. Andrews) OF THE OLD LADY WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER... AND SOMEBODY CALL ROD SERLING, BECAUSE SHE LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE HIS MOTHER!

And then, all dramatically, she tells him who she really is. Again.

AND NOW IT LOOKS LIKE BART KILLED JORY'S DOG.

A dog that I thought was a cat up until a couple of chapters ago, but whatever.

p87-97. BART.

So, Malcolm's journal continues to be a charming circus of fun and delight: Now he's talking about how his interest in S&M—emphasis on the S, not-necessarily consensual, and DEFINITELY NO SAFE WORDS—led him to God. You know, so he wouldn't go to hell.

Bart doesn't actually think that Corinne is his grandmother. Or that's what he's saying at the moment. She's just some old lady who loves him because he's so damn lovable.

He's peeved that Cathy bought Cindy a new bathing suit. Maybe he expected her to wear his hand-me-down swim trunks?

Jory's dog Clover has been missing for two weeks, but Bart is still building him a doghouse. Why they'd give a kid who A) can't feel pain and B) can't look sideways at a gallon of milk without spilling it and C) is TOTALLY MENTALLY UNBALANCED access to carpentry equipment I don't know.

He's also so in love with his dog that he likes to PICK UP WARM POOPS AND SQUISH THEM THROUGH HIS FINGERS. I barf.

John Amos is still on the blah blah blah, women are naked and sinful and evil, blah blah blah train.

Chris and Cathy are still squabbling about their mother—Chris doesn't understand why Cathy won't "forgive and forget"... THAT SHE LOCKED THEM IN AN ATTIC FOR YEARS AND KILLED THEIR BROTHER—and so on.

At the chapter's end, Bart INJURES HIMSELF, JAMS HIS FINGER INTO THE WOUND TO MAKE IT BLEED MORE, IS NOW GUSHING BLOOD, HAS STARTED DRINKING FROM THE FISHPOND, AND FOUND CLOVER DEAD IN A HOLLOW TREE. 

He's apparently more aware of his deteriorating mental state than I thought, as he isn't sure if he killed Clover or not.

NOW HE'S DECIDED THAT HE, HIMSELF, IS DEAD. 

IF ONLY.

p98-106. JORY.

Bart has GANGRENE and might lose his leg.

And of course Christopher INSISTS on treating him himself, even though he doesn't even know whether or not he's allergic to penicillin. (He is.)

TWO DAYS OF HIVES, AND HE'S ALSO ALLERGIC TO EVERY OTHER ANTIBIOTIC KNOWN TO MAN.

Cathy asks for aspirin and Chris gives her tranquilizers. BECAUSE CHRIS KNOWS BEST.

Apparently the ENTIRE FAMILY AGREES: Given a choice between amputating Bart's leg and letting him die, they'd RATHER LET HIM DIE.

Jory goes home to feed Apple and finds him chained up in the barn, fur all matted, starving and dehydrated. YAY ANIMAL CRUELTY. So he fixes Apple up, which I'm sure will GO OVER REALLY WELL WITH BART, ASSUMING HE LIVES.

Bart's going to live AND keep his leg. It was infected not only because of the rusty nail, but also because of ALL OF THE POOP IN THE WOUND.

He and Jory talk about how Corinne is afraid of John Amos.

If Bart refers to Apple as his "puppy-pony" ONE MORE TIME, I'M GOING TO SCREAM.

Annnnnd scene.

p107-116. BART.

UGH, BART. HE WANTS TO BE LOVED BUT FEELS THAT HE ISN'T SO WHENEVER ANYONE SHOWS HIM AFFECTION HE'S A JERK SO THEN THEY DRAW AWAY BUT THEN HE RESENTS THEM FOR NOT SHOWERING HIM WITH AFFECTION AND HE'S JUST THE WORST.

ALSO, HE HATES WOMEN. SO JOHN AMOS' PLAN IS COMING ALONG NICELY, WHATEVER IT IS.

Good food and smiles and kisses were all parts of "feminine wiles." [TOTALLY! I have an idea, Bart: Why don't you start making all of your own meals? OR JUST STOP EATING ENTIRELY. THAT'LL SHOW 'EM!]

...

That's all it took—one hour and they were tired of me and wishing I had died. [Bart, if you had died, I wouldn't have faulted them for throwing a party.]

He sneaks out to go and see Apple, and is FURIOUS to find that Apple ISN'T starving and miserable. 

I WANT SOMEONE TO SQUASH THIS KID LIKE A BUG. Maybe they can get Jack Gleeson to come out of retirement to play him. 

Bart walks in on John Amos, who was reading JUGGS. (I don't know if it was Juggs. But judging by how quickly he hid it, I'm guessing it was that or something similar.)

If we cut out the number of times that John Amos tells Bart A) Corrine's name, B) that she is his grandmother, and C) that she was Malcolm's daughter, this book would be four pages long.

John Amos gets him to SWEAR TO WRECK VENGEANCE on Malcolm's enemies, and Corinne slips up, referring to Christopher by name. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

p116-121. JORY.

He has really gone bananas, was all I could think as I listened to him.[NO DUH, JORY. WHAT TIPPED YOU OFF? WAS IT THE FACT THAT HE IS CURRENTLY DIGGING HOLES IN THE YARD... WITH HIS MOUTH?]

Although points for nicely twisting Bible verses to make them ugly. Beth Ellen Hansen's got nothing on Bart.

Oh, nice. So Chris and Cathy have KNOWN that Bart has gone bonkers... they've just been WAITING FOR JORY TO COME TO THEM ABOUT IT. WAIT TO BE PROACTIVE, GUYS. MAN, JULIE COOPER HAS BETTER PARENTING SKILLS THAN YOU DO.

"You've both been so worried about Bart that I couldn't speak." [SINCE WHEN HAVE THEY BEEN WORRIED? THEY'VE BEEN TOO BUSY SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER AND HAVING MAKE-UP SEX IN THE LIVING ROOM TO NOTICE WHAT'S GOING ON AROUND THEM.]

WHO FINDS THE BODY OF HIS MURDERED DOG AND DOESN'T TELL HIS PARENTS IMMEDIATELY?

He tells them all about the toys and Apple and the lady next door... BUT HE FAILS TO MENTION THAT SHE CLAIMS TO BE THEIR GRANDMOTHER. BECAUSE THAT'S NOT VITAL INFO OR ANYTHING.

Erm. Bart says a whole bunch of stuff to Cathy that is CLEARLY based on their family history, but SHE DOESN'T DO ANYTHING.

And then she tells Chris about it (because he's a MAN, so HE'LL KNOW WHAT TO DO), AND HE JUST BRUSHES HER OFF AND SAYS THAT BART WILL BE A GREAT ACTOR SOMEDAY.

Characters I would like to throw off of a cliff, in order from most hateful to most idiotic: ALL OF THEM.

p122-130. BART.

Bart is hanging out, picking scabs and chewing himself swollen and bloody so that Cathy will worry about him. Which, gross.

Emma makes him a birthday cake—like, a month late, but whatever—and he throws it on the ground because it doesn't have the right number of candles.

I'm thinking that Cindy's paddle pool is the V.C. Andrews equivalent of Chekhov's gun. AND BY 'THINK', I MEAN 'HOPE'.

Oh, great, now Cindy is naked and "tormenting" Bart with her "bare flesh". REMINDER: SHE IS TWO.

Ahahahaha, John Amos says that Corrine never "punished her children enough". I guess that imprisonment, abandonment, and arsenic doughnuts don't count.

BART TOTALLY TRIED TO DROWN CINDY. 

Jory caught him, and Bart claimed to be "just punishing her a little", but Jory's not having it. So Bart hauls off and KICKS JORY IN THE CUBES. (Jory, being Jory, chides him for unsportsmanlike behavior whilst writhing around on the ground in pain.)

Everybody hated me, and would be glad to see me in my grave. [WELL I WONDER WHY.]

THEN HE PUNCHES EMMA AND CATHY TACKLES HIM (WHILE WEARING A SKIMPY BLUE BIKINI) AND SO HE TRIES TO BITE CATHY... AND THEN SHE SENDS HIM UP TO THE ATTIC!!!

SHE TELLS HIM TO DROP HIS PANTS (BECAUSE SPANKING HAS TO BE ON THE BARE BOTTOM, OBVS), AND HE TELLS HER THAT IF SHE DOES IT, HE'LL BIDE HIS TIME AND 'GET' CINDY AND HE WON'T GO TO JAIL BECAUSE HE'S A MINOR.

At this point he's making Mrs. Rochester look totally sane.

AND SO HE RANTS A BUNCH MORE AND SHE RUNS AWAY, LOCKING THE DOOR BEHIND HER.

Later, Christopher spanks him—but remember, old Bartie doesn't feel pain, so big whoop—and says that A) they're sending him to a psychiatrist and B) if he "persists in defying" them, THEY'RE GOING TO COMMIT HIM.

NOT BECAUSE HE THREATENED TO KILL HIS SISTER, NOT BECAUSE HE (MAYBE) KILLED A DOG, BUT BECAUSE HE WON'T BEHAVE.

And now Christopher is screaming at Cathy for locking Bart up in the attic.

I NEVER THOUGHT I'D SAY THIS, BUT I'M KIND OF ON CATHY'S SIDE HERE.

He goes to the psychiatrist and disapproves of the fact that she has boobs.

p130-135. JORY.

Man, Bart is a horrorshow, but ALL JORY EVER DOES IS EAVESDROP.

Our nighttime talks were the kind of tucking in he gave me . . . advice on how to handle difficult situations. Man-to-man stuff a woman didn't have to know about.[UGGGGGGGGGGH.]

Jeepers, was the dad from We Need to Talk About Kevin based on Christopher? Because they are equally dense.

Speaking of Chekhov's gun, is Christopher going to die in a car accident like his father? BECAUSE JORY'S ALWAYS HARPING ON ABOUT CATHY SAYING "DRIVE CAREFULLY" WHENEVER CHRIS GOES ANYWHERE.

Cathy offers Bart some lemon meringue pie, so he smashes her porcelain ballerina, then shoves Cindy off of her lap and onto the floor. GOOD TIMES, WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

And now Jory is holding her and comforting her.

As you never can tell with this family, I'll be clear: He's comforting her, not "COMFORTING HER". BUT THERE'S STILL HALF A BOOK LEFT, WHO KNOWS WHAT IS YET TO COME??

Also, Cathy's going on and on about how hard parenting is and she never knew it was so complicated AND IS THIS BOOK ULTIMATELY GOING TO BE ABOUT HOW CORINNE WAS JUST HORRIBLY MISUNDERSTOOD?

IF SO, I WILL RALPH.

END OF PART TWO.

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36. If There Be Thorns, Part One: Dollanganger #3 -- V.C. Andrews

If there be thornsBackstory: Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind.

If There Be Thorns begins:

In the late evening when the shadows were long, I sat quiet and unmoving near one of Paul's marble statues. I heard the statues whispering to me [clearly her Years of Incestuous Bliss with Chris haven't improved Cathy's stability any] of the past I could never forget; hinting slyly of the future I was trying to ignore. Flickering ghostly in the pale light of the rising moon were the will-o'-the-wisp regrets [what] that told me daily I could and should have done differently. [JEEPERS, WOMAN. YOU ESCAPED YOUR MURDERESS MOTHER; YOU GOT REVENGE ON HER THAT INCLUDED GETTING KNOCKED UP BY HER HUSBAND, BURNING HER HOUSE DOWN, AND GETTING HER COMMITTED; AND YOU ARE NOW LIVING AN IDYLLIC LIFE WITH YOUR HUSBAND/BROTHER. WHAT MORE COULD YOU POSSIBLY WANT??] But I am what I have always been, a person ruled by instincts. It seems I can never change.

Also on p3: Cathy found "a strand of silver" in her hair, so soon she "might be her grandmother". Which is a totally reasonable logical leap.

And it looks like Jory and Bart are going to narrate some, if not all, of this book.

Part One

p5. JORY.

In case you've forgotten, Jory's first name is actually Julian, after his father, Cathy's first husband, the abusive rapist ballet dancer. But they call him Jory, in memory of Julian (suicide via embroidery scissors) and Cory (murder by doughnut).

I was hoping that Jory's narration would be less convoluted than Cathy's, but, no: 

Whenever Dad didn't drive me home from school, a yellow school bus would let me off at an isolated spot where I would recover my bike from the nearest ravine, hidden there each morning before I stepped onto the bus. [I... where the hell do you live, kid? A totally isolated, yet high bike-theft area?]

To reach my home I had to travel a winding narrow road without any houses until I came to the huge deserted mansion [because of course] that invariably drew my eyes, making me wonder who had lived there; why had they deserted it? When I saw that house I automatically slowed, knowing soon I'd be home. 

The travelogue continues, but I'll spare you. They live twenty miles north of San Francisco, and in the next three sentences, he tells us that the area is "cold", "dreary", "cold" (yes, again), "eerie", "spooky", "mysterious", and "romantic".

He also has "vague, disturbing memories" about "a southern garden full of giant magnolia trees dripping with Spanish moss".

p6. Oh, good. He wants to be a famous dancer, so his father will have "not lived and died in vain". Because the way to future happiness is in basing your life around proving that your Dead Abusive Rapist Father was a great dancer.

He sees his ballerina grandmother annually, so apparently Cathy reconciled with her at some point.

"Safe in the valley where the wind doesn't blow," my mother said often. Too often, really—as if the wind blowing greatly distressed her. [GOOD THING THEY SETTLED NEAR THE COAST, THEN.]

They have a cook/housekeeper, Emma, who is "pleasingly plump" and waits on Young Bart a lot because he breaks/spills everything he touches.

p7-8. The boys spend a lot of time sitting on a wall.

THIS BOOK IS RIVETING, I TELL YOU WHAT.

Oh, good, Cathy's dancing up in the attic. She is "compelled" to do so, despite the heat and the dust. Apparently airing it out is not in the cards. And she A) hides the fact that she does it from Chris, and B) has "warned" Jory to keep it from him as well. AWESOME PARENTING, CATHY. ALWAYS NICE TO INVOLVE YOUR KIDS IN YOUR CRAZY. MAYBE YOU SHOULD SHOW HIM YOUR STASH OF 'LUDES, TOO, AND THEN SWEAR HIM TO SECRECY ABOUT THAT AS WELL. 

Speaking of, you'd think that Chris and Cathy would have either A) bought a house WITHOUT an attic, or B) bought a house that doesn't have a HIDDEN DOOR TO THE ATTIC.

This time I was going up. This time I was going to listen to the excuses she gave him. For Dad would catch her! [Wow, he's Cathy's son all right: voyeurism and starting sentences with 'for' and EVERYTHING.]

Jory is fourteen; Bart is nine. Wow. I'd really assumed that Jory was, like, seven and that Bart was a toddler. RECALIBRATING.

I wondered often about the different facets my parents had. One for the public to view; another for Bart and me, and the third, most fervent side, which they showed only to each other. (How could they know their two sons were not always discreet enough to turn away and leave like they should?) [Um. Ew. So, like, Chris and Cathy just start going at it with the kids in the room? FANTASTIC. That's not scarring or anything.]

Cathy is thirty-seven.

AND HAS GONE 'ROUND THE BEND, JUDGING BY THE SOLO DANCE PARTY SHE'S HOLDING.

p9-10. Um. Cathy has installed twin beds in the attic. FOR THE BOYS? IS SHE PLANNING TO STICK THE BOYS IN THE ATTIC? 

Ever the VOICE OF REASON (<--well, occasionally), Chris is NOT PLEASED.

"Catherine," Dad went on in the same cold, hard voice, "don't stand there and try to look innocent, like some wicked child caught stealing. Why are those beds here, all made up with clean sheets and new blankets? Why the picnic hamper? Haven't we seen enough of that type of basket to last us our whole lives through?"

PICNICS ARE OFF-LIMITS, CATHY. YOU KNOW THIS.

"I ask myself each day how I can come home and not be tired of you, and still feel as I do after so many years, and after all that has happened." [BACK-HANDED COMPLIMENT MUCH, CHRIS?]

Cathy claims that she DOESN'T REMEMBER buying the basket or installing the beds.

Also, she's decorated with "pretty pictures of flowers on the walls". THAT'S A GOOD SIGN.

p11-13. Blah, blah, blah, the grandmother is dead and Momma is thousands of miles away, let's make out and DANCE. 

Shriveled up tight and small, I watched him try to do the difficult ballet steps that would have been so easy for me. He didn't have enough skill or grace to partner someone as skilled as my mom. It was embarrassing to even see him try[YOU'RE embarrassed, Jory? I'M embarrassed. Because suddenly I think I see where this is going and ew.]

Stuff Jory is overhearing has convinced him that his parents may not have been entirely truthful about their past. OH JORY, IF YOU ONLY KNEW. 

"Okay, you're feeling better, yourself again," Dad said. "I want you to solemnly promise that if anything ever happens to me, be it tomorrow, or years from now, you swear that you will never, so help you God, hide Bart and Jory in the attic so you can go unencumbered into another marriage." [WHICH, OF COURSE, TOTALLY DISCOUNTS THE WHOLE REASON MOMMA HID THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE, BUT WHATEVER. LOGIC GENERALLY DOESN'T APPLY TO THE DOLLANGANGERS.]

...

Mom wouldn't do that. She couldn't! She loved me. She loved Bart too. [I'm sure he appreciates his afterthought status, you arrogant twerp.] Even if she did look at him sometimes with shadows in her eyes, still she would never, never hide us away in this attic. [NEVER SAY NEVER, JORY.]

CHRIS THROWS THE PICNIC BASKET OUT THE WINDOW! DOWN WITH PICNICS!

Cathy apparently wants to adopt another kid. GOOD IDEA, CATHY.

Sounds like Chris visits Momma every summer. VERY HEALTHY, CHRIS.

p14-15. BART. 

Wish I was graceful like him. Wish I could dance and charm everybody into likin me. Jory was bigger, older, smarter—but wait a minute. Maybe I could make myself smarter if not bigger. My head was big. [BART = CARRIE!!]

Okay, so Bart doesn't feel physical pain because his nerve endings are too short. Or something like that. But that doesn't explain his countrified dialect, which doesn't remotely line up with anyone else's in the book. (Well, except Carrie, but she's dead.)

p17-18. Ah, the wall they hang out on belongs to the DESERTED MANSION. They wander around INSIDE the mansion a lot, too.

None of the bathrooms worked. No water. [How totally odd in an abandoned house.] Crazy sinks with no water and stupid fruit cellar [I can't escape fruit cellars lately.] with no fruit, and wine cellar with no wine.

Jory wants to buy Cathy a house. No word as to whether he's planning to let Chris and Bart live with them.

WORKMEN ARRIVE AT THE DESERTED MANSION.

p19. They immediately begin painting and wallpapering. Because why bother getting the water turned back on and, I dunno, CLEANING IT FIRST.

According to one of the workers (who yells at the boys... for sitting on the wall?), some "rich dame" with servants bought the place.

p20. Chris and Cathy aren't "too happy about neighbors they didn't intend to visit and make welcome." Man, they're charmers.

p21. JORY. Bart doesn't like anything but snack foods. HAVE A DOUGHNUT, BART.

One of Cathy's ballerinas got in a car accident and has a two-year-old daughter who reminds her of Carrie (*shudder*) and what do you want to bet that somehow they're going to end up adopting her? Oh, her name is Cindy. THAT'S A DONE DEAL, THEN.

p22. Cathy doesn't like the house because Doctor Paul's statues don't look right in the garden. Okaaaaaay.

I can't figure out whether Bart is a sociopath or just profoundly weird.

p23. Bart wants to know why Chris looks so much like Cathy's father. DO TELL, CATHY.

p24-25. The rich lady and her butler arrive, and Bart continues to channel Carrie: "Hate black dresses that drag on the ground. Hate ole ladies who want black veils over their heads. Hate spooks."

Jory, meanwhile, is channeling Tim Roth from Lie to Me: "Even from our hidden place, I could tell she felt nothing but scorn for the butler. Gee—intrigue." GEE, INDEED.

Like Victoria Grayson, the old lady in the black veil will be able to SEE INTO THEIR HOUSE from her second floor. LET'S HOPE THAT CHRIS AND CATHY HAVE INVESTED IN CURTAINS.

Maids are running around DOING THINGS, while she's just STANDING THERE, STARING AT THE DOLLANGANGER'S CHIMNEY.

p26. Bart is a caterpillar murderer.

And pulls the legs off of spiders. Nice kid.

Meanwhile, Jory is going on and on about the beautiful sunset and the "music of colors". I hope they both fall down a well.

p27. Lady in Black now has animal topiaries.

p28. Jory has progressed from Parent Voyeur to Peeping Tom. The veiled woman has JAGGED ROWS OF SCARS ON EACH SIDE OF HER FACE, which makes him assume that she must have had a cat in the past.

p29. AND ALSO, SHE LOOKS JUST LIKE THEIR MOTHER.

JORY IS NOW SMASHING HIS FACE INTO CATHY'S BOOBS, AS WELL-ADJUSTED FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD SONS SO OFTEN DO.

p30-1. BART. 

They looked at me, but they didn't see me. They didn't know who I was. To them I was just a thing to sit at their table and try to swallow the stuff they put on my plate. My thoughts were all around, but they didn't read my mind, couldn't figure me out at all. [UMMMMM. NO BART, YOU AREN'T CREEPY AND MENACING AT ALL.]

He's headed off to the mansion.

Plaintively was one of the new words I had to use. One new word each day, and Daddy gave a list of seven words to both Jory and me, insistin we use today's word at least five times in our conversation. Didn't need a bigger vocabulary. Knew how to talk good enough already. [Yeesh, Bart and Chris deserve each other.]

p32. Bart just marches up to the mansion and bangs on the front door. HE MIGHT BE A PSYCHO, BUT HE'S A PSYCHO WITH CHUTZPAH.

The Woman in Black—let's not be coy, we totally think she's Corrine, right?—actually invited him over. That she's concerned about his welfare—"Do you have to slip away from your parents? Do they punish you often?"is just RICH.

p33-34. Wait, did nine-year-old Bart REALLY just roll a cigarette and start smoking it?

Or is half of what he says fantasy?

Anyway, Probably-Corrine admits to standing around on a stepladder and spying on the boys. Because she's lonely, with only her butler John Amos to keep her company.

"Once I had two sons, now I don't," she said with her eyes cast down and her voice sad and tight. [GOSH, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR SONS?] "Then I wanted to have another son by my second husband, and I couldn't." [Because these are the things you say to nine-year-olds.] She looked up and met my eyes. "So I want you to take the place of the third son I couldn't have. I'm very rich, Bart. I can give you anything you want." [WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE???]

...

"I've made so many mistakes, Bart." [AHAHAHAHA, YES, YOU LOCKED YOUR KIDS IN THE ATTIC FOR YEARS AND POURED ARSENIC ON THEIR DOUGHNUTS AND KEPT A CORPSE IN A TRUNK, BUT THAT'S OKAY, BECAUSE YOU DID ALL OF THOSE THINGS BY MISTAKE.]

...

"I've never won any game I've tried to play. I've always gone down in defeat even when I thought I held the winning cards." [OH CORINNE, I FEEL SO BAD FOR YOU. THE EMPATHY, I'M FEELING IT ALL. No, no I'm not.]

p35. Cathy is still not-so-secretly hoping that her "favorite student" will die so that she can have her kid.

And now she and Jory are laughing at Bart for pretending stuff all of the time AND I'M SURE THAT WON'T DRIVE HIM RIGHT OVER TO CORINNE OR ANYTHING. (I almost said INTO CORINNE'S ARMS BUT DIDN'T BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO GIVE THEM IDEAS.)

p36. Three days in, and he's spending a lot of time in her lap, being "petted and pampered" and kissed on the cheek.

She's also given him a room full of toys.

And we finally meet John Amos, who is just as creepy as you'd expect him to be: "You like her, don't you?" he asked, slyly smilin, noddin his head up and down, from side to side, so I could be confused if I wanted. "When you want the full truth about who you are—and who she is—come to me." [YES, I'LL DO JUST THAT, JOHN AMOS. WHY DON'T YOU GO UP IN THE ATTIC AND WAIT FOR ME UP THERE.]

p37. I CAN GIVE YOU ANYTHING YOU WANT... EXCEPT A PONY. (Yes, literally. Because ponies MAKE YOU SMELL BAD.)

So she offers him a St. Bernard instead, but he's not having any of it... until she points out that only "the super rich can afford to feed a St. Bernard", which WINS HIM OVER.

Maybe someone will die soon.

Oh, good, now she's got him calling her Grandmother.

p38-39. NOW SHE'S BOSSING HIM ABOUT HIS TABLE MANNERS. THAT DIDN'T TAKE LONG.

AND JOHN AMOS JUST TOLD HIM THAT SHE'S HIS ACTUAL GRANDMOTHER. SO MUCH FOR WAITING UNTIL BART ASKS FOR THE TRUTH, JOHN AMOS.

"Now you listen to me, boy, and you will never feel weak and ineffective again. You read a little of this book every day and it will teach you to be like your great-grandfather, Malcolm Neal Foxworth. Never on this earth did there live a man who was smarter than your own great-grandfather—the father of your grandmother who sits in that rocker and wears that ugly black veil." [UH OH.]

Also, women are evil users, especially beautiful ones. WHY EXACTLY DID SHE HIRE THIS GUY?

Wasn't really surprised by nothin he said, except I hadn't known women were that bad. Always suspected they were, but never really knew. I should warn Jory. [YES, IT MAKES A LOT OF SENSE THAT THIS GENERALLY-SUSPICIOUS KID BELIEVES EVERYTHING OUT OF THIS TOTALLY CREEPY DUDE'S MOUTH. Maybe he's been taking Inconsistency Lessons from Hannah Gruen.]

...

"Now, if you want to save your everlasting soul from the fires of eternal hell, you will read this book and grow strong and powerful like your great-grandfather. Then women will never rule you again. You will rule them." [WELL, OKAY THEN. YOU'VE CONVINCED ME.]

YOU'LL BE HAPPY TO KNOW THAT THE JOURNAL SUGGESTS THAT THE DOLLANGANGER PROCLIVITY FOR INCEST GOES BACK FURTHER THAN CHRIS & CATHY'S PARENTS.

ALSO, IF YOU HATE YOUR MOTHER, WHY WOULD YOU NAME YOUR DAUGHTER AFTER HER?

OH, WAIT, probably to REMIND YOURSELF THAT WOMAN ARE EVIL.

p40. Just so you know, woman are "basically weak and stupid". So says John Amos, Bart's new best friend.

p41. JORY.

Cathy: "Possession is nine-tenths of the law...!" SHE IS TALKING ABOUT A PERSON HERE.

p42. "If we have Cindy before Nicole dies, the agency won't have any reason to investigate." THAT... MAKES... SENSE. (No. No, it doesn't.)

Christopher points out that Nicole might recover, and that even if she is "permanently crippled", she'll PROBABLY STILL WANT HER DAUGHTER.

To which Cathy responds, "But what kind of mother will she make?"

WOW.

DID WE ALREADY KNOW THAT CHRIS TALKED CATHY INTO GETTING STERILIZED?

IF NOT, WE DO NOW.

AS DOES JORY.

p43. Apparently every choice that Cathy has ever made has been Christopher's fault. 

p44. Nice. After being berated for PAGES, he threatens to leave, and she's all sorry and didn't mean any of it...

p45. ...but now she's berating him again.

HOLY COW, I DON'T EVEN LIKE HIM AND I WANT TO LOCK HER IN THE ATTIC.

p46. And then they have make-up sex. Or I assume that they do, because Jory backs away because he doesn't want to "see too much". Liar.

ALTHOUGH I GUESS HE STAYED FOR LONGER THAN I THOUGHT, BECAUSE "Did a woman ever pull down a man's fly zipper of her own free will—even a wife?"

And then he runs off and overhears CORRINE sobbing.

Man, after tonight I'm betting he'll think twice before getting out of bed for a glass of water.

p47. Jory is now spying on Bart and Corrine. 

p48. Now HE'S banging on her door. And in he goes.

p49. Nicole died; Cindy's moving in.

p50. Psycho Bart tries to ATTACK HER, and Christopher uses the incident to squeeze in an I TOLD YOU SO.

I BET CINDY IS SUPER-JAZZED TO HAVE BEEN BROUGHT INTO THIS HAPPY FAMILY.

p52. BART. Well, Bart's misogyny is coming along swimmingly: He's now referring to the two-year-old as "wicked" because she isn't modest enough about her naked body and to his grandmother as "a tease" for not buying him a pony. JOHN AMOS MUST BE SO PROUD.

p53. Bart's word of the day is 'devious'. NICE CHOICE, CHRISTOPHER.

p54. Corinne warns Bart about John Amos. Who is her hired man. Um. Yeah.

p55. Jory barges into Corrine's place and drags Bart out, but he still doesn't mention the situation to Cathy and/or Chris. Then again, it's not like they're particularly stable, so.

p56-7. She gives him a St. Bernard, he's peeved because he's "suffered through" all of that ice cream and cuddling AND SHE STILL WON'T GET HIM A PONY.

SHE BOUGHT A SADDLE FOR THE DOG. A SADDLE. FOR THE DOG.

p58. I know that this dog is fictional, but I want to rescue it.

Also, I think that Corrine is finally realizing just how bonkers Bart is.

YOU KNOW IT'S SERIOUS IF CORRINE THINKS YOU'RE CRAZY.

p60. Bart is demanding that no one feed his dog while he's gone. FOR THREE WEEKS.

p61-63. Between John Amos and the journal, Bart is getting very fire-and-brimstone-anti-woman. And sometimes says 'I' instead of 'he' when talking about Malcolm. SO THAT BODES WELL.

p63-64. JORY.

Cathy, on Bart and Mrs. Next-Door: "If he's over in that other yard, you tell me. I don't want you children bothering an old recluse, though I wish to heaven she'd stop climbing that ladder and staring at me over the wall." So, if the neighbor is creeping YOU out, Cathy, don't you think that you should maybe be PROACTIVE about keeping your kids away from her? Rather than making it your son's responsibility to police his brother? I CAN'T BELIEVE I AM STILL SURPRISED BY THIS STUFF.

Also, Jory has the hots for Melodie Richarme, another dancer. Because boobs.

Bart is trying to feed the puppywho he's named 'Apple'hay. Because he wants a pony, so.

p65. Sure, Jory. Your beloved mother asked you, LITERALLY ONE PAGE AGO, to tell her if Bart was hanging out next door, but you decide to keep the puppy thing to yourself, NOT TO MENTION THE WHOLE SHE CLAIMS TO BE YOUR GRANDMOTHER THING.

p66-70. BART. 

Corrine tells John Amos off for not knowing his place. YET CONTINUES TO EMPLOY HIM, so clearly there's more to it. OR MAYBE NOT, AS WE'VE ALREADY ESTABLISHED THAT LOGIC DOESN'T NECESSARILY FACTOR INTO THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS OF ANY OF THESE CHARACTERS.

Speaking of, Bart is now mixing more and more hay into Apple's food. Because he thinks he can train a dog to live on hay.

ALSO, BART TEARS UP JORY'S GARDEN AND REPLANTS THE PLANTS IN HIS OWN GARDEN.

AND HE KILLED A CAT.

HE. KILLED. A. CAT.

END OF PART ONE, THANK THE LORD.

I never thought I'd miss Cathy and Chris, but man, these kids are killing me.

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37. "I can't tell them, I'd think. I can't tell them that I want to read those books."

Origin OriginFrom NPR:

I didn't quit. It took several months, but finally my persistence paid off. I think my parents were, at that point, exhausted by my constant nagging, and perhaps that's why they relented. But their permission was presented not in anger or in surrender, but as an admission of my autonomy: "We don't want you to read the books," they said, "but we are letting you decide for yourself. You're 15 now, and we respect your ability to choose. From now on, what you read is your decision, and whatever you do, we'll still love you and trust you."

It was a shocking moment, more liberating than anything I'd ever experienced. It marked my step into adulthood much more than getting my driver's license or going off to college or voting the first time. It was the day my parents recognized and honored my capacity for choice, and though they didn't necessarily like the decision I made they never wavered in their love and trust.

It's a really nice essay, though many of the commenters are depressingly judgmental, using a warm, loving essay about family and coming-of-age as a jumping-off point to make sweeping, mean-spirited generalizations about Christianity, the rural South, and belief/faith in general. 

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38. The 2014 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners...

...have been announced. Grasshopper jungle

The fiction winner is: 

Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith!

The fiction honors are: 

Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein, and 
Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang

Click on through for more info and the other categories.

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39. New YA: June 1-7.

Love by the morning starNew hardcovers:

Vivian Divine Is Dead, by Lauren Sabel

yolo, by Sam Jones

My Best Friend, Maybe, by Caela Carter

My Faire Lady, by Laura Wettersten

Pretty Little Liars #15: Toxic, by Sara Shepard

The Prince of Venice Beach, by Blake Nelson

Push Girl: A Novel, by Chelsie Hill and Jessica Love

Rebels: City of Indra: The Story of Lex and Livia, by Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner

Say What You Will, by Cammie McGovern

The Shadows (Fianna Trilogy), by Megan Chance

Since Last Summer (Rules of Summer), by Joanna Philbin

Sometimes It Lasts (Sea Breeze), by Abbi Glines Push girl

The Truth About Alice, by Jennifer Mathieu

Lux: Consequences (Opal & Origin) (Lux Novel), by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Lux: Beginnings (Obsidian & Onyx) (Lux Novel), by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Love by the Morning Star, by Ms. Laura L. Sullivan

Hungry, by H. A. Swain

Gasp (Visions), by Lisa McMann

Dark Days, by Kate Ormand

The Book of David, by Anonymous

The Fastest Boy in the World, by Elizabeth Laird

Take Back the Skies, by Lucy Saxon

The Apple Tart of Hope, by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

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40. The 2014 California Book Awards...

Far far away...have been announced.

The YA winner is Tom McNeal's Far Far Away (yay!):

An impending foreclosure; a runaway mother; a father who won’t leave his bed; a televised trivia challenge; special cakes that are rumored to make people fall in love; a new friendship and a prank turned ugly; a suspicious sheriff's deputy; a baker who looks like Santa Claus; an unlikely act of forgiveness; a mysterious antagonist; and through it all, a sense of impending doom, dread and darkness: You name it, Far Far Away probably has it.

Click on through for the shortlists and other winners.

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41. Links, etc. shared on Twitter: May 24-30.

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42. Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #12: The Message in the Hollow Oak -- Carolyn Keene

Message in the hollow oak 2Headlines from Nancy Drew #12:

Girl enters radio contest on whim, wins tract of land! IN CANADA!

Intrepid young sleuth helps old lady cross street; carries her suitcase!

River Heights overrun by Canadians, some of them crooks!

Girl detective receives answer to message... BEFORE EVEN SENDING IT!

In a sudden burst of activity after eleven books of avoiding physical exertion, Bess Marvin CLIMBS A TREE!

Continuing the trend of Bizarro Sidekick Behavior, George Fayne shrieks in fear!

Posse rides in; posse rides out!

Carson Drew dispatches word... telepathically? Via carrier pigeon? THE WORLD MAY NEVER KNOW!

Teenage girl blows up power-generating dam and floods entire valley, no one takes issue with her!

Opening scene:

  • As you may have gathered from the headlines, Nancy enters a radio contest (for the first time ever) and wins. A tract of land. In Canada. That might be full of gold. Because Nancy.
  • Even though Canada is the SECOND LARGEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, said piece of land JUST SO HAPPENS to be located right next to some land related to her father's current case. Because Carson.
  • Of course, Nancy wants to go and check out her land, but needs an "older person" (<--Carson's words) to go with her. LUCKILY, Carson's client ALSO coincidentally has a friend coming in to town who ALSO has a place in the vicinity of her land and so CAN DO THAT VERY THING.

In River Heights:

  • Five minutes later, Nancy's on her way to see Bess and George to invite them along. Seeing an older lady struggling to haul a heavy suitcase across the road, Nancy does what Nancy does best and TAKES ACTION. She not only carries the suitcase across the street, but offers to wait with it outside the bank while the lady goes in to "get change for a twenty". Because Olden Days.
  • A "dapper man in his late thirties" drives up, claims to be the lady's grandson, takes the suitcase, and drives off!
  • The lady, of course, doesn't have a grandson. Nancy waves down a nearby police officer, and at first he and the old lady seem to suspect HER. Of course, once she pulls the DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM routine, they back off.
  • A FULL TEN MINUTES LATER, NANCY DECIDES WAITING FOR BACK-UP WILL JUST TAKE TOO LONG, SO SHE ENGAGES IN A HIGH SPEED CAR CHASE TO RETRIEVE THE STOLEN SUITCASE. And yes, OF COURSE she succeeds in A) CATCHING UP WITH HIM, and B) getting him to pull over, and yes, OF COURSE the crowd believes her when she makes her case!

A brief moment of non-snark: Message in the hollow oak

Yes, Nancy is ridiculously lucky, beautiful, wealthy, has a hard-to-conceive-of number of skills, and her detecting skills probably wouldn't carry over very well into the real world. But that's not why we love her: We love her because she never gives up, never gives in, never says die. She always puts others before her, and while she has a tendency to judge by appearances, to be fair, she IS almost always right.

Okay, back to River Heights!

  • The old lady recognizes the suitcase thief as Tom Stripe, a "mean and low-down" man who has caused problems for her in the past! Also, she is from Canada! And is now Nancy's friend for life! AND IT JUST SO HAPPENS THAT SHE'S CARSON'S CLIENT'S FRIEND AND ABOUT TO BECOME NANCY'S CHAPERONE! (I bet you TOTALLY didn't see that coming!)
  • It should be noted that Bess has to be talked out of bringing all of her best dresses along on a multi-week camping trip.
  • While Nancy and Carson are having dinner at his client's house, NANCY GETS A PHONE CALL FROM SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO BUY HER LAND. Because that's how business is done: By calling people while they are ATTENDING DINNER PARTIES AT OTHER PEOPLES' HOUSES.

The next day:

  • Nancy is accosted by a young man with a "sophisticated smile" wearing clothes that "cut far too elegant an appearance for River Heights". DANGER ZONE! Surprise, surprise, Raymond Niles wants to buy her land. ALL I WANT TO KNOW IS THIS: WHERE'S NED? HE DOESN'T GET A SINGLE MENTION IN THIS BOOK. Poor old Ned. It can't be easy being that boring.
  • Nancy tells Carson about this Niles character—who, by the way, OUT-AND-OUT THREATENED HER—and this is his response: "It seems to me we ought to let the matter rest for a while. In any event, you will be rid of this fellow in a few days, for soon you'll be on your way to Canada." YES, CARSON. BRILLIANT LOGIC. DUDE THREATENS YOUR DAUGHTER, SO IT'S A GOOD THING THAT SHE'S HEADED OFF TO THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE... BECAUSE IT'S NOT AT ALL LIKELY THAT THE GUY KNOWS WHERE THE LAND HE WANTS TO BUY WOULD BE LOCATED, RIGHT?
  • Meanwhile, Hannah Gruen doesn't like the idea of the girls gallivanting off to "foreign places". Because Canada.

Two days later: Message in the hollow oak 3

  • Hannah, who is only suspicious when it suits the plot, lets Raymond Niles into the house and he ALMOST SUCCEEDS in stealing Nancy's property deed.
  • At this point, you'd think that Carson would, like, register the deed or make a copy of it or do whatever lawyer-y thing you do with these things, but no. Because the Drews have a lot of great qualities, but logic isn't one of them.
  • Tom Stripe is out of prison, and it was Raymond Niles who posted his bail! They are, as Nancy puts it, "friends and crooks"!

On the train to Wellington Lake:

  • Remember the radio contest that started this adventure? Well. To win it, Nancy had to name a mystery serial... and on the train, Nancy runs into Ann Chapelle, the author of said mystery serial! 
  • Miss Chapelle has a Secret Sorrow, though for someone with a Secret Sorrow, she's quite open about it. In fact, she was about to spill the beans to Nancy WHEN THE TRAIN CRASHED AT THAT EXACT MOMENT.
  • YES, THE TRAIN CRASHED. LIKE, ALL OF THE CARS, OFF OF THE TRACK.
  • Nancy bumps her elbow! George is buried under a pile of chairs! Bess goes pale! Random passenger breaks his leg! Tom Stripe and Raymond Niles were spotted shortly before the crash! The train catches on fire! Miss Chapelle and the chaperone are missing!

At a hotel:

  • The girls hole up and wait for news. In the middle of the night, Nancy wakes up and discovers Bess sleepwalking. On the window ledge. So Nancy, being the quick-thinker that she is, GRABS A COIL OF ROPE (because they're generally lying around in hotel hallways), and, just as BESS FALLS OFF OF THE LEDGE, LASSOS HER BEFORE SHE HITS THE GROUND. (Yes, she credits her Shadow Ranch adventure for the ability.)
  • As if that wasn't ENOUGH ACTION FOR THE NIGHT, it turns out that Bess, while sleepwalking, took the deed to Nancy's land and dropped it outside.
  • Sure enough, George pops her head out the window and sees a dude walking off with it. But they don't pursue him because... THAT WOULD MAKE TOO MUCH SENSE?

The next day:

  • They receive word that both the author and the chaperone are at the hospital.
  • Nancy stops by the newspaper to place an ad about her lost deed... and discovers that someone has already left her a letter, instructing her to call at Ranny farm, six miles away.
  • The girls check in with the ladies at the hospital, and Ann Chapelle is A) convinced she's going to die and B) manages to say, "The message—in the hollow oak—" before passing out. So that's helpful.
  • Our Girl Wonders rent a jalopy—it's so decrepit that even Our Nancy needs a lesson in starting the engine—and they head out to the farm, promptly get a flat tire, and then they get lost because they don't know how far they've gone because "the speedometer was broken" even though HELLO, unless Nancy's got Bess and George doing constant Distance = Rate x Time math problems, it's the odometer that matters. 
  • ANYWAY, for whatever reason, they decide to leave the car and hike across a pasture to a nearby farm, but Bess is wearing a red sweater, which enrages the bull (*coughbullsarecolorblindcough*), and it charges them and they almost die but then the farmer opens the fence for them and it turns out he's Farmer Ranny himself. HOW SURPRISING.

I'm going to fast-forward here, because good lord, I'm only up to page, like, 60.

  • SO. Farmer Ranny's wife has a long-standing feud with the chaperone. Because gold. Or land. Or something.
  • The Rannys are ALSO the parents of Norman Ranny, Ann Chapelle's long-lost love, who she used to pass messages with via the Hollow Oak and who she ran away from home to elope with except he never showed up, the jerk.
  • Thinking she's about to die, Ann Chapelle gets Nancy to make a promise to A) find her Grandfather Chap and apologize for running away and B) find Norman Ranny and tell him that she loves him. Or something.

Canada, FINALLY:

  • There's a story in the local paper about A STRANGER almost getting creamed by a falling branch from the OAK tree he was sitting under, because THAT'S NEWSWORTHY IN CANADA. (<--I'm from Maine. That would totally make the paper in my town. Anyway.) 
  • The girls get outfitted in "riding breeches and knee-high shoes" (known as BOOTS in more succinct circles) and HEAD OFF INTO THE WILDERNESS WITH PETE ATKINS, GUIDE EXTRAORDINAIRE.

Fast-forwarding again, because their adventures in the wilderness are ENDLESS:

  • Almost immediately, they run into Tom and Ray, who are terrible at canoeing.
  • Tom and Ray try to strand the girls in the wilderness (...with the best guide in the area, that'll show 'em!), but, after a brief struggle, end up neck-deep in the lake while Nancy & Co. paddle away. Tom Stripe, logical as ever, vows revenge on them even though he was the one who started it.
  • Ray, not unlike that jewel thief in The Facts of Life Down Under, has developed QUITE THE CRUSH ON NANCY.
  • The crooks, miserable and soaking wet and in the middle of nowhere, run into NORMAN RANNY, because of course they do. 
  • Norman, it turns out, thinks that Ann is dead. Because these are the things you should assume to be true without proof.
  • Tom and Ray tie Norman up and throw him into Grandfather Chap's fruit cellar. No, not root cellar, FRUIT CELLAR. Because that's what they call it.
  • Nancy, while exploring a nearby abandoned mill, is "...impelled by some impulse which she could not explain..." to look through a crack in the wall, sees Tom Stripe in the house. Seriously, I don't know how she'd solve mysteries if she was slightly less lucky.
  • Once our heroines take over the house, Bess and George become convinced that it's haunted due to the moans coming from the FRUIT CELLAR.
  • Nancy, brave girl that she is, heads down there and returns... WITH A CAT.
  • THEY ALL LAUGH MERRILY ABOUT THAT.
  • The moans continue, causing Bess to FAINT, AND PETE HAS DISAPPEARED, so it's up to Nancy to head down there again... which she does, AND FINDS ANOTHER CAT BUT ALSO, THANKFULLY, NORMAN.
  • Nancy jumps to the conclusion that Pete abandoned them, which seems like a REALLY LOGICAL ASSUMPTION, considering how there are bad guys around who have it in for him.
  • The girls—who have now adopted Norman as the requisite adult male in their party—stay the night with a trapper and his wife, enjoy some banjo music (yes, really), tell said trapper and his wife about the big city (yes, really), and then Pete shows up all beat up because, duh, of course Tom jumped him.
  • I told you it was endless. I'm going to have to read the '70s revision to see if they tightened it up.
  • ANYWAY, panning for gold on Nancy's land, they all get a nugget (except Bess, but Nancy gives her one so she doesn't whine), and Norman strikes a vein in the very first spot that he swings his pickaxe. Because that's how things roll around Nancy Drew.

ENTER THE EVIL MINING COMPANY:

  • A plane lands, and a bunch of evil miners arrive. Nancy realizes she and her crew are outnumbered, so she PAYS THE PILOT TO TAKE HER AND HER FRIENDS BACK TO CIVILIZATION, LEAVING THE MINERS SEMI-STRANDED. Which, you've got to admit, is both hilarious and badass.
  • In a considerably less badass move, she wires Carson for help. 
  • Buck Sawtice, the owner of the EVIL MINING COMPANY—when they find out it's named Yellow Dawn, George asked, "Is that a company or a disease?" which made me laugh out loud—ALSO cost the Mr. & Mrs. Ranny their life-savings. So, you know: Good to know that he's an equal-opportunity swindler, and not ageist or anything.

SUPER FAST-FORWARD:

  • Carson rounds up some local law enforcement, and they put together a POSSE and go in there ON HORSEBACK:

"Now, Father, don't tell us we can't go," she forestalled him. "With all these men along to protect us, you surely can't say it won't be safe."

"That's just what I did intend to say, you young tease!"

NO COMMENT.

  • Pete gets attacked AGAIN. Poor guy, for a minor character and a good guy, he really takes a beating in this book.
  • Turns out Grandfather Chap buried a treasure under the Hollow Oak and left a message for Ann there, including a confession about switching out the message she left for Norman way back when, which is why he never showed up to marry her. Nancy and Norman dig it up and then BURY IT ELSEWHERE, because they're tricky like that. 
  • But Nancy loses an engraved bracelet, so they have to go back for it, and then they catch Tom (since Norman's there, he does the lassoing this time, presumably because he's got manparts), tie him to a tree, AND THEN THREATEN TO SET HIM ON FIRE UNLESS HE TELLS THEM WHERE GRANDFATHER CHAP IS, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT "THE INDIANS" WOULD DO. I don't even.
  • They bring their info back to the posse, the posse acts on it... but no Grandfather Chap, so they disperse, leaving Nancy, Carson, the girls, and Norman with the Yellow Dawn guys.

I swear we're almost at the end:

  • Nancy offers to sell her land to Buck if Grandfather Chap is returned unharmed, so Buck sends the airplane off for some money.
  • Of course, Buck plans to double-cross her, but she HAPPENS TO BE AT JUST THE RIGHT PLACE AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME TO OVERHEARD ALL OF THE EXPOSITION (IN FRENCH), so she's able to make a counter-plan.
  • Which involves stealing a key right out of Ray's hand WHILE HE'S AWAKE AND AWARE AND EVERYTHING, CLEARLY SHE'S MAGIC, swiping all of the gold out of the cabin the bad guys have been squirreling it away in, getting all of her loved ones (and Norman and Grandfather Camp, who's been being tortured this whole time, YES, TORTURED) out of the way, and then BLOWING UP THE DAM. BECAUSE NANCY DREW, AS I'VE MENTIONED, IS KIND OF BADASS, AND ALSO HAS AN UTTER DISREGARD FOR PUBLIC UTILITIES.
  • Ann and Norman are reunited, Ann and her Grandfather make up, Nancy gets all of her gold melted down into gold coins, and everyone in River Heights is at the train station to meet them when they get home.

And just because it wouldn't be a real Nancy Drew book without one more semi-creepy moment with Carson:

After discussing the events Nancy seated herself upon the arm of her father's chair, and playfully tweaked his ear.

[I'm sparing you the twinkling eyes and smoke rings, ag.]

"Father, if anyone should ever offer me another deed, I'd run a mile!" she said. "After having so many adventures up North, I think I'll agree to your holding title to all the property that comes into the Drew family!"

THE END.

New skills: 

  • When it comes to chocolate cake, Hannah Gruen believes that "the pupil has gone beyond the master".
  • Nancy knows French.
  • And also all about dynamite.

_________________________________________

Previously.

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43. *holds breath*

From EW:

Greendale may not have closed its doors for good after all: Hulu is currently in talks with Sony Pictures TV for a sixth season of the recently cancelled Community, a source close to the show tells EW. (Deadline first reported the news.) Sony and Hulu aren’t commenting, and another source stressed caution about such a deal, but a proposed plan would likely include a 13-episode new season of the community college meta-comedy, with creator Dan Harmon in the fold. If by chance an agreement were reached, it would push the show past the 100-episode milestone (it’s at 97), and, of course, bring it one crucial step closer to fulfilling fans’ rally cries of “six seasons and a movie.”

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44. West of the Moon -- Margi Preus

West of the moonLast week, in the comments of my post about YA Stories with Roots in Norse Mythology, a couple of books were recommended. One of those books was Icefall, which I PROMISE I'll get to (it's actually in a pile of books sitting RIGHT NEXT TO ME on the couch), and the other was Margi Preus' West of the Moon.

In recommending it, CC said: Not Norse mythology, but a fascinating immigration/unreliable narrator/Norse fairy tale combination: West of the Moon, by Margi Preus which I LOVED (and I think you would like too, even though it's more middle grade. The narrator is just your type.)

And she was totally right on all counts! What can I say? She knows me well.

West of the Moon opens with thirteen-year-old Astri's aunt and uncle selling her to a goat-herder:

Now I know how much I'm worth: not as much as Jesus, who I'm told was sold for thirty pieces of silver. I am worth two silver coins and a haunch of goat.

She lives with and works for the filthy and brutish Svaalberd for months—she eats better with him, but she also sleeps with a knife under her pillow to fend off possible advances—waiting and watching for an opportunity to escape. Finally, her plans can't be put off any longer: a young man passes through on his way to catch a ship to America, and Svaalberd is finally about to make good on his threat to marry her.

She has two weeks to escape, get back to her aunt and uncle's house, grab her sister and get to the docks. Not to mention figuring out what to do with Svaalberd's OTHER prisoner, finding birth certificates, scrabbling together the money for passage (as well as the huge list of supplies required for the voyage), and avoiding re-capture. Achieving a single thing on that list would be NO SMALL FEAT, but Astri has to complete them ALL. And, despite her love for fairy tales, she doesn't have magic on her side, and no prince is going to rescue her. She just has herself: her lying, stealing, cheating, canny, bright, survivor self.

So much to love here!

Astri. She is, as I've said, perfectly willing to lie, to cheat, and to steal. She's also not just willing, but UNFLINCHING, when it comes to using violence to protect not just herself, but HER STUFF. She's wonderfully contradictory: On one hand, she's a loving girl with empathy for others, but on the other, she doesn't allow that empathy to override her practicality. After months with Svaalberd, most people would have ended up submissive or even with a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome, but not Astri:

He doesn't reproach me or threaten me as I expect. He says, "Come summer, we will go down to the church and have the parson marry us. Then I'll take you to my bed."

"One of us will go to hell first," I mumble.

Above all, she is a GIRL OF ACTION:

"...And so shall someone rescue us, I shouldn't wonder."

That's what I tell her, but as her wheel whirs, my mind whirs along with it, and soon I've run out of golden thread with which to spin my pretty stories and I'm left with just the thin thread of truth. And that wiry, rough little thread tells me that if anyone is going to do any rescuing from this place, it's going to have to be me.

She is feisty and difficult and I have no doubt that plenty of readers won't find her at all likable, but I loved her, full stop.

The fairy tales. As her journey goes on, Astri comments on the parallels between her story and various Norwegian fairy tales, spinning the two together into a cohesive whole. For another character, it would be a coping mechanism, a distancing one, but Astri uses them to understand her own situation more clearly. She's always up-front about how the stories differ from each other, and unlike in the folktales, in her story, the actions she takes actually have consequences for herself and for other people. The villains, too—her aunt and uncle, Svaalberd—aren't demonized, they aren't simply flat-out monsters. They DO act monstrously, but Astri has an impressively fair-minded perspective of them, in that she considers their situations, their motivations, their outlooks.

The history. Beyond the fairy tales, beyond the adventure, West of the Moon is an AWESOME work of historical fiction about family, immigration, about trying to better your situation, and again, about becoming your own rescuer. Preus works in a TON of details about the period, the place, and the culture—I especially loved all of the commentary about the shift/clash between folk beliefs and church beliefs—but she does it so organically that I didn't even pick up on most of them until I read her (fantastically extensive) Author's Note and Bibliography. 

TL;DR: OMG SO GOOD, LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE.

___________________________

Book source: Netgalley.

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45. Free excerpt: Girls Like Us -- Gail Giles

I've been looking forward to reading this one for quite a while. And since I literally GROANED OUT LOUD when I finished the excerpt—I didn't want it to be over!—I shall have to pick it up ASAP. MAYBE EVEN TODAY.... Read the rest of this post

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46. It's my birthday...

...and this pretty much says it all:

It's a good thing i don't have kids because they'd be really embarrassed right now  This is as ACTION SHOT as I get 

Also, I just got this text from my (awesome) mother-in-law:

As birthdays go, 
we know how you'll rank it,
It's numero uno,
'cause you got a SLANKET!!!

Annnnnd then, just imagine a whole ton of emoji.

So, today, I would like for YOU to recommend a book to ME. It doesn't have to be YA, just something that you LOVE and think that I would, too.

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47. Kickstarter: READING RAINBOW. (<--OMG!!)

IT'S LIKE HE KNEW IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY.

Crying all over my computer, and yes, I'm going to pledge my birthday money as soon as I deposit my check.

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48. New literary award: One that comes with a $50,000 prize!

From the Washington Post:

Tonight at a party on the eve of the BookExpo America convention in New York, Kirkus announced its creation of three new literary awards worth $50,000 each. The annual Kirkus Prizes, which will be among the largest cash awards in the literary world, will honor works of fiction, nonfiction and young readers’ literature.

Only books that have received a starred review in Kirkus will be eligible for consideration. And since the magazine now reviews independently published books — or self-published books — these, too, will be eligible, so long as they have received the Kirkus star.

Wowza.

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49. Airships Ahoy!: Thirteen Stories Set on Dirigibles.

Emilie and the sky world Emilie-and-the-Hollow-WorldWhat with the popularity of steampunk, there are a WHOLE LOT of books that feature airships. As there are SO MANY, I've tried to focus on stories in which the majority of the action takes place ON AN ACTUAL SHIP.

Here are a very few of them!

Emilie and the Sky World, by Martha Wells:

In Emilie and the Hollow World, which I wrote about over at Kirkus, Emilie stows away on a MAGICAL SUBMARINE and has a very Jules Verne-y adventure. It is an AWESOME book, perfect for readers who're always looking for old fashioned adventure stories. Shipwrecks, sunken cities, action, adventure, different cultures and species, politics and family drama, a plucky heroine (who, by the way, is described as having "brown skin and dark eyes," as are most of the other people from her region), a super blend of fantasy and science fiction elements, a strong emotional core, humor, heartache, and even a smidge of romance.

In Emilie and the Sky World, our heroine—who is now employed by the folks she stowed away with in the last installment—heads into the sky (duh), where she has ANOTHER adventure, this time involving a patchwork planet, a missing expedition, an intelligent plant-based lifeform, and yes, there's another stowaway. Like the first book, it's super-fun in every way, and this one has the added excellence of multiple storylines about trust, friendship, and family dysfunction that play off of and complement each other really nicely.

I LOVE THIS SERIES, AND WANT MORE PEOPLE TO READ IT.

SO READ IT, MORE PEOPLE.

Etiquette and Espionage, by Gail Carriger: Darkling plain Darkling plain

In this book—I still haven't read Curtsies & Conspiracies, so I can't speak for that oneMademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is located on a bunch of connected dirigibles. Which adds even more entertainment value to a world and plot that is already bursting with it.

Mortal EnginesPredator's GoldInfernal Devices, and A Darkling Plain, by Philip Reeve:

How have I not written about these? Traction cities! Pirates! And yes, LOTS OF AIRSHIP ACTION! Just looking at the cover art makes me want to read them all over again. 

BONUS: Philip Reeve's vision of the airships.

The Iron Duke and Heart of Steel, by Meljean Brook:

Okay, these were actually published for the adult market, but there were some sexytimes that OCCURRED on an airship in the first book, and one of the main characters in the second one is an airship captain, so I'm including them.

And, now for a bunch I haven't read:

Take Back the Skies, by Lucy Saxon Take back the skies

Girl stows away on an airship to avoid an arranged marriage, but it turns out to be a smugglers' ship; adventures and romance ensue. This one is due out next week, and is the first in a SIX-BOOK SERIES.

Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber, by Kenneth Oppel and
LeviathanBehemoth, and Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld:

I know, I KNOW. I'll get to them! (Especially the Oppel series, as the comparisons to Verne and Stevenson are PULLING ME IN. I think I might even have Airborn on my Kindle. But then again, Josh loved Leviathan, so I should probably buy the other two so that we have them in the house...)

PlanesrunnerBe My Enemy, and Empress of the Sun, by Ian McDonald

Multiverse story about a boy from our world who hooks up with the crew of the airship Everness (and gets romantically involved with the captain, I think?) and proceeds to have lots of adventures. The cover art of the first one, especially, doesn't do much for me, but the book itself sounds SUPER, so I'm bumping this one right up the list.

Weather Witch and Stormbringer, by Shannon Delany

A society girl is accused of unlawful magic and is headed for a live of slavery as an airship battery... or something like that. Every description I've read has been slightly different.

Charmed Vengeance, by Suzanne Lazear Girl genius

This is actually the sequel to Innocent Darkness, which appears to be a futuristic-steampunk-faerie-reform-school mashup. After the events of the first book (which, based on the descriptions I've read, sounds ridiculously fun), the heroine joins the crew of an airship. SO ONTO THE LIST IT GOES.

Girl Genius, by Phil & Kaja Foglio

Steampunk comics that take place (in part) on/in an airship city! I AM SO THERE.

Quillblade, by Ben Chandler

Twin slaves on an airship that gets hijacked by a guy on an altruistic (OR IS IT??) mission.

Uncrashable Dakota, by Andy Marino

ANOTHER airship hijacking, this one was apparently at least partly inspired by A Night to Remember. It's had pretty mixed reviews, but I'm curious enough that I'm planning on giving it a try.

Did I miss your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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50. TransPose: Translating Literature into Music.

From the website:

TransProse is the first iteration of a program that finds different emotions throughout different novels and programmatically creates music based on those values. 

TransProse reads in the text of a novel and determines densities of eight different emotions (joy, sadness, anger, disgust, anticipation, surprise, trust, and fear) and two different states (positive or negative) throughout the novel. The musical piece chronologically follows the novel (broken up into beginning, early middle, late middle, and end parts, with four measures representing each of these sections). It uses the emotion density data to determine the tempo, key, notes, octaves, etc. for the piece depending on different rules and parameters. 

And here's an example!

Click through for others.

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