Friday, September 23, 2016

Fantastic Beasts trailer

Hooray! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is right around the corner. I'm still kind of amazed that a whole movie is being made out of what was a very slim book of Harry Potter "extra material" with essentially no plot. Still, I guess we've all seen films made from less!


Friday, September 16, 2016

Shut Out review

Shut Out 
by Kody Keplinger 
September 2011

First line: "There is nothing more humiliating than being topless in the backseat of your boyfriend's car when someone decides to throw an egg at the windshield."

Keplinger delivers a very capable re-telling of Greek playwright Aristophanes's Lysistrata. In the original play, a comedy, the title character Lysistrata arranges a "sex-strike" to convince the armies of Athens and Sparta to stop fighting.

opening scenes of Shut Out are like a slap in the face, and I mean that in the best possible way. Readers are rudely reminded that most high school boys are not dreamy romantics. Indeed, most are horny, inconsiderate jerks. Teen Lissa's boyfriend, football quarterback Randy (get it? Randy??) barely pays attention to her - even when they're making out, he's busy planning some sophomoric prank to play on the soccer team. While many schools enjoy a football rivalry between schools, Hamilton High has an internal rivalry between the football team and the soccer team. Fed up with Randy's disgusting behavior, Lissa decides to enlist her friends in shutting out the boys' advances until they can behave like gentlemen.

the meantime, Lissa develops a growing interest in Cash Sterling, leader of the soccer team. Even though she's underwhelmed by Randy's charm, she's afraid of letting down her dad and her brother, both big football fans. It's obvious that Cash is the better choice for Lissa but it takes them a while to figure it out. They hooked up briefly a year ago, but due to a misunderstanding never pursued things. Lissa is simultaneously bossy, detail-oriented and perfectionist, yet still manages to come across as a lovable nerd who is just trying to figure out how to master social skills.

Of course, the book suffers from the same weaknesses as the original play: an overemphasis on sex, and a somewhat juvenile approach to relationships. On the whole though, Keplinger's version warms and humanizes Aristophanes rather two-dimensional characters. All of the characters, including Lissa, her family, her circle of girlfriends, even disgusting Randy, really ring true. Cash is a hero, but not in a "too good to be believed" way. There's a lot of discussion, from a feminist perspective, of the double-standard for sexually-active young men and women. Keplinger has her finger on the pulse of how teens speak. I'll recommend this book for older teens.

Compare to:
The Duff - Kody Keplinger
XVI - Julia Karr
Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
A Long Way From You - Gwendolyn Heasley

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Scarlet review

by A.C. Gaughen
Walker Childrens
February 2012

First line: "No one really knows 'bout me."

In this re-telling of the Robin Hood tale, Will Scarlet has been re-cast as a girl. She is, of course, a tomboy, who frequently masquerades as a young lad. Scarlet is a grumpy loner, who can't seem to figure out how to fend off Little John's advances and admit her feelings for Robin Hood - to herself, or to him.

I found the dialect a bit of an annoying distraction, but I got used to it fairly quickly.  Imagine a Cockney-accented Katniss, and you'll have an idea of what Scarlet is like. As tough as Scarlet is, I wish that she had been able to get Little John out of the picture a little faster... she's oddly passive when he shows interest. There are also some terribly awkward scenes when a young woman has a crush on Scarlet, not realizing Scarlet's true identity.

There is a great twist at the end, and I liked the treatment of Maid Marian. The medieval England setting is rustic and there are plenty of hardscrabble characters just barely eking by. Still, the grittiness of the story is not overwhelming, and for romance or violence, the book is relatively tame.

Compare to:
Rowan Hood - Nancy Springer
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
The Forestwife - Theresa Tomlinson
The Thief - Megan Whalen Turner

I purchased this book.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Read in August

Last month I read the following:

1. What to Do With a Houseful of Memories: A Heartfelt Guide to Downsizing - Marni Jameson

picture credit:  The Bluestocking by Reginald Higgins, 1923


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