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Pucked by Helena Hunting

Purchase Pucked here

5/5*

Pub May 2015

I owe a huge thanks to my friend C, who recommended it to me when we were recently talking books because I have never laughed so damn hard while reading a romance. I would be reading in bed on my phone and then I start to snicker, and would have to cover my mouth so I wouldn’t wake my husband up.

Pucked is the first book in the series by the same name. It stars Violet, the stepsister of the newest member of the Chicago NHL team and Alex, the captain of said team. Sparks fly, then they get to kissing, and when they hang out all bets are off–and all the clothes, too.

This is a fast, hilarious read with outstanding sex. But it’s not without its drama–like when Alex says they’re “just friends” at the advice of his agent on television after pestering Violet to move in with him just hours before and dating for several months by that point.

I liked pretty much everything about this unreservedly, minus a few misogynistic statements Violet makes about other women (puck bunnies, prostitutes) and one “joke”(?) about being transgender, which I’m going to chalk up to 2015. Not that it was okay then, but rather than our public sentiments have changed.

One regard in which Hunting was way ahead of the curve is the emphasis on consent. Part of what wins Violet and the reader over is Alex’s checking in with her throughout the process of sex, ensuring that he’s not doing more than she wants and that she’s enjoying herself.

If you want to mix hilarity and smokin’ sex, get your copy today.

Book Review–The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Lee

Buy The Epic Crush of Genie Lo here

5/5*

Pub Aug 2017

 

I’m very late to the party on this book, and I wish I’d read it before now. I *need* a sequel, STAT.

TLDR–LOVED this book. Full on considering re-reading it right away loved it. Couldn’t go to sleep until I finished it so I didn’t get much sleep and now have a book hangover loved it. Put down writing my book to finish this one loved it. Like, really, really, really loved it.

Genie Lo is a Chinese American teen in the Bay Area of California (near San Francisco) whose biggest concern is getting into an Ivy League college…until Quentin shows up to tell her he’s the Monkey King and she’s his staff, reincarnated as a human. She thinks he’s out of his mind, and rightfully tells him to go away. Until a demon shows up, and all of this Monkey and Staff thing starts to sound a little more plausible.

The story uses Chinese mythology to fuel the magic, and it’s nice to see a break from Western mythos. To be fair, though, for me Chinese mythology is the next most familiar thing after Western because of living in Singapore for seven years and participating in Chinese culture.

Genie is a great, relateable character. She really just wants to live her life, be a good friend to her bff Yunie, and get into a good college. She’s frustrated by her Chosen One-ness, especially when it starts to interfere with her schooling, her friends, and her family. For adult readers, it will feel familiar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, down to the snappy dialogue.

Maybe he thought I’d stay quiet in front of my mother for the sake of decorum. That a boy’s good name was more important than a girl’s safety. If so, he was dead effin’ wrong.

and

“My true name,” he said, “…is SUN WUKONG.”

A cold wind passed through the open window, rustling my loose papers like tumbleweed.

“I have no idea who that is,” I said.

Quentin was still trying to cement his “look at me being serious” face. It took him a few seconds to realize I wasn’t flipping out over whoever he was.

“The Sun Wukong,” he said scooping the air with his fingers. “Sun Wukong the Monkey King.”

“I said, I don’t know who that is.”

His jaw dropped. Thankfully his teeth were still normal-size.

“You’re Chinese and you don’t know me?” he sputtered. “That’s like an American child not knowing who Batman is!”

“You’re Chinese Batman?”

“No! I’m stronger than Batman, and more important, like–like. Tian na, how do you not know who I am?”

I didn’t know why he expected me to recognize him. He couldn’t have been a big-time actor or singer from overseas. I never followed mainland pop culture, but a lot of other people at school did; word would have gotten around if we had a celebrity in our midst.

Plus that was a weird stage name. Monkey King? Was that what passed for sexy among the kids these days?

Quentin, for his part, is a great foil. He imparts knowledge, but not in a boring exposition-y way. But he’s also fallible, and a bit of a douche at times. I like that he’s not perfect, that he sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) complicates Genie’s life like crazy.

There are two gods hanging around as secondary characters. One is Guanyin, who achieved enlightenment, but turned her back on it to help humanity. The other is Erlang Shen, the nephew of the king of the gods, The Jade Emperor. They are often..helpful, but not in the ways that Genie hopes. For one, neither is going to directly interfere to help catch the ~100 or so demons running around the Bay Area.

The non-celestial-being secondary characters are well fleshed out–we understand, more or less, why her parents broke up and what sort of relationship they have now, what Genie’s BFF’s hopes and dreams are and how their friendship works.

The pacing is solid, the setting is well described (I do live in the Bay Area, so take that one with a grain of salt), and I think the book has broad appeal. The prose sparkles.

Seriously. Go read it. You won’t regret it.

Book recommendation

I’ll be posting a review of this soon, but I’m just popping in to say that if you like fantasy or YA, you really need to be reading The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee. The magic system is grounded in Chinese mythology, but because Genie is more or less ignorant of it, we learn what’s important as she learns. Genie’s voice is hilarious–I’ve already sent quotes I highlighted to two different friends and I’m only a third of the way through the book.

“That doesn’t matter,” I hissed. “You are not entitled to my thoughts, emotions, or any other part of my life unless I say so. What you get from me is jack and squat, regardless of whether or not you understand. Ming bai le ma, dickhead?”

and later

“From what I could gather from you friend, however, the two of you are only doing this to gain access to a magical kingdom called Harvard.”

“Pfft. Yale would also suffice.”

 

Strong female protagonist who’s a badass for the win!

Best Books I Read in 2018

According to Goodreads, I’ve read one hundred fifty books this year.

Having read so many books, which were the best ones? The ones that stuck with me, that I want to grab you and tell you to read this book now. Here are ten, in no particular order.

Buy Hamilton’s Battalion here

This is an anthology of three novellas perfect for the Hamilton fan in your family. All the stories touch upon Alexander Hamilton, but they are not about him. Rather he serves to act as the connecting thread through three very different stories.

My favorite is Promised Land by Courtney Milan. It’s the story of Rachel, a woman serving in the continental army as a man and Nathan, who she tackles, thinking him a British spy. Reasonable, given his sympathies when they last spoke. Awkward, given that her husband thought she’d died of yellow fever. Rachel and Nathan are both great characters, and they have issues to work through (even putting aside the failed her own death thing) that make the story compelling.

Buy A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole here

A Princess in Theory is the first book in the Reluctant Royals series by Alyssa Cole. I couldn’t put this book down. Ledi and Thabiso’s story is part modern fairy-tale (a prince in disguise) part secret identity exposed (prince? Or fuckboy?) and a hell of a lot of fun. I love that the heroine is a scientist and completely dismissive of Prince Thabiso, who has never been treated that way before. When an unknown disease hits Thesolo, Thabiso convinces Ledi to go there with him and help find a cure. Oh, and they’ll need to pretend their childhood engagement is back on. (I love the fake relationship trope)

Book 2 in the series was great, and I’ve pre-ordered book 3 (April 2019) and the novella that will act as book 2.5 (Jan 2019).

Buy Rosemary and Rue here

So I’m actually going to use this space to encourage you to read the entire October Daye series–I devoured the first twelve books in only a few weeks. I will say that books 1 and 2 are good but a little shaky, but once they take off in book 3 they only get better and better. October Daye is a half-human half-fae in this urban fantasy series.

It opens with her on a case as a private detective–but instead of recovering the missing people, she is turned into a fish for fourteen years. That loss of time informs the rest of the series because her partner moved on, and her daughter wants nothing to do with her. She turns her back on the world of Fae until she’s dragged back into that life by a binding spell. The secondary characters are compelling, Toby is a flawed but awesome heroine who anchors the series. I love Seanan McGuire’s books almost without exception and I’m already dying for book thirteen.

Buy Puddin here

If you’ve read or seen Dumplin’ (and you SHOULD), you’ll want to read the sequel, Puddin’. If you haven’t, Puddin’ works as a solo book, but Dumplin’ is so good, I encourage you to read both. Puddin’ is the story of Millie Michalchuck, who has gone to fat camp every year, but is determined to go to a journalism camp this year instead. Callie Reyes is in line to be the next dance captain until she leads an act of vandalism, and Millie identifies her. Callie has to work with Millie at her uncle’s gym as her punishment. An unlikely friendship forms…until Callie finds out that Millie is the one who turned her in. Millie has to battle her mother and the world’s expectations of fat girls to follow her dreams. Julie Murphy is great.

Buy Me Talk Pretty One Day here

This is actually a recommendation for the audiobook rather than the physical book. While reading the essays can give you a giggle, it’s hearing David Sedaris’s voice with all of its inflections as he reads his work that will make you die of laughter. I recommend all of his books, and just finished Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls on audiobook about a month ago.

Buy Heretics Anonymous here

When an atheist is enrolled at a Catholic school, how will he ever make friends or fit in? How will he survive any day without his eyes rolling out of his head? This is a great YA novel about faith, falling in love, and growing up. Definitely worth a re-read.

Buy Big Fat Bitch here

I gave a rave review to Big Fat Bitch here, but my fast review is that this slow burn romance is a great take on Beauty and the Beast. I love that the “beast” in this book is the woman. But it’s so much more than a romance. If you like deeply complex narratives, love stories, and books making you cry, pick this one up.

Buy Media Darling here

I reviewed Media Darling here, but my fast pitch is that this f/f romance between a movie star and a media writer is possibly my favorite romance of the past year, period. Both Emerson and Haley are well written, three-dimensional characters. They make mistakes, make love, and while it’s hard fought, they get their happy ending.

Buy The Autumn Bride here

I got this book from The Ripped Bodice (indie romance bookstore–buy from them!) as a “blind date with a book.” I haven’t read much Regency era romance, but it was my blind date, so I decided to give it a chance. Abigail and her three closest friends are practically starving. So Abby does something she’d never imagined–she goes over some rooftops and breaks into a house, desperate to find something to buy–or eat. Instead she finds Lady Beatrice, an old woman being abused by her servants. Abigail and her friends save Lady Beatrice from her servants and are promptly adopted as her “nieces”–the Chance sisters.

When her real nephew, Max, returns from abroad, he’s certain that the girls are gold diggers at best. Sparks fly between him and Abigail, and the rest is history. Each of the four books (Autumn Bride, Winter Bride, Spring Bride, and Summer books) works as a stand alone, but they’re better read back to back as a series.

Buy Nate Expectations here

Nate Expectations is actually the third book in Tim Federles’ series about Nate, a small town boy who becomes a Broadway Actor. In this book, Nate’s show closes down and he has to go back to small town life. When he’s assigned a project on the book Great Expectations, he decides to put on a musical. The book centers around this. There’s great secondary characters and Nate continues on his journey to figuring out who he really is.

You don’t need to read the first two books in the series, but if this book appeals to you, read them first.

 

What was/were your favorite book/s of 2018

 

 

 

ARC–Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant

Purchase The Kingdom of Needle and Bone

5/5*

Publication date Dec 31, 2018

 

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t know how Mira Grant does it, but she’s created another horror novella that is just as gripping as her other work. I enjoy her work as Mira Grant, and I enjoy her work as Seanan McGuire. The Mira Grant titles are all horror, and I’m not generally a person who enjoys that genre.

Lisa Morris isn’t feeling so good. But she’s at a Florida theme park, and she wants to enjoy her last day there. So she doesn’t tell her parents, and when they take her, she unintentionally creates a cascading infection of what will eventually be known as Morris disease–a highly contagious virus that mimics measles, but that kills many and leaves those who have survived it as immunocompromised for the rest of their lives. Vaccines will no longer work on them.

The story plays out against the all too real fights over vaccination and herd immunity. It also throws in the question of bodily autonomy–where’s the line between the public good and being forced to do something (abortion being the obvious connection–can and should the state force a woman to carry a pregnancy she doesn’t want to term).

It’s a well written story with a complex main character–Isabella, a pediatrician and Lisa’s aunt–who we’re never quite sure of. She’s a gray character. The length of the story means that side characters aren’t super developed, but enough is there that they’re interesting.

I can’t give away too much. It’s a fast read, and if you like horror, or books that just f* with your head, then Mira Grant is always a good choice.

Book VS Movie–The Hate U Give SPOILERS

This post has spoilers for both the book and movie. You have been warned.

Book 5/5*

Adaptation 3.5/5*

Movie without the context of the book 4/5*

When I heard that the movie for The Hate U Give was coming out, I decided it was time to read the book with my 5th grader. Originally I had thought 6th grade would be appropriate, but I took the movie coming out as a sign.

We did a car read along–I bought the audio book on Audible and a physical copy for Elanor. As a side note, the audio book is amazing. The narrator has a great sense of when and how to use emotion, and she made my eyes well more than once because of that. She differentiates the characters well.

Elanor struggled a lot with the scarier parts of the book–Khalil’s shooting, the riots, the fire at the store. But we had a lot of talks about police brutality and the complicated relationship between cops and communities of color. My husband is a person of color, and my daughters are as well, so these are discussions we have to have.

I took her to the movie yesterday. Here’s our discussion about the movie versus book. Below the video, I’ll give my review.

I feel like the book is very nearly perfect. I can’t think of anything I would change–it’s a 10/5* book. But because of the subject material, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy adaptation, especially as so much of what makes the book work is Starr’s inner voice.

The movie uses voiceover as a tool to give exposition and to allow us into Starr’s head. I think this works pretty well. If anything, they could have used it a bit more.

Obviously when adapting a 400+ page book, things are getting dropped.

The biggest change in the book versus the movie is that the character of Devante has been cut. This also cuts down the role of Carlos and his relationship with Starr (he’s basically a second dad). Much of Devante’s actions are done by Seven–King beats the shit out of Seven instead of Devante in the final act of the book.

Chris, who is the “good” white person in the book. The one who wants to learn, and who stays through the riots, almost getting killed with Starr, Seven, and Devante is gone. Instead we have one who says things that are kind of ignorant (“I don’t see color”) and he takes Kenya and Lyric away in the movie and never comes back. I had hoped to see Chris learn and grow, but I don’t think he did, really.

Maya isn’t Asian and there’s no minority alliance. While the whole “eating dog” thing is a minor plot point that I can see dropping, there was no need to cast a white/white passing actress in Maya’s role.

But let’s talk about Starr. If Amandla Stenberg doesn’t win awards, I’m going to flip tables. She embodies Starr perfectly. Her Starr is exactly like the one I pictured in my head. Her emotions come across so strongly that she made me cry at several points. She doesn’t pull any punches, and leaves it all on the table.

Overall, I think it’s great movie. It’s a 3.5/5* as an adaptation, and a 4/5* just as a movie without the context of the book. Be prepared to sob your heart out at several points, especially if you cry easily like me.

My only big complaint about the movie is the end. Starr should’ve done the last lines of the book verbatim. It would have been a far stronger ending.

Review–Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert

Get it here on kindle for $0.99.

5/5*

Pub October 2018

 

This hot Halloween erotic romance can be devoured in one bite (pun intended).

Chastity identifies the hot stranger who keeps coming into her family’s coffee shop as a werewolf right away. But she doesn’t warn her family of huntresses, or even any of the men in her family. When he finally asks her out, she says yes. If she can kill him, she’ll prove to her family that she can be a huntress, too. The problem is that he’s not a mindless beast, like she’d been warned. He seems like a….a guy. An artist, even. Can a monster make art? Worse, can a monster inspire feelings other than hate….like lust?

Luke is a werewolf. But like most weres, he’s a solitary creature who likes his meat raw–and the forest behind his house keeps him perfectly happy via plenty of rabbits and such. But on a full moon, he’s chased by a group of huntresses…only to catch the scent of something primal. His mate. But the woman wearing the sweatshirt isn’t her. Instead she’s this shy, sweet girl who works in a coffee shop. Or so he thinks…until she tries to kill him.

Luke and Chas have chemistry that sparks right off the page. They’re easy to root for because it’s blindingly obvious that they should be together. Their banter is hot, and their fighting even more so. When they finally get together, I was squirming.

I love the idea of huntresses being obsessed with killing mindless monsters versus the very civilized but solitary werewolf who just wants to meet and commit to his mate for life. The dichotomy makes their story sparkle.

Luke is very much an alpha character. He doesn’t hesitate to take control or make a move. But he’s also committed to consent, which is really sexy. There’s an instance where the consent is blurry and he pulls away immediately. This only makes him hotter.

I wish it were longer, but I always wish a Talia Hibbert book were longer–she’s such a talented writer that I am always sorry when the story finishes. There’s such a great glimpse into the world of the huntresses and the world of werewolves. She has a unique take on what can be a really tiresome trope. Kudos, Talia!

It’s October 1, which means it’s on sale TODAY!

Problematic Harry Potter

A friend and I were recently talking about Harry Potter. She, like me, is reading book one to her almost seven year old. I’m also reading book five with my almost ten year old.

Harry Potter is twenty years old. And in some ways, it’s showing its age.

There is a ton of fatphobia that might or might not be okay today. I say might or might not as fat phobia is alive and well today. What do I mean by fat phobia? Many of the villainous people in the books are described as fat as shorthand for lazy, greedy, mean, and evil. The Dursleys, Aunt Petunia, and Delores Umbridge are some of the characters described this way.

The racial representation is…not good. You have the Patels, Lee Jordan, Cho Chang, and a few other background characters are people of color. Ron, Harry, and Hermione are all white, canonically. Yes, a black actress played Hermione in Cursed Child, but that’s colorblind casting, not a sudden reversal of cannon. The movies are even worse, as you can see below. Just over six minutes of speaking time for people of color in eight movies.

Hermione is a white savior. She never asks or listens to the House Elves. She just decides she knows what’s best, and starts S.P.E.W., or the Society for the Prevention of Elvish Welfare. In book five, she even leaves hats and socks around the Gryffindor common room so that an elf might pick it up and be freed. The Hogwarts House Elves are, in fact, so angry about this that they refuse to clean the common room, and the only reason that it gets cleaned is because Dobby does it out of love for Harry Potter. Yes, there is abuse–Dobby and Kreacher are both victims of abuse. But it’s problematic when someone decides that they know what’s best for a class of people without consulting them–sort of what men are doing to women’s reproductive health.

Hermione does so much emotional labor for Harry and Ron. For the love of god, boys, do your own fucking homework for a change, for one. Y’all would be dead without Hermione.

There is still a LOT of good in the HP books, and I identify as a Ravenclaw. But it’s inappropriate to give something a pass just because you like it.

10 Book Challenge

I was challenged to share the 10 books that have most affected me as a reader on Facebook by my friends J and P.  I then spent at least the last few weeks paralyzed every time I tried to compile the list because it’s SO hard to do.

Keep in mind that this list could change over the course of an hour, much less over a day or a week, but here we go–In no particular order, 10 books that profoundly changed my life.  The links will take you the goodreads page for each book.  I’m going to cheat and use a lot of series to count as a single book

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 3.16.18 PM#1–Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey

I have already done a blog post specifically about Magic’s Pawn and how profoundly it affected me.  The short recap, though, is that Vanyel was the first gay person I ever met, and in knowing him I became a better person, and I was better equipped to deal come to terms with my own queerness (I’m bisexual).  The importance of that can’t be overstated, and I only wish that I could tell Brian–the clerk at my local Waldenbook’s who handed it to me–how much I appreciate his bringing Vanyel into my life.  I reread this (and then usually the other two Last Herald-Mage books) every year or two.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 12.48.27 am#2 Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind makes this list because it was the first super long book I ever read.  There are very valid critiques of the book, including a dangerous romanticizing of the antebellum South.  When I think about Gone With the Wind, I think about how I have viewed Scarlett over the years each time I reread it.  When I first read it, at 11-ish years old, I thought Scarlett at 16 was amazing and headstrong.  I then reread it every 3-5 years.  Most recently I read it around the age of 30, and I thought Scarlett was an idiot teenager and a pretty horrible adult.  In rereading this book, I have watched myself grow up and mature.  My understanding both of the actual setting of the book and the context of the time in which Mitchell wrote it have grown as well, and that allows me a more nuanced read of the book each time I’ve read it.

While I’m not sure I will read it again, or how many years will pass before I do, it stands as one of the important books from my transition from child to teen to adult.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 5.54.50 PM#3–The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin (link is to book #1)

Considering I’m re-reading and snarking these books, I don’t their inclusion will come as any surprise.  The BSC books were the first series I felt passionate about.  They were the first books whose release I awaited with rabid desire, and that I devoured on the day I bought them because I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.  I’ve felt this way about many book series over the years since, but they were the first and while I mock them, I do so from a place of deep, deep love.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.03.17 am#5–The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce (link is to book #1)

I’ve always been a fan of fantasy, but even as a young reader I noticed a certain lack of estrogen when it came to heroes and adventurers.  Alanna changed all of that for me.  A girl who disguised herself as a boy to earn her shield, does so, comes out as a woman and faces a lot of misogyny, AND who has sexual agency (having three sexual partners over 4 books–off screen because it’s YA, but still) was a revelation for me.  Not only could women star in fantasy novels, they could do so as complex and rich characters.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.11.04 am

Tamora Pierce is an amazing author.  She’s also incredibly gracious–when a writer for XOJane wrote an article about (among other things) meeting Tamora Pierce, I had to comment on it.  And Tamora Pierce commented back!  (She actually engaged with almost everyone on the comment thread, which is just so awesome of her.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.18.45 am#6–Fraud by David Rakoff

My first acquaintance with David Rakoff wasn’t on paper, it was through the NPR show “This American Life,” to which he regularly contributed.  I loved the stories he told there so much, I went out and bought Fraud (and eventually his other books).  Rakoff is a masterful storyteller and his essays, whether on the page or the radio often made me think as well as laugh.  Sometimes they made me sob, much as the last essay in Fraud does.  Listening to him and reading his work has made me a better storyteller.

“I used to bank here, but that was long, long ago” is about Rakoff’s early battle with Hodgkin’s disease which, when it came back years later, killed him.  You can here him tell that story here, or read a transcript of that episode of TAL, including the essay here.  I strongly encourage you to listen to him tell it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.27.44 am#7-Pandora’s Box 2 by Black Lace books

The was the first (second?) erotica title I ever read.  It my introduction to any number of fetishes that helped me unlock my sexuality.  Given that I’m now a professional erotica author, I’m sure it had some impact on me professionally as well, in setting the bar far above my crappy online erotic fanfic.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.34.40 am#8 Man from Mundania by Piers Anthony (and Xanth books 1-20)

The Xanth books by Piers Anthony make this list because of their bad puns.  Anthony would have his characters walk by some seashells and the eyes of the shell would SEE them.  I started reading these around 9/10 years old and the fact that I got the puns in an “adult” book–although really they’d be better classified as YA at best, they were shelved with the adult sci-fi/fantasy books.  They made me feel smart because I got the puns, and in a way made me fall in love with words.  I’d always loved reading, but the Xanth books with their puns and later the Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun which used massive vocabulary words made me love words and language.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.41.20 am#9–Phantom by Susan Kay

I was already an Andrew Lloyd Webber Phantom of the Opera fangirl (or phangirl as we’re known) when I found this in my local library. Kay’s extension of the Phantom character to a full life story (and a far more satisfactory ending) is just awesome.  This is one of my favorite books, period.  It makes the list because it’s okay to be an obsessive nerdy fangirl.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 1.46.33 am10–Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

This books looks at how the Civil War lives in on in the modern American South.  My BA is in history, and the intersection of history and memory is very interesting to me.  The reason it makes the list is that it highlights some fairly odd/disturbing aspects of this living history within Southern Culture but never makes it a cartoonish representation that you can then disregard.  Horwitz brings humanity to his subjects and shows them as fairly complicated people, not caricatures.  It’s also an incredibly readable book for a layperson.  One of the reason I didn’t pursue history at the PhD level was that I hated the level of depersonalization I had to do to write about history.  Horwitz isn’t a historian, he’s a journalist, and that impacts the flavor of the book in a positive way.  (Which is not to say that historians don’t write good books, it’s just that it wasn’t how I wanted to spend the rest of my life.)

So there you have it…for this second anyway.

If you want to play, consider yourself tagged.  If you blog it, please link in the comments.

Snarking Nostalgic: The Baby-Sitters Club #4 Mary Anne Saves the Day

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 10.07.14 am

Mary Anne Saves the Day

Ann M. Martin

Originally Published February 1987

 

If you recall, book 3’s co-plot (along with Stacey’s DIABETES) was about how the Baby-Sitter’s Agency honed in on the BSC’s turf and they had to throw down?  That the BSC proved that they were the superior sitters because of how awesome they were?  Even though they were younger, they were more mature?

Well, screw that.

BSC 4 is basically one long fight between the sitters so that Mary Anne can become friends with Dawn.  Without a massive war, she’s so timid that she would never do so otherwise.  There’s also all kinds of slut shaming patriarchal bullshit with her Victorian era Dad, but we’ll get to that later.

The book opens with exposition about the club and how it works as Kristy and Mary Anne walk across the street and are greeted by Mimi’s pleasant Japanese accented voice.  I’m starting to think we need an ongoing counter of how many times Mimi is referred to quickly followed by the words Japanese, quiet, soft, and accent.  Mimi asks Mary Anne how the scarf is coming along because of course Mary Anne knits like all good little girls on the prairie.  (Sidebar, this was before the hipsters claimed knitting for themselves–it’s supposed to be emblematic of how repressed and old fashioned Mary Anne is.)  Blah blah blah Kristy’s parents are divorced and her mom is engaged to a MILLIONAIRE.  Blah blah blah Claudia is an artist with flawless skin and a junk food addiction.  Stacey is from NEW YORK CITY and has diabetes.  It’s like BSC Bingo.

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 11.02.09 amHere, I made a BSC bingo card for you

Why the book-long fight?  It’s all that bitch Mrs. Newton’s fault for having a baby.

“Yes,” Kristy was saying.  “Yes…  Oh, Jaime and Lucy.”  (Claudia and Stacey and I squealed with delight.)  “Friday…six till eight…  Of course.  I’ll be there.  Great.  See you.”  She hung up.

From there it devolves to Claudia is a job-hog (not like it’s her phone line and she has to do extra work or anything), Stacey has plenty of friends back in NYC and doesn’t need them, Mary Anne is a big baby, Kristy tells Mary Anne to shut up and she yells back at Kristy, Stacey’s diabetes are called dumb, and Mary Anne loses her shit on everyone.

Maybe I am shy,” I said loudly, edging toward the door.  “And maybe I am quiet, but you guys cannot step all over me.  You want to know what I think?  I think you, Stacey, are a conceited snob; and you, Claudia are a stuck-up job-hog; and you, Kristin Amanda Thomas, are the biggest, bossiest know-it-all in the world, and I don’t care if I never see you again!”

The rest of their argument is various retreads of this.  Book 4–have you read books 1-3?  A huge fight was also part of the plot of book 1.  There are over 100 books left to go–let’s not retread plots already.

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 11.18.02 amWithout the introduction of Dawn’s mom, this would have been Mary Anne’s future.

As has been well established, Mary Anne’s mother is DEAD.  Of what?  Who cares!  We do find out that her name was Alma, though, which fits with the weird time-warp parenting style of Mary Anne’s father, Richard.  Since he acts like one, we’re just going to call Richard “Dick” for my own amusement.

Dick, having been left to raise this freakishly female creature, has decided that his worth as a father is to turn out the perfect Victorian/Edwardian era daughter.  Christian Grey had fewer rules for Anastasia—Life with Dick is 50 Shades of Patriarchal Bullshit.

  • She must wear braids at all times
  • She must dress well for dinner
  • She mustn’t say naughty words like gross, hey, and “a long list of other words”
  • Must have perfect table manners
  • Her room is pink and white, which are appropriate girl colors
  • The only picture in her room is Mary Anne and her parents on her Christening Day
  • The only artwork in her room is Humpty Dumpty and Alice in Wonderland prints

The relationship between Mary Anne and her father is so disturbing on so many levels.  Clearly, Mary Anne is supposed to be filling in for the “woman of the house.”  She cooks, cleans, is supposed to be dressed nicely for dinner and ask her father about his day.  She’s supposed to know what cases her dad is involved in at court and care about them deeply.

We also see the first mention of religion in the books.  Apparently, Dick asks God to watch over Alma before every single meal, which even Mary Anne thinks is overkill.  She mentions praying at night.  I’m not sure if the super strict is supposed to be tied in with religion, but it’s all kinds of Lurlene McDaniel’s level religiosity and appropriate female behavior (6 months to live review is here).

What does Mary Anne want in life?  To sometimes wear her hair differently, and to have a kitten poster and an NYC poster in her yellow and navy colored bedroom.  Also, to babysit a bit later, sometimes.  UNREASONABLE.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 11.36.27 amEnter Dawn

Since Mary Anne is fighting with her friends, she needs to find a seat in the cafeteria.  She sits down next to some other friendless loser, who turns out to be Dawn who is new in town.  Because Dawn is from California, she is blonde and health conscious.  She’s also a pretentious hippie and future vegan who shames the rest of us, but that develops over future books.

Mary Anne decides to befriend Dawn to get back at Kristy.  As they’re talking, Kristy looks over and is jealous, so Mary Anne really builds is up, going so far as to agree to hang out at Dawn’s house the next day after school.

Dawn’s mom Sharon is a flake.  She puts shoes in the freezer and can’t focus on a task for more than 5 seconds.  She’s like the polar opposite of Mary Anne’s Dad.  Gee, that’s interesting.

Dawn tells Mary Anne that they moved to Stoneybrooke because her parents divorced and her mom grew up here.  Hey, so did Dick!  What are the odds that they knew each other?  Is anyone thinking of that movie Parent Trap?  If not, Dawn and Mary Anne actually sit down and WATCH THE PARENT TRAP to get it into your mind.  Gee, I wonder what Martin is telegraphing here.  Maybe they could watch The Odd Couple next?

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 11.54.30 amI don’t think this is the kitty poster Mary Anne had in mind

BSC meeting, y’all.  Said meeting is hostile, lots of sticking out of tongues, hostility, blah blah blah.  Except Kristy isn’t there!  She blew off HER club.  When confronted about it, she suggested that the four of them take turns on phone duty during club meetings and the rest are at their homes.  Each girl can take whatever jobs she can handle offered to her during her shift and then has to call the others to find a sitter for the ones she’s not.  I wonder how well that will work?

On Mary Anne’s first day as the sole representative of the BSC she lines up a job with the Prezzioso’s–possible the only family in Stoneybrook that is more uptight and formal than hers.  For an afternoon at home, Jenny Prezzioso is wearing “a frilly white dress trimmed with yards of lavender lace and ribbon, matching lavender socks, and shiny black patent leather Mary Janes.  her hair had been curled, and was pulled back form either side of her face by barrettes from which long streamers flowed.”  Her parents call her Angel.  Yes, she IS a spoiled brat, how did you guess?

Mary Anne’s Dad loses a case, so obviously Marry Anne picks that moment to push for later baby sitting times, no braids, etc.  Dick shuts her down.  She’s emo because now she’s fighting with him, too.  Mary Anne goes to Mimi for soft spoken accented advice.  At some point in the conversation Mimi calls Mary Anne “My Mary Anne.”  I gasp at the outrageous faux pas.  Claudia overhears this and goes ballistic (AS WELL SHE SHOULD.  WTF, MIMI????).

The next time Mary Anne is the BSC, Claudia stays in her room and plays her music super loud.  Like I said, as they proved in Book 3, the BSC is a totes professional organization.  Then a series of phone calls come in forcing Mary Anne to call Kristy multiple times, culminating in the arranging of a joint babysitting job at the Pikes for herself and Kristy.

I’ll spare you the details but the Pike sitting job boils down to Kristy and Mary Anne only communicating via a passed message through all the Pike kids.

Mary Anne gets back from the Pikes five minutes late, and asks her dad for a later sitting time so she wouldn’t be late.   SHOCKER–Dick says no.

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 12.13.16 pmGet to the point about Sharon and Dick

 

Dawn and Mary Anne go through Dick’s old yearbooks.  Not only did Dick and Sharon know each other, they were involved.   They find Sharon’s yearbook and Dick’s note to her.  Wow, if only things had been different, they’d be sisters!

That weekend Mary Anne babysits bratty Jenny Prezzioso, who morphs into high fever Jenny.  As this is the pre-cell era, Mary Anne has to call around, but can’t track down the parents.  After trying everything, she calls Dawn and then 911.  An ambulance comes to take Jenny to the hospital with Mary Anne.  Dawn is going to call and leave messages for Jenny’s parents (because again, no cell phone to call from while in the ambulance or while at the hospital).  The doctors are caring for Jenny when the parents arrive with the mom in hysterics for her ANGEL.  Mr. P gives Dawn and Mary Anne major cash for doing such a great job and drops them off at Mary Anne’s house.  What the hell did we do before cell phones?

Mary Anne and Dawn are looking at pictures in Dick’s albums.  They are magically seated such that Kristy looks over and sees them together.  Mary Anne puts her arm around Dawn and sticks out her tongue at Kristy.  Dawn catches her in the act and storms out when she realizes that Mary Anne has been using her to get back at Kristy.

Mr P calls Dick and tells her how awesome and mature Mary Anne is.  Mary Anne brings up those small things she wants and gets a later sitting time, the agreement that she can sometimes wear her hair down, AND that she can put up a poster on her wall.  Drunk with maturity, she writes Dawn and Kristy apologies for being such a bitch for the past 13 chapters.

Before the sitters can come back together, they have to ruin Jamie Newton’s birthday party.  Which serves his mom right for provoking the fight in the first place.  In fact, Mrs. Newton has been nothing but trouble since book 1 with her pregnancy and her spawning and her looking for responsible older sitters.  She dares to ask “one of them” to go check on the baby–which NATCH starts a fight.  Things escalate until punch is everywhere.  Way to prove that vaunted maturity, ladies. After the party Mary Anne orders everyone over to Claudia’s house and forces everyone to make up.

That night Mary Anne asks her dad about Dawn’s mom.  It’s all Romeo and Juliet–they were in love, her family didn’t approve, blah blah blah

Chapter 16–SIXTEEN!!!  WHAT BLASPHEMY!!!—Dick and Sharon finally meet again when she drops Dawn off at the house.  Stares and starry eyes, and he asks her out.  Mary Anne introduces Dawn to everyone and she is inducted into the BSC