Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: Special Edition

Why special edition, you ask?  Let's see:

  • Well, first of all, I'm on break from work this week!  That's special enough all by itself.
  • I'll be posting reviews #19 and 20 this week--I'm pleased with myself for keeping on track to my 150 book goal for the year.  Twenty books by February 19th is pretty good--it reflects a lot of time at home, when I would normally be playing dopey computer games or reading the internet, which is a change that makes me feel better about myself and life in general.
  • I have a bonus, non-book review--because I saw Godspell on Broadway last weekend and can't stop talking about it.
  • AND on top of all of that--this is my 50th post!
So, welcome to this very special edition of Sunday Sunshine!

Friends, I didn't think I would make it to book #20 this week.  In fact, I really thought I might end up this week with just ONE book finished--because I started the week with Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta, and that book is LONG.  Good, really good, but long.  It took all my commuting time and then some to finish.  But I woke up this morning, on vacation, relaxed--and so instead of grading or lesson planning, I was able to pull The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight off the shelf.  I think it took me all of two hours--what a perfect Sunday morning!

But before I talk about those books, indulge me a little (or, feel free to skip down to my book reviews, at the end of this blue text).  Like I said, I went to see Godspell last weekend--Sunday night, actually.  A week later, after following the whole cast on Twitter and buying this cast's recording of the score (even though I already have a different version), I'm still caught up in it.  I'm actually going to go up to Midtown--my least favorite place in the world--and try my luck in the cheap ticket lottery this week.

I've run into Godspell a few times over the years.  The recording was the first CD I ever owned--I had other things on records, or on tape, but when we got a CD player from my godmother in the mid-90s, she gave us a bunch of CDs too.  Most were stuff my mom liked, but I was a budding musical theater nerd, so I laid claim to the Godspell CD.  Then when my sister was (I think) a senior in high school, she was in the show--it was really cool to see her and her friends in a show where they could just sort of play and have fun with each other.  It was supposed to come to Broadway very shortly after she graduated, but the tanking economy delayed it, and it's here now.

This production has a similar spirit--I keep describing it to people as feeling like a high school show, just with really, really talented people.  And for Godspell, I think that's just right.  Of course, this production has many more bells and whistles and a much higher degree of technical difficulty than a high school show, and I don't mean to take away from any of that.  What I mean is that the cast radiates energy and excitement and joy and can-you-believe-we're-actually-doing-this in the way that the very best high school shows do.

It's hard to single out anyone in the cast, because they all have such awesome moments.  Uzo Aduba's By My Side has an intensity that's almost jarring, in the way that I love when you think you're in the middle of something that's just fun and then something chills you.  Morgan James gives a rendition of Turn Back, O Man that's as sultry as expected but way funnier than I thought that song could be.  Lindsay Mendez--well, Mr. S refers to her as "the Gilda Radner one",  and while I'm sorry to my students who are way too young to get that reference, I'm sure the rest of you know what high praise that is.  I could keep going but you'd be here all day.

Oh--and then there's Hunter Parrish.  I knew his work from Weeds  and I had seen him in Spring Awakening a few years ago.  But he's got this goofy sweetness that blew me away.  Coming from him, the lessons the show teaches (actually parables from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament of the Bible) don't seem preachy or proselytizing, although they do stay with you.  I mean, yes, he plays Jesus.  The Last Supper and crucifixion are the inevitable end to the evening.  But it's not a show designed for an exclusively Christian audience.  It picks and chooses, for the most part, the parts of the Bible that are hard to argue with.  Be kind to others.  Be humble.  Put someone else before yourself.  Turn the other cheek.  The focus isn't on the book or the religion--it's on how much better the world would be if people acted liked that more often.  And it's all delivered so cheerfully and gently that you leave just wanting to be a little bit nicer. If you're interested, the official site is here

Ok, now on to what you came for: 

What I Read This Week:

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**This is a book I got for free, in advance through Netgalley.**

I really vacillated between giving this four stars or five. I read this book every day, two hours a day, for an entire week. I can't remember the last book that I invested so much time in--probably another fantasy epic (Paolini, I'm looking at you). And I was totally engrossed. The thing I kept thinking--and if you know me, you know this is a high, high compliment--is, "This is like a TV show!" But like a really good one, like Mad Men or Downton Abbey, where it's really work to keep all the threads in your head but it's so worth it. Yes, I know TV like that is usually compared to novels and not the other way around. But I am a product of my times, so deal with it.

Anyway, I loved this book. I really did. The detail, the new characters (and their names! Tippideaux! Quintana!), the plotting! I don't want to spoil it, because it's not out in the States yet. But I thought it was even better than Finnikin of the Rock because it was on a much bigger scale. Definitely, definitely add this series to your TBR list--it's so rare for a Book Two to improve upon Book One, but this one does it despite the excellence of its predecessor.

However--and this is a spoiler, if a vague one--after investing so much time and loving this book so hard, I was not prepared for the ending. Nevermind cliffhanging--I feel like a few plot threads took flying leaps and we won't know what happened until the next book comes. Of course, the actual events themselves were totally justified within the story, and I actually anticipated one of them...but the pace sped up so quickly at the end that I wasn't ready to let go. I must cry, with Romeo, "Wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?" But I, like Romeo, have to concede that I'm happier having read it and feeling the pain of not getting instant gratification. (Sorry, English teacher diversion.) As lousy a reader as this might make me, though, I have to imagine that when I can read this and immediately carry on with Book Three (someday? I hope?) I may go back and kick that rating up to five stars. Because if it continues in this vein, this is most definitely a five-star series.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First SightThe Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was as short and sweet and delightful as everyone said. I wanted a quick read that would leave me in a good mood, and this fit the bill exactly. Jennifer Smith does a great job of parceling out bits of information as they're needed without making anything feel disjointed. This story does, of course, have its moments that strain credulity, but only in the events, never the emotions behind them. And the events that anchor the plot are ones that heighten emotions and make people do weird things anyway (and the protagonist is a seventeen-year-old girl, which, ditto) so it never pushed me to the point of absolute disbelief. I will definitely be recommending this when my students come looking for something with a happy ending (oh, just look at the cover, saying that much isn't a spoiler! Have some genre awareness!)

View all my reviews

Waiting in the Wings



  1. This is such a great post for so many reasons! I love what you had to say about Godspell and Statistical Probability :D Love that you love Mad Men and Downton Abbey too. Now you have me curious about these Marchetta books as well (I'd heard of them but wasn't sure if they were my thing). Just a great post all around!

    1. I always forget that my first forays into YA were high I go in so much more for dystopian or contemporary that I balk at straight fantasy sometimes. This is definitely worth it!


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