Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: Multimedia Edition

One thing I've learned in the last almost-three years that I've been teaching is how to use breaks.  My break starts the SECOND I am out of school, so on Thursday afternoon Mr. S and I got some iced tea and walked the entire length of the Highline Park (and back!).  Friday was reserved for doing a whole lot of nothing--which is necessary for at least one day, but ideally not more than that.  Yesterday we saw Friends With Kids, which I recommend to my adult readers and anyone who loves When Harry Met Sally but wishes it could be a little more complicated and realistic.  Then we came home, cleaned the apartment, and went back out, this time to a concert by Jones Street Station.  Their opening act was a brand new musical group:  The Girls, featuring Alison Brie of Mad Men and Community.  Now, real talk:  we went because we both love Alison Brie and both of her TV shows.  But we stayed because Jones Street Station was really cool.  Their set had a lot of variety, including a killer run of bluegrass, but I also liked their other stuff.  Here's a video for one of their songs (featuring Community's Danny Pudi, through whom they met Alison Brie.)

And yes--we did meet Alison after the show, and we were big nerds, and she was very nice.  So that was fun too.

Since even on vacation, I am an old person, we were so worn out when we got home that we went to bed and saved SNL for the morning.  But we got up and watched it over breakfast, so I am contractually obligated as a YA blogger to post the following sketch:

Clearly, this sketch was written by a Hunger Games fan.  Love it.

And I've been reading, too!  Let's not forget about that...

What I Read This Week: 
Article 5 (Article 5, #1)Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was excited to read this book as soon as I heard about it several months ago, and it did not disappoint. This is a true dystopia, set in a basically recognizable future America. As the country recovers from a devastating war fought on American soil, the government has changed radically. The freedoms of the Constitution are gone, replaced by the Moral Statutes--increasingly restrictive laws passed and strictly enforced in the name of security. I was concerned that this concept might get a little caught up in comparing itself to current political movements or situations, but the world-building was strong enough that it didn't seem too on-the-nose.

I came away particularly impressed with the pacing and stakes-raising. I realized quickly that EVERY TIME I had to stop reading (pesky train reaching my stop!) I was annoyed because I was right in the middle of something exciting. Poor Ember just could not catch a break! I think the flip side of that is that I didn't feel like I got to know her as well as I could have--I wanted to sit a little more in the moments of relative calm: before the FBR came knocking on her door, with Rebecca at the "school", in the hotel before Chase's revelation. That's not such a bad complaint to have though--after all, I hear Kristen Simmons is already hard at work on book #2! Pick this one up if you want a fast-moving dystopian road trip novel. (You didn't know you wanted that, but now you do!)

WanderloveWanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By the time I reached the end of this book, I was shocked to find that it was undoubtedly a 5-star book for me. I like a good contemporary now and again, but it's usually not my favorite-favorite genre. And this one, I thought, started a bit slow. Good, sure, but slow. But then it grew and grew and grew on me.

First of all, there's Bria. I really came to love Bria as a protagonist, for the same reason that I was initially reluctant to love her--she's kind of a mess. And not in the sexy-tousled-Natalie-Portman-character way. She makes crummy-to-terrible choices, with some frequency. And again, not adorable-Bridget-Jones-hahaha terrible choices, but like actual frustrating choices with real consequences, big and small, that sometimes make her a little hard to take. (Oh, come on, Bria, just get in the water already!) But those are part of what makes her feel so real, and what makes it so satisfying to root for her. Because (I dunno, spoiler alert, I guess) the book does have a happy ending--but it never feels forced. It never feels Hollywood. Bria has to work for what she winds up with, and she has to confront some truths about her own screw-ups and her own responsibility versus that of the people around her. And none of it comes by way of like, a magical third-world person. It comes a little at a time, as Bria is pushed and pulled and tugged in different directions by the places and people she comes into contact with.

And of course Rowan--definitely one of the best love interests I've read this year. I loved the path of Rowan and Bria's small-r relationship--it unfolded so naturally and felt so true. Some of the details Kirsten Hubbard uses made me gasp, a little--a little smile, a hand on the back, the tiny pieces of Bria and Rowan getting comfortable with each other the way you do in high-intensity situations: quickly, but not all at once by any means. I think the book overall does a great job skirting cliche and it felt the most fresh and brand-new in the scenes between Rowan and Bria, even though those are the scenes where it would have been easiest to rely on well-trodden signifiers.

Even if you think you don't love contemp, or travel stories, or whatever--give this one a shot. It's better than you expect, I promise.

The Wicked and the JustThe Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**I received an advance e-galley for free from Netgalley**

I have to admit, I found the main POV character Cecily hard to take for...most of the book. I know I was meant to, but it was rough going there for a while. I can't recall a less likable protagonist in anything, ever. And yet...there were glimmers of something else. Just crumbs, little slivers here and there of someone I could feel for. Coats does a really nice job, I think, of comparing Cecily and Gwenhwyfar's situations without minimizing what the English did to the Welsh (except in the informational materials at the end of the book, which felt weirdly pro-England.) Cecily was raised on a manor, only to lose her home when her father's older brother returned from the Crusades and took back his lands. Gwenhwyfar was raised in a titled Welsh family, only to lose her home and her father when her father stood up to the conquering English king. It's an interesting parallel, and one that becomes more poignant as the book goes on. I definitely came around on Cecily--she felt very true to me by the end. (I mean, really, if you grew up thinking you would inherit a fine English manor and then your father moved you out to the Welsh frontier to live surrounded by a hostile native population and an impenetrably snobby group of Englishfolk, you'd be prickly too!) At first, I thought the pacing was a little slow, but now looking back at the book as a whole, I think it works really well. I often feel that the action-packed or suspenseful parts of a book come too quickly and feel un-earned; this book took the time to let us understand the characters and setting, and then really detonated everything it had set up in the last 20% of the book. I haven't read much about this time period, but I'm interested to find out more now that I've read this.

View all my reviews

Waiting In The Wings:  

In progress--why did I hold out this long?


  1. That SNL sketch was pretty hilarious :)

    I was wondering about Article 5 and whether it was good or not. It's on my TBR list and I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed it. I'm also waiting on a copy of Wanderlove that I won from YA Highway, so I'm kind of more excited about that too now :)

    1. Yeah--I liked the concept a lot, plus the PACING--I've started making a mental catalogue of books that do one thing really well, so I can go back to them when I'm having issues writing those things. I kind of mentioned in my review that I felt like I needed more time with the characters, who felt a little generic sometimes, but maybe in book two.

      Enjoy I really want to read Like Mandarin!

  2. I saw FRIENDS WITH KIDS a week or so ago--it reminded me of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, too! Great cast and I love a New York-centric movie. I read WANDERLOVE, and I also loved reading Bria's transformation in the book. Contemporary + travel = a great read.

    1. That speech that Adam Scott's character gives at the dinner table--and on New Year's Eve, no less--has to be an homage. Except, I liked that it wasn't the end of the movie, because unless you're Meg Ryan, things just aren't that simple.


Thanks for coming by! Please chime in!