Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I know you read this now! Now you know all my deepest darkest thoughts about... books. And we can talk about other things when you call, like the latest gossip involving my sister. (She called me today BTW.) Oh, and I'll see you Friday.

And now the rest of you are bored. Sorry. So, did y'all know that I spend a lot more time thinking about blogging than actually blogging? I swear it's true. I know all about what tomorrow's blog post will be. Heck, I've written most of it already. And I already knew what today was going to be. Today was going to be Professional Development Day. I have a few unblogged books that are really prof librarian type things. But, that was all dependant on my finishing my management book today and NOT watching all the M*A*S*H on my TiVo. Take a wild guess which actually happened. (I'll give you a hint...Through early morning fog I see/ Visions of the things to be/ The pains that are withheld for me/ I realize and I can see/ That That suicide is painless/ It brings on many changes/ And I could take or leave it if I please...)

I would like to note that I typed out the lyrics and then looked them up. I do NOT know the words to that song apparently.

Anywho... so now I have to think about what book to talk about today. Too many choices.

Some housekeeping first then, last Friday I posted over at Geek Buffet about how everyone says no one's reading but I don't buy it. I thought I had another item of housekeeping... I wonder what it was...

Anyway, what to review today? Hmmmm... so many options. Let's go with the book I finished on Friday, while eating cake. (Mmmmmmmm..... cake)

Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China by Rachel DeWoskin.

So... after college Rachel, the daughter of a Chinese prof at UMich (which as an amazing Chinese program) went off to China to work in a PR firm. Shortly thereafter she's asked to be in a soap opera mini-series called Foreign Babes in Beijing. All at the same time dealing with the post-college what-am-I-doing-with-my-life angst and the whole fish-out-of-water-expat angst thing.

Engaging and funny, this is less a look at a changing China (though it is that, but more if you have some background) and more a look at DeWoskin's life and friends and trying to find herself in a place where sometimes it's hard to tell which end is up. I laughed hysterically at some of her interactions, but I can't tell if that's just because I've had those same conversations.

I feel a lot of her explanations of China fall flat and seem forced, because that's not the main thrust of the book, so it throws the rhythm. She does a much better job at *showing* instead of telling us about changing Chinese life. But, I think this only works if you know what to look for and can provide your own analysis.

I liked this book a lot but I'm not sure what impact it would have on others who aren't China-nerds like me.

My favorite part was that she considerably upped my knowledge of swearing in Chinese. This will come in handy when I have to tell off pushy cab drivers next fall.

Speaking of a changing China... I was holding off on reviewing this one because I have something else checked out by the same author, so hey, let's review both together but... ah... screw that. We'll talk about it now. IT'S FLY BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS DAY HERE AT BIBLIO FILE.

The People's Republic of Desire by Annie Wang.

I rather enjoyed this. It's not deep, but it doesn't pretend to be. I hate how everything these days is either compared to Harry Potter or Sex and the City but I'm going to do it anyway. This would be more along the lines of SATC. I'm not entirely sure there's a plot besides the fact our narrator, Niu Niu, just returned from the US after living there for some time and getting her heart stomped on and is back living in China. A new, rich China with lots of girl friends with fun jobs and big cars and fancy restaurants. Very episodic but rather illuminating on how the young, hip, upper crust live in Beijing. Wang used to write a column in the South China Post and this book reads like several of the columns were just reprinted. Not a bad thing. It means short snappy chapters a la Tales of the City. It also means that the same characters get introduced to us several times, often in the same ways, which got a little annoying.

I really enjoyed all the vocabulary (once more, improving my saucy Chinese) but she didn't include tones or characters, which was disappointing, but possibly only for me, because I'm a dork like that. Overall, I liked it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Did I go see Poison last night? Why yes, yes I did. I rocked out in an awesome way. And luckily I work in a library, because I have a very quiet voice today. Screaming loudly all night long will do that to you...

It was a great weekend. Poison just put a nice big bow on it. Friday was my golden birthday,* and I treated myself to a day at the salon (I'm rocking a new cut and color. I'll post some pictures later) and then Dan and I went to see the Simpsons movie before meeting up with friends for drinks and dinner.

*True midwesterners will know what this means and will therefore divine how old I now am.

My parents gave me a hammock and so I spent Saturday enjoying that while reading the ever-exciting, yet very insightful, Managing Archival & Manuscript Repositories. I was planning on doing much of the same on Sunday, but it was rainy rainy rainy rainy. Bad for hammocking, good for my dry dry dry lawn and flowers. So I instead hung out on the couch. After awhile, I turned on the TV and guess what was playing? Right on the channel that was on? This Is Spinal Tap! How fitting! Then we saw POISON. Rock on.

Anyway, shall I talk about some books? I think I shall.

This weekend also saw me finishing the very fun Red Scared!: The Commie Menace in Propaganda and Popular Culture by Michael Barson and Steven Heller

This is not a history of communism (although it does offer plenty of that) nor is it pro- or anti- Commie. Instead, this is a light-hearted, but very well-researched, book about communism's role in American pop-culture.

It spends a lot of time looking the movies, books, news coverage, and pamphlets published and distributed during the twentieth century. Starting with reaction to the Russian revolution, and then moving to America's love affair with Russia during WWII and then the cold war proper and the COMMIE MENACE. It touches on the stories that took America by storm-- our love affair with J. Edgar Hoover, the McCarthy trials, and communism in Hollywood. It does not actually examine these issues in-depth but instead looks at how they American public perceived them and what type of news coverage they were getting at the time.

And that's the point of the book, how America perceived communism and what type of treatment it got in the news, as well as in our entertainment. It's a great look at these issues. Especially wonderful are the massive amounts of full-color illustrations of movie posters, book covers, comic books, trading cards and massive amounts of memorabilia and ephemera to illustrate everything...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This, that, and the other...

I'm still processing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Between that and the fact that First Among Sequels: A Thursday Next Novel is currently sitting on my doorstep (well, Dan's probably home from work and I sure he moved it into the house) AND! I'm seeing Jasper Fforde tomorrow at Politics and Prose the book part of my brain is more than a little... preoccupied.

Anywho... this spring, DC Comics launched the Minx line of comics. Unlike most of DCs other stuff-- which tends to be the serialized comic book (DC's imprint Vertigo publishes Fables which regular readers know I love. Also ooo! New Jack of Fables available for pre-order!) But I digress.

Back on Topic. Minx is a series of one-off graphic novels, aimed at teenage girls (although there are a surprising few number of girls writing and illustrating these books.) These aren't the 'high literature' type of graphic novel I tend to associate with one-offs (think Maus or American Born Chinese) but they're still very good-- the art is more "comic booky" than "manga-y" and there's no color. Color would be nice.

The first one published was The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg.

Jane's parents move her from Metro City to Surburbia after she was injured in a terrorist bombing. As the country becomes more and more scared by more and more frequent attacks in large cities, Jane tries to fit into her new small town life. The cool girls want to be her friend, and once upon a time, before, she would have accepted. This time though, she eschews them to form a band with the other Janes, social misfits with a common name. They're not overly eager to accept her either.

Once they do, they form a group called PLAIN (People Loving Art in Neighborhoods) that do random art attacks. But then these art attacks (like putting hats on parking meters) are deemed terrorist attacks and things unravel... (no pun intended.)

At the same time, Jane is writing letters to a John Doe coma victim from the terrorist bombing she was a victim of. Writing to him becomes her way of processing every thing that has happened to her.

This received generally rave reviews from the blog world. What Mary's Reading, Pink Ray Gun, The Last Book I Read, Big A little a for a mere spattering...

I really enjoyed it, but I agree most with Emily Reads's Haiku... I wanted more to the story and more to the characters-- I think the story was too much for the format and would have worked better in a more standard novel setting.

That said, I can't wait to read the rumored sequel.

Next up in Minx's August offering (out August 1st) is Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm's Good as Lily. Kim has written graphic novel's before, so his story is a better fit.

On Grace Kwon's 18th birthday, she gets whacked in the head with a pinata and the next thing she knows, she's surrounded by her 6, 29, and 80 year old self. She doesn't want any spoilers about her future but obviously, there's something each of them has to figure out before they can go back to where they're supposed to be.

Meanwhile, funding's been cut for the school play (in which Grace has the lead) so they need to find a way to save the play and to stop the other Graces from ruining current-Grace's life!

Overall, I do like this imprint and want to read the other titles in the series, but with a new one coming out every month at $10/pop (not a bad price, but it adds up) I can't be buying them, so I need to get my local libraries to get on this... Clubbing, especially, looks good.

Full disclosure: Both titles reviewed were given to me by the nice people at the DC Comics book at ALA.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

It is done (safe to read)

I finished it. And it FUCKING KICKS ASS.

Click here for some initial thoughts. Spoilers abound.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Poetry Friday! Potter Edition!

OK, this isn't a poem, it's a song. By The Ramones. And, technically, we're down to 12.5 hours here on the East Coast. Woo!

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin' to do no where to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
Just get me to the airport put me on a plane
Hurry hurry hurry before I go insane
I can't control my fingers I can't control my brain
Oh no oh oh oh oh

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin' to do no where to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
Just put me in a wheelchair get me on a plane
Hurry hurry hurry before I go insane
I can't control my fingers I can't control my brain
oh oh oh oh

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin' to do no where to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
Just put me in a wheelchair get me to the show
Hurry hurry hurry before I go loco
I can't control my fingers I can't control my toes
Oh no oh oh oh oh

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin' to do no where to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
Just put me in a wheelchair get me to the show
Hurry hurry hurry before I go loco
I can't control my fingers I can't control my toes
Oh no oh oh oh oh

Ba-ba-bam-ba ba-ba-ba-bam-ba I wanna be sedated
Ba-ba-bam-ba ba-ba-ba-bam-ba I wanna be sedated
Ba-ba-bam-ba ba-ba-ba-bam-ba I wanna be sedated
Ba-ba-bam-ba ba-ba-ba-bam-ba I wanna be sedated

And.... here are some book reviews to keep us entertained until later tonight.

Mapping the World of Harry Potter: An Unauthorized Exploration of the Bestselling Fantasy Series of All Time ed. by Mercedes Lackey

I finished reading this yesterday morning while waiting for the nice people at Honda to fix my fuel door. This was actually quite good. I picked it up after my boss showed it to me and I read part of Sarah Zettel's essay "Hermione Granger and the Charge of Sexism". This is not a book of predictions, but rather well-thought out commentary on different aspects of Harry. If you can get your hands on a copy before tonight, check out Lackey's family's Harry Potter drinking game. Hysterical. It'll be outdated soon, so I wish I had read it earlier so I could have recommended it earlier. Ah well.

And... here's my review of the last volume of another popular series, which, um, Holy Cow, I read in October...

The End

When we last saw the Baudelaire orphans, they were trapped in a boat with the evil Count Olaf, drifting out to sea. They finally reach an island where other people can see through Olaf’s silly disguises and nefarious (a word here which means overly scheming and really just not very nice at all) ways. But are they safe? Does isolation and conformity lead to safety? This bittersweet end to the popular A Series of Unfortunate Events doesn’t answer all of our questions, but it answers enough and Snicket tells us which questions he will not answer, and why.

Many people have complained that the end is inconclusive, and not necessarily happy and that Snicket leaves too many threads unfinished but...

Would we really have been happy with it any other way? If it wrapped up nicely and succinctly, would it still have been A Series of Unfortunate Events? No. We were told from the beginning not to expect a happy ending and Snicket kept his promise. But it's not a sad ending. And we don't know how the all the threads played out because... well, in life, you know what happens to you, and you know what happens to some other people, but you don't know what happens to everyone.

It didn't answer all my questions and in some ways left me very disappointed but it was the perfect way to end this series and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Historical Context can be Everything

To start the day, I went to see Norman Borlaug receive the Congressional Gold Medal. It was a pretty great way to start the day. In addition to me and Dr. Borlaug, most of the Congressional leadership was there, as well as the President. Pretty good way to start the day.

Then I get to work and find out that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now available online. I'm not happy about this. Read all about it over Geek Buffet.

But for now, some book reviews!

So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

One the surface, this is a gripping and exciting story of survival, based on Kawashima Watkins life. She lived a comfortable wife with her parents, older brother, and older sister in a nice house in a bamboo grove in northern Korea. With the outbreak of WWII, the Koreans rebelled against the Japanese. Yoko's father was posted to Manchuria (also under Japanese control) and her brother was taken prisoner. Yoko, her mother, and her sister, then lead a harrowing tale of escape as they try to get to Pusan so they can get to Japan. Yoko witnesses rape and is the victim of a bombing. Then, once they get there, they must survive with no money in a country ravaged by the end of the war, and try to find their missing family members.

This book was in the news a lot last year as it was challenged for classroom inclusion. The problem with this book, wasn't really the violence and rape (of which there was quite a lot for a children's book, but not gratuitously) but the lack of historical context. If you knew nothing about the Asian theater in the lead up to WWII (and most elementary school don't)... after reading this book, it'd look like the Koreans were the bad guys and the Japanese were innocent victims. After all, to a young girl, that was the way it appeared. Not only that, but there are no end notes to put the book into context. Kawashima Watkins never discusses Japan's involvement in the war, or the fact that the Japanese occupation of Korea was brutal.

The book does show that war is an awful, awful thing and there are innocent victims on both sides, it needs context for the young readers it's aimed at.

My Brother, My Sister, and I by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

This is the sequel and picks up with the Kawashima siblings fighting for survival. The book starts with a fire in their warehouse. Yoko's sister, Ko is gravely injured. Yoko and Ko are blamed with starting the fire and murdering two bodies found in the ashes. That plot wraps up about half way through the book, and the struggle to survive and find Yoko's father (who is a war prisoner in Siberia) continues.

As far as context goes, this one does not have the overwhelming problems that the first does. It's also helpful to read, because I was disappointed that Bamboo Grove did not have an epilogue. But as far as the prose goes, it lacks the gripping quality of the first. How do you tell someone their life has plotting and pacing problems? I don't know. But how the murder investigation played out seemed highly unlikely (what do I know though? I wasn't there) but more importantly, that's just the first half of the book. The second half seems a bit boring in comparison.

The one problem this book has is that it never address why Yoko's father was being held prisoner. She's always maintained he was against the war and did no wrong. Now, students of history will find it hard to believe that a Japanese official station in Manchuria during this time did no wrong. But I'm not going to go so far as those that claim he was an official at Unit 731 (a Japanese unit that carried out horrific medical experiments in Manchuria during WWII). Because I just don't know.

Both are great books that I recommend as long as they can be read in a the proper context, which is going to need some help.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Poetry, erm... Saturday

So, I was going to post this yesterday, on Friday. But I was sick, so it didn't happen, as I spent all yesterday afternoon sleeping...

So, first, a history lesson:

In 1644, the Ming Dynasty fell to the conquesting Manchu Dynasty. Ming means bright, and the character is made up of the characters for the sun and the moon. The new dynasty took the name Qing, which means clear and has the water radical, thereby dousing the Ming. (The Qing would last until the Nationalist Revolution of 1911.) The final decades of the Ming and the first of the Qing were a time of changing social mores. During this time, there were many female poets who started gaining slight fame, even if many were anonymous. One place such poems were found were written on walls. More information and more poems can be found The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China (which is a great anthology, btw).

Now, a poem, written on a wall in the late Ming in Xinjia by someone only known as the "girl from Guji":

My silvery-red singlet is partly covered by dust,
Only a single dying lamp to keep my company.
I am just like the pear blossom after a rain storm:
Strewn all about and never making it to spring.

Now, more history:

Some of the greatest Chinese operas were written during the Ming dynasty. One such opera is The Peony Pavilion. In this opera, Du Liniang is a young maiden who dreams of the lover she hasn't yet met. She paints her portrait and then wastes away. Meanwhile, Liu Mengmei comes to the garden where Du Liniang has hidden her portrait. He falls in love with her ghost and his love brings her back to life. There's a lot more to the opera than just that, but that's the relevant part for the point I'm meandering towards.

So, the opera had a great effect on the upper class women on China. Many women responded Du's character and, like Du, wasted away and died.

In 1694, a poet named Wu Ren published The Three Wives Commentary, an edition of The Peony Pavilion with literary commentary written by his three wives.

Now, a book review:

In Peony in Love by Lisa See, See takes this commentary and imagines the lives of these three wives and how the commentary came to be written.

Peony lives a proper life and has never left her family compound on Hangzhou's West Lake. She is to be married to her father's friend's son. But on her birthday, her father stages a production of The Peony Pavilion and, when taking a break, she accidentally meets a man and falls in love. Unable to marry the man she loves, and faced with marrying a man she has never met, she becomes so wrapped up in writing her thoughts on The Peony Pavilion that she forgets to eat. Days before her wedding, she dies.

Through a series of misunderstandings, her ancestor tablet remains undotted, and she becomes a hungry ghost. She haunts her husband's family and influences his subsequent wives to continue working on her project...

This is a story that needs background information--you might want to read the ending Author's Notes before you read the book. See's imagining is tender and well-written and pays close attention to historical detail. Her portrait of Hangzhou in the years following the Cataclysm (the name given to the overthrow of the Ming) and the changing role of women during this time of extreme political upheaval. I was excited to see a tale narrated by a hungry ghost, and a sympathetic one at that.

I loved it. I know a lot of people have said that it's not as good as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but I haven't read it yet, so I can't compare. Also, I want to thank Lotus Reads for the recommendation!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Forgotten Books...

You have a massive home library right? Kimbooktu wants to see it! Send her a picture!

Here are some random reviews of books I read too long ago and don't really remember...

Snap by Alison McGhee

Edwina is a big OCD, I think. Her arm is covered in rubber bands to remind her of things. Covering her mouth when she laughs, not to tip back in chairs... whenever she forgets one, *snap*. In addition there are the lists that order her life. Edwina's friend Sally's grandmother, Willie, is dying. Without Willie, who will take care of Sally? What Sally needs is support and someone to be there, but Edwina hates change so much, she'd rather ignore what's going on than be a good friend.

Well written, but it in the end, it just left me underwhelmed. Maybe if it was longer, but, I was pretty bored by the end. It never grabbed me.

Dear Baby Girl by Jane Orcutt

This was my first forray into Christian fiction. Merrilee is 15 and pregnant. Recently orphaned, she's on her way to Austin to have her baby and put it up for adoption. The book changes view points between Merrilee and the letters she's writing to her unborn child, and the couple who will be adopting the baby.

The God aspect didn't bother me. What bothered me was this:

Merrilee lived in a trailer with her mom, a woman with a, er, reputation. One day, Merrilee goes to the lake with her mom's boyfriend's son, who rapes her, she ends up pregnant. When her mom finds out how Merrilee got knocked up, she commits suicide.

Why is it in books on teen pregnancy, the girls are always poor and from the wrong side of the tracks? And if they're "good girls" they're NEVER good girls who made a mistake, but rather rape victims?

And the ending? Gargh.

That, and Merrilee was pretty flat as a character. I mean, after such a crappy thing, I think it would have been MUCH more believable if Merrilee had just once questioned her faith, or at least was a little angry at God for testing her in such a manner.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This, that, and the other

I should review some books. I'm not really in the mood though. I'm a little angsty for no apparent reason. And tired. Semester ends tomorrow and I really can't wait. I've been working really hard on this project and it's been a good process, but I'm ready to be done with it.

BUT! I'm over at Geek Buffet today talking about the hip librarian coverage over the weekend.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Towers and Spells, Homework Clubs and Depression

Well, here it is, late on a Sunday night. I've spent all weekend trying to pull this project together (well, my bits and bobs of the project at any rate). There was a power outage, a trip to the grocery store, and a trip to the garden center. I went to school to work on my project and Dan made the backyard look awesome. We have lilies and 3 peony bushes. I'm mildly obsessed with peonies. There will be a peony related books post soon...

Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes

Despite the title, this is not a fairy tale. Rapunzel is not trapped in a tower by a witch. Rapunzel is just a girl going by a name she thinks fits. She is trapped in after school homework club, as her father is once again under an evil spell. Her mother calls it C. D. (short of clinical depression), but Rapunzel recognizes what it really is.

Shortly after her father is rehospitalized for his depression, Rapunzel finds part of a letter stuffed into a chair, to a post office box. She doesn't know who it is for, but she knows her dad thought the recipient was the secret to his success as a writer a poet and a human being. She doesn't want the friendship to end just because her father is in the hospital, not talking. So she writes the post office box faithfully every day, waiting for an answer, hoping for a way to help her father...

In addition to missing her father and trying to survive homework club, Rapunzel has to navigate the normal school stuff, and the not so normal. Her teachers are pushing her to the gifted and talented class, and they don't appreciate her take on their stupid assignments.

Rapunzel's a great character, creative, smart, and bright, but still sounding like a kid. I really wish I had this book to read when I was in late elementary school. She reminds me a bit of Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik, but with a better sense of humor and the bizarre. In addition to the letters, she sends the box answers to her homework, her poems, and pieces of stories she's writing.

You have to love a book with subtle allusions to The Little Prince:

From what I hear, they keep a student's IQ score locked up like it was KFC's secret recipe. But I opened the letter that they sent home with me last week before Mom got home from work. There was a graph that looked like a boa constrictor that had swallowed an elephant. The elephant bulge was where most people's scores are. Me, I was either the elephant's trunk or his tail, depending on which end of the elephant you supposed the boa constrictor swallowed first. Anyway, I'm what they call "three standard deviations above the norm." (Sounds sinister, doesn't it?)...

"The GT program was made for big thinkers like you."

Right. Like I even WANT to go to a special classroom with a bunch of snobby elephant trunks. (They'd never think of themselves as tails!)

I thought I had this book figured out fairly early on, and I was delighted to find that when the end came, I was totally wrong.

This is a great book that deals with big issues realistically, without going into the deep end of angst and melodrama.

Full disclosure: I met Sara at Mitali's book launch party and then we chilled out at kidslit drink night. I was afraid I wouldn't like the book, because I really like Sara. I was blown away by this book, at times I was unable to put it down, except to mull over an exceptionally fine passage or idea.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Poetry Friday

It's Friday. That means it's poem day!

So... here's a poem:

The clouds their backs together laid,
The north begun to push,
The forests galloped till they fell,
The lightning skipped like mice;
The thunder crumbled like a stuff—
How good to be safe in tombs,
Where nature’s temper cannot reach,
Nor vengeance ever comes!

-Emily Dickinson

I know it's morbid. It's Dickinson, it's bound to be, but there has been some severe weather this week, so... um, yeah.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

like a mad man howling into the night

Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda by J. P. Stassen translated by Alexis Siegal

Deogratias is a boy who knows two hot sisters, so when the older rejects him, he'll go for the younger. Just a teenage boy, trying to get some action, like teenage boys everywhere.

But that was then, before. This is now, after.

After the genocide. After the brutal murder of those hot sisters, who were Tutsi. That was then, when he was just a boy, a Hutu boy.

Now, at night, he sees the dogs eating the bodies, he sees the insides of their bellies rise up and dissolve into stars. Now, at night, he is a dog, unless he can get some Urwagwa (banana beer) to hold the madness at bay, for at least another night.

This is less a tale of what happened then, but more what happens now, to the survivors, to the guilty, to the multitudes of guilty. To those guilty of crimes. To those guilty of surviving when those he cared most about didn't.

The graphic novel format, with Deogratias now and flashing back to then is potent. The graphic representation of this madness conveys things differently than words could. It also makes the flashbacks more powerful as the clues that we've switched times are visual, not textual.

Not an easy read, by any means, Stassen has no love in his heart for the role played by the French, as shown in his portrayal of the boorish French army sergeant, who has returned to Rwanda as a tourist.

The introductory notes by Siegal are invaluable in placing things in context, as the book touches on lesser details that many of us who only know the popular news coverage never picked up.


Final done, fireworks watched, and all is lovely-jubley with the world.

Anyway, a review, because that is what we, here, at Biblio File, are all about.

Love Is a Many Trousered Thing by Louise Rennison

According to the opening letter, this book was originally supposed to be called Trouser Snakes A-Go-Go which would have been even more full of hilariousity.

Anyway, let's see, last we saw the fantabulous Miss Georgia, Masimo had just told her she was his one and only and then Robbie, the original Sex God, showed up from Kiwi-a-go-go land. Ful of sophistocity and maturousity, Georgia mumbled some rubbish about having to catch a train and ran away.

So, as this installment starts, Georgia is sitting on a wall in the park, trying to catch her breath, as running in heels is hard. Now, she has found herself back on the rack of lurve. She has gone into the bakery of love and accidentally walked out with two cakes. Or possibly no cakes, as Masimo hasn't called and she's still not entirely sure what Robbie is doing in town and what he wants. And, of course, there is always the Wet Lindsay factor. And Dave the Laugh has gotten himself a group of titchy little fans. Georgia wants advice from the Hornmeister himself, but can't quite bring herself to ask, and she's not entirely sure why.

This book is basically one big nervy b. as Georgia tries to figure out what's going on. There are bouts of hilariousity including the bison dance and the invention of snot disco dancing. Uncle Eddie continues to grow more disturbing.

Georgia has some big desicions to make and--get this-- she actually makes some. And actually talks to her Mutti a bit.

Erlack a pogoes!

Not as funny as Startled by His Furry Shorts (which is the funniest so far). And don't worry, it doesn't seem that Georgia has grown up at all.

Jas is starting to wear on me, but I'm liking Rosie more and more. Where did Honor and Soph come from? Did I forget them from Startled by His Furry Shorts? Or did they just appear out of nowhere?

Well, all's left to do know is sit on our hands until the next one. Luckily, this volume not only has the customary glossary written by Georgia herself, but a few other appendixes. We not only get the new and revised snog scale, but a run down of the ace gang AND the lyrics and dance moves to the Bison Dance and Snot Disco. So maybe instead of sitting on our hands, we should maybe stomp stomp to the left, leg kick leg kick?


Also, for your viewing pleasure, this is what a Robin Reliant looks like. She's right. It is a clown car.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Those SASSy Girls

Easy Peasey Lemony Squeezy. Georgia has been read. Review forthcoming.

Reptile World was also awesome. I recommend them highly. I got to pet the biggest python I've ever seen (and, apparently, he's a baby) and help put her back in her box. Man, that snake was HEAVY. (He ain't heavy, he's my python).

Anyways, one of the downfalls of my "no checking out new books" mantra has been the Students Across the Seven Seas books. I've now read all the ones in the series. I reviewed a bunch during the 48-hour challenge here.

So here's the rest of 'em!

The Sound of Munich by Suzanne Nelson

Siena Bernstein lives in Southern California with her mom, where they run a coffee shop. Siena is off to Munich for the semester, the first time she's left California, let alone the country. Siena's father died when she was 3 months old, and her goal in Germany is to finish the last, unfinished task on his life to-do list. When he was a small boy, one of his father's friends smuggled his family out of East Germany, allowing them to move to America. All his life, Siena's father wanted to find this man and thank him, but was unable to. Siena wants to track him down. Add to this new friends (I love Chen, the super braniac biology-nerd cynical poet who looks like a fashion plate). Plus, Siena has a total vibe going with Stefan, the cute (yet verboten) RA. Too bad superficial, bitchy Briana does too.

I loved this one, because the plot to find Peter Schwalm and thank him was really serious, but well done. It added a lot of depth and made me cry more than once. Siena is also a great, free spirit who doesn't let a lot get to her-- I really liked her.

Getting the Boot by Peggy Guthart Strauss

This was an interesting one because Kelly is a very different character than most of the SASS girls. Most of the SASS programs has the one high-maintence cheerleader girl who doesn't seem that interested in the country. Kelly's that girl. Italy sounded like fun--the boys are so cute! But when Kelly spends every night clubbing and breaking curfew with a boy who is nothing but BAD NEWS, she alienates all the girls in her program and has yet to make it to class on time. It gets to the point where Kelly either has to shape up or ship out. Can she get her act together enough to salvage what's left of her summer in Rome?

This was interesting because we usually don't get someone has shallow as Kelly as a main character in the SASS series. Also, the subplot of Kelly's bad-girl exploits (lots of drugs people!) is a little edgier than we usually see in this series, so that was a nice touch.

I wasn't as big a fan of Westminster Abby by Micol Ostow. I was really excited about this one, because it takes place in London. And I do love me some England. Abby has super over-protective parents who are shipping her to London for the semester to get her away from her college-boy boyfriend. But when Abby finds out James has been cheating on her this whole time, she thinks London just might be the break she needs to find her own two feet. And cute British boy Ian just might help her do that...

There were a few little things and two big things that really got me about this book. At one point, Abby's friend Zoe is listening to "subdued eighties New Age angst music". Now, Zoe is a punk rock girl. I think Ostow meant "New Wave music" because she'd be all over The Smiths and Joy Division. I'm not sure what eighties New Age angst music is. Can New Age be angsty?

Then, after a trip to Dublin and the Guiness Brewery, Abby is excited to find out how beer is distilled. Uh... beer isn't distilled. It's brewed. And if you've been the Guiness Brewery, you would know that, I hope.

Here's the big problem. There's a trip to Manchester, which would be SO COOL because Manchester is my favorite city in the whole world and I'd pack everything up and sell most of my books to move back there in a heartbeat. (I lived there from last July 2002-late June 2003.) Abby's guide book calls it a "throbbing urban centre" (which is totally is)

but when Abby gets there, the car ride from the train station...was short but winding as the car cut a twisted path through old, picturesque country roads. Stone walls lined the motorway and sheep grazed lazily on gray-green fields. This was the England of Bronte novels...

That's not Manchester! That's f-ing Yorkshire! Also, yes, you can get England countryside like that not far from Manchester, you're more likely to find mountains (hello Peak District! Remember Pride and Prejudice? Darbyshire is just one over!) Plus, there are 3 train stations actually in Manchester, 2 of which are smack in the middle of city centre. You cannot get to countryside on a short ride from there. The southern train station, maybe. It's in the suburbs, so it might be more country-like, but the whole trip to Manchester wasn't to Manchester. It was to nameless English countryside and broke my heart.

Also, I wanted to smack her for the decisions she made about her love life. WRONG CHOICE SWEETIE!

Pardon My French by Cathy Hopka

This was weird because Nicole is so annoying. She does NOT want to be in Paris, she wants to be at home with her boyfriend, Nate. She's moved around a lot and all she wants for the future is to go to college wherever Nate goes, get married, and have a lot of babies. Nicole doesn't even try to learn French or enjoy herself, but slowly, she comes to realize there is more in life and that Paris doesn't totally suck.

Although I spent the first half of the book wanting to smack Nicole, I really enjoyed her journey of self-discovery. It was a nice ending, but not not so neat and tidy and quick that it was icky. It seemed really natural. Now I want to go to Paris to find a bistro of cafe... Mmmm... Paris. I want to go to Paris. Badly.

Girl Overboard by Aimee Ferris

I really liked this one. Marina is from small town Vermont and off for a semester on a cruise ship to study marine biology and to rethink her relationship with her boyfriend, Damon. We learn lots about marine life, as well as the culture of the different islands and countries they visit. Shallow bitchy French girls! Hott Aussies! Tiger Sharks! Turtles! Saving Baby Dolphins! And IM at sea.

Marina's questions about her relationship are great and true.

How many times can I say "true" before it stops meaning anything? Ah well. Ahoy there! Anchors Away! and Bon Voyage.

Dan gets back from Argentina tomorrow. I can't wait. 3 months until we're off to China. Mmmm... China. That's where SASS should go next!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


You wanna know how difficult my life is right now?

Well, I have a final exam due tomorrow at 11:55pm. I am not very far along on it because I've been slaving over my final project (which is going to be awesome, but still needs a lot of work.)

So, tomorrow=no fireworks, and I live in DC which has the greatest fireworks of all, and I LOVE fireworks. Poo. Plus, Dan comes home tomorrow. I'm hoping he'll be horribly jetlagged and will need to sleep all afternoon so I don't feel badly about blowing him off to work on my final. (Hi Honey! I hope you had a good time in Argentina! You can tell me all about it tomorrow, because I need to work on my test now! Go away!)

And, just this very minute, the very nice UPS man came to my door and gave me this, 2 days early.

How am I supposed to concentrate on usability testing and software implementation plans when a bright pink copy of Love Is a Many Trousered Thing is waiting for me?

Plus, Reptile World is coming to the library tonight and I'm introducing the program and such. I'm not such a big fan of reptiles. Oh well. I hoping there will be lots of kids who will be excited about such things...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Shanghai Jewish Ghetto Life

Ok, so, I finally checked out JacketFlap and it's totally eaten my life. Holy Cow. You should check it out too. It'll eat your life as well, but in a good way. Basically, it aggregates all those kidlit blogs out there in one handy place. Holy Cow.

Apparently, Chasing Ray has instigated the first Monday of the month as overlooked book day. I couldn't think of any unblogged overlooked books. It's crunch time with school and my brain, she has stopped working.

So! Instead! I'm blogging about 2 books about an overlooked slice of history, and that is the European Jewish refugee settlement in Shanghai during WWII. Because Shanghai was a free port, you didn't need papers and its doors stayed open long after most of the world stopped accepting Jews trying to escape Hitler. (You did, however, need papers to get out of Europe.)

Ten Green Bottles: The True Story of One Family's Journey from War-torn Austria to the Ghettos of Shanghai by Vivian Jeanette Kaplan is the story of the author's mother's escape from Vienna. Offering stunning portrait of pre-war Vienna, one is struck by how quickly things happened in shutting down Jewish life, and how much of it occurred before Kristelnacht. Once in Shanghai, one is also struck by the sheer poverty of the people--both native and refugee. When you read or think of Shanghai, especially during the 30s and 40s, you have images of swanky nightclubs, Chinese jazz, and communists having secret meetings. (Or, rather, that's what I think of when I think of Shanghai during this time period.)

But the Austrians set up a little Vienna and Nini survives-- even marrying and buying part of a bar. Then the Japanese take control of the city and force all the Jews to the Hongkew ghetto, which they are not allowed to leave. News is scarce and as WWII winds down, rumors of extermination plot are rife. Then, once the war is over and they're free, it's time for the Communist Revolution and once again, the survivors need to find a place to live.

What's most striking about this book is the portrait of Vienna--especially the juxtaposition of Nini's cafe culture and political discussions with her friends and the proper uptightness of the female relatives in her mother's living room.

Nini doesn't interact much with the Chinese people in Shanghai and doesn't speak about them much outside small mentions of her horror at their poverty and the corpses left to rot, or freeze, depending on the season. This is distressing, but understandable as her fight for survival doesn't allow for this interaction. There are also a few minor historical misstatements-- she has Paris falling to the Nazis in May of 1940, when really it was June (ooo! shamless plug for one of my favorite books, Suite Fran├žaise).

The book is written in the first person present tense, which at first seems a really odd choice, but works as the story unfolds, and adds an immediacy to the language in the plot as Nini's world crumbles around her in horror. I highly recommend.

A fictional YA-level account of the same time period is Shanghai Shadows by Lois Ruby. Ilse Shpann is also from Vienna, but the bulk of her story takes place in China, not Austria. Ilse is younger and better-off than Nini and it shows. Nini is almost an adult when she goes to Shanghai--Ilse is, IIRC, twelve. And it shows. Like Esperanza from Esperanza Rising, Ilse is a brat that really grated on me. And she should be a brat--a girl this age who is used to a high end lifestyle and forced to live a very poor lifestyle is going to throw a fit now and then.

This has a more exciting plot than mere survival. Because of Ilse's age, she's not involved in the day-to-day decisions that her parents have to make to survive. Ilse spends a lot more time exploring Shanghai and gets involved in the resistance. There is also more information about the life led by non-Jewish foreigners.

What this book lacks is a strong sense of place, which Ten Green Bottles has in spades. Ruby's Shanghai is generically Chinese--you don't get a solid sense of Shanghai (which has a weird architecture) or the time period. I was confused on how her mother was able to study at Cal Berkeley, because for a long time, American universities had quotas on how many Jewish people they could let in, and I was curious on how that would have affected her chances...

One major bone to pick comes with the language. Some background: Standard Mandarin, or putonghua is based on the Beijing (northern) accent. This involves sticking a lot of "r" sounds on the end of words. Shanghai has its own dialect, Shanghaiese, which is crazy, but counts seperately from Standard Mandarin as one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.

Now, Ilse learns Chinese on the streets from her urchin friend. She would have learned Shanghaiese, so when she utters Xihu zai nar (Where is West Lake?), I cringe. This is perfect textbook Mandarin. Nar doesn't exsist outside northern China except in textbooks. Even non-Shanghaiese general Mandarin woudld be Na li in the South--Xihu zai na li. Gargh.

But all of a sudden, it is July, here's a rundown on the major events of the month in my world:

July 4: Holiday! No work! Final exam due! no fireworks for me :(
July 6: Amazon's projected delivery date for Love Is a Many Trousered Thing!
July 11: Final Project/Presention due! Last day of class! Harry Potter Movie!
July 14-15: See Harry Potter movie!
July 16: First day of class!
July 19: Harry Potter party at work
July 21: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
July 25: Amazon's projected delivery date for Thursday Next: First Among Sequels!
July 27: GOLDEN BIRTHDAY! (For those not from the MidWest, I'm turning 27)

*phew* And then August involves a trip to Wisonsin, and one to Iowa. State Fair, HERE I COME!

Harry Potter Meme

Kelly's telling us we all get to play. Yay! I like memes better when everyone plays-- where tagging is fun, sometimes it seems like a popularity contest and kids get left out.

Sorry, there have been hordes of kids in today with clique-y issues. Lots of kids feeling left out. I don't want bloggers to feel the same...


1. Butterbeer or pumpkin juice?
Butterbeer. I love butter. I love beer. I'm not sure how the two go together, but I imagine something sweet and creamy, almost like eggnog, but not as thick... and not spicy, but you know what I mean? Maybe?

2. What House would you most likely (or want to) be in in Hogwarts?
Don't we all want to be Gryffindor? I'd like to say that I'd be a Ravenclaw.

3. If you were an animagus, what animal would you turn into?
See, do you get to pick anigmagus animals, or is it something linked to you that you have no control over, like your Patronus? If I had no control, the animal I most resemble is a slug. If I get to pick, I want to be a... lion.

4. What character do you empathize with, or resemble best?
Hermione, but I wish I was Ginny.

5. What position do you play at Quidditch?
I'd be awful at Quidditch, but Beater sounds fun. But I have no depth perception, so I think I'd just get bludgers in my face all the time, knocking me off my broom.

6. Which teacher is your favorite?
McGonagall all the way baby!

7. Any Harry Potter 7 predictions?
Millicent Bulstrode and Seamus will have a love child who will accidentally shoot Mr. Burns.

Oh wait, no. Harry will defeat Voldemort. Snape will die protecting one of the kiddies, because he was good after all. A jerk, but on the right side of the fight. Neville, Luna, and Ginny aren't going to wait in the background and will bully their way into the fight as well, a la Order of the Phoenix. Harry and Ginny will get back together. Ron and Hermione will snog like there's no tomorrow, because, for them, there might not be. Bellatrix is going down and Neville will have a hand in it. Percy will get his head out of his duff and make nice with his family, but it will take something big to get the siblings to welcome him back. Umbridge will survive, but will have to eat her hat. Hogwarts will reopen, but the magic trio won't be there. Seamus's mam won't let him come back to school, nor the Parvatis. There will be a massive horrifying attack on Hogwarts that will kill off a lot of background characters. Dudley is a wizard. (She said someone will display magical ability late in life, I'm going for Dudders).

The following people will survive: McGonagall, Ginny, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Hagrid, one Weasley parent, Lupin, Tonks, the Dursleys, Mrs. Figg, Firenze, Umbridge.

The following people will die: Voldemort, Snape, Pettigrew, Bellatrix, one Weasley parent, a Weasley brother or two, Moody, Ollivander, Colin Creevy, Luna, the mean centaur (Bane? I keep thinking McBain, but that's from Simpsons).

I don't think she'll be so cruel as to kill off only one twin. I think they'll both survive, or both die. I'm hoping survive. I'm really hoping she doesn't kill Harry off, and I'm not expecting her to, but I also won't be surprised if he dies.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

New Look

Ok kids, as you can see, we're rocking a new look here at Biblio File. Let me know what you think and if it isn't working on your browser...

Also, this is a warped version of the Blogger Template Rounders4. If you're hep to such things, can you tell me how to make those blue corners disappear around my spankin' new logo?