WIB: Nov 17-23 (NaBlo: Day 28)
I always loved the Taffy Sinclair/Fabulous Five books by Betsy Haynes when I was growing up. It was a pain trying to get my hands on all the Taffy Sinclair books back in the old days. Finding the one where she’s on a soap opera was a big deal! But the series humanized bullies on both sides–the snobby Taffy and the gossipy Jana. So I decided to pick up another of Haynes’s books, The Great Mom Swap, where neighboring bffs with mom issues go live with each other’s families. Not the mom switching, as the title would have your believe. That’s a whole other…TV show?
Oh, the days before 9/11! When you could just jump on a plane and go to Hawaii, and your parents don’t care that you’re going with someone else’s par–wait. That makes no sense. I cannot imagine a scenario where this would be a thing. “Three days in Hawaii with someone else’s parents! Sure thing, middle-school-age-pumpkin!” My mom wouldn’t even take me to Hawaii when I was in high school. (Yes, still bitter.) One kid’s mother make a lot of health food. One kid’s mother feels her daughter is too unmotivated. Don’t ask me which is which, because I’ve mostly forgotten. One of the things I liked about this book is that the chubbier one whose mom bugs her about food is the prettier one that gets more attention from boys. That’s a nice change from any book I’ve ever read ever. The non-chubby one is obsessed with how tall she is, and decides to eat junk food and drink coffee to stop growing so much.
The chubby one is a Writer and thinks she can sell her I-hate-mom fan fic.
At the end, NOTHING FREAKIN CHANGES except they all kinda miss each other, especially the non-mom parts.
Also, they reference Flowers in the Attic and never once mention the incest. I can’t tell if this is a reflection of how normalized adult reading was for kids before the Young Adult genre blew up like crazy, or just the author’s lack of knowledge about the book? Or a weird way of foreshadowing her crush on her “new brother,” her bff’s brother? I don’t even know, man.
Losing Joe’s Place shows me that Gordon Korman, in his younger days, used a LOT of the same themes. A lot. But it’s still its own book. Three teens take over one’s brother’s apartment for the summer and have to deal with the craziness of the city (some Canadian city, sorry Jillz), their weird landlord (who could be named Stock Crazy Guy #1, until about the middle of the book) and girls and whatnot. It’s super-fun, really, and includes a guy whose name translates to Rootbeer Rootbeer, one of the most zany of Korman’s zany crew.
Quick read, lots of giggles, good for tweens, probably out of print.
On the way other side of the spectrum, I finally finished up Stripped Down: Lesbian Sex Stories, because I got a signed copy at BEA. As I usually skip the sex scenes in romance novels, this was a tough read for me, but made tougher by the fact that gender-bending in writing is a tougher mind-tweak than gender-bending in film. Seeing the word “he” over and over again for a male-identified character was difficult for me to resolve with the whole “lesbian” thing. And I’d like to think I get it, and I’m open-minded, and I don’t care if a woman identifies as a man in any or all aspects of life, or vice-versa, but my brain still had a tough time getting over the he/lesbian thing. I think a big part of that is that suburban sexuality is heteronormative, and I don’t think I even met someone who identified as butch in the suburbs until I was in my mid-twenties. I just assumed if you were suburban and butch, you got the hell out immediately. (She did spend most of her time in Philly.) And even that was where she identified as a butch woman, not a queer “he” or any of the combinations in this book.
But yeah, lots of stories by lots of authors, something for everyone, I suppose, if maybe only one thing for each person, because the range is so wide. Taormino states that this book is about talking and relationships as much as it’s about sex, and I agree with her that there’s a lot more going on than just sex in many of the stories. But ultimately, I rushed through it because I wasn’t all that interested. I’m not the target audience anyway.
I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself (I guess because I picked up some discards), but I keep reading Anne Stuart’s Blue series even thought I don’t like it. But I tell you now, I am done. Ice Blue has ended it for me. It’s incredibly readable, if you don’t mind a lack of making sense. And the characters are great, if you don’t mind yet another underwritten heroine because the author is obviously in love with her hero, who doesn’t have a lot of growth so you spend the first half of the book with him basically going through the same conflict cycle over and over and over until you want to throw the book down, but you don’t because Stuart was your first romance love. God I’m afraid to reread Catspaw and Catspaw II.
Summer Hawthorne is less wishy-washy than most of Stuart’s gals, but often as dim. Takashi O’Brien (whatever, Miguel O’Hara) gets called “Taka” by the author a lot, and then suddenly by Summer, as if we should all know that very common nickname. Still, if a guy introduces himself as William, you don’t start calling him Bill or Will, do you? And yet that’s what Summer does, because that’s what Stuart does, and it’s sloppy.
There’s a lot of sloppy writing in this. Plot holes. Characters introduced at awkward times, half-written, whatever. Stuart needs a better editor, I think, but that seems to be an issue with a lot of long-time writers; the companies will just publish whatever instead of asking for a tighter, better book. I guess everyone’s on a schedule.
Anyway, Blue heroines seem to always be forgiving the guys for almost killing them, but in this one, dude actually drowns her. Stuart is the mistress of Stockholm Syndrome, basically.
Marilyn Singer edits I Believe in Water: Twelve Brushes with Religion but forgets to edit Gregory Maguire enough, in my opinion. God, I hate that guy. Most of the other stories are great, though. One author writes teen pregnancy from three different religious viewpoints, which is interesting, and Singer’s own story is about a tween who’s trying to understand relationships and religion at the same time. One story is the same as another I read in an anthology, so I skipped it. M.E. Kerr writes a story that’s pretty much everything she wrote early on. Woodson writes about Jehovah’s Witnesses, which I always find fascinating. This is less a something-for-everyone and really an everything-for-everyone book. This is a great way for tween and teen readers to interact with other religions using the written word.
Finally, I knocked out Darth Vader and Son, a cute collection of comic panels by Jeffrey Brown, which spoofs Star Wars in a very adorable way: Luke is just a little guy being raised by his dad. Kids might miss all of the references, and adults might too, but it’s still a quick, adorable flip-through with lots of funny and sly jokes.
That was my week in books. Join me next week when apparently all I did was read horror.