Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Monday, January 31, 2011

I Think I Love You...

well...not YOU, exactly, or not in that way (not that there's anything wrong with that!). More like Allison Pearson's delightful new novel, I Think I Love You, which chronicles the story of thirteen year old Petra's obsession with the ever delicious David Cassidy in 1974. I, too, confess that while I was not 13 in 1974 (more like eleven if you must know), I had a crush on the gorgeousy Mr. Cassidy and was a faithful viewer of The Partridge Family. It was this shared love of all things David that inspired me to read this novel, and a thoroughly enjoyable read it was. So enjoyable, in fact, that I pulled out my Partridge Family's Greatest Hits CD (yes, I have it, and no, I'm not ashamed, damnit!) and put some of my faves on my iPod. And I still know all the words! I may not know where my keys are, but somewhere in my cluttered brain, the lyrics to all those songs live and come spilling forth with the first notes.

Below is my review of I Think I Love You: I must hand it to Ms. Pearson, as she got all the details correct that my eleven year old brain held most dear. Even after I moved on to Dave's younger brother Shaun, I still held a soft spot for those first pangs of idolatry. Apparently Ms. Pearson realizes this as well.
We first meet Petra Williams in 1974 when she's an awkward thirteen year old trying to fit into her social group, much like any thirteen year old might be today. Though it's set in Wales, it could be anywhere; it's one of those identifiable tales that doesn't take you long to have your heading nodding along with recognition.

Petra's so ordinary it's painful, and she knows it. And even though she feels like an interloper into her group of friends, her common ground comes in the form of idolatry of teen heartthrob David Cassidy. She and her friends read all the mags and hang on every word and song of the idol, and when a concert is announced in London, they scheme for a way to finally meet their guy. Petra's determined to meet David; she enters a contest for that purpose but she doesn't win...or so she thinks until she discovers a letter among her mother's things many years later.

Divided in two parts, we follow Petra and buddy Sharon through their desperation to meet David Cassidy as young teens and then we see them many years later after Petra's mother has passed away and life has handed out its usual assortments of good and evil. While I adored the young Petra (and knew the author got those David facts *perfect* on earth did I remember his birthday is April 12? Oh yeah, it's on the cover of the album Up To Date!)I was eager for the story to progress to the point of the concert/contest. But that's only a minor quibble in a story that's fun and a perfect echo of a time I remember fondly. Quite a good deal of fun, actually; it evokes feelings and memories in me that still has me smiling.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Awakened, Book 9 in the House of Night series, picks up with Zoey back from the Otherworld, rescued by Warrior hero guy Stark (why is he called by just his last name?) and healing on a magickal (spelling correct!) island in Scotland while her buddies are either still back in Tulsa or on the way home. Zoey's been through a lot and would like to just stay in Scotland and maybe avoid some of the drama brought on by battling the evil Neferet and immortal Kalona (apparently she can decide when she goes to school..a perk of being a High Priestess, I suppose). But tragedy strikes when one of her group is killed by Neferet and Zoey is needed at the Tulsa House of Night; she and Stark leave their love nest and head back in order to, once again, battle Neferet and Kalona and be the voice of reason as far as BFF Stevie Rae and her Raven Mocker Rephaim go.

Summed that up fairly quickly, didn't I? I really wish author Cast had done the same. For the first half of the book, I kept wondering where we were going and how we were going to get there...if we would indeed get anywhere at all. However, once the action reverts to the House of Night, things pick up nicely and my original score of 3 stars got bumped to 4 (despite a few qualms I chose to overlook).

What I liked: When Awakened works, it works really well. The fighting is described well and some of the relationships (Jack and Damien, Zoey and Stark, Aphrodite and Darius) are genuine and well written. With the shift back to Tulsa, the story picks up steam, with a good resolution for S.R. and Bird Boy. In many ways, the story is now becoming more of a team effort, and that is very good. And the grief is shown and dealt with realistically. And thank you to whomever for cleaning up most of the editing errors in this book! Nary a misused word or a strangely shifting POV in sight. High marks for that!

What I disliked: If I allowed myself to dwell on these factors, I'd probably drop my score back down again. Number one, which many have discussed,is the use of slang and pop culture references. There's no quicker way to date a series than to throw in references to current television shows and music. Besides,it's just unnecessary for the plot and it doesn't make any character more identifiable. I also felt that the pacing needs to pick up ASAP. The whole book took place in around 36 hours or so...this is the longest winter in history! Maybe we're back on track now that the scene has shifted. Of course I dislike Neferet and Kalona and wish they'd take a long walk off a short pier but honestly they are such caricatures at times I want to roll my eyes.

Big qualifier: Lots of sex in this one. While not majorly graphic, you do know what's going on and how it feels. Towards the end, there's even a bit of roughness (setting us up for a Kalona entering Stark scenario). I'm not against sex but I do think it's mostly another unnecessary distraction. I'm not judging; I just think we should at least be discussing some birth control, people.

Overall, while this is not the best book in the series, it certainly picks up the pace once all the summarizing/lollygagging is over. I hope Cast is considering wrapping this series up quickly, though I doubt it. There's only so much padding that her fans are willing to go through. And while I enjoyed this installment, this series is no longer an auto-buy for me because it's just too uneven.

Okay, I've talked myself back down to 3 stars. Sometimes a book cannot withstand too much scrutiny.


Matched begins with Cassia Reyes excited to be going to her Society's Matching Banquet; at seventeen, citizens can decide if they would like to be Matched to another citizen and begin the process of coming to know your life's mate. While almost no one knows their future mate beforehand, Cassia's evening is a very pleasant surprise: she's been Matched to her best friend, Xander, something that almost never happens. Could life be any better? As it turns out...yes, it can.

Cassia's true dilemma begins twofold: First, when she scans the microcard bearing Xander's personal information on the family port, for a brief moment, it's not Xander's face that appears, but that of Ky, a casual friend with a mysterious background. Secondly, her beloved grandfather is approaching his 80th birthday, and that's the age the Society has ordained that all citizens will die. Before he dies, however, he gives Cassia her one "artifact" allowed by Society: a very old compact, and it is within this compact that she discovers a forbidden piece of poetry, one not among the Hundred Poems Society believes are all that are needed. So what happens next? Will Cassia's curiosity about Ky lead her down a dangerous path away from her Matched best friend, or will she succumb to Society's pressure and follow the path dictated? Will she keep the forbidden poem or will she somehow find a way to share it?

Matched is more than just a dystopian society tale or even a romantic journey. It is carefully layered so that each of Cassia's decisions brings with it consequences that are not pleasant and possibly even dangerous. The Society, while controlling all aspects of its citizens' lives, has worked well for a very long time and Cassia's impulse to defy convention would not be treated with leniency. Most importantly, Cassia sees her parents' roles in Society and slowly realizes that not all Society intervention has bad outcomes.

Knowing that the problems in Matched will not have easy solutions, the book becomes almost impossible to put down as you feel the tension build as Cassia examines her own motives and those of the times in which she lives. While her Society is futuristic, her problems are, in many ways, typical of those of any teen: Do you do what is expected or do you choose to be your own person? Most importantly, what is love and is it worth it? I was kept on the edge of my seat as I followed Cassia's journey, and I'm eager to read the next book in this trilogy. Excellent writing and well thought out, Matched is going to stick with me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

Once again, Elizabeth Chadwick has pulled me into the thirteenth century, engulfing me with the sights, sounds, and events of the tumultuous period when John was King and the Marshals and Bigods had to walk a thin line in order to keep their families safe and protect their very lives. To Defy a King is a masterpiece, rich in characters and all the details that bring the past vividly to life.

The story centers around headstrong Mahelt Marshal, favorite daughter of William Marshal (featured in The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion). Mahelt's marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of Roger Bigod (For the King's Favor/The Time of Singing) does little to bring the teen to heel and soon she has her new husband captivated, even as she continually rubs her father by marriage the wrong way. Mahelt is no shrinking violet, sitting back watching events unfold; she is impetuous, outspoken, and determined, though mindful of her duties as a wife of a powerful family. Her emotions are always close to the surface and she can barely contain her revulsion and anger with King John, even as she realizes that rebelling could cause her family to lose all.

The themes of family and honour are repeated throughout To Defy a King; it is easy to see that Chadwick wants us to understand that these were the driving forces behind the lives of those under the thumb of John's erratic, often cruel, behavior. Mahelt herself is written with such fervor that her spirit literally leaps off the pages; I could feel her anguish over the predictaments her blood family faced while being torn over her love for her husband. There is so much action, both large and small, throughout this novel that is almost impossible to read it quickly, and really, who would want to?

To Defy a King is tightly written, with differing points of view to shed light on character motivations and push the story along. The characterizations are spot on, making the characters real enough to show their flaws; the conversations pull you further into the lives of these people who lived so long ago. I felt as though I were present in their daily lives and I wanted to savour that feeling so much that I purposely dragged out the finishing of the book. Chadwick is head and shoulders above all historical writers out there today, and To Defy a King just proves that her skills are growing. Her fan base should grow as well because this is a book that will defy you to let it go.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Frightened Turtle Spectacular III

Yes, this is my family: my husband Jeff, my brother Fred, my father in law Jeff Sr., and my nephews Charlie and Carter. And yes, these guys make it an annual tradition to jump into the lake behind my mom's house on New Year's Day! I'm not precisely sure why, but it's fun to stand back and cheer them on.