Tag Archives: book reviews

Why Couldn’t This Be Earl and the Dying Girl? Or Just Earl. Just Earl Would Be Awesome.

Me_and_Earl_and_the_Dying_Girl In my old age, I’ve come to realize that I have very little patience for books that I don’t like. If it doesn’t grab me in the first fifty pages or so, I’ll typically give up and move on to something I might actually enjoy. (Case in point, my recent abandonment of I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, which I found so insanely grating that I actually returned it to Audible.) So I’m kind of angry at myself that I stuck it out for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, because guys, I really really REALLY did not enjoy this book.

The “Me” in the title is a kid named Greg, who is bumbling his way through senior year of high school with one goal – to be completely invisible to everyone around him. He goes about this by becoming friendly, but not friends, with every group on campus in an effort to blend in everywhere but belong nowhere. This has been his M.O. for the majority of high school and it has, for the most part, succeeded in keeping him being noticed by pretty much anyone, even though he thinks that if he doesn’t work SUPER HARD at blending in, the whole system will just fall apart. His only real acquaintance is his “coworker,” Earl, with whom he shares a love for the kind of movies that most high school kids can’t stomach. Together, they spend their free time creating remakes of their favorites with their own twists. Greg’s life is working out pretty well for him (at least in his own mind), until his mother forces him to befriend his classmate Rachel, who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 leukemia.

Before I get into this review, I want to say that I understand this is a book about teenagers, and that teenagers are, by and large, narcissistic assholes. They just are. They actually can’t help it. I took a development psychology class in college and was fascinated by the theories on teenagers and where they are in their mental development – namely, that they are unable to see the world beyond their own little sphere of self and those close to them, partially because they lack the life experience and partially because their brains just haven’t developed to that point yet. So yes, I get it, but if I wanted to experience the real, ugly, narcissistic assholery of the average teenager, I’d go hang out at a high school. So perhaps that might explain why being shoved into the head of a character like Greg for the 6+ hours of this audiobook just wasn’t my cup of tea.

One of my main problems with the book is that I feel like the characters were never fleshed out very well (except for Greg, who I frankly could have done with less of). Most of the time, Rachel seems like a tertiary character, and I was surprisingly not all that upset when she (spoiler) died. Greg’s parents, who actually had the potential to be interesting because they were just that odd, were background as well. We know more about the bust size of Greg’s crush than her actual personality, and I forgot until 3/4 of the way through the book that Greg even had sisters.

Earl felt more solid, but something about his characterization made me uncomfortable, even as I found him the most interesting and relate-able character in the book. He was the only major character of color, and it was like the author so wanted to make you aware of this fact that he threw every stereotype in the book at the kid. Poor and not living up to his potential? Check. Absent dad? Check. Alcoholic mother? Check. Gang member little brother who already got a girl pregnant at 13 and deals drugs on the side? Check check checkity check. And yet even with all of this, Earl is still the best character in the whole book, mostly because he remains just as annoyed with Greg throughout the book as I am, only he gets to tell him off for it.

I don’t want to say that Greg doesn’t have a character arc, because he does. He goes from being basically a loner to having someone in his life that he actually cares about. But he never fully commits to the people in his life being in his life. He describes his best friend as a coworker and acquaintance. His interactions with Rachel are enjoyable, but he admits that what he most enjoys about them is that he’s good at making Rachel laugh and that he enjoys the feeling of being good at something. When Rachel inevitably dies, his grief is not over losing someone important in his life, but over losing the opportunity to have someone important in his life. His arc leads him to realize how he has shut people out, but never reaches the satisfying conclusion of letting people in.

And maybe that was my problem from the get-go. Greg’s an ass. I wanted to see him become something other than an ass, but he never quite gets there. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. The author does like to point out, ad nauseum, that this isn’t a typical YA book, don’t expect typical YA book-type revelations to happen, OMG THIS IS NOT A JOHN GREEN NOVEL, etc. So yeah, I get it. And maybe for some people, that’s the wonderful, refreshing thing about this book and why so many people love it – that it shows teenagers in all their self-absorbed glory, the world in all its harshness. It shows that sometimes, we don’t let the dying girl in until it’s too late and have to live with that regret. In that way, it’s an admirable story to tell, but it’s not the story I wanted to read.

ETA: The trailer of the movie is actually what made me want to read this book, and I still think it looks better than the book itself. I’ll be curious to see.


Ten Girls to Watch

13260167Dawn West’s post-college life isn’t going exactly as planned. She wants to be a writer, but so far, her only lucrative writing gig is answering questions about fertilizer and grass seed in an online lawn care column. Her ex-boyfriend is now dating the perfect girl – a girl who not only has everything, but is convinced that she and Dawn are instant friends. She can barely afford the run-down Brooklyn apartment she shares with her crazy roommate, and now the roommate is leaving the city and leaving Dawn to pay her half of the rent.

So when she gets the opportunity to work on the 50th anniversary issue of Charmed magazine’s Ten Girls to Watch contest, she jumps at the steady paycheck and chance to beef up her resume. She’s tasked with finding out as much information about the past winners as possible – five hundred women from all over the country, and from all walks of life, who were all considered the best and brightest of their time.

My coworker suggested Ten Girls to me a few months ago, and I am so glad she did. I loved the story of Dawn trying to navigate those first few post-college years and finding inspiration in the stories and words of the women she encounters. Author Charity Shumway based the novel on her own experience tracking down the fifty winners of Glamour‘s Top 10 College Women and how that one job influenced her. Yes, there’s a romance in there, but the story is much more about Dawn’s struggles as a young adult and finding her way through an overwhelming new world by learning from the incredible winners of the Ten Girls to Watch contest. In the world of chick lit, it’s actually a pretty rare concept for a heroine, and one I really enjoyed and related to. I also loved the look back at the criteria for the selection of winners and how that changed over the years, how the “best dressed” girls of the ’60s transformed into the brilliant minds of the ’70s and beyond – and how even those original girls that were just chosen for their fashion sense had a lot more than a pretty smile and fancy dress to offer. I also loved how each chapter featured a profile of a different winner, bringing them even more to life.

Ten Girls to Watch is a great, fun, easy ready, but still packs a little more substance than the average twenty-something novel. Check it out.

I Love Vicky Alvear Shecter

A few months ago, my local bookstore, Little Shop of Stories, hosted a book launch party for local author Vicky Alvear Shecter. I had not read her previous two books, but after reading the title, Cleopatra’s Moon, I decided that I very much needed this book. I have always had a fascination with Ancient Egypt, so this book was right up my alley. Throw in the fact that there was a man dressed as a centurion at the book signing and I was sold.

Vicky has been wonderful enough to be our FIRST author interview here at Rampant Reads and takes some time to talk to us about her book and humor me with some of my more random questions. Please note THERE ARE SOME MINOR SPOILERS BELOW.

Now, without further ado…

1. Let me start by saying that I really loved the book. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve read every book I could find about Egypt and your book really sparked that interest in me again. Was the book as enjoyable to write or was it more of a challenge?

Thanks, Erin! I also loved ancient Egypt as a kid and I’m glad the novel reminded you of that spark of fascination. I guess the truth is, I never outgrew it! In terms of writing the book–it was both enjoyable and challenging, depending on the section. Or the chapter. Or the sentence. Or the word–well, you get the idea.

2. With any historical fiction novel there is so much research that has to happen. As far as I can tell, there is very limited information about the actual Cleopatra Selene. What kind of challenges did this present? How did you do most of your research?

I did a tremendous amount of research for the biography, Cleopatra Rules! —which gave me a lot of insight into Selene’s times and family life. That was the launch point. Since there was hardly anything on Selene herself, I had to research the period after Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s deaths. Every scene I wrote needed to have been possible at the time, which meant I also researched the period of Octavianus‘s ascent/takeover of Rome. I also read works about Livia and Julia to get a sense of what life in her new home was like. I read Roman poetry and as much as I could about the cult of Isis in Rome as well.

3. Were there any really fun and interesting things that you learned while doing your research that did not make it into the book? What is the weirdest thing you found in your studies?

Oh, what a great question! I don’t really know how to answer it because there is A LOT that didn’t make it into the book. I had to cut a lot of the detail on mummification, for example, because even though I found it fascinating, it didn’t move the story forward. I tried to slip in certain facts that my intrepid editor always caught–for example, in the scene where Selene and her brothers dock in the Roman port city of Ostia, she is sickened by the smell of rotting fish intestines and innards in the giant vats the Romans used to make a sauce called garumm. I had Selene wonder–in a flash moment as she pictures the fish intestines–if her mother’s body would have been emptied in a similar way. But my editor thought it was just too gross and unlikely that she would think that. She was probably right. If people want to know the finer points of mummification, there are plenty of books on that!

In terms of weird things I discovered, I actually don’t even know where to begin. Mark Antony, for example, had a pet human dwarf that partied with him. Cleopatra did indeed sign her documents with the royal decree, “Genestho” (Make it happen). One of the coolest details I came across was that the Egyptians believed that you could invoke Anubis to curse your enemy with the blood of a black dog. Thankfully, I was able to work that detail into the story.

4. You’ve written two other books, Cleopatra Rules! The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen and Alexander the Great Rocks the World, both non-fiction. What was it like shifting gears to write a YA fiction book? Does your writing process change?

It was a big change to jump from nonfiction to fiction.  With nonfiction, I was constantly stopping to check my sources and facts. With fiction, the focus was on the emotions of the characters, rather than just on what they did or what happened, so I had to look it everything differently. I guess the best way to describe it is that with fiction, I needed to be sure everything “felt” right, whereas with nonfiction, I needed to be sure everything was right (in terms of the facts or most accepted interpretations of the facts).

5. It’s no secret that Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony die, but there was still this part of me that, while I was reading the book, really wanted them to make it this time. Is there a part of you that wanted to give them that second chance, just to see what could have been? Do you think they could have held off Rome? Are there other historical elements in the story that you would change if you could?

Oh, I love that you felt that way! And yes, I would have loved to have given them a second chance to see how it might have turned out. But here’s the thing–I have WAY more faith in Cleopatra as a ruler than Antony. So, even if she had succeeded, she would have been seriously hampered by the misogyny of the times. Antony was probably too much of a partier to imagine that he could have stabilized things as well as Octavianus had. So, in terms of stopping the endless civil wars and stabilizing the west, it appears the right man won.

6. Because there is so little known about Cleopatra Selene, you had the opportunity to fill in the blanks of her life. What element of her life, that you made up, would you most like to be true?

I can’t say without giving away the ending! 😉

7. What is it like having to kill one of your characters? I get very attached to various characters in books I read and I get upset when they die & sometimes think I would have saved them if I was the writer. When you are working with historical figures you only have so much say in who lives and dies and that has to be difficult as a writer. I mean come on… you couldn’t have wanted to kill little Ptolemy. I loved him! How do you go about writing death and grief then?

I know! I didn’t want any of the characters to die! BUT, most scholars believe that Selene’s brothers did die young because they are never heard from again in history. Even if–as one historian wonders–the brothers went with Selene to North Africa, somebody would have mentioned it! Also, I don’t think for a second that Octavian would have allowed the sons of Mark Antony to grow into adulthood and possibly challenge him. That said, I struggled mightily with writing the scene. I went months trying to avoid it. I guess I must have grumbled about it a lot because at dinner one night, I sighed and said something about poor Ptolly and my whole family turned to me and–as one–said, “Oh would you KILL him already?!”

But that’s the thing–grief is universal and timeless.

8. There are a lot of characters in the book and you (thankfully!) include a character list at the beginning to help out us poor readers. I know that there were many historical figures (like some of Antony’s sons) that were there and existed, but didn’t make it onto the page. How did you decide who to keep and who to leave out of the story?

I had originally written Antony’s eldest son–Antyllus, who was Caesarion’s age–into the story. But he was murdered too–he was 17 when he was beheaded as he begged for his life at the temple of Julius Caesar in Alexandria. So poor Cleopatra Selene grieved for even more people than we knew. Plus there was another son of Antony that was being brought up in the same compound. But as it was, there were so many characters, I had to sacrifice them because they didn’t really add much to the story and would have only overwhelmed the reader with yet even more children to keep track of.

In another example, Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios also had many tutors but again, it was simpler to just mention one–Euphronius. The actual history is pretty complex so whenever I had the opportunity to simplify things, I took it!

9. I’m really interested in the Priestesses of Isis in the book (partially because my cat is named Isis). How much is actually known about Egyptian rituals? How much of it did you make up?

We know relatively little about Isis rituals. The only sources we have for them during this period come from Romans. One writer in particular–Apeulius–wrote a famous novel that had a character “saved” by Isis. He doesn’t give us the details of his initiation rites because they were sacred and secret. However, most of the sources I read indicated that it probably had some element of being reborn again so I just went with that.

10. Did Cleopatra Selene ever get to see Egypt again? Everything that happened to her in the story was so tragic, that I hold out hope that once she was a ruler in her own right that she was able to see her home at least one more time.

Sadly, we don’t know! However, my guess would be that Octavian never let her go anywhere near Egypt in case–just by her mere presence–the people revolted in favor of her. Octavian actually turned Egypt into his personal property and he treated it as such. No Roman could enter Egypt without his personal approval and permission. He knew (better than most!) that whomever controlled Egypt controlled Rome, so my guess is that he kept her away.

11. Couldn’t you have just let Cleopatra Selene kill Octavianus?! I wanted to stab him with a fork. Speaking of Octavianus… Why do you think he felt so threatened by Cleopatra VII that he needed to continue his smear campaign about her even after she had been dead for years? Was he so cowardly or was she that amazing? Why were Romans so quick to believe all of the awful things said about Cleopatra VII?

Such great questions! First of all, I couldn’t have Cleopatra Selene kill Octavian because history shows us that he lived a long, long life. And despite being a cold-hearted snake, he was a brilliant ruler and did much good for Rome in terms of stabilizing it. In regard to his actions with the queen–I don’t think he was personally threatened by Cleopatra. I think he just hit upon the most convenient way to weaken Mark Antony’s reputation and position–by blaming everything on the woman. He merely took advantage of an already deep and entrenched misogyny, which is why Romans were so quick to believe whatever he said about her.

12. Are there other projects you are currently working on?

I am working on another historical fiction novel set in ancient Rome. Right now, I have it set in the same period. As a result, I might have the new main character “bump” into Cleopatra Selene at some point.

13. Tell us a little about Drag Queen Cleo. I know she goes to book signings with you. Is she a good luck charm? Does she think that Romans were as gross as I do? 

Drag Queen Cleo (DQC) is actually an action hero/Cleopatra doll that my editor–the fabulous Cheryl Klein–sent to me. I only began calling her DQC when I noticed that they plunked a GI Joe face on a girl-doll body. Also, she had serious man-hands!  Once I saw it, I couldn’t UNSEE it! So I decided to embrace her fabulousness and have fun with her. Which reminds me that I haven’t featured her on my blog (http://historywithatwist.blogspot.com) recently. I’m going to have to fix that.  And, yes, absolutely, she looks down on the Romans as the great uncouth, unwashed. It’s her favorite pastime!

Thanks so much for having me here Erin! I loved all your questions!

Best, Vicky

A big THANK YOU to Vicky for her time and thoughtful answers. Now I can’t stop imagining Mark Antony partying with a dwarf and Cleopatra being a feminine version of Tim Gunn (with his “Make it Work!” catchphrase) telling everyone to “Make it Happen.”

I look forward to your next book! And everyone be sure to check out some of Vicky’s articles on Huffington Post!

Books with Pictures are the BEST

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Quirk/2011) has everything I could hope for in a novel.  Superpowers, secret worlds, pictures, a hint of time-travelling children….

Growing up, Jacob loved hearing his grandfather’s childhood stories from his days in an orphanage for ‘peculiar children.’ That is, until the kids at school started giving him a hard time about his ‘fairy stories,’ and he decided that his grandfather was crazy, or worse, a liar.  Jacob’s opinion is unequivocally altered however, when he finds his grandfather dead in the woods, and catches a glimpse of the many-tongued monster that did him in, lurking in the bushes.  So, pro—grandpa’s not a liar, con—Jacob may be insane.  With the help of his shrink (natch), Jacob convinces his folks he needs to visit his grandfather’s former home, on a remote British island.  Once there, Jacob discovers the orphanage abandoned, bombed out from the war.

Jacob remains convinced, however, that there is something he’s missing.   And of course he’s right—the real orphanage is safe and intact, preserved in a time loop, repeating the same day over and over again during World War II.  And you can only reach the right time and place by going through a cave, and yes all the stories his grandfather told him were true, and maybe someone is using Jacob to get close to the peculiar children, and animals are suspiciously dying in Jacob’s real time, and also, he may have made out with his grandfather’s former girlfriend.   Got all that?

Riggs novel is original and captivating.  Sure, it’s not perfect.  Jacob’s a little whiny, and maybe a bit thick too (you didn’t realize your grandfather’s neighbor, your pool guy, your bus driver and your shrink were ALL THE SAME PERSON?  Major fail bro), but you can’t help but be pulling for the guy.  Riggs has created a magical world with an underbelly of discontent and complexity, where even the good guys have their own secrets.  I look forward to the follow-up, and recommend you borrow this, right after Princess Consuela returns it.

Books We Force on Our Friends: ALL CAPS HARRY IS MY HOMEBOY edition

I feel like I should start by telling you a bit about my relationship with Harry. Yes, we are on a first name basis. I don’t exactly remember how I first found Harry Potter. The first three books were just in my house. Either my mom brought them back from a conference, or my sister bought them on a whim and left them laying around. Whoever it was… THANKS!

Needless to say, I became hooked, along with my sisters and my dad. When it came time for the Goblet of Fire to come out, my dad pre-ordered a copy for me and my two sisters and took us to the bookstore the day it came out. This is when I first felt the cruel bitterness of being a kid without a job and therefore not able to buy my own copy. I had to wait for my sisters to read it first, which was excruciating, especially since I seem to remember my younger sister actually sleeping with the book so I couldn’t even steal it from her. When The Order of the Phoenix came out, I was in college surrounded by people who also read Harry Potter, which just meant that I was at the midnight release for books five and six.

Then there was The Deathly Hallows and my best friend had the nerve to get married in the middle of no-where Ohio the weekend it came out! I drove all the way from Atlanta with the promise that he would get my book at midnight for me to have when I arrived. He had the book alright, but wouldn’t let me have it and HELD IT HOSTAGE, saying I needed sleep and could have it in the morning. JERK. However, at breakfast, we all took turns reading chapters out loud and had a really lovely morning together with Harry. The rest of the weekend was so busy though, that I didn’t have a chance to finish the book before getting back to Atlanta. I knew I had to finish it before going into work, because everyone would have finished and what if someone accidentally let slip the end and my years of waiting to find out what happened were RUINED in a second of carelessness?! I decided I was going to go to the local coffee shop and finish the book and then go to work. I didn’t have much left to read. I got my latte, found a comfy chair and opened the book. That is about when I became the insane person in the coffee shop crying by myself over a book because FRED DIED! HOW DO YOU KILL A TWIN?! Then HARRY (sort of) DIES TOO AND HE IS SURROUNDED BY THIS SITUATION THAT IS JUST TOO BIG FOR HIM AS HE IS ONLY A KID AND ALL HE WANTS IS HIS MOM AND OH MY GOD J.K. ROWLING HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME!? Mid freak-out a nice girl working that morning walked up to me with a free espresso, patted me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry. It will be ok. Keep reading. I finished last night.” And then it truly hit me how HUGE Harry Potter was and what a universal experience reading these books had become. It is mind-boggling.

I’ve read and re-read the Harry Potter series more times than I can count, but Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix remains my favorite. I’ve read it more than any of the other books. To keep from rambling on too much longer, I am simply going to give you my reasons for why this Harry Potter book is better than all the other Harry Potter books.

  • The Order of the Phoenix, duh. Secret crime fighting wizard societies make everything better. If only they had super hero outfits.
  • Professor Umbridge is clearly the best villain in the series. Sorry Voldemort. You have been defeated by cutesy kitten plates, frilly pink bows, and torture. I’m not talking unoriginal Cruciatus torture either. Everyone does that. That is so 1985. I’m talking carving shit into your hands and making you write with your own blood kind of torture. Also, she has pointed teeth. POINTED TEETH! How had I forgotten this?! Is she one of those crazy people that files their teeth into points, or was she just born evil? Either way, I keep picturing her as The Gormogon from Bones, which is kind of gross since Gromogon was a serial killer who liked to eat peoples flesh off of their bones (hence the pointy teeth). Maybe Umbridge is kidnapping and eating children? I bet the Ministry is in on it. Moving on…
  • We finally get a peek inside the Ministry of Magic. The elevator ride through the building was one of my favorite details in the books. “Level seven, Department of Magical Games and Sports, incorporating the British and Irish Quidditch League Headquarters, Official Gobstones Club, and Ludicrous Patents Office.” What the hell goes through the Ludicrous Patents Office?! In my head they make jokes about going ludicrous speed all day. I bet they have all gone to plaid.
  • There is mention of a fire-breathing chicken. Move aside dragons, because FIRE-BREATHING CHICKENS EXIST IN THIS WORLD! (No joke. Page 129.)
  • We finally learn Dumbledore’s full name and it lives up to all of my expectations. He always looked like a Brian to me.
  • This is the first book where a good chunk of it takes place outside of Hogwarts. We get Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, The Ministry of Magic (more importantly, THE DEPARTMENT OF MYSTERIES), St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. All of this helps to flesh out the world, which is why this series is so successful. It helps explain how wizards can exist next to humans but still know so little about them and have almost no interaction with them.
  • Dumbledore’s Army… greatest invention EVER. Harry really starts to come into his own as a leader and the students begin to fully realize their potential. It helps lay the ground work for battles in later books so that you avoid that moment of, “Whatever. That is so not possible. They are like 15 years old.” DUMBLEDORE’S ARMY BITCHES! KICKING ASS SINCE 1995! (Yes, I know the book came out after 1995. It came out in 2003 the be exact. It was 1995 in the books.)
  • Neville Longbottom. Do I really have to say more? Ok. Fine. Neville is forever under appreciated, but endlessly fabulous. I also really loved the scene at St. Mungo’s where we meet his parents and his mom gives him a candy wrapper and instead of throwing it away he slips it into his pocket. SADNESS FOREVER. This book really starts to highlight the Neville-Harry parallels that are touched on throughout the series. It could have easily been Neville in Harry’s place.
  • Continuing on with the fabulousness of secondary characters… this is where we get to meet Luna Lovegood. Is she crazy? Maybe. Do I want to read more about her? Absolutely! Besides… sometimes she knows what she is talking about. Maybe not when it comes to the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, but she was totally on base with the Thestrals. Also, I want to write for The Quibbler.
  • Severus Snape. This book solidified him as my favorite character. Through his Occlumency lessons with Harry, we start to get an idea of what his life has been like (& how much of a douche he can really be!). He is easily the most complex character in the books and oddly sympathetic. It is fascinating to me how someone so mean can still be so accessible as a character.
  • Great words like “taradiddles,” “dither,” and “asperity” are used. The books really start to mature, as well as Rowling’s writing. I also very much appreciate that she doesn’t dumb down her books for her audience. Too often I think authors underestimate the intelligence of their readers.
  • Sirius dies… now let me clarify before you tell me I suck and that I am totally heartless. I was DEVASTATED when Sirius died. I thought that Rowling was being an asshole. How do you kill a kids parents and then KILL HIS GODFATHER TOO?! On the other hand, it set a precedent for the rest of the series that no one was safe. Anyone could be killed off whether they were important or not. I think that this really added to the level of dread that builds up, because you honestly have no clue who is going to make it through all seven books.
  • First date awkwardness. Poor Harry. A guy just can’t catch a break, can he?
  • Kreacher. I love his snide remarks. I kind of wish the whole book had notes in the margins from Keacher. Scholastic should get on that. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Keacher Edition. I am a genius.
  • House Elves let Hermione know how dumb S.P.E.W. is. I appreciate that Hermione wants to do good and help create equality, I just didn’t really care for the S.P.E.W. storyline much.
  • I find it funny how the girls are all in love with Firenze because he is supposedly so hot. He’s half horse, which means he is not hot & he can’t have sex with you.
  • We get to learn about how giants live, where Hagrid came from, and we meet Gwarp, who just might kill you.
  • Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes comes into existence. You could see it coming through all of this books, but they actually make it happen in this one. I LOVE Fred and George and how nonchalant they are about wrecking havoc on first years so that they have testers for their Skiving Snackboxes. Also, they are geniuses for recognizing that people need humor when THE WORLD AS THEY KNOW IT IS ENDING.
  • Nagini will eat your face off.

I’m not going to lie. I could keep going, but I think that I have made a solid argument as to why Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the best book in the series. Did I forget your favorite part? Leave it in the comments to set me straight. You think I am WRONG about this being the best HP book? I am still happy to have you set me straight in the comments. I will now leave you with some POTTER PUPPET PALS: WIZARD ANGST!

Maybe We’re Just Neggy

Rhymenocerous – I was really excited about Bumped (HarperTeen 2011) because it had twins, a dystopian society, and a really good cover design.

Princess Consuela – Also, the reviews made it seem like it was going to be fan-bloody-tastic. Everyone was singing its praises.

R- I feel like I should have known. I didn’t realize until too late that McCafferty wrote the Jessica Darling series…I read the first three Jessica Darling books, and even though I felt like I should like them, I kind of hated Jessica. She was so whiny and full of herself. She thought she was too cool for school. But she wasn’t. (bonus points if you know what that’s from). Also–why is the Jessica Darling series always shelved in fiction instead of YA? That always bothers me. But anyway, back to Bumped. Melody reminded me a lot of Jessica Darling–as in–I hate her.

PC – I haven’t read Jessica Darling. Fortunately, this blog post is about Bumped, which I have read, and Rhymenocerous can take care of any necessary backlist comparisons. I was annoyed from the start by the sheer volume of lingo. As soon as you crack the book open you are accosted by “fertilicious,” “pregg,” “facespace,” and a whole host of other cutesy slang. It’s exhausting to plow through it all, and it really took me out of the story every time I was confronted with a new one. It rang false to me.

R- Oh getting snarky with me, Princess. Ok. I can handle it. Yes, my biggest complaint about the book is definitely the obnoxious language. Also, the constant song lyrics by Fed Double X or whatever they were called. Do you think they were supposed to be Britney Spears’ kids? I think she kind of alluded to that. Also-side bar–is it ok to eat a cookie I found in the floor of my car? I don’t think it’s been there long if that makes it any better.

PC – What kind of cookie are we talking about? If it’s something dumb like oatmeal raisin, I don’t think I’d risk it. If it’s, say, homemade chocolate chip, you might reconsider. Note to self: buy cookies. Anyway, I didn’t think about it being a Britney kid, but it makes sense. I think that K-Fed could definitely father someone who sings songs with ridiculous lyrics and has a bizarre tribute stage name. <insert cracked out example of your choice here> Also, can we talk about how the clunky lyrics of ALL of the songs they listen to describe how you should get knocked up? Surely there is some variety of music out there. Did protest music die out in favor of awkward brainwashing? Bob Dylan would be rolling over in his grave.

R- It was just a chocolate chip cookie from the Kroger bakery. I decided to pass because I’m pretty sure I stepped on it a few times already. Also–I know right? Why wouldn’t they have any other songs? I kept getting confused because on one hand McCafferty kept making it seem like teens getting pregnant was all the rage, and everyone did it, and wore fake bumps, and wrote horrible annoying songs about it, and then the next page would mention that only 12 girls in the school were pregnant and everyone was all judgy about it, and Harmony (or Melody? Let’s also talk about their annoying names) was pioneering the pregnancy thing at her school.

PC – I think Melody was the one running for president of the Pregnancy For All Club. Harmony was the twin who lived in the pseudo-polygamist compound. Because apparently society is completely polarized in this version of the near future (year 2035 or so, I believe) – you are either a uterus-for-hire or a color-coded-dress-wearing uber-religious commune dweller. No one falls in the middle. Seriously, where are the hippies in this scenario?? If anyone is destined to survive an infertility virus pandemic, you’d think that the free love folks would be at the top of the pyramid.

R- The dystopian world just never felt real or complete. And it’s never a good sign when you are hoping against all odds that there will be a surprise plot twist where all the characters are killed in a freak train accident. The whole book just felt unfinished to me. And there wasn’t even an attempt to give an ending. It might as well have ended with a “…to be continued!” in a dramatic font.

PC – But there IS another one, right? I think she’s working on a sequel, heaven help us. Prepare for another visual assault of cutesy names for technology that embeds the internet in your eyes. Or something. I could never figure out how that MiNet malarkey was supposed to work. All that winking and blinking makes my eyes glaze over.

R- What else is there really to say about it? I feel like maybe she wrote an outline on a cocktail napkin and then had interns fill in the rest. Don’t buy it!

PC- Yeah, it’s a library book for sure. But, hey, you may like it. I think we’re the only ones who don’t. This thing has positive reviews out the wazoo. And I might get the next one from the library to see where this crazy train goes.

R- I know…I hate that about myself. I know I am going to read the next one, if only just to complain about it

PC – Well, we can crab about it to each other while the rest of the world raves about the wonder that is Bumped 2: Further Dramatic Adventures of a Uterus-for-Hire and Her Knocked-Up Twin.