Archive for February, 2012

February 20, 2012

Music Monday: What Time Is It

by renata

Sigh, you guys, we had some weirdly warm weather for a few weeks and then it abruptly went back to being winter. Stupid winter.

I’m trying to warm myself up with summery thoughts–like High School Musical 2, set during the extremely dramatic summer between the kids’ junior and senior year of high school. Also: this movie came out in 2007. Almost five years ago. Eek!

Still, it’s a fun summery song. With some pretty sweet dance moves. My favorite part is when they do the roller coaster wave. Also when Zac Efron slides down the hall on his tummy. Like a penguin.

February 15, 2012

Review: Leviathan

by renata

I know Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy is pretty popular, and I’d heard a lot of good things about it. But I simply didn’t think I was interested in it–a steampunk alt-history of WWI? Ugh, but I don’t really like steampunk or war stories. But I kept hearing such good things about it, and I remembered my initial resistance to the Uglies trilogy, and how much I ended up liking Uglies. And then I found out that the audiobooks are read by Alan Cumming, who I adore, and that sealed the deal. I’d have to check out this whole Leviathan thing.

Leviathan

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, read by Alan Cumming

Okay, you guys, I totally loved it. Scott Westerfeld is just great. Even if his books have summaries that sound completely unappealing to me, he can just pull them off like nobody’s business. Although, I have to be honest, I still don’t really care about ~steampunk~. And that’s okay–in this alternate WWI, the Axis powers are the “Clankers” and use steampunk kinds of walkers and weapons and whatnot. I’m far more interested in the “Darwinist” Allied powers, who have been busily genetically engineering giant flying whales and talking message lizards. It’s a seriously detailed universe, and I’m captivated by it. I think that’s one of Westerfeld’s trademarks–it’s why I thought Uglies was so much more compelling than Lauren Oliver’s Delirium. They both had the same sort of plot, but Westerfeld had the scientific research and details to make it all seem plausible.

Also, a reason why I tend not to like war stories is because they are always oh-so-masculine. Westerfeld’s got that covered too, with Ms. Deryn Sharp, one of my favorite YA characters of recent memory. Deryn’s father was an airman who died in a hot air balloon accident. But before he died, he taught Deryn an awful lot about flying. So Deryn changes her name to Dylan and enlists as a young midshipman in the British Air Services, where she ends up serving on the huge airship Leviathan.

Deryn Sharp

Deryn Sharp

Of course she’s terrified that someone will discover her secret, but she’s mostly too busy being super competent and savvy. Cheers for Deryn Sharp!

Then there’s our young Clanker protagonist, Alek. He’s the (fictional) son of the (real) assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and he and some of his household staff are on the run. They run right into… the Leviathan. I have to admit, I was initially frustrated with Alek and anxiously waited for the book to get back to Deryn’s chapters. He did grow on me, though I still prefer Deryn.

Alan Cumming, with his plethora of available accents, was a great choice for these audiobooks. You can hear a sample at Scott Westerfeld’s website. However, I couldn’t get the audiobook for Behemoth, the next book in the trilogy. And I discovered that the books are illustrated! (You can see one of the illustrations above.) So far Behemoth is great and I love the illustrations. And I’m still hearing the characters’ voices as Alan Cumming, so it’s a win-win situation.

fail whale
I rate Leviathan four flying whales out of a possible five.

February 13, 2012

Music Monday: Like Wow!

by renata

Last week I was perusing Give Me Something To Read and came across an article entitled “The Devil in Greg Dark.” I started reading it and was confused to see that it was from 2001–Give Me Something to Read usually posts recent articles. But I quickly realized that the article was really about Leslie Carter, who died a few weeks ago at the age of 25. I didn’t remember Carter’s music from my own tween years, and I learned that her full album was never released.

It’s a fascinating article, ostensibly about Gregory Dark, who produced Carter’s only music video, but also about why being a teen idol is not necessarily the best job going:

“Fourteen-year-olds are not stupid,” Craig Fanning answers calmly. “They can understand what you tell them to do. You tell Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera or Mandy Moore to do something, believe me, they do it, no questions asked, because they’re professionals. What Leslie has to learn is that this is not about her. It’s not about Leslie Carter. In fact, she has learn to void herself of Leslie Carter and become a professional.”

The whole thing is pretty awful and makes Leslie’s early retirement seem entirely reasonable.

Interestingly, the Village Voice called Leslie’s unreleased album the best bubblegum album of the entire ’97-Y2K era.

Here, for your musical enjoyment, is Leslie’s only single, “Like Wow!”

Rest in peace, Leslie 🙁

February 7, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

by renata

Okay. There’s probably no point in me reviewing The Fault in Our Stars by John Green since by now it’s been a NYT bestseller for a couple weeks in a row (not to mention that it was also a bestseller in pre-sales) and you’ve probably already read it. But nevertheless, I read it and I have thoughts about it.

The Fault in our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I have heard the complaint leveled that John Green is overrated. And, to some extent, I think I agree. Or at least–I think that his Twitter and his YouTube videos make me feel more fondness toward him as an author than his books alone merit. Is that the same thing as being overrated? Or is he just good at social media? Is that the whole point? (Maureen Johnson also triggers this confusion in me.) I think that John Green is excellent at social media but I think he is also excellent at writing books, and I will happily consume both.

Still, I was nervous about The Fault in Our Stars (or TFIOS, as the internet calls it). I mean, it’s about cancer kids. And Jodi Picoult wrote the cover blurb. Let’s be real: it could have been cringe-worthy. But instead, I really thought that it transcended cliche and delivered wonderful characters and, you know, deep truths about mortality or whatever.

TFIOS was so engaging that it cured my jet lag. The first day I got back from my European travels, I went to bed at 8pm and woke up at 4am. It was less than ideal. The second day, I picked up all my held mail, including my pre-ordered copy of TFIOS. I decided to read a few chapters of it before going to bed at 8:30pm, a totally reasonable bedtime for a jetlagged grownup. But I got so sucked into it that I read it straight through until midnight. Then I wiped my tearstained eyes and went to sleep. Ahh.

kleenex

Just got something in my eye

So. TFIOS is the story of Hazel, a teenage cancer patient. Hazel loves the (fictional) book An Imperial Affliction, which is about a teenage cancer patient. She dislikes most of the kids at the teenage cancer support group her parents make her attend, except for Isaac, a sarcastic eye cancer patient. And Isaac’s friend, Augustus. Before long, Hazel more than likes Augustus. She loves him, and vice versa. But Hazel knows her days are numbered, even if she doesn’t know the exact number, and she’s afraid to let Augustus get too close to her.

I don’t want to give too much away, but, you know, it’s a book about cancer kids. It’s funny and heartbreaking. Don’t put on mascara before you read it, that’s all I’m saying. These characters have a unique perspective on life and mortality, and Green–who worked as a chaplain in a children’s hospital–brought them to life unforgettably. As is true in many of my favorite YA novels, the teens talk perhaps a bit more intelligently and profoundly than normal teens. Like, whatever, at least they’re not vampires, am I right?

“I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
— Augustus Waters, The Fault in Our Stars

Swoon!

five stars

Anyway, I give TFIOS five faulty stars out of a possible five. (The title, BTW, is from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Classy!)

February 6, 2012

Music Monday: Mahna Mahna

by renata

Hey guys. It’s been awhile since I blogged, and the reasons are: final exams, extended travels, and laziness. I don’t really feel bad about it, though. I mean, I post at a YA blog. It’s not like I took two months off from curing cancer or something. Still, hope you didn’t miss me too much.

During my extended hiatus, I took my Girl Scout troop to see the Muppet movie. We loved it, obviously. The soundtrack is great, and we’ve been listening to it during our meetings while we do art projects and such.

And now you all have Mahna Mahna in your heads. You are welcome.