Books

I read Forever, the Judy Blume sex book. Once again I couldn’t remember much of it, it had been such a while since I last read it, but still. It I could remember a couple of things, such as the boy’s penis being called Ralph. That hadn’t changed. A bunch of the dated seventies stuff was still there, like the way the main girl (Katherine) and boy (Michael) meet at a fondue party, or their constant referring to condoms as sheaths. On the other hand it’s a really good portrayal of a well informed and assertive girl experiencing her first sexual relationship and eventually moving on to other relationships.

Of course, the real appeal of this book is that it’s the one about sex, it also has swear words in it, mentions characters smoking grass and uhm, describes the lead boy’s penis! Which is named Ralph! It was awesome.

The Walking Dead Volumes 5 and 6 by Robert Kirkman. OK, I said the last two books got dark, these ones leave dark behind and move into a mired abyss of blackness. There were actually pages which I skipped over because of graphic content, which is pretty ironic. The series is definitely exploring the ways in which humans can mistreat each other to a backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. Dark, dark stuff. But still good. I like the characters and the world is very realistically rendered.

The Last Days by Scott Westerfield. It had a rocky start, the opening chapters were a bit weird but it picked up the pace and I was soon in love with it. The characters were mostly pretty cool and the details about starting up a rock band were fun and I really love that it continued the universe that he started in Peeps. It’s a neat interpretation of vampires.

It made me think about other books about bands and whether or not I know enough about music and bands to write a book about bands. I don’t think I do. But I could fully write about a fake band, played on a playstation.

The Summer of Love by Debbie Dreschle. This blended quite seamlessly into several of the other autobiographical slice-of-American-youth graphic novels I’ve read and it didn’t really have anything new going on. It had a good sister relationship portrayal but the first relationship/sexual awakening storyline didn’t move me. Maybe because no one’s penis ever got a name. No, I kid, I kid. There wasn’t as much of a story as I needed, which I guess you can forgive because it’s real life and sometimes life isn’t lot filled but then, why make a graphic novel of your experience? Plus, it just blends into the other ones I’ve read…overall I think Blankets was a much better story.

Currently reading: The 10pm Question by Kate De Goldi, On the Road by Kerouac is still bring slogged through and of course How to Be a Teenage Fairy Godmother by Debbie Cowens (I’m about half way through now, and still loving it.)

Oh and this is hilarious moleskines, white people like them.

Books

Short and sweet….

Ransom My Heart by Mia Thermopolis
A romance novel written by a fictional princess? Bliss! It’s a fairly OTT historical romance, funny and cool and kind of hot too. I liked it very much. I think it’s worth reading this before the 10th Princess Diaries book.

Princess Diaries, volume 10 by Meg Cabot.
Awesome. The last book in the Princess Diaries series, longer than any of the earlier ones and set nearly 2 years after the events of the 9th book. Mia is graduating from high school, trying to decide what college to go to and figuring out her love life. Loved it to bits and was very satisfied with all the various resolutions.

The Walking Dead volumes 3 and 4 by Robert Kirkman.
Wow. These just get darker and darker. The despair that the characters are feeling in their situation becomes more and more prevalent in these two volumes. There are some light moments but overall it’s getting nastier. I wonder why I’m so into zombies now. I think it must be because of the prevalence of awesome human stories set against zombie attacks.

Deenie by Judy Blume.
Read this one a while back. This was my absolute favourite Judy Blume book when I was a kid and I did still enjoy it as an adult. I was disappointed at how short it was though, I feel like it should have been three times the length and gone deeper into Deenie’s emotional breakdown and recovery.

Reading is what the cool kids are doing

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. by Judy Blume. Kind of the quintessential teen girl book, I remembered a couple of things very clearly from this book: the breast exercises and the description of antiquated sanitary pads. (You needed a belt and you had to hook the pad onto the belt, Margaret got a pink one). Well, one of those things was still there. Turns out they’ve updated the book so as to not confuse the hell out of modern girls who go looking for special pad belts in shops.

The major themes of the book are puberty and religion. I vaguely remembered that there was some stuff about religion in there, but I couldn’t remember specifics. It’s quite a nice wee overview of different religions and whether or not you need one to get by. Also how it can tear apart families. I enjoyed re-reading this well enough but I didn’t love it. I think Tiger Eyes is a better book. I’m really looking forward to re-reading Deenie because I loved that book so much.

I am also (finally) reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac, I’m only about a hundred pages in but I’m liking it. As long as I remember it’s set back in the 50s and these boys really are that idealistic and stupid then it’s good fun. I like to imagine the lives of the random people he encounters. Did they know that they’re mentioned in his book? Did it affect them in any way? Yeah, good fun.

Just about finished with the second Walking Dead trade paperback, “Miles from Home”, which is as nasty as expected. I don’t find the emotional content as compelling as in the first one though. I have also finished Fables: War and Pieces, which completes the Fables saga quite nicely. It was bittersweet and fun and clever, I especially liked the art in the first story, which was a bit of a departure but a good one. I would sigh for no more Fables but I do have Jack of Fables so I have nothing to complain about really.

What have you been reading my lovely readers? Any recommendations for me? Any thoughts on Judy Blume?

Some words

whizzy dizzy whirling dancing.

My sleeping habits are all screwed up. I’m waking at 2, 4 , 5am and unable to get back to sleep. I was thinking it was the heat, but I noticed that a lot of people seem to be having similar problems. I’m going to go ahead and blame an invisible alien force that is attacking Wellington by making us all cranky and sleepy at inappropriate times.

I read Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume and really enjoyed it. I remember only this from reading it as a kid: there’s a girl and she goes somewhere with her family where there are canyons. In the canyons she meets a boy who calls her Tiger Eyes because she is moody.

Actually it’s about grief and the grieving process. Davey’s father has been murdered in his store and her family move to stay with her aunt and uncle while they try and process this. It’s a fascinating story, not shy about how awful it is and how you can take it out on the wrong people. Interesting stuff. And the boy is called Wolf. Because he is awesome. There’s also some pretty deep stuff about destruction and violence. Davey’s aunt and uncle live in Los Alamos ‘the nuclear city’ and her uncle is an engineer working on the construction of nuclear bombs. The aunt and uncle are also very cautious and won’t let Davey go skiing because it’s too dangerous.

I am working on copy editing What’s the Worst that Could Happen? and I’m making headway pretty fast. There are a lot of typos, but there are also a lot of places where I am going to add dialogue. I mustn’t be very confident in my dialogue writing skills because I seem quite happy to say “and then we talked about the night” and move on, when it would be much more interesting to have the characters actually speaking to each other. Anyway, it’s good. It will pump up my word count. I’m also noticing how improved my writing is from Kiki. Just way less redundancies. Maybe that’s the beauty of writing first person?

Right. Back to it. Out onto the balcony and into the sunshine. Tonight: swearing niece’s 5th birthday and the first swing dance class of the year.

PoF: guns shooting ponies Guns
CO: still sleepy despite nap.

More Judy Blume

Blubber I could remember quite well, I have a very clear memory of reading it and it all being a little too real for me to enjoy it. I also recall speaking to a friend of mine who had already read it and she said “How far through are you?” and I described a place about half way through and she said “Do you know who BB is?” and I said “no” and she said “you’ll see.”

Blubber, in case you haven’t read it, is a children’s book about bullying. The lead character, Jill, is influenced by Wendy, a popular girl to bully Linda. Linda isn’t the fattest kid in school, but she is teased for it. After a book report on whales she gets called Blubber when they tease her. Judy Blume is very good at getting inside the psychology of kids, particularly girls, and there’s a part where Jill says “some people just make you want to see how far you can go”, pointing out that Linda never fights back or takes any action to stop the bullying, encouraging the other kids to push further.

BB is of course, the climax of the novel. It’s when the POV character has the tables turned, Wendy gets angry with Jill and when she comes in to school on Monday morning Jill and Linda are friends and everyone is teasing Jill, calling her Baby Brenner (BB) for taking pity on Linda and standing up to Wendy. As a kid I wasn’t bullied much, I was more on the Jill side of things. I saw it happening and sometimes I’d join in. I’m not proud of it now, but I guess it’s a learning curve. At the time I didn’t know any better. Re-reading Blubber was just as upsetting as reading it when I was that age. It’s a nasty cruel book because it’s so realistic, and although the bad actions Jill takes are punished, Wendy never is.

It’s Not the End of the World. The divorce book. Karen is surprised when her parents decide to seperate even though she knows that they fight all the time. She starts various plans to get them back together, while worrying about various things and trying out different coping mechanisms. I could never really relate to this story, because my parents didn’t fight too much and are still together now.

What struck me when reading it this time is how sorry I felt for Karen’s mother. I can’t really remember thinking much of her when I read this as a kid, just that she was a bit hopeless, not able to give Karen the answers she needed. Reading it now I have more sympathy for the mother, she’s doing the best she can in a horrible situation. The father moves out and she can’t bear to tell the children why right away. When Karen or her little sister Amy get difficult and yell at her, she runs to her room crying. She is going through a very emotional time and is unable to be there for her children. We don’t get much of the father’s side of things but I’m not sure you need it. Karen and her mother’s emotions are enough to fill the story.

Next up: Tiger Eyes and then Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret.

Books are delicious

I just re-read Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. This is one that I remember loving as a kid, like seriously adoring, although when it came down to it all I could remember is that it’s the one about the girl (Stephanie) who has a best friend (Rachel) and then gets another best friend (Alison) and they try to all be best friends, but one is always left out and there is a big fight. Which certainly does happen, but there’s also a rather major parents-getting-seperated plot. This results in Stephanie, our protagonist becoming depressed and using food to comfort herself while striking out at her mother and father.

There were odd little things I remembered from the book, like Stephanie and Alison going to Alison’s Grandmother’s house to bake brownies and then the Gran teaches them how to dance the rhumba. Or the bit where Rachel and Stephanie have a screaming fight in a dressing room. Chelle? This is the one with the boy with the apple shampoo as well. So I’d remembered those small things but not the overall plot.

I enjoyed it very much, anyway, and am looking forward to the other Judy Blume books I got out from the library.

I suppose this all ties in with my fascination for tween-teen girl psychology (re: Mean Girls, Queen Bees and Wannabees, Best Friends. When I was about ten I had a very Just as Long as We’re Together kind of thing happen. My best friend of many years called me up one day and told me that she wasn’t having Best Friends anymore, that it wasn’t fair, so she was just going to have Close Friends. But then the next day at school she had a new Best Friend. I was just kind of left out. I eventually found an awesome new Best Friend, but it still hurt like crazy at the time.

I would dearly love an answer to the question of how and why girls get so very mean around the 9-13 age…it can’t just be hormones can it? I kind of think it has something to do with all those years of ‘playing nicely’ and ‘being good’ and ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’ and gaining your independence from it. Then there’s that theory that girl Best Friend relationships are like trial romances…all the intensity and closeness, and then you have to break them off in order to experience a proper romantic relationship. Does anyone have any other theories? I’d love to hear them. Especially since I want to remain Cool Auntie Jenni and be supportive of my various nieces when the girls in their classes start to get bitchy.

PoF: Oscar the recycler
CO: Three year anniversary plans

Pick it up! Superman.

Huh.
All the nominations for the bloggies Australia and New Zealand category are Australian. Well, I think they are. I didn’t check that last one on account of explicit content. But it’s called Aussielicious so I think it’s a safe bet.
This makes me feel terribly patriotic and competetive. Come on New Zealand bloggers! Pick up your game! Sheesh.


In other news, I read a fantastic Superman comic on the weekend. Recommended by Hix, it’s a Kurt Busiek (Astro City) title called Secret Identity. Basically it’s set in something like our world, where Superman and Batman and everyone are famous because of comics. A kid is born to the Kents in Kansas and his hair is dark, so they name him Clark. A hilarious joke for everyone but him.

Then when he turns 18 or so, he actually gets the superpowers and has to decide what to do about it. He likes privacy, so he decides to go with the secret identity thing. It follows him throughout his life; teen, twenties, middle age, old age and tells a rather charming tale about trying to keep a part of your life completely normal when this other part is taken up with extraordinary feats and keeping the government from finding out who you are.

It got me thinking about how ‘uncool’ it is to like Superman. Like, people always complains that he isn’t interesting because he’s “Just a big boy scout” and it always kinda rankled with me that that’s a valid reason.
Sure, Superman has a moral code that he sticks to pretty strictly, and that might make him a little less interesting than say, Punisher or the Sandman. But that’s only one aspect of who he is, and it’s a trait shared with all sorts of other heroes.
Is it because he’s got all the Big Name superpowers? Flight, invulnerability, heat vision, freezey breath, Xray vision, etc. Is a hero less interesting if they can do less? I think his abilities are balanced by his weakness: exposure to kryptonite hurts him and then he dies. And if you’ve seen Smallville you know that that kryptonite stuff is everywhere!

But my point is, there is more to him and that is what makes him an interesting character. For one, he is an alien, and can never truly integrate into human society. By virtue of what he can do, he is excluded. The outsider perspective can be interesting to explore because everyone at some point, feels like they are on the outside looking in.

Point two: because he is so powerful, and one of the first superheroes invented, he can act as a metaphor for all heroes*, for the human condition and for all sorts of things like war, peace and justice. This is useful for storytelling purposes, and one thing that secret identity did very well, making him a metaphor for everyone on some level.

Point three: Because he has a strict moral code, he is a contrast to other characters. Obviously Lex Luthor, but also Batman. Batman himself has a strict no-guns-no-killing code, but he uses intimidation tactics and fear as weapons. Superman is more about fighting the big fight and keeping himself clean as he does it. He is noble, and noble is something worthwhile in a role model.

So yeah. I’m a Superman fan, and I am not ashamed of it. I think he is more than a Big Boy Scout, and I like stories that have him in.

Soundtrack to this entry: Superman ~ Five for Fighting
*(Kurt does an interesting thing with this in Astro City, in a short story called “Flying”)