Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Anderson, Laurie Halse. The Impossible Knife of Memory. New York: Viking, 2014. Print.
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My Thoughts
"Because you can only be brave if you're scared" (Anderson 390).
Hayley Rose Kincain has led an unconventional life. Her dad Andy is a war veteran who suffers from PTSD, depression, mood swings, and alcoholism. Hayley's mom is dead [The reader will find out what happened, at least according to Hayley's memory, at page 247.]. For much of her younger life, she bounced from place to place with dad until he decides they need to settle down in the town he grew up in and Hayley will go to school there. She hates it. She hates the "zombies" that surround her. She hates the superficial teenagers. She hates that her guidance counselor won't leave her alone. Then she meets Finn Ramos. Finn is not a "zombie" and they develop a great friendship that leads to a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

Hayley tries to hide and protect her dad, especially on "bad days" when he goes into a dark place mentally. However, life is funny, and ultimately, in protecting her dad, she is the one needing protecting. I worried that Hayley might be experiencing her own PTSD.

I liked some of the lessons Anderson writes through Hayley. When Hayley must walk home, she fakes listening to music. "I needed to hear the world but didn't want the world to know I was listening" (Anderson 5). When Hayley's guidance counselor is prying, Hayley says, "The trick to surviving an interrogation is patience. Don't offer up anything. Don't explain. Answer the question and only the question that is asked so you don't accidentally put your head in a noose" (Anderson 21). After Hayley and Finn meet, she realizes that she doesn't know "The Rules" of dating (Anderson 146). I laughed when she was looking up college entrance essay prompts. "How could filling in a bunch of blanks and writing a fluffy essay about the 'moment of significance' in my life let them know if I was good enough to go here?" (Anderson 209).

I always am tickled when I see connections between the words on the page and my life. In this book's case, one very important episode occurs at Halloween. I'm read this book during the month of October. Creepy timing.

I was surprised that Dad's friend Michael didn't turn out as bad as I predicted.

I also wondered about the reliability of the narrator (I'm always an English teacher :) ), especially when Hayley seemed to start "cracking" after dad's ex-girlfriend Trish reappears. "I couldn't stop the pictures in my head, explosions like a flash-bang grenade was going off behind my eyes: carnage in the street, bodies on the floor of a pizza shop, a movie theatre, the county fair...if someone, somewhere was pushing the button that would detonate an explosion. Lining me up in his sights and pulling the trigger" (Anderson 323). This sounds more like what her dad would experience.
I liked the believable resolution of the story. I liked thinking about how our brains do work and how one episode can have many memories.

I'm super excited that I got to meet (and get my picture with) Laurie Halse Anderson at  TLA. She even signed this book, which I will be keeping to reread.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Nanny Diaries

McLaughlin, Emma and Nicola Kraus. The Nanny Diaries. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002. Print.
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My Thoughts

OH, this book made me laugh!

In the "note to readers," the authors state that they've worked for over thirty NYC families and the story was "inspired by what they have learned and experienced" but the book is a "work of fiction" and "any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is coincidental" (McLaughlin and Kraus).

The book is divided into three parts: fall, winter, & spring. It is in the fall that "Nanny" first meets and starts working for the Xs. Mrs. X is a socialite and so busy taking care of herself and her husband's business parties that she can't take care of her own child. Ironically, Mrs. X is very active in the Parents League and has several recommendations for others about how best to handle children (when she, herself, doesn't!). Nanny doesn't even meet Mr. X until two months have passed. Once she meets him, he is more interested in the newspaper than the person TAKING CARE OF HIS CHILD!

Grayer X is the charge. He is a rambunctious, over scheduled, coddled child that Nanny adores. He is four or five years old. His mother is concerned about him getting into the "right" school. When her first choice doesn't make, she states that "we're just going to be left with his safeties and I'm not enthusiastic about the college placements at those schools" (McLaughlin and Kraus 175). Did I mention he's FOUR years old?

Nanny describes there are three types of "gigs" and mothers: types A, B, and C.  Type "A" is a few nights a week to give "couple time" and the mother relates to the nanny as a professional. Type "B" is "sanity time" for a mother who mothers most days and nights. Type C is when the nanny "is brought in as one of a cast of many to collectively provide twenty-four/seven 'me time' to a woman who neither works nor mothers" (McLaughlin and Kraus 26). Mrs. X is a Type C. She absolutely is the comic element in this story. Her reality and expectations are so skewed! When Nanny wants to attend her own graduation at NYU, Mrs. X seems put out because it might delay their trip to Nantucket and actually says, "I don't think we can delay our departure on your account" (McLaughlin and Kraus 236). REALLY?! There are so many more examples of Mrs. X's absurdity, and that's what made the book funny to me.

I love the closure that Nanny gets after the Nantucket trip. I was cheering her on and she talked to the nanny cam bear. She was rightfully mad at the situation. I'm glad she saw Mrs. X's calendar, but I couldn't believe that Mrs. X wrote "N's behavior is unacceptable. Completely self-centered. Providing poor care. Has no respect for professional boundaries. Is taking complete advantage" (McLaughlin and Kraus 301). Oh, my! If that isn't the pot calling the kettle black.

I appreciated the allusion on page 136 to The Scarlet Letter. So witty!

Overall, this was a delightful book.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Meyer, Marissa. Scarlet. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2013. Print.
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My Thoughts

This is the second installment of The Lunar Chronicles. The story's main character is Little Red Riding Hood, keeping in the fairy tale retelling, and Cinder (from Book 1) plays a large part in the story as well. I can see the two story lines coming together and setting up for the third and fourth books (Book Four drops in February 2015). Some new characters, besides Scarlet, are introduced (Wolf, Michelle Benoit), and some more information about characters we've seen (Prince Kai, Levana) is given. The book is divided into four books. I liked the transition quote that each book's title page included. This helped give the feel of the original "Little Red Riding Hood" story.

I liked that I didn't have the story figured out in the first chapter. In fact, there were several "red herrings" that made me question what I thought I knew. Meyer kept the intrigue and suspense for me. I thought I knew who the princess was, but about halfway through the book, I began to question that knowledge. I was glad to see some of the "holes" in Cinder's story were filled in with Scarlet's story.

Even the new character of Wolf was not as he seemed. He starts out as the tough guy, loner, likes to fight. Through the story, Wolf turns into a sensitive, caring, potential suitor for Scarlet, only for the reader to learn that he is a "Lunar Special Operative" (Meyer 282). But, I won't tell you how his character keeps evolving. Once the reader learns of this Lunar connection, there are still 200 pages of story!

As part of the story talks about Cinder being burned (Meyer p. 324), it reminded me of the J.R. Martinez book I just finished. I thought the timing was a little weird.

Even though I liked the story, just picking up the book seemed to be a chore. Once I started reading, I was good, but the story wasn't compelling me to stop everything and read. I will read the next two installments because I do want to find out what happens with Cinder and especially Queen Levana. I just might wait until a few other books off my pile are read.

By the way, Marissa Meyer autographed my copy of Scarlet at TLA, but I can't find the picture.