Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Bermudez Triangle

Something that has never been scientifically proven but is most definately true is the fact that things are so much better when they're forbidden. Seriously. Who doesn't love forbidden things? Forbidden love- much more romantic, right? Forbidden cookies, too, taste twice as good as the cookies your mom throws in your lunch box. Forbidden movies, forbidden trips, forbidden food- all awesome. All way more enjoyable than they would be if they were actually allowed. On top of the quality of whatever the forbidden thing is, there's that rush, that knowledge that you are doing something that is FORBIDDEN.

This love for all things not-allowed is one of the many reasons I loved The Bermudez Triangle. If you're familiar with Maureen Johnson, you might know that the book in question has been banned from one school library, placed on a Parental-Consent-Only shelf that, I'm sure, just screams "forbidden". So, in other words, it screams, "READ ME!". Because banned books, I've learned, are always the best books. Let's face it- they don't ban just anything. If the library in question even vaguely resembles any middle or high school library I've ever been to, I'm sure that there are tons of books that are much more offensive than this one- but these are books that are "bad" for the sake of trashiness. These books don't scare people like the mother who brought the Bermudez Triangle up for questioning. This book, clearly, was banned not because of any actual content, but because of the message that it sends- the message that is so terrifying to close minded people such as this woman.

The Bermudez Triange opens with the going-away party of Nina Bermudez, thrown by her two best friends, Mel and Avery. The three main characters are introduced through this scene with dialogue and anecdotes, rather than the typical listing of characteristics. Nina is the intelligent leader, off to Stanford for three months; Avery is amusing and talkative, hyper-observant and snarky; and Mel is somewhat of a shrinking violet, remaining quiet and getting teary eyed over Nina's impending departure. The three have clearly been friends for a long while, though a precise date or year is not named. As friends, the three are very relatable- full of inside jokes, making fun of each other incesscently, and not at all reserved about making fools of themselves. They have a quality that reminds you of your own best friends, comfortable and amusing and somewhat ridiculous; and this might scare you, later on.

In the ten weeks that follow, each member of the Triangle falls in love- two of them with each other. Contrary to the impression that you might have recieved from the title, the description, and the back of the book, the point of view is not limited to Nina, nor is she the undisputed main character (am I the only one who thought that was the case?). The book, which is divided into ten parts, marked by holidays, switches third person focus according to chapter. During "Independence Day", while Nina is still away at leadership camp falling for an adorable nature boy, Mel and Avery share their first kiss. What follows is an exquisite tale of sexual identity- a story of friendship, love, and the difference between the two. It's clear, reading this book, why it would scare some people.

In today's society, few people are willing to admit to predjudices of any kind, even to themselves. Teenagers especially are more "accepting" of homosexuality- or, perhaps, still sticking to the status quo by refusing to voice other opinions. Because, honestly, it's cooler in most people's eyes today to be gay than to be homophobic.

The cruel treatment of Mel and Avery later on in the novel are a perfect example of the fact that nomatter how accepting today's society claims to be, predjudice still exists. Unfortunately, it probably always will. This book could not only help a person come to terms with sexuality- it's also a reminder that no matter how far we've come, there's still a long way to go. How many people can honestly say that they are completely, totally, unwaveringly accepting of everyone's beliefs and habits? I can't. I have no problem with people's decisions to be gay; I believe in equal rights for everyone, and I think that gay marriage should be legalized- but I can't watch a same sex kiss on TV without squirming and changing the channel. Predjudice is something I still have to work through and resolve- something that everyone has to work through and resolve.

Therefore, The Bermudez Triangle is a book that every teenager should read. It's a book that should be allowed on every shelf, no matter how fun banned books are to read. Besides sending a powerful message, The Bermudez Triangle is entertaining, made of awesome, and! Involves a completely adorable boy-two, if you like the whole Birkenstocks thing- who is beyond sweet and amazing despite his name, which holds a negative connotation for me. :D

As Kirkus Reviews sums it up, The Bermudez Triangle is, "Warm, humorous, and smoothly readable story... tender even when painful."

I give it five cups of steaming hot, delicious coffee. Caramel Mocchiato from Starbucks! I'd give it six, if that was an option.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Amber Spyglass- Philip Pullman(a review in which Caroline cannot stop using the word "fierce")

There are many things that can be said about the final installment in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series- many things that have been said, actually. The trilogy, which has been questioned by many (most of whom have never opened one of the books, as far as I can tell) has sprung quite a controversy in the past few months, sparked by the release of a movie adaptation of The Golden Compass.

Anti-Christian themes definately reach their peak in The Amber Spyglass, making it the most controversial of the three novels, but the quotes presented on the novel demonstrate the fact that there are much more important things in the Amber Spylass.

These quotes praise Pullman's storytelling ability, language, and his use of fantasy to tell of the universal expierence of growing up. One declares His Dark Materials to be the last great fantasy masterpiece of the twentieth century.

All of this is true. Lyra and Will's adventure is well-thought out and breathtaking. It's full of incredible new characters, creatures and universes, all awesome and creative, as is everything that Pullman has created in this series. Aside from these new additions, old characters who had previously been one-sided labels of people become deliciously three-dimensional and real. Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel are desperately confusing and confused, abandoning their previous personells of evil heartless bitch and slightly less evil murderer. The stunning character development is the first thing that truly sets The Amber Spyglass apart from the other novels. The second thing, though, is so much more wonderful. The second thing is what carries it above and beyond, takes a somewhat flat story to soaring heights.

The second thing is love, something that had only been shown in brief flashes of the first two novels. Pullman's brilliance at capturing emotion is surprising and goes unnoticed most of the time in The Golden Compass and the Subtle Knife, but it does make it's appearences- the best example is in Lyra's relationship with Pantalaimon. Those are some of the best moments, writing wise, in the first book; Lyra's fierce dedication and devotion to Pan, Roger, Iorek, and, truly, everyone she gets close to. There are also more subtle bits, in Will's love for his parents, Serephina's love for Lee, even, at the ending of the first book, Asriel and Marisa. But these are merely glances at the author's true capability as it is shown in the final novel. All of a sudden, there's Mrs. Coulter's fierce, impossible motherly love, which I would have never guessed existed. But it does, in this book. Though she is certainly not a heroine, Mrs. Coulter loves her daughter, however unexpected and twisted that love is. The fierce, ultimate love between the angels Balthamos and Baruch is gorgeous and heartbreaking. Every character in The Amber Spyglass loves fiercely, no matter what their other flaws. Love is so prominent in this book- through friendship, through family, through souls, and finally, beautifully, through ROMANCE.

The romance of the two main characters in this book is the best kind, in my opinion. It's romance of the fierce, aching, desperate, sad, beautiful variety. It's the sort of romance that makes me sob. Because, yeah, I did. I sobbed. Usually, it takes death to make me sob. I'll get a bit teary-eyed, sure, but this was not "a bit teary-eyed". This was like, lay your head down on the book, leave permanent water stains. There are only two other works of fiction that have ever given me such a strong reaction without killing anyone: the "Both Sides of Time" series by Caroline B. Cooney(there were moments in all three...), and the movie Becoming Jane.

This is some seriously beautiful stuff. It's easily the best of the three books, just for the final chapters. The rest, of course, is incredible as well. My only complaint would be that I was somewhat irritated by any section that did not include Will or Lyra, which is a complaint I've had throughout the series. Actually, the bits with Mrs. Coulter and Lord Asriel are more interesting this time around, so I was mainly annoyed by the adventures of Mary Malone and her bike/animal friends. I must confess to skimming those sections.

I award this book the full five stars(we do need to come up with something better than stars, btw)


The Nature of Jade

'Master storyteller Deb Caletti has once again created characters so real you will be breathless with anticipation as their riveting story unfolds'

Quoted from the inside fold of The Nature of Jade. Not altogether true, but not a lie either. I've never read her other books (which include The Queen of Everything, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, and Wild Roses) so I would have no idea if she has created real characters before, making this time a 'once again' moment. And the story wasn't exactly 'riveting' either. But that just means that the truthful 'breathless anticipation' was all the better because it came from reading an outstanding book, not just one with a can't-put-it-down-must-read interesting plot line. It wasn't 'riveting', it was good.

I don't even know why I like it--love it. I'm not even particularly fond of the way Deb Caletti writes. I don't like her style. It almost seems (I hope I'm not offending anyone) too...amateur, raw, unedited.

She won't become a favorite author. Don't expect me to start gushing about how much I love her. I don't. At all. The way she writes is ridiculously annoying to me.

But that doesn't keep me from coming back to this amazing book I've just read. This book with its good cover which is usually a sign of a good book (don't give me that 'don't judge a book by its cover' crap. In the case of books its mostly true. With humans, not so much, as Jade finds out in this book. But I'm getting ahead of myself...) I do have to agree with that person, whoever it was, that said the characters were real.

They are. They are in that since that they're nothing like your friends but still exactly like them.

Jade DeLuna, star of it all, has Panic Disorder. She's prone to anxiety attacks. There's two things that seem to help her most with this. The first is going to the zoo. Volunteering after school, between Calculus and all her AP classes, she becomes attached to the Elephants. Bamboo, Tombi, Flora, Chai, baby Hansa, and Onyx. All with their different personalities, just like humans. The second is him. The boy in the red jacket and the baby on his back. Sebastian. He has his own story and she gets caught up in it.

All the while, her family goes through rough patches. Horrible spells. Tsunamis, Hurricanes, and Doors Flying off Airplanes bad moments.

Jade lives through it and (at the risk of sounding horribly cheesy and cliche) learns about herself.

And it's not just a girl book. Right now, I'm trying to imagine any one of my guy friends reading it and can't, but it could be a guy's book. If guys can read Twilight and be completely in love with it...It's told in female perspective, but definitely not girly.

I give it 4 stars (just stars for now until I can think of some cooler object to label it with).

Yours Truly,


(first review, how did I do?)
And now for Caroline's imput:
I had several issues with The Nature of Jade- the writing style, of course, was really annoying at times. That didn't bother me quite as much as I thought it would, but I wasn't crazy about it by any means. Surprisingly, though, it wasn't my biggest problem with the book.
Sebastian, the boy in the red jacket, is introduced within the first chapter- maybe even the first few pages. The way Jade reacts to him makes things clear: he's going to be important; he's going to be "THE BOY". If the overly revealing jacket description hadn't already declared him "THE BOY", there is still no question about it. Jade hasn't even met him yet, but you know. It's him.
The fact that Jade hasn't met him yet begins as a cool sort of spin on the whole thing, but soon becomes annoying. She just happens to go on the day he stops coming? Not just the day he missed, but the day he gives up altogether? This is very frustrating, because, clearly, he is THE BOY. He'll be important eventually, gosh darn it, and I'm a bit of an impatient reader. I want him to be important NOW.
But that can be forgiven, on it's own. He finally shows up, asks her out after two meetings(thank the Lord, they didn't drag out THAT process)- and they become a sort of something. I like Sebastian- I like his sweet charm and his bookstore employment and his hot chocolate and his son- but I don't like the way it takes forever to get to know him.
Another complaint(Wow, I have quite a few of those today...) was that the conversation was kind of... I don't know. Fake. Contrived? I mean, quite alot of it was good. But some... some was sort of annoying. Like, it would be great, it'd be like listening in on actual peoples conversations, yes, yes, go on- Ouch. No. Stop. Nobody would really say that.
Finally-(yes, I'll move on to the nice things after this)- I didn't like how big, huge, important things were more or less ignored, only to be brought up in wierd ways and then NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN. For instance, here is a quote from the book; part of a scene in which Jade is talking to her psycologist.
"Some things aren't their business."
"Like sleeping with him."
-The Nature of Jade, Deb Caletti, etc...
Ahem. Yeah. Has their intimacy been previously mentioned? No. Do they ever bring it up again? Ha. No. Too easy. That would be predictable, or something.
They do this again, with something else in the book. Something huge and terrible; something that should have been addressed. Things like this get on my nerves to no end- and there were alot of things like that in this book. It really annoyed me, alot of the time. But somehow, inexplicably, I really liked this book.
I might even love it, oddly enough. Because, despite the many logistical problems and grammatical errors, it was a good book, a sweet read, and my only comfort on this awful day.
The only element that I can honestly say I loved were the characters. Despite occassional dialogue problems, they were so real; so unstereotyped and lovely. Every character felt like a close friend, or at least someone I knew very well. I found Jade completely fascinating, adored Sebastian and Bo and Tess, and knew all of Jade's friends.
I have to say, though, the character who I loved the most was Jade's little brother, Oliver. Their relationship completely fascinated me. I've always wanted a little brother. Or a big brother, even, but a little brother would be great. Oliver, with his endearing Narnia obsession and love for Jade and horror at the thought of divorce, is the sweetest thing; all I would ever want in a sibling. So he was my favorite character, but they were all pretty amazing.
I give the nature of Jade three cups of delicious, smoking hot coffee- plus another one that I spilled half of on the floor.
Yours (or, actually, Sebastian's),

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In way of an explaination(and because the page looks so sad and empty...)

So, because we've decided to be cryptic and put song lyrics as our blog description (albeit extremely awesome ones)- here's an explanation for you.

In short, we are girls who read. Alot. You've all seen us- we're the ones in the back of the classroom, ignoring the teacher and everyone else, caught up in a different planet. Maybe you've even heard us- because this is largely what we talk about.


Talking about books is what we're here to do, and if you're reading this and you'd like to read something better, we'll give you advice on which ones you should. And, of course, rag on the ones you shouldn't. Because life is just not fun if you don't get to whine, occasionally.

So we'll read the books, discuss the books, and log in and review the books for your (hopeful!) enjoyment and use. And perhaps we'll get lucky and score an interview?!?! Hey, it happened to those evil cousins. Now they're selling t-shirts and everything, big shots.

On that note... enjoy the reviews!

<3 Caroline

Anything you want to add to that?