Friday, January 29, 2010

Mayhem! Or, "to be continued..."

Growing up, I always enjoyed reading books by authors that were dead (though I did read those by authors living, of course). There was a finality to it that the authors would be unable to leave you hanging because the next book was already written. So even if they did leave you with a tantalizing "to be continued..." at the end of one book, there was always the immediate relief of the next. Unless they die before the series is complete. But new authors? You have to wait a while for the next book to come out. That sometimes takes a bit of patience!

And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman

Cordelia Truesdale (or Delia to her friends), a California girl living with her mom, T.K., goes surfing one day only to come home to the news that her mother has disappeared during an Antarctica expedition and is presumed dead by all. Everyone, that is, except for Delia herself. However, a reading of T.K.'s will sends Delia to live in NYC with her Aunt Charity (or Charley), with her other aunt, Patience, acting as her trustee; neither of which she had ever met before. As if starting her junior year in a new preppy private school isn't enough, Delia attempts to unravel the mystery of her mother's disappearance and along the way makes friends with a tech-saavy schoolmate, becomes attracted to a boy who might be dangerous, ask the assistance of a private detective, be told her future by a psychic, and attempt to avoid T.K.'s oily assistant, Thad.

I enjoyed reading this, but I do wish that it didn't leave me with a hanging ending. Though at least one thing was resolved by the end o the book. Of course, I'm not going to say what! I am looking forward to reading the sequel, And Then I Found Out the Truth.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

The first book in a new series, Maryrose Wood quickly introduces the reader to the ever intrepet Miss. Penelope Lumley, who at fifteen years of age is a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. Armed only with sayings of Agatha Swanburne (not all of them make sense), her favorite stories in the Giddy-Yap, Rainbow series, and her own personal convictions, Miss Lumley is still not quite prepared to face her newest challenge: being a governess to three children recently found running wild in the woods of Ashton Place. Named the Incorrigibles by Lord Frederick, the owner of Ashton Place, Alexander, Cassiopeia, and Beowulf face many challenges in becoming normal children as taught by Miss Lumley, not the least of which are the local squirrels. When the much anticipated ball (by Lady Charlotte, at least) devolves into "Mayhem!" as shouted by Cassiopeia, many questions are raised but none are answered by the end of the book.

In a way it reminding me in parts of Lois Lowry's The Willoughbys and Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Perhaps the orphans, perhaps the mystery, or maybe just the sometimes ridiculousness of it demonstrated by the adults in the story. While I wish I knew more by the end of the story, I did find it a fun romp. I'm looking to reading more of the series!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ruined (and the not so ruined Helen Hayes nominations)

Rebecca Brown, the fifteen-year-old protagonist of Ruined, a young adult novel by Paula Morris, finds herself at the beginning of the book shuttled off to live in the pre-Katerina city of New Orleans while her father is on an assignment in China. Her mother is dead, and there is only her Aunt Claudia, who isn't actually her aunt, to take care of her for an entire school year. Upon arriving in New Orleans, Rebecca learns she will be attending the prestigious Temple Mead School for girls, a school that has a rigid system of hierarchy that Rebecca, being an outsider, will never be able to crack.

The story really starts to move when Rebecca disobeys her aunt and sneaks into the cemetery (rule 1 - do not go into the cemetery) to spy on a group of "Them" girls from the Temple Mead School and their boy followers (rule 2 - do not associated at all with that group of kids). Of course, Rebecca makes a noise while spying on them, and has to flee through the cemetery. Except she gets lost. And meets a girl who points the way out. A girl who turns out to be a ghost.

Ruined took me back to the good old fashioned ghost stories of my own youth. A time where there were no zombies and vampires to interupt a good haunting. I could see the plot twists coming, but I still had fun getting there. Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the story for me was learning more about New Orleans historically and pre-Katrina. I think that the ghost, Lisette, had the most fleshed out character (yes, even as a ghost) of anyone in the book including Rebecca. I wish I could have learned more about Helena and what made her tick, though I guess every teen book needs that randomly awful for no apparent reason mean girl. And the romance aspect of it, I don't think it really needed it because to me it was more Lisette's story than Rebecca's.

Overall, while it had some weaknesses, I did enjoy Paula Morris's Ruined.

Next up: The dreaded "To Be Continued..." (a.k.a. two books I have recently read that featured those words at the end of the book)

And can I just get my theatre dorkiness squee out? I was so excited to see that both David Turner and Miriam Silverman were nominated for this year's Helen Hayes Awards (it is Washington, D.C.'s yearly theatre awards). And both for their performances as Tristan and Marcela in Shakespeare Theatre's Dog In the Manger, one of my favorite productions of last year (and currently in my top list of plays). Also Arcadia was nominated for several awards and other shows I liked. I can get more into the Helen Hayes Awards than the Tony Awards because I see a greater portion of the shows, so I do actually have my favorites!

And who could resist a play that has such lines as, "Late again, missing all the fun, like a virgin at an orgy." My friend actually made a t-shirt for me with that line on it as a birthday present. Though, however much fun Tristan was, my heart and sympathies went out to Marcela. "You don't throw stones at a window to test the quality of the glass."

However, I also have to love Arcadia just because of the archival dorkiness and Tom Stoppard love. I can't believe I went this long without knowing about the awesomeness of this play of his (though to be honest, the only other one I've seen by Stoppard is Rock 'n' Roll both in NYC and at Studio Theatre here in D.C.). I only wish that Thomasina (and Septimus) had a happier ending. Still, who could resist loving the opening line, "Septimus, what is carnal embrace?"..

Monday, January 25, 2010

Open letter to librarians from California

Dear Librarians of California,

Why? Why do you have to be so helpful? It puts pressure on us other poor librarians, especially those from the east coast. And then add to that your natural beauty, us less beautiful east coast librarians just can not compare.

Hah. We had a patron in the other day who told us that life was better in California as for as libraries and librarians go. I'll be taking his words with a grain of salt, however, because he also believed that my boyfriend called me at work to break up with me (because I was a bad kisser). I really don't know where he gets this information because that never happened to me at all! And, I might add, is slander. Especially the way the story is spreading... (not that I'm helping at all by posting it here).

Librarians are helpful and hot the world over, not just in California. Or that's what I choose to believe.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Maybe I'd rather usher at a theatre.

I've been slacking off on reading the past two days. That could potentially be a bad thing, I guess, but I have actually been working on completing the blanket that I started crocheting about two and a half years ago. That's a long time for me, when at one point, I was cranking one out every couple of months. I guess because this one is for me and not a gift, I haven't felt the inspiration. Until I realized how much nicer my apartment would look without random piles of granny squares around. I have enough piles of books in this place that anything else is just messy in the extreme. That and I want to put the keyboard my brother gave/lent to me where I was keeping these piles. Seems like a good enough excuse to get to work! That isn't the blanket that I'm in the midst of working on, but it is going to end up looking just like that once it is complete. Minus the scarf.

I also ushered at Ford's Theatre last night. It's a volunteer opportunity I first began last year with their production of The Civil War, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to help out while still getting to see a show (for free!). Last night's production was called The Rivalry by Norman Corwin (though I kept wanting to call it The Dispute). The play was about the Lincoln/Douglas debates of 1858 (the election that Lincoln lost) as told through the debates themselves (dialogue was pulled from the debates) seen through the lense of Stephen Douglas's wife Adele looking back on what happened. It's a very enjoyable show (in my opinion), though quite dorky. Great if you love history!

I couldn't help but think, however, that being a volunteer usher is not at all unlike being a librarian.

For example:

1) As a librarian, I get to scan your card and that recognizes the patron and their ability to check out items. As an usher, I get to scan your ticket and that identifies you as a paying patron with a seat.

2) "Can I help you find a book?" (and then leading them to the correct section in the library) isn't that far off from "Can I help you find your seat?" (and once again taking them to the correct seat).

3) I have the Dewey Decimal System to work with at the library. At the theatre, I have the sometimes confusing seat numbers. Everyone gets confused and misplaced sometimes, even books!

4) Instead of handing them a receipt when the transaction is complete, I hand them a playbill once I have shown them their seat.

5) "Where is the bathroom/water fountain/add in your own directional question?" Same the world around, I suppose.

6) Nametags are desired, and sometimes required, no matter how much you dislike them.

7) Ah, reference questions. They are the meat and potatoes of my library diet. How was I to know I would be asked questions about Lincoln's life (and not have any resourses but my brain as an aid) and questions about recyling and what exactly does go into the paper slot vs trash. E.G. Where does the leftover cookie bits go? (Um, trash?)

8) Wearing a bright smile, no matter what is happening in your life? Same in both places!

9) Drunk patrons. You can find them both at the library and at the theatre. What a relief!

Really, it's all about working with the public. I just never thought that my library career would inform my ushering job. Though, I guess I should be grateful, because I'm not quite the expert. Though I'm always happier if I get my special corner of the theatre where I like to work.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I am so good in this scene.

Have you ever read a book and have some glaring instance of "that isn't right!" happen? Now you know I'm a big theatre geek, and a big fan of shows like Les Miserables (really, if people die, I'm happy). So imagine my surprise when I come across this little bit in Alex Flinn's Diva. I really like Alex Flinn's books, especially her fairy tale ones, and this really was a tiny thing that had nothing to do with the main character at all, but, reading it just annoyed me, though I'm sure that other people wouldn't have picked up on it at all. The book is about a teenage girl, Caitlin, who sings opera and, at the beginning of the book, has been accepted into the Miami High School for the Performing Arts.

When one of the other characters (who becomes a friend of Caitlin) introduces herself to her Performing Arts classmates, she makes the statement that she performed as Young Eponine on Broadway in Les Miserables. Now, if you have ever seen Les Miserables, you would know that the role of Young Eponine is a bit role. She does not say anything, nor does she sing at all. It is Young Cosette that has the lines and sings "Castle on a Cloud". I can only assume that the author got the two confused because it is Eponine who has a song in the second act (and has millons of teenage fans).

Secondly, the roles of Young Eponine/Young Cosette is typically shared by either two or three girls depending on the production (though I do believe some of the regional productions might have assigned girls to either Young Eponine or Young Cosette). But, you would either be not in a performance or in the performance as either Young Eponine or Young Cosette depending on the rotation used. A young actress on Broadway in Les Miserables would not be cast as Young Eponine. She would be cast as both roles. Though, if you were announcing to your class you performed on Broadway in Les Miserables, it would make more sense to claim you were Young Cosette rather than Young Eponine.

Yes, I have thought way too much about this. Have you ever run into something that just sticks out as wrong to you?

Next up... Ruined by Paula Morris

And, a bit more personal. I've been pondering the need for new pointe shoes. The ones I am currently wearing (because I have three pairs I rotate) are from 1997. I really have no idea if they are the kind of shoe I should even be wearing anymore, as obviously a lot can happen in 13 years. Perhaps what I find more frightening is that one of my fellow dancers is 13-years-old. Yes, my pointe shoes are the same age as her. That makes me practically ancient in ballet terms! But, really, I fell yesterday doing a pirouette en pointe. How embarrassing, right? Maybe I'm just getting too old for this type of thing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

So, it wasn't Babe Ruth, but...

It's been a while, n'est pas? So much, and yet so little, has happened the past six months or so. I'm going to be an aunt again! That's exciting news. I'm also going to be in the local ballet production of The Nutcracker come June (I know, a little late-just so long as it doesn't interrupt any 48-hour book challenges!). But, at present, I just returned from ALA midwinter in Boston where I attended a genealogy pre-conference event, caught up with old Simmons friends and Boston itself, and snagged a lot of books that I have been interested in reading. Perhaps most exciting, however, was I managed to quite accidentally meet a favorite author of mine.

I was sitting in the Au Bon Pain cafe that was attached to the hotel we were staying at, talking with Julie (my friend and co-worker) and two other librarians who were on her committee, when an older woman came up to us and asked us if we were librarians. We stated in the affermative, and she went on to thank us for being librarians because she, as an author and as a child, always has had a soft spot for librarians. Score points for us! Which I thought was quite nice of her to say, since obviously we weren't her librarians, just some random librarians off the street (and we never can get enough of complements, can we?). She told us that she had been out of the writing/publishing field for a while, and was interested in starting back up and she was doing a reading soon for that purpose. She then handed us a flier for her upcoming reading, her name was on top and it was... Bette Greene, author of Summer of My German Soldier, one of my favorite books when I was a kid! (Seriously, how could you not love a book that had a hot, German boy in World War II who was not evil-it's like how could you not love Nat Eaton from Witch of Blackbird Pond? You just can't not.)

This meant that I of course had to go and talk to her. I told her how much I loved reading Summer of My German Soldier growing up (and, even now), and she seemed delighted that I actually remembered who she was and liked her writing. She gave me a hug and sat me down to talk a little about her life at present and books, both hers and others. Her husband had been sick for the past twelve years, and she had gone to taking care of him full time, which is why she was about of the writing business for so long. I did not realize until she was telling me about how she writes about emotions (those that she has experienced) and not plot points, that Summer of My German Soldier had personal meaning to her. Not that I asked her if she had a father who liked to beat her. I hope that wasn't part of her emotional experience growing up.

She also attempted to shock me out of my librarian senses by informing me that she thought that the writing for Make Way For Ducklings was pedestrian, though she loves the plot (and wishes she had thought of it). However, I wasn't shocked because it had been so long since I read that book, that I don't remember all the details. She also said that she was due for a reread, so maybe it will come off better this time around.

Ms. Greene signed the flier for me, as I obviously didn't have a book handy, and now I will have that to treasure for life. You never know who you are going to meet in the magical city that is Boston! Actually, that's true. Because Julie and I also ran into Mitali Perkins as we were on our way into the exhibits. She was on her way out!

So, which author from your childhood would you love to randomly meet one day? I'm sad that I will never get the chance to meet Madeleine L'Engle or Lloyd Alexander. I never would have had a chance to see L.M. Montgomery, so she doesn't count.