The Mockingbirds, Daisy Whitney

Themis Academy is a school for the exceptional students. Athletes, artists, academics, they’re all brought in and placed in a setting where they can thrive. They’re trusted to behave in an honourable manner, The Themis Way, and they do.

Which is why, when Alex makes the mistake of getting blackout drunk at a concert and is date raped, she feels she has nowhere to turn. Who can she tell who will believe her? She was drunk, after all.

But then her friends tell her about the Mockingbirds, a student organization formed to enforce the Themis Way the teachers pretend not to notice any infractions of, and the slow process towards healing begins.

This book made me really uncomfortable, and probably not for the reasons you’re thinking of. I am an older sister of several voracious readers, and they’re always pestering me for recommendations. And as this is obviously an “issue book,” (Defined as the main motivating force for a book being written,) I was very concerned with how the issue was handled. On the actual issue of consent, why it is important, and how it is defined, (especially with the recent Sweden/Assange/Rape brouhahah,) I thought the book did an excellent job, especially since the court scenes allowed people to define their terms in ways which looks like tl;dr in most other cases.

But most of the book is spent in saying over and over that adults WILL NOT help you, in a case like this. Several times Alex says she won’t go to the Police, because her parents will freak out. Ummmmmmm.

I hope it’s clear why that makes me go all snaky. If it isn’t, clearly we are approaching things from different angles, and you should disregard this review entirely.

Granted, by the end of the book Alex had come to trust the “cool” new piano teacher, and comes to talk to her when she has an issue, but so much of the book was spent setting up the idea that adults are all in their own worlds that it felt like an aberration, rather than a eureka moment. I mean, one of her teachers actually has her act out an attempted rape scene. So by the time it got to the reveal that maybe some adults are not finks, I had already written them off, along with much of my enjoyment of the book, regrettably. The way all the students rally behind her is good, but the fact that only, in this world, people within three years of her age are to be trusted not to go off the rails for no real reason, made me pull my hair.

And then: SPOILER ALERT: There’s the issue of the boy she falls for over the course of the book. The romance is all very nice and healing, if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s on the board of the Mockingbirds, and is expressly mentioned as supposed to NOT be in any romantic setting with her. And then at the end: EVEN MORE SPOILERS: Alex is asked to be on the board of the Mockingbirds, who have helped her so much. And her first act is to give the boy an unconditional pardon and ask him to be her advisor. Because apparently the code of conduct when it expressly says, “no fraternizing with people under investigation,” was a grey area. This would have made me go even MORE snaky, if I hadn’t already marked the book up under “not very enjoyable to read.” Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up in a Christian, Military family, (you know those military sorts, so wrapped around the axel about codes of conduct,) but I just think that a.) that wasn’t a grey area, and b.) would it be that hard to hold of the making out for a few months? and c.) if you break the rules you’re very very aware of, shouldn’t there be consequences? /END SPOILERS.

So I gave it three stars out of five. I actually didn’t “like” it that much- if this was based on liking alone it should be two stars- but I do think it’s a very useful teaching book, as long as I made sure to talk about it later. Unfortunately, I’m a very emotional reader and I’m coming from a certain culture and background, so parts of the story swelled WAY out of proportion and coloured my whole experience of reading it. 

With that said, I know the author is a date rape survivor, and that’s why she wrote the book, and it was very well done. Alex’s reactions and healing process was painfully honest, and it ends well. I would like someone I know to read it, and so they can tell me how I was reading it on a bad day and I totally misinterpreted it, and get my head together! Gosh, Jasmine!

Yes, erm, I’m unsure how to end this. Live long and prosper?

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Empire of Ivory, Naomi Novik

So I go back to my May drafts, and LO AND BEHOLD. This one isn’t written, much less published. Face, meet palm.

Now in the last book, a lot of spoilery stuff happened. Which I’m not going to tell you about. I’m saving my spoilery reviews for the next book. 😀 Heh. Heh. Heh.

Anyways, just about right after Temeraire and the crew left for China in book two, dragons in England started coughing and sneezing. Which fast acquires the tone of a national emergency when the dragons just don’t get better. Instead they start drowning in their own lungs, and did I mention they have no medicine for dragons? Yeah. Bad times when your air force is all in-operational. That is, at least, how the powers that be see it. The dragon crews we’ve all come to know and love see it, naturally, in a bit more of a personal light. “Our friends are dying and we can’t do anything about it.”

 In pure desperation, Temeraire and some other dragons we know and love are sent to Africa. So that maybe they’ll find medicine? Or maybe the climate will cure the cough? Or maybe- something. Quarantine?

There is a real sense of desperation behind this trip. And to my mind, it never really lifts off. There’s barely a purpose, people are just eating things madly, running away, sailing endlessly, despairing and dying. You know. The general cheerful stuff. There is some nice things about Africa, but I didn’t enjoy that as much as my friends. Possibly because I found it kinda super creepy. Ahem. Though on the other hand, telling the giant meat-eating-but-intelligent beast that he’s related to you, and you don’t eat your family,  DOES seem like a pretty good idea. However, Lawrence just tired me, and the girls were awkward, and Temeraire was painfully innocent, and the only ones who were awesome were the crews. And I read books like this for the awesome people! So I gave it three stars out of five.

Black Powder War, Naomi Novik

Note: I thought I had this reviewed in May. FAIL. TERRIBLE FAIL.

So in the last book, our jolly crew started heading home from Asia. Everyone is VERY happy to be free of the political machinations of the Chinese Court- BUT LOOK, over there in the hills! Yep, that is Ms. Political Machinations herself, Lien, the white dragon. How will they get home NOW?

Most of the book, at least the way I remember it, deals with decent people getting caught up in dishonourable politics, and what happens when technology changes. With Lien *Spoiler* teaming up with Napoleon *End!Spoiler* the game has shifted mightily. Now everyone is dealing with brilliant tacticians who just aren’t thinking in ways they’re used to. And if they’re not prepared to change the way THEY deal? Well- there’s the ocean. Armies are traditionally run into it right about now. Do you have your escape armada lined up?

While this book was interesting, and I enjoyed it… I gave it three stars out of five. It just didn’t have the crackly magic of the first Temeraire book. It was better than the second, that’s for sure! But not by a whole lot. Plus, it was just DEPRESSING. Hello, here’s a war- I mean a rout. Sigh.

The Deadlies: Felix Takes The Stage, Kathryn Lasky

This is another book I read during the readathon. At the time that I read it I had already been reading for 21 hours and it was six in the morning. And now since then said sister has brought it back to the library. So i’m working from my (very fuzzy) memory.

Felix is one of a family of well mannered, loving Deadly Recluse spiders who happen to be super toxic, and they live in the symphony hall. He has an artistic soul! All he wants is to be accepted and to create! All he wants is to take a ride on the conductor’s baton!

One quick attempt at a ride later, the conductor is being treated for a heart attack, Felix is regrowing a leg, and the Deadlies are looking for a new home, due to their previous home being the domain of exterminators now. Will they ever find a place where they can live without persecution? Will Felix ever find a place where he fits?

I was very confused by the book. I’ll be honest. There was a mom spider, and two sisters I couldn’t keep straight, and Felix. I think what Felix wanted was to not be an introvert, but that is so far outside of my comprehension that I was still going HUHHHH????? The whole time. Also, Mom was all worked up about kindergartens and her children being teased despite being super toxic? Like I said, I was confused. There was a lot of stuff about acceptance, but I just focused on the search for a house, since I could understand that. And that was rather fun, the dramatic cross-coutnry trip, including movies. ^_^

However, the book was fun, and it had fun pictures. 😀 It was exactly what I wanted at that hour. So I gave it three stars out of five.

Passages: Darien’s Rise, Paul McCusker

So you’re a city kid who’ve been sent out to an exile in a small town named Odyssey- obviously when you hear about an old abandoned mansion you go to explore it. And when you hear mysterious voices behind a closed door, you go to investigate those voices. Kyle thinks this is OBVIOUS. Anna thinks they should go home.

Kyle kinda gets his way. It’s hard to tell, since he fell through the floor into a bright light, and Anna opened a door to find the same bright light swallowing her up. Now he’s running across the country side with a dashing young officer, and she’s been charged with spying and sold as a slave.

Those people who’ve read 1st Samuel will find the plot of the book to be rather familiar. That would be because it’s the same plot, just in a different setting, with several added characters, and technology, and points. And stuff. *cough*

I have mixed feelings about this story.

There are several points against it. A Con would be that it’s very sexist. Kyle is going on adventures and saving lives all around the country for most of the book, as said, while Anna gets rescued from the slave market and then does chores in the house of the Old Prophet. Then they send her on a mission- which is to go hang out in a convent. That doesn’t go well, but the pattern continues. Kyle does stuff, Anna stays home. She’s even the one with the natural mystical faith, which faithful-girl trope I am SO OVER. I was also quite bothered by the reaction the characters have to deaths of other characters. One “main” character dies, offscreen, and everyone is devastated. That’s fine. I support devastation. The fact that some minor characters died, ON SCREEN, and they got one line about the (girl) character praying for them? That bothered me.

But on the Pro side, it’s a very funny book. I laughed quite a lot, and not in a mocking way. Okay, a couple times it was mocking. Like when Darien is paying for his bride with enemy metals? In the original it was the foreskins of his enemies. Had to update that one a bit, did they? Though they didn’t really have to update the one where Darien steals part of the king’s clothes while he’s sleeping, and it’s hilarious all ways. 😀 The book is also a rollicking good adventure, at least on Kyle’s part. And while Anna’s story arc is less satisfying at the end, she gets to witness some good parts, and have the most human reactions to her situation.  (You know, like : I’m seeing things in the mirror that aren’t there- I MUST BE CRAZY.)

Overall, it was a successful book, and I would feel quite sanguine about lending it to my smaller siblings. It’s one of those that has nothing to pollute young minds in it- but even with that handicap it manages to land a solid “fun read.” I gave it three stars out of five.

P.S. ONE MORE THING. Why does no one accuse them of being crazy when they say they’re from another world? I feel strongly that there should have been more allegation of insanity. AUGGGGGGGGH.

Is Your Momma a Llama? Written by Deborah Guarino, Illustrated by Steven Kellogg

In this charming rhyming book, a baby Llama goes around asking all his friends who their mamas are. I’m not a great out-loud reader, (minimal acting skills or emotions,) but the meter was fun, and even I could fall into the rhythm of the question and answer.

Now as this is a picture book, the text is only one part of the story. Steven Kellogg illustrated this one, and I admit to being a fan of his super detailed drawings. 😀 After I read this one out loud, we went through the book again and picked out all the sets of Mamas and their babies.

(I liked the turtles and the owls best. Turtles are pro, and Owls are SO FLUFFY.)

I gave it three stars out of five. If I see it for sale, I will probably pick it up.

Daisy Miller, Henry James

I read this for book club- and it was rather an interesting experience. For one, I had a bit of difficulty finding a plot. It seems to revolve entirely around the stalking of a girl named Daisy Miller, by an American fop in Europe, Mr. Winterbourne.

He’s indentured himself for social reasons to an Aunt of his, who he follows around Europe being useful to. All very respectable. And then in Switzerland he meets a very pretty, bland little girl named Daisy Miller. I admit to not being particularly impressed by Ms. Miller, especially since what Winterbourne is particularly enraptured by is her toneless prattle.

*pause for headdesking*

I LIKE PEOPLE WITH PERSONALITY, OKAY?

But despite being prone to prattling and vagueness, Daisy is also very used to getting her own way. She makes Winterbourne promise to take her on a trip to the castle across the lake, and it’s all very charming and romantic. However, warning signs are seen on the horizon in the fact that W-‘s Aunt refuses to be introduced to her, as she’s not proper society. *gasp*

Yes, despite the reputation of Americans abroad, or probably because of it, all the USians in this book and hypersensitive of propriety. This becomes very obvious when the setting moves to Rome. There’s a whole enclave of ex-pat Americans there, and they are shunning Daisy because of her insistence on going around with an Italian man unchaperoned. *double gasp*

The shunning continues, with Winterbourne weakly trying to tell Daisy that noooo, you’re only hurting yourself! Pay attention to society!

And then she gets the fever and dies.

*puts ribbon on obvious happy ending*

Oh wait. No, that isn’t a happy ending, is it? No, not really. Hmmm. What is it, then? It’s not particularly tragic, cause everything was leading up to that from the very beginning and we meet doctors and mentions of night fevers. And there’s the fact that Daisy is so bland a character as to resemble a bit of pretty fog in a dress. Her definite characteristics are prattling tonelessly, and doing whatever she isn’t supposed to. But not in an interesting way, just in a stupid one. So what is this, if it’s not a tragedy, or a happy story? Oh, I’ve got it! It’s a morality play! Pay attention to your elders and don’t hang around boys, or you will die of fever. Right-o.

From my description there, you might think I didn’t like the book. That wouldn’t be exactly accurate. See, I have a bit of a bloodthirsty streak, and as previously mentioned, I did NOT love Daisy. Maybe I thought she was too stupid to live? I’m sure I wouldn’t tell you here…

And despite my dis-love of the actual content, I really liked Mr. James’ style. I loved his dialogue, which actually sounded like people (delicious,) and I very much liked the his voice. I gave it three stars out of five.


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