Re-Reading: The Babysitters Club #1 – Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin

kristy's great ideaAnd the trip down memory lane continues with another favourite series from my childhood! The Babysitters Club was one of those series that I remember gobbling up because I could totally relate to the characters. I like to think that I was kind of a Claudia, but I really think I was more of a Mary-Ann. I definitely didn’t (and probably still don’t) have the business savvy of any of these girls, but I did remember liking to babysit when I was about 12 years old. Or, at least I liked the income from it.

At any rate, it felt almost refreshing to read this one right after reading the first Sweet Valley High book. Whereas that one was about two bickering sisters — one who was a major pain in the butt and the other one a little more normal, but they were still totally at odds throughout most of the book — this one was about a group of friends in their tweens wanting to start a club, a babysitting club. Less bickering, lots of other stories going on with the girls’ families and whatnot, and a super quick read.

This one was so much fun to revisit! I feel like subconsciously as I’m reading these, it all comes back to me — I can’t remember what I was doing when I was reading these stories but the characters and their situations came back to me. It’s really great that not only does the book focus on the club, but also on the girls and their families. This one was more about Kristy and her family, so we meet her mom, her mom’s boyfriend, her siblings, etc., and learn what kind of drama her family is going through. Through her we learn about the other girls’ families, but I’m thinking we’ll get more story as the books go on.

Dare I say that I really want to continue on with the reread of this series? I mean, I know it’s for the 12- to 14-year old range, but they’re still great for a light read right now. Easily gobbled up within a few hours and so full of memories.

I will also say that while it was great to visit the Wakefields of Sweet Valley High, I feel like the Babysitters Club group would be much more accessible for a girl of that age range. They’re a lot more tame, I’d say less (for lack of a better word) lame in the dialogue, the girls are a lot more believable for their age, and it’s not about boys — it’s about friendship. Mind you, I still want to read the Sweet Valley Twins first book because I hear that series is a lot different from the high school version of the Wakefield twins, so you’ll hear my verdict then.

For now, I think I’m going to go see what’s up with Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls! I’m positive they’ll be a rotary phone or something in that one — while the books are definitely relatable these days, it’s fun finding these things that are so 90s. They’re like easter eggs!

Were you a fan of The Babysitters Club? Which girl did you relate to the most? 

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Re-reading: Sweet Valley High #1 – Double Love by Francine Pascal

double loveOh man … MEMORIES!

I may be a grown-ass woman in my 30s but when I come across a book from my childhood, I always want to reread it to see if it drums up those feelings of nostalgia. And this one totally fit the bill.

This isn’t my first reread of a book from the Sweet Valley series. A few years ago I reread one of the saga books and STILL loved it. I mean, how can you not love a sweeping history of the Wakefield family?

Sadly, that is the ONLY book from the series that I still have from childhood. Honestly, I have no idea what happened to the rest, but grown-reader me is super sad that I didn’t keep more of these. Of course, the great thing is that grown-reader me has a car, so I think I might have to go to some discount stores or used bookstores to try and rebuild my collection! (On a related note, I remember my brothers used to read The Hardy Boys ALL the time … I should probably ask my parents if they still have them, but after two moves, I’m guessing no. Sad face.)

Anyway, this was a fun trip down memory lane. Admittedly, I was only two years old when this book came out (there goes my 30-something disguise) so it was a few years down the road until I started reading these books. I probably started with something a little more tame, like Sweet Valley Twins or even The Babysitters Club (another series I need to find more of!), but with about 180 books in the series, I’m pretty sure I read a good majority of what was released for the Wakefield Twins.

This book is SO dated, but I think that’s the fun of the reread. In fact, as I was going through it, I couldn’t believe how OLD Elizabeth and Jessica seemed for 16-year-olds. Is that just a sign of the times? Were people just older then? I’d say it could be based on maturity levels, but when it comes to these twins one definitely has a good head on her shoulders (Liz) and the other one is kind of like a bat out of hell (Jess). And I can so remember wanting to be Liz when I was younger — there was always that ONE twin that you identified with more, right?

Yeah, so Jess is crazy in this book and it’s so weird to think that these twins actually like one another because she basically doesn’t want Liz to be happy even if she says that she does. She’s one of those people who is constantly going behind your back and trying to get all the good things for herself and leaving you with the crap.

Didn’t we ALL have a friend like that?

One thing that made me laugh right off the bat, though (aside from some of the language which is SO not prevalent these days), is the description of the twins. I mean, they’re so … perfect. And they know it. I mean, it’s one thing to be pretty, but to be humble about it and not braggy braggy, but these guys were all like, “We’re SO perfect. I mean, how do we have such a BEAUTIFUL family? I mean, isn’t our brother PERFECT?” I can totally see how a teenage girl could feel inferior to these two. I mean, yikes.

Story aside, I had to think about how different YA books were back when I was growing up compared to how they are now. I read a lot of YA these days and love it, but you really can’t find books like Sweet Valley or The Babysitter’s Club anymore. They just don’t write them like that. And I think I can say that I’m happy for it. There are some wonderful books to introduce young readers to these days, but YA is just so diverse and, for the most part, not based on such frivolous things, like the Wakefield sisters worry about. I guess you can say there’s more depth to the YA stories of now than the YA stories of the past. BUT, that being said, it’s still a lot of fun to go back and reread the stories I loved as a child and young adult. I plan to try and seek out some more, in fact! It’s a nice way to spend these lingering winter days ….

Were you a Sweet Valley fan in the 80s and 90s? What were some of your favourites? 

E-reading & DNFing: Fifty Shades Darker by E. L. James

fifty shades darkerRemember my post last week where I was all, “This book wasn’t great but I’m TOTALLY going to finish the story!”?

Yeah. Not going to happen.

Now, I did go into this book with an open mind. I knew that the writing was terrible (since it was evident in the first book) but I figured that the characters would start to develop and grow and that maybe, just maybe, it would be a worthwhile — if not still terrible — read in the end.

I was wrong.

I DNFed this book at about 50% after I was telling my husband what an idiot Ana was as we drove out to visit some relatives. I relayed to him her and Christian’s “relationship” and all the idiotic things they both do and was just getting angrier and angrier to the point where he said:

“So … why don’t you stop reading it?”

What? What? Revelation!

I mean, I’ve DNFed LOTS of books but for some reason I kept thinking I should persevere and just finish this damn series no matter how much it sucks. Instead, I decided then and there that I was going to stop reading it and move onto something good. Heck, if the book wasn’t on my ereader, I probably would’ve made a trip out to the in-laws to drop it down their well.

And no, I’m not exaggerating. That’s where the book belonged.

There is just no character growth. Ana had a little bit of spunk in the first book but by now it’s just annoying. There were times where I was scolding her, wondering if she’d ever get a backbone and speak up for herself — and she would … just at the wrong times.

Oh, someone’s trying to kill me? Now I really should assert my independence and NOT opt for some security.

Meanwhile, there’s the whole bedroom antics.

*rolls eyes*

Now, I’ve read sexy books. LOTS of them. This is not one of them. Every single bedroom scene was the same. Most of the time it started with Ana’s inner goddess (who was pretty much only rooting for her sex life and nothing else) cheering her on or doing something Olympic-worthy. The exact same thing happened in the next sex scene that was in the last, which was just yawn-worthy to someone looking for something steamy. And they have sex ALL the time. I found myself just skimming through it because it was THAT boring.

Of course then we have the whole BDSM bit. Christian gives Ana space because she doesn’t want to participate, but then she just keeps pushing him because apparently she actually does want to be spanked and wants to participate, but then when Christian actually makes like he’ll do it, she panics again.

So annoying.

THEN we have all of Ana’s inner dialogue which is the most annoying thing of all. I think what bugged me most was that Ana questioned EVERYTHING. I read a review that actually had the word count of half the stuff that goes on in Ana’s head and I laughed — I debated doing the exact same thing because everything was either ‘Holy Cow/Holy Moses/ Holy Shit’ or ‘Oh my …’ or ‘Jeez.’ And don’t even get me started on the fact that she calls Christian ‘Fifty.’ Apparently because she thought that he was ‘fifty shades of fucked up.’ But a loving nickname? Probably not. And she calls him that ALL THE TIME.

Anyway, along with Ana’s stupidity we have Christian constantly telling her not to leave him and basically being super controlling and dominant (and not in the good way). Ana gets upset with this, but apparently lets her loins do all the thinking for her.

Ugh.

So after only 50% and a lot of eye rolling from me, I decided enough was enough. No one was changing; in fact everyone was getting WORSE. I read a few review/recaps about what happened in this book and the next and I can honestly say I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I think I’ll go read something good now.

E-reading: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

fifty shadesFifty Shades of Grey has been out for quite some time now. I’m pretty sure EVERYONE has read it — lots have loved it, lots have hated it — and I will admit that I was one of those people completely against reading the book until this month. Why? Like a lot of bookish people I know, I read the scathing reviews, heard the backlash, listened to many people talk about how horrible the writing was. I told myself that I had read plenty of sexy books and that this one just wouldn’t come close. I figured I wouldn’t come to love Christian or Ana. And a part of me even felt that — even though I had read erotica before — the book was beneath me. Maybe it was the hype, but I just didn’t plan on going there at all.

Then the new year came and the movie previews started. We met the actors who were portraying these characters. We saw movie clips and previews. In fact, a local movie critic who I tend to agree with on a lot of movies, gave the film 4/5 stars. You could say that by this point my interest was piqued. So, onto the ereader it went, and I found myself diving into the extremely popular book Fifty Shades of Grey.

And honestly? It wasn’t horrible.

Yes, there was plenty in the book that had me annoyed, but when it came to the actual reading of the book, I was intrigued enough to keep going past the first chapter, then the second chapter … enough to read the whole thing in a weekend. I found myself curious about this strange relationship between Ana and Christian. Oddly enough, I did like both characters, even though there were times they both made me want to pull my hair out. They both had major personal issues going on — really, you could say that they both suffer from self-esteem issues, though Ana just wears hers on her sleeve more openly than Christian. As interested as Christian was in the beginning with Ana, you could tell by the middle-to-end of the book that they did both need each other, but it was those darn issues that held them both back. In a way, I feel like neither of them really understood what they wanted, or if they did, they had a really shitty way of showing it. I will say that reading this book was enough to make me interested in reading the rest of the books in the series because I’m actually quite interested to see how the characters grow as the series goes on.

Shocking, right?

However, like I said, there were some major things that bugged me. To make it easy, I’ll just list them off in point form:

  • Ana. OK, I did love Ana. She had a great personality, except when it came to love. There was a time in the book where she wasn’t sure how Christian felt about her and where I wanted to point out the numerous times where it seemed like he was telling her flat-out how he felt. She’s definitely a naive character, BUT she seems like a character who’s always stuck in her books, maybe more book-smart than street-smart. She’s never had a boyfriend. She falls in love with Christian almost immediately, or is at least attracted to him enough that she can’t let him go, even if she just can’t understand his lifestyle.
  • Ana’s constant use of ‘Holy Cow/Holy Shit/Holy Moses’ and the like. This got so tiring after a while. And it seemed like Ana was shocked whenever Christian did something that was remotely Christian-like, when she should just be used to it. I felt like she could really use a better way to express herself. Don’t even get me started on her cheering inner goddess, or the one instance she thinks, ‘Go girl!’
  • The sudden, then constant referral to Christian as ‘Fifty Shades.’ I mean, yeah, we know that’s the title, but when Ana would refer to him as fifty shades of fucked up, I didn’t expect her to attribute that nickname to him. Much like the ‘mean machine’ — had the girl (or her mom, for that matter) never seen a laptop before?
  • The tired use of ‘baby’ for everyone’s romantic relationship. There are a few relationships happening in the book and the one term of endearment that is constant is ‘baby.’ We’re grown adults here — can we get a little more creative? Admittedly, when Christian jokingly copies Elliott in saying ‘laters, baby’ it was kind of humourous, but all the baby, baby, baby made me think I was lost in a Justin Bieber song.

In the end, though, I will admit that I’ve read worse. I’ve excitedly started books that people have raved about, only to put them down because the writing just seemed atrocious and the characters ridiculous that I wondered how anyone else could enjoy them. There’s one, in fact, that will remain unnamed, that still sits on my shelf — one with a drool-worthy cover, but I honestly can’t get past the first chapter because all I can think it, “Who talks like this?!”

When I started reading Fifty Shades of Grey, I got into it right away. I went in with the assumption that it was a romance with a lot of sex and that’s what I got. I didn’t go into it thinking it was going to win any literary or writing awards, because it really isn’t (unless it’s a popularity award, then maybe.). I knew that the romance wasn’t going to be my kind of romance, and it wasn’t, but it was someone’s idea of romance — and surely that exists out there. In fact, I remember listening to a religious program that happened to be on the TV when I was on the computer and they kept talking about the ‘Fifty Shades Movement’ and how the relationship in it was just wrong. I’ve even heard people talking about how it’s not romance at all, but bad acts happening without any consent.

What I took from the book is this: Ana and Christian are both grown-ass adults. When something “bad” happens to Ana, she had the opportunity to say no. She could have walked out, she could have ended it, but she didn’t. Yes, she’s a timid little wallflower, but she does have a voice, she knows what her limits are, and she knows she can say no if she really doesn’t want something to happen. And she does sometimes. And other times, she willingly asks for Christian to do something. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see anything wrong with this.

At any rate, I feel like this was a book that made me think, even if a lot of that thinking was about what other peoples’ opinions were. I will definitely read the next two books in the series — heck, I might even enjoy them! I think in the future, I’ll just try and go into my reading with an open mind. Hyped up book or not, you never know if you might actually like it.

At the Library: Seen Reading by Julie Wilson

seen readingSo it turns out I’m not the only person who is constantly wanting to know what other people are reading. Are you like that? When you’re on the bus or in the library or just waiting (like we do) and you look over and see someone is nose-deep in a book and you just HAVE to know the title, and if it’s a book you’ve read, you’re just dying to know their thoughts?

Yeah. That’s me.

I’m also that person who, when in bookstores or Costco or anywhere with books, will see someone grab a book off the shelf. It’s a book that I loved and can’t stop thinking about. I just want to go over and say, “This book … THIS BOOK! It is amazing, SUCH an amazing book. You have to get it. I promise you won’t be disappointed!”

And really, sometimes I do say that (though with slightly less exhuberance, so as not to come across as crazy), and sometimes I feel too shy, being the bookish person I am. I watch them and see if they hold onto the book or if they put it back on the shelf. When they put it back, a part of me is sad that they will never experience (at least for now) the world of the book that I experienced. And if they hold onto the book, I can feel a smile creeping onto my face, just knowing that they’re in for a real treat.

So, I’m not the only person who does this. At least, I’m not the only person who observes what others are reading. Julie Wilson does it in a different way from me. She sees what people are reading, sees what they look like, and puts together a bit of a narrative when putting the two together. It reminds of the way that a certain book can resonate with a person, how a book can speak to you when you never thought it would. How when you’re reading you can think, “Wow, this is totally my life.”

It does work sometimes and there’s a beauty in what Julie writes. Sometimes you do have to look past the fact that not all books resonate with us, not all books can fit in a compartment of our lives. A person could read a book about divorce, but be completely and madly in love with their spouse. A person can read a book about animals, but be deathly afraid of them. A person can read about loss, having never lost anyone in their life.

But still, it’s interesting to read about what could be, those little stories we all make up in our head when we see someone and want to make up their life for them. Those assumptions we make about people, not knowing them from Adam.

Of course, that’s where the problem lies. I believe that this is a book best read by people who take public transportation a lot. Maybe those people who find themselves without a book and have to resort to people watching instead. For someone like me, someone who never takes public transportation and who always has their nose buried in a book or is otherwise distracted when around people (read: introvert), I felt like this book just couldn’t resonate with me. I couldn’t understand how the stories connected with the people or what they were reading — or if they were supposed to connect with what the people looked like and what they were reading. Maybe they never were. Maybe it was all just imagination. But if that was the case, why have a description of the person and what they’re reading in the first place if only during a handful of stories the fictional tale will match up with the actual reader?

I’m quite certain that some people will find this to be a gem of a book, but for me it just wasn’t. It was definitley an interesting read and I will admit that it’s a pretty little book, but I think when it comes to things like flash fiction, or very short stories, I need to know a little more background before diving in. And I need to see more connections. For me, connecting is what makes a story great — no matter the length.

To My Library: I’m Breaking Up With You

Around my house there are many libraries. I don’t live right in any city, so the cities surrounding me are chalk full of bookish awesomeness. Sometimes I feel a bit like Goldilocks, looking for the library that is just right for me.

For example, the library closest to me is too small. They can get books in alright, but I love the joy that comes with browsing and if the books I like to read are just never on your shelves, then sorry, we can’t do business.

The next library is pretty awesome, but it almost has a cold feeling to it. You know how your bed feels so much better than a hospital bed? How in the hospital everything seems so cold, perfectly manicured, and not homey at all? That’s this library. I love it, but it’s missing that sense of home when I walk in. It’s big — very big — but super spacious and they still don’t have all the books I’m looking for.

There are other libraries, depending on which road I take — the “big city” has tons of them. Of course, that means going to the “big city” and I rarely ever do.

Then there’s the library I always fall in love with whenever I go there. The library that offers programs for readers and non-readers alike. The library that has books overflowing from the shelves, along with plenty of displays and shelves to show you what patrons are loving, what the staff is loving, as well as little surprises for you to find along the way (like my mystery romance package last week). You never feel like you’re wandering through with eyes following you, but you feel like you could actually get lost in the books and curl up with a coffee (they have a coffee shop!) in one of the cozy chairs and read for hours. You want to take your family and your kids there because they have lots of events — author events, family events, city events — and because they have areas that everyone can enjoy.

I’ll admit it. One big thing that sold me with this library was the coffee shop. I love the idea of being able to buy a latte, then browse the stacks.

Of course, this isn’t a city I frequent too often, either, but the city itself has a ton of places for us to go once we’re there. Need to stop at Costco? Why not stop in at the library after! Going for a playdate at the city play area (which is free!)? Stop at the library after! Going for a family swim? Stop at the library before — since no one likes wandering around in wet hair.

So while I do love my more local library, I love that I’ve decided to venture out to a different one. It’s a bit more anonymous (especially since I’ve frequented my local one a LOT) and I like that.

Now, when are we going to the library this week? I have a craving for a latte and some good books.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day: Library Fun

Imagine my delight, when walking into the local library, when I saw these gorgeous grab bags!

20150213_120446

How perfect is that for Valentine’s Day?

Being a huge lover of romance AND of surprises, I just had to get one. The books inside were mostly Harlequin (suspense — not my favourite when it comes to Harlequin books), but some looked liked promising titles. Personally, I think all libraries should have fun with books like this. (I might have another fun “surprise” book post next week from the library, too. You’ll have to stay tuned for that!)

As much as I love the library, I love it even more when they go that extra step to really engage their patrons, to make going to the library fun. Sometimes I go in knowing exactly what I’m looking for — in this case, I was looking for a certain book — but nothing grabs my attention more than fun surprises.

How does your local library go the extra mile? How do they make library going fun for patrons?