La Nouvelle Orleans

Posted in Favorite Books, Geography at 8:41 pm by Janet

Ooh, look what the cat dragged into the Tarts Wardrobe! It’s me, and tarts, I have not forgotten about you. I have just been very busy. Among other things, I’ve been on the road. Last month Lucianonymous and I drove down to New Orleans. New Orleans is like no other place I’ve been. Is it France? Is it the Caribbean? Is it the USA? All of the above? We mostly stayed around the French Quarter, but we did take  a detour when we got lost coming back from Tulane. Business was booming in the French Quarter, but you could definitely still see the effects of Katrina–bad roads, boarded up houses.  I narrowly avoided having a voodoo hex put on me when I skipped out of a mini lecture at the Voodoo Spiritual Temple to rescue L from standing interminably on the sidewalk.  We wandered around a cemetery (the one in Easy Rider). We took a drive through the Garden District. The whole place was fascinating to me.

What am I getting at? After I got back I had to reread Ruined by Paula Morris. I read this book this winter, and it had me glued to the couch. The same thing happened the second time around, except that this time I had actually seen some of the places mentioned in the book and the story seemed so much more vivid. Anyhow, it’s about a New York teen named Rebecca who’s suddenly shipped off to New Orleans to live with an old family friend. An outsider in her very stodgy and traditional private school, Rebecca has to look elsewhere to find friends.  She meets Lisette in the cemetery across the street from her house. Turns out Lisette is a ghost. Lisette introduces Rebecca to New Orleans’s history, with its complicated race relations and class structure. Rebecca soon finds out that New Orleans’s history is, well, not history at all. Lisette is connected to an old voodoo curse on the family of Rebecca’s  snootiest schoolmate, and Rebecca herself may have a part to play in the curse. There’s a cute boy and a dramatic ending and lots of Mardi Gras beads. Morris does a does a great job of creating a sense of place and giving an overview of the history and culture of New Orleans. Plus it’s a riveting story.

So…if I can’t make it back for Mardi Gras, I’ll just read Ruined. You should read it, too.

Tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau

Tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau

Commander's Palace, mentioned in the book

Commander's Palace, mentioned in the book


Turn off your ipod, dig up your record player, and read this!

Posted in Favorite Books at 9:02 pm by Janet

I wish I could say I could have identified with Allie, the heroine of Vinyl Princess, but let’s face it, I was never that cool. Allie works at Bob & Bob Records on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. She’s got a huge collection of vinyl, she’s a walking music encyclopedia, and she’s got the vinyl/music blog to prove it. She’s the sort of person I would have tried really hard to impress with my purchases once upon a time.

But Allie doesn’t feel as cool as she really is. She’s got an unrequited crush on a mysterious customer; her recently-split parents are developing their own, possibly sketchy, love lives; and she’s afraid to sign her anonymous blog. Plus Bob & Bob isn’t doing the business it used to, and stores on laid-back Telegraph Avenue is being targeted by armed robbers. Over the course of a summer, Allie tries to manage her love life, get used to her new family situation, keep the record store open, and own up to her coolness.

My favorite section reminds me of working in the library: Allie is helping a customer who doesn’t realize that the Frank Zappa records are under Z (duh). “Should I have taken him by the hand and led him over to the Zappa? No. I won’t spoon-feed the customers. If you don’t know your alphabet, you have no business leaving your house, let alone shopping for premium music.”  I feel the same way sometimes (except that some of my patrons are, like, one, and I probably shouldn’t give them a hard time about not knowing the alphabet).

Check out the book’s website/Allie’s blog: http://www.thevinylprincess.com/

Somebody on the blog called this a High Fidelity for teens. I have to admit that High Fidelity is one of my favorite [adult] books, mostly because of its insights into the inscrutible minds of music guys. Note I say guys. Doesn’t matter if the book is about teens–this one’s for the geeky music ladies, who deserve their moment in the spotlight, too. Author Yvonne Prinz knows what she’s talking about. She founded this place: http://www.amoeba.com/

The one thing I didn’t like was the cover. Headphones? Smacks of the i-pod age. I feel like the designers could have done something more with, you know, actual records.


Summer Book Recs from Bridget (aka the Lazy Blogger)

Posted in Favorite Books at 1:02 pm by Bridget

I am the laziest of lazy bloggers and I try to post on my own blog now and then because otherwise people fear the worst, but I haven’t been over here in ages. Poor Janet, working Tarts’ all on her ownsies.

But I can’t let the season go by without sharing a couple of summer book recs.

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce comes out sometime in August and is a fabulous summer read — fun and romantic and light. There’s a hot jinn, three wishes, and all sorts of delicious conflict. Plus, it has one of those perfect endings where you close the book and feel totally satisfied.

The other book that I fell in love with recently was Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston. There’s lots of good stuff here like Shakespeare, cute guys in Central Park, power hungry faeries and the repercussions of old vendettas. There are scary parts, I have to warn you, but worth it for the romance and all the rest.


Carter got it, and you should, too

Posted in Favorite Books at 7:24 pm by Janet

I recently read Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford. This was a really refreshing read for two reasons. First, I haven’t laughed at a book so hard since I read An Abundance of Katherines. Second, this book was about a normal kid in normal situations. I don’t know if I’ve been reading too many fantasy novels lately or what, but it was really nice to read about a kid who’s not in any kind of extreme circumstances. And yeah, PC police, I should clarify that “normal” for me means someone like I was–a kid who lives with parents who love him, has friends, is accepted at school, is athletic, is a little bit douffy, and is not facing any kind of life-threatening or world-altering challenges. 

Carter starts high school with everything going for him–a good group of friends, a bitchy-but-wise older sister, and a newly hot girlfriend named Abby. But after Abby’s best friend, extra-hot Amber, asks him to homecoming and he makes the idiot move of saying yes, things start to fall apart. Abby ditches him and he becomes a social pariah. That doesn’t stop Carter from (kind of) kicking ass on the swim team, joing drama and liking it (!), and generally succeeding at surviving high school. Still, Carter’s tortured by his breakup with Abby. The spring musical brings them together and Carter finally has the chance to get it. And if you want to know what IT is, well…you know what to do.

Carter has ADD, which complicates his life at school and with friends. Though he’s not hyperactive, he tends to space out and randomly blurt shit out. I have to say, I also recently read Joey Pigza Swallows the Key and that was just a mind-bendingly painful portrayal of ADHD. Getting through a day with Joey is sheer hell. Not that that isn’t valid for Joey and for some people, but Carter’s so much more believeable and easier for most people (or maybe just me?) to relate to, as his situation isn’t as extreme. Being inside his brain can suck, but you can live with it and manage it. I’ll say kudos to Crawford for putting together a realistic, generally sympathetic portrayal of someone with ADD. 

Now for the funny stuff. Some of it comes from the book being kinda dirty. Carter is constantly leering at girls and he and his friends are obsessed with sex. They do get smacked down a lot. Some of it comes from the inevitable bullies, nicknames, and fights of high school. My favorite part was when Carter unexpectedly gets the school bully kicked out of school. “‘Ohhh, OH no you didn’t,’ he screams. ‘Nobody touches the TERRY!’ Then he starts punching himself in the face. This kid is really crazy! I may not even have to fight him. He’s doing it for me, and I’m winning!”

One problem I have with this book is the cover. I’m not really sure what it means. Why is there a notebook thing on the side? It doesn’t really relate to anything in the book, as far as I can tell. I think the publisher could have done better. What do you think?


Awards, Schmwards

Posted in Awards, Favorite Books at 12:45 pm by Janet

Ahem. I’m ready to talk about the awards now. Finally. First of all, I have to hand it to Bridget for calling it. She wrote about the Newbery winner, The Graveyard Book, and one of the Printz honor books, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  

Belatedly, I would like to give a shout-out to two of my favorite teen books of the year, The Hunger Games and John Green’s Paper Towns, neither of which got awards. Oh, John Green, you can’t win every year, but you are still my favorite. Sigh.

On to the actual Printz winners…with venom and spoilers. I read Disreputable History and loved it. This great boarding school story raises some intriguing questions about class and gender and is a must-read for budding feminists. It put me in the mindset to enjoy the Printz winner, Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road, which is also set at a boarding school. I liked Saving Francesca. I was ready to love Jellicoe Road!

Alas, I have to be a voice of dissent. In my opinion, this book does not deserve an entire Printz award. It was a great half of a book. If I could, I would give it the Ntz Award, for best last half of a young adult novel.  The first half was slow, with unappealing characters, creeping action, and borderline confusing alternating narrative threads. The kids at this boarding school are fighting this “war” against the Townies and the Cadets. The war seems to have no purpose or cause, but everyone is all worked up about it anyway. This part, centered on 17-year-old house leader Taylor, switches off with the story of five friends living near the same boarding school years earlier. Why should I care about any of this? If this hadn’t been an award book, I would have chucked it out the window after 100 pages. Luckily, I held on. Halfway through the book, things change. The characters get more compelling and the idiot war slows down–the focus changes to relationships and putting together the past, with the two narratives meshing. This part is great. I started to really care about Taylor and her bizarro past. It’s complex and totally worthwhile. But overall, this book was too uneven for me to love. The Ntz Award is the best it’ll get from me.  

What do you think?

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