Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stories with a Theme.Period

Novels for children and young adults with female protagonists usually have similar themes. There’s a love interest, a family issue, friend problem, and school dilemma. Oftentimes, there’s also another point they share: a girl gets her first period. The following is a list of those stories and whom the female tells.

• ALANNA: THE FIRST ADVENTURE by Tamora Pierce – Young Adult – Alanna tells a female healer
• NISSA’S PLACE by L. LaFaye – Children’s – Nissa tells her father
• BLOODY JACK by L. A. Meyer – Young Adult – Jacky tells a prostitute
• SUMMONING by Kelley Armstrong – Young Adult – Chloe doesn’t tell anyone, but it enables her to see dead people

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Stephanie Bradt: Once again, this is a dumb book with zero character development. It has been a few weeks since I read the book, but I suppose listing what I do remember about it will give an idea of what I got out of it:

The parents are getting divorced. The kids are sad. The main character, Karen, has certain questions about the divorce such as, "will we be poor?" “No,” says Karen’s brother, What’s-His-Name, “Dad will have to pay Mom once a month" or something like that. (By the way, Karen’s brother has lots of zits, which is mentioned several times and in several different contexts. Alright…thanks for that, Judy). Anyway, Karen’s new friend is a self-proclaimed expert on divorce and recommends that Karen buy a certain $7 book to learn all about it. Karen tells her grandpa about the book and he says, “ooh, I want one too.” Karen believes that her parents will get back together if one of the siblings were kidnapped. Sure enough, What’s-His-Name almost makes Karen’s dreams come true by running away.

The children of the story do have realistic and understandable questions and concerns about the parents’ impending divorce. However, as always with Blume books, there are several things that bugged me:

-Karen takes a bubble bath with her new friend and is slightly shy about it but whatevs. This has absolutely nothing to do with the story. This is the most random Judy-Blume-Signature-WTF-Moment yet. I think I will have to post a run-down of said moments in the future; the phenomenon deserves its own post.

-I think that instead of saying that he wanted a book too, the grandpa should have manned up and tried to answer Karen’s questions or at least talk to her about the divorce. He knew she was confused and having a hard time with it, but obviously was too stupid to do anything about it.

Lastly, What's-His-Name's excellent adventure:
-I can’t remember what actually triggered What’s-His-Name to run away, but I can assure you that I remember that it was something dumb.
-The parents fight even more over the four days in which What’s-His-Name is missing, leading Karen to the conclusion that her kidnapped/missing-persons theory is indeed false.
-It takes the parents like a day and a half to find ONE picture of What’s-His-Name to give to the police. They tell the police, “I’ll give you a photo of him in the morning.” Really? Why the hell would you wait until the morning? Who does that?! The cop is in your house with you now!
-When What’s-His-Name returns after four days, he tells Karen in a serious tone not to ever run away and she is like, “okey doke.” We never know where he was or what happened to him during those four days. It is like the blank space on the Watergate tapes or something.

After all is said and done, the parents still hate each other. The end. (of the world).

Jordan Bradt: I found a copy of IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD by Judy Blume, at the library’s used book room. Of all the Judy Blume books, I like this one the best. Yes, I actually like it. Sure, there were some random moments. For example, Karen, the main character, takes a bubble bath with her new friend, Val. There was also parental drama and sibling rivalry, but in this format, it fit. You see, the book is about divorce.

I would actually give this book to an older teen whose parents were getting divorced. It shows the emotion a child will go through, such as wanting to fix the parents and blaming themselves. It also depicted how the parents fight in a very believable manner.

A few ties were left unknotted. Karen never made peace with her teacher, who seemed to be a misunderstood character, and she kept believing that her parents favored her siblings more. At least her cat didn’t die. I had books where the pet passes away.

My favorite parts of all were the comments left by the past reader. There weren’t many, but they really captured a few of the “what?!” moments.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Stephanie Bradt: The one positive I had with this book was that there is evidence that Judy Blume tried to stay on her bizarre topic. There is no token perverted moment arbitrarily inserted into the story. Rather, the entire story is perverted. Although this is hands down one of Blume’s worst books ever, from strictly a plot standpoint, I think it is one of her more solid works. The book’s theme is awful, but Blume sticks to it.

Here goes: This book is ridiculous. First of all, it is yet another example of Judy Blume purposely going out of her way to get a book banned. I thought I knew what to expect with this book-- I knew it was by Judy Blume and that it was all about teen sex. However, that did not completely prepare me for just how graphic this book was. I will not go into the dirty details (although Blume certainly does), but this book is bad enough for YA in the year 2011. I cannot even imagine the firestorm it must have caused in 1975. Being read by like ten-year-olds.

Then there is the point of the story. Katherine’s first time was with her boyfriend, Michael, who is supposed be the “nicest guy in the world” or something like that. The reader is clearly supposed to like Michael and his “beautiful” and “loving” relationship with Katherine. That is all well and good, except for one problem: Michael is a douchebag. Not only is he a two-dimensional character, but his only dimension is that of a horny pig. Maybe it is a pacing problem and the fact that the book is short, but the only interaction between the main characters is Michael trying to get into Katherine’s pants. He is constantly groping her and taking off her clothes and she always says no and he ignores her and keeps going then reluctantly stops all pissed off, but says “I’m not gonna pressure you,” but yeah, no. I am surprised he was even able to function, since it seems like he has a hard-on throughout the entire book.

Speaking of which, Michael has a name for his man part, and that is Ralph. Seriously. He formally introduces Ralph and Katherine with the whole, “Kath, this is Ralph.” He later says, “I named it for you.” How romantic.

When Katherine finally is practically coerced into doing the deed, she loves it (after like the fourth time). And by the way, Michael and Katherine consummate their relationship even after Katherine finds out that Michael had had the Clap. How sexy. She never even asks any more on the subject.

After all this, at the end of the book, Kath finds someone she likes better than Michael. The end.

But let us not forget: There are still the Judy-Blume-trademark absurd subplots:

-The fat slutty friend named Sybil. She gets preggers and gives the baby up for adoption. She hopes the kid will be called Jennifer.

-Kath’s annoying little preteen-ish sister, Jamie, has a new little boyfriend named David. She also asks Kath if she and Michael were “f@#%ing.”

-Kath's progressive NOW and Planned Parenthood extraordinaire 70-something-year-old grandmother gives Kath birth control. "But don't tell your parents," she says.

And my all-time favorite sub-plot:
-Arty is a quiet-ish guy who does school plays or something like that and he might be gay. Or not? Kath’s friend, Erica, thinks so because he would not try to kiss her. Erica: Maybe you are just an ugly asshole. Anyway, Erica practically tries to rape Arty (remember kids, take it from Aunt Judy—constantly pressuring someone to have sex is romantic). Erica finds out that Arty is impotent and gets frustrated and leaves him. Arty is sad and tries to kill himself by hanging himself from the shower curtain rod, but luckily, it cannot support his weight. Arty just falls into the tub and hits his head and stuff. This is good, says Katherine, now he can get the professional help he needs. W. T. F.

This book is wrong on so many levels.

Jordan Bradt: Years ago, my family moved into a new house. It belongs to my grandmother and is attached to her farm. We rented the house while building our new one. I found a box of “destroyed” books (covers ripped off) in the attic. These books included novels from the OZ series and FOREVER by Judy Blume. I read them, and was deeply disgusted by FOREVER. It’s fine as an adult novel, but young adult? No. I ended up giving it to my cousin, after she saw me reading it.

Jump forward to college. I had to read the book again for my Children’s Literature class. All of us, including the teacher, were disturbed by the novel. Now, here it is in my grasp again, and…well, let me start with the first paragraph. “Sybil Davidson has a genius I. Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys.” Yup, and the book sticks with that same theme throughout.

Quite a few random moments made me blink. The babysitter smells Dad’s things because she has a thing for him. Grandma is described as being busy with Planned Parenthood. Erica, the friend, wants to get laid before college. She also wants to do it with every guy in school, including the teachers. The parents have loud sex, and Katherine listens. Erica’s love interest fears he might be gay – but instead, he’s just impotent. Katherine discusses her period with Michael (then, even though she has her period, he still tries to touch her, and she’s only upset because his sister is nearby). Michael’s sister and her husband offer them a joint. Michael names his penis Ralph. He teaches Katherine how to make him come using her hand. Mom only wants her to apply to 3 schools…she does it through her high school and needs parental permission. Mom makes her read an article about how every relationship ends – very depressing idea.

Michael is the male love interest. He wears glasses, which is mentioned a lot. He calls Katherine quite a bit, which is nice, and something that happens in healthy relationships. Oh, and this one time toward the start of their “affair,” they make-out on the couch and he asks her if she’s a virgin. Maybe that’s part of being in a healthy relationship, too, but if a guy asked me that, I’d think he only wanted one thing – which, oh yeah, he does. He slept with a girl twice before, and got “VD” from her.

Katherine is the main character. She can’t decide if she’s ready or not. I had trouble really understanding her character, because the book seemed to be happening around her, not with her. She reacted, without really acting.

So, to their first time, which is the point of the book – they go to his sister’s apartment. Katherine worries about bleeding, so he gets a towel. He doesn’t want to use a condom since she just had her period, but they do anyway. He comes almost instantaneously.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


This is Book Eight. Click here for the Bradt Cousins' review of Book One.

Stephanie Bradt: Book eight of L.A. Meyer's BLOODY JACK series. Here we go again. It feels redundant, but again, nothing happens in this book. Yet, apparently something keeps me coming back for more.

I liked reading about Australia when it was just starting out as a British penal colony. Naturally, our obnoxious heroine, Jacky, is sent there. This book kind of reminded me of book four, IN THE BELLY OF THE BLOODHOUND, which I really did not like. Jacky and a bunch of other girls are on a ship together in captivity. Yay. Randall joins the Marines, which I thought was cool, just because the Marines are awesome. I still hate Randall, though.

In other news, Jacky is kind of forced to marry Higgins in order to ward off the advances of all the horny sailors who still, for some reason, are all in love with her. There is a mean and perverted captain in this book who reminds me of the mean and perverted captain in UNDER THE JOLLY ROGER (still one of my favorites of the series).

This book kind of disappointed me. Even though I was expecting nothing to happen, I guess I had assumed that, eight books in, something would happen. Jacky and Jaimy STILL do not get together and, to me, the whole thing is just getting trite and redundant.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: I don't know...I guess it sort of was Higgins, in a weird twist of fate.
My favorite new character: Jacky becomes the sort of love slave thing of a female Chinese pirate. WTF? And meets an Indian boy in India named Ravi. They are both annoying as hell.

Jordan Bradt: I love the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer. WAKE OF THE LORELEI LEE is the eighth book, and one of my favorites. Beloved, old characters resurface within the pages and Jacky is at her sexy, hypnotic, energetic best. Plus, Jacky is all over the world. They are in the United States, then London, then India – for Jacky has been naughty, once again, and sentenced to Australia. This book is a full-fledged romp on the historic high seas. Once I got past the opening chapters, which dragged a bit, I couldn’t put the book down – which was hard, considering it is 552 pages and I do have a life outside of reading.

Two things really bothered me, though. The first is that JAIMY AND JACKY STILL DO NOT GET TOGETHER!!! I want them to get married already, or at least have sex. I am getting very frustrated that L. A. Meyer continuously keeps them apart.

The second thing that really bothered me is that Jacky marries Higgins onboard the ship headed for Australia. Um, why?! It explains it in the book, but still…WHY?! There is even a part where Jacky rests her head on his shoulder and plays with his chest hair. WHAT!!??

Overall, interesting book, but some places just made me cringe.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Jordan Bradt: So I’m at the book sale browsing kid books, and I come across NISSA’S PLACE by A. LaFaye. It looked good, and I thought I might be able to pass it on to a teacher or a parent. After reading it, I realize I can’t. This would be better as a young adult book.

For one thing, Nissa gets her period and her dad explains it to her. Then he shows her pads, which she calls “diapers,” and explains to her about sperm. The passage in the book is much longer than that. It went into way too much detail for a kid’s book. Do kid books even need to mention menstruation? Oh yeah, and this is from Scholastic.

Nissa hangs out on her roof. Wow, what a great thing to tell kids! Her dad is fine with it, too.

Her mom is weird. The point of the story is how she deals with her mom, and eventually goes to live with her in Chicago. I guess it’s okay to show how the mom acts, because some parents do, so I’ll skip over that. Not only does it take forever to get to that part of the story (keep in mind the whole novel is only 244 pages), but then the actual stay is rushed. Nissa decides to go home to open a library.

A library. Really? That’s great and all, but it just seemed really random, and I would have liked to see a lot more in the story play up to that conclusion. The project becomes Nissa’s whole life. She also has to decide if she’s going to make her library segregated. That theme seemed thrown in at the end, and I would have liked to see it play out more.

When I finished the book, I cringed. Very rarely do books make me react physically. This one did. Not in a good way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Stephanie Bradt: Basically, DEENIE is typical Judy Blume. The title character finds out she has scoliosis and she is sad. After all, she wants to be a model and stuff. Actually, this dream is not so much Deenie's, as it is her over-bearing mother's dream. Her mother is such a b*tch, too. Instead of supporting and trying to console Deenie, the mother just makes our poor protagonist feel worse. This relationship never improves and by the end of the book, nothing is resolved. However, Deenie is finally happy and is comfortable with her body when this boy (the name escapes me) finally agrees to make out with Deenie even though she is wearing her back brace. What a wonderful message.

Of course, this would not be a Judy Blume book without a token let's-try-to-get-this-book-banned moment. As mentioned in a previous Bradt Cousins review, there is only a sentence or two in this book that gets the entire thing banned. And it is completely irevelant. Basically, when Deenie is sad, she feels better when she touches her "special place." Thanks, Judy.

Jordan Bradt: Every summer, the Kirkland Town Library hosts a book sale in the Village Green of Clinton, NY. It starts on Friday and starting at 8 pm on Saturday, the leftover books are free (until gone). Stephanie grabbed a copy of DEENIE by Judy Blume. It is about a young girl who finds out she has scoliosis and needs to wear a back brace.

Just by looking at the cover, the book screams 1970’s. It was indeed written in 1973, and many parts reminded me of the 70’s. Deenie’s friends buy her a nightie. Do people say “nightie” anymore? Also, her friend Janet hosts a party in her basement. It reminded me of That 70’s Show.

Overall, I hated the book and I don’t think it is appropriate for junior high students (the target audience) because it keeps mentioning masturbation. Not only does Deenie touch her “special place” in order to fall asleep, but the gym teacher leads a long class discussion about it. Why?! The topic did nothing to add to the story and just felt very random.

Deenie was named after a movie, but the book never mentions a specific movie, so maybe Judy Blume made up that part. The story contained no character development. At the end, Deenie was still a whiny girl. Her mom was still mean and still pressuring Deenie to become a model against her wishes. Her sister is still sweet. Her dad is still a bit wishy-washy, but nice. Her friends are still normal teenagers. Oh, and the boy she likes? He is upset about her wearing the brace and cutting her hair, and gets mad when she doesn’t want to make out, yet she stays with him. That really irritated me and ruined the ending.

There was so much Judy Blume could have done with this story. I’ve never read another YA book about scoliosis. Yet, she lacked character development and the masturbation just made me cringe.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This is Book Seven. Click here for the Bradt Cousins' review of Book One.

Stepahnie Bradt: It has been a couple months since I read this, but here we go. RAPTURE OF THE DEEP is typical L.A. Meyer-- it is pretty pointless, but still entertaining at times. I guess at this point I am used to nothing really happening in Meyer's books. I do like that I learned about what "rapture of the deep" and "the bends" are.

All I remember about the plot is that there are Spanish people and Jacky goes in a diving bell to collect sponges and stuff for science. Of course, she looks for treasure too. And of course, since the only important thing in the world is that everyone has a significant other, Jacky is quite pleased when the bum-legged Tink catches the eye of some Cuban girl. Other than that, nothing really happens. Stick with the earlier books in the series.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: Flaco Jimenez
My favorite new character: El Gringo, a rooster that Jacky buys and uses in cock fights. I am serious. He's not really a favorite of mine, but he is definitely notable. Disturbing, but notable.

Jordan Bradt: RAPTURE OF THE DEEP is the seventh book in the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer. I just read this novel, so it’s fresh in my mind. Sort of. It skipped around a lot and was slightly hard to follow, but I greatly enjoyed the story overall. To condense the story into one paragraph, Jacky sails to Havana to dive for sunken treasure.

The good - Old characters return and new characters are introduced. There is action, adventure, and history, as well as some romance, which takes us to the bad…

The bad - Jacky still isn’t with Jaimy! At the beginning, they almost get married, but then the British navy kidnaps them. Why?! It frustrates me that they still aren’t married. In the first few books, I only read them to see if she got with Jaimy. There is some more cuddle time for the couple in this novel, but not enough. Other characters get married and make love, so why can’t they?

This book reminded me a lot of a story I read back in elementary school, THE DIVING BELL by Todd Strasser. If anyone is interested in further his or her knowledge of diving bells, this is a great, fast read.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


This is Book Six. Click here for the Bradt Cousins' review of Book One.

Stephanie Bradt: I honestly don’t remember much about MY BONNY LIGHT HORSEMAN either. Not quite the same old rant I had for the last few books, though. For starters, I believe this book was more focused and organized than others. Not surprisingly, this book also seems to be shorter than most of the others in the series. I do not know this for a fact, but to me this means that at the very least the story had more of a point. Basically, Jacky is sort of forced into a deal with the British Crown to go spy for them against Napoleon. Her escort is a young man, a French Royalist by the name of Jean-Paul de Valdon. As Jacky would say, “Hmmmmmm.”

That being said, I do not quite remember what that aforementioned point was. I remember bits and pieces like:

-The title refers to the line of a song Meyer already referenced in one of the previous books.

-They talk about the death of Marat. I remember the painting “The Death of Marat” from an Art History class I took. According to the story, a new character, Jean-Paul de Valdon (I had to look up his name), explains to Jacky how his cousin or something like that was the one who killed Marat. This is kind of cheesy, but I liked how a) I remembered something from Art History class and how b) Meyer again weaves historical fact with fiction and I like it.

-Speaking of fact and fiction, Jacky hangs out with Napoleon, visits his wife, and falls asleep on his lap. Of course she does.

-Jacky makes out with the mustachioed Jean-Paul de Valdon in a tent. Of course she does.

-Jacky’s old shipmate, Joseph Jared, comes back in this one. His arrogant but loyal personality is growing on me. Jacky still finds him very attractive. Of course she does.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: Jean-Paul de Valdon. He annoyed me (what a surprise).
My favorite new character: Dr. Sebastian, a doctor/scientist. Jacky illustrates for his books. I’m not sure if this was the exact book in which the doc was first introduced, but I like him better than Jean-Paul. So there you go.

Jordan Bradt: Time for another installment of the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer. This time, we shall explore book six, MY BONNY LIGHT HORSEMAN. I read it back in 2008, so I don’t remember too much, other than that this is one of my favorites in the series. My ultimate favorite is still the first book, though.

In this book…well, I can’t really give you a direct summary because, like the other books, this is all over the place and involves many different plots. So, I shall make another list! This time, I’ll mention the themes of the novel:

1) Marriage – Jacky is still waiting for Jaimy to sweep her off her feet. STILL WAITING.
2) New and old characters – It’s enjoyable to read about familiar faces, but at the same time, some appear in very random moments.
3) Ships – Yup, it’s another nautical adventure.
4) Food poisoning – fun time for a crew when they eat rotten fish.
5) France – Yay, a new country! I love it when books take you to different historical locations.
6) Ballet – Jacky is good at everything else, so why not throw in some sophisticated dancing as well?
7) Spy – Jacky becomes a spy. May I repeat that Jacky is good at everything.
8) Love interests – yes, new guys adore her. She leads them on and at the last minute “remembers” Jaimy.
9) Napoleon – I love stories with historical figures.
10) Prison – Jacky goes to prison. Fun times.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


This is Book Five. Click here for the Bradt Cousins' review of Book One.

Stephanie Bradt: BEWARE: This will be a rant. I really have no idea what to say about this book except that I think it was my one of my least favorites. Probably my least favorite in the series, period. I know, I know. I should know by now how Meyer operates, but come on!!! This book is the longest in the series and therefore has the most ridiculous and pointless subplots and character additions. I do not remember particulars except that this book was long and random.

I do like that they go through America like a bunch of Huck Finns, but still this book is a mess. I don’t want to get into it, but trust me. Among a slew of other stupid things, the book introduces a couple of the most annoying characters in all of literature: A big, drunk, retarded woodsman guy named Mike Fink and a creepy, annoying little thing called Clementine. Clementine and Jaimy fall in love within .001 seconds. Meanwhile, Jacky and crew meet a bunch of Native Americans and slaves and Jacky buys one. A slave that is. And yet another new character, whose name escapes me, teaches Jacky how to play cards. Whatever.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: I think this is the book which introduces Captain Richard Allen of Her Majesty’s Army. Who I also find to be a royal pain-in-the-ass.

My favorite new character: I honestly can’t remember any new characters in this book that I liked. All I remember is that I often wanted to punch Mike Fink in the face.

Jordan Bradt: I still love the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer, even if Jacky still isn’t with Jaimy (grr). MISSISSIPPI JACK is the fifth book, and just as adventurous as the others. Jacky and her friends leave the high seas for the American Wilderness. They travel the Mississippi, encountering Native Americans and river rats. I read this story back when it first came out in 2007, so I don’t remember all that much about it. Instead of stating individual things, I’ll try a different method and say what the story is:

1) Fun – Jacky has a wild adventure after another, each more wild and random than the last.
2) Long – it’s 624 pages. About ¾ of the way through, I grew a little bored and wished it had more of a central plot. The novel could have easily been made into 4 or 5 smaller books.
3) Songs – Jacky entertains her way along the Mississippi. The historical songs are fun to sing aloud while you’re reading.
4) Romantic – Jacky and Jaimy always come very close to finally having their way with each other. In the meantime, though, there are many other young men who engage in illicit trysts with her; just look at the cover, where Jacky dances in a sexy dress while males cheer.
5) Historical – The author included many historical events and terms to bring the setting richly alive.
6) Random – Part of the appeal for this series is how random the events are! Jaimy finds a girl who loves him, Katy tries to kill her uncle, Native Americans turn Jacky over to the police…
7) Adult aspects – I really don’t feel like this book is appropriate for 12-year-olds, as the back cover states. Not only is their language and sexual content, but there are hookers and alcohol.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


This is Book Four. Click here for the Bradt Cousins' review of Book One.

Stephanie Bradt: IN THE BELLY OF THE BLOODHOUND kind of disappointed me. The plot seems like it would be fun: the Lawson Peabody girls get kidnapped aboard a slave ship thing and have to try to escape. It is all very dry though. They are constantly digging this hole thing to escape and it just seems to go on and on. And Jacky, of course, is the narcissist she is and tells the girls stories of her life in Cheapside and beyond because she is just oh-so-fascinating.

Here is what I remember about this book:

For one, I did not find it as fun as it could be. The stories every night and digging the hole and boo hoos kind of got boring rather quickly. However, I guess by this book, being the fourth in the series, I became used to L.A. Meyer’s randomness and pointlessness and learned to accept and embrace it.

Wow. Jacky reaches a new level of her sluttiness and makes out with a girl and likes it. There is a reason behind this, of course, but really, L.A. Meyer/Jacky? Of all things? This is still a YA book—ages 12 and up, kids.

I think this is where the character Katy Deere is introduced, who has a rather interesting and unusual backstory. Katy returns for one of the 75 subplots of the subsequent Bloody Jack book, one of the better pointless subplots in my opinion.

I also think that this is the book where we learn that the little Lawson Peabody girl Rebecca Adams, who is introduced in book 2, is actually the granddaughter of former President John Adams. I thought this was kind of cool too. Jacky teaches Rebecca and about half the other girls about the Birds and the Bees. Of course she does.

I don’t remember the particulars, but there is an ugly creepy kid on the ship who is one of the bad guys who *gasp!* thinks Jacky is hot! What I find fascinating is that I think this is the only male soul between the ages of 12 and 50 whose affections are not embraced and reciprocated by Jacky. Maybe because he is ugly and Jacky is just shallow. Really, before this, I thought that Jacky was in love with everything with man-parts that breathes.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: No one? I can’t remember!
My favorite new character: I can’t remember any. Let’s say Katy. I think she was new…

Jordan Bradt: I love the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer. By far, it is one of my favorites. Not only is there romance and adventure, but it takes place in the 1800’s. I can’t get enough historical fiction. IN THE BELLY OF THE BLOODHOUND is the fourth installment. I like it better than some of the books in the series, but it’s not one of my favorites. I read it when it first came out back in 2006, so this review will be short. Again, I’ll concentrate on the things I remember.

Jacky and her friends from the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls are kidnapped by pirates. What’s awesome about that (besides the fact that pirates are included) is that it puts Jacky right in her element. There are many opportunities for Jacky to show her craft, and L. A. Meyer writes beautifully. The reader really gets into Jacky’s head.

Okay, here are the parts I didn’t like. Jacky and Jaimy still don’t get together! Argh, I found it very frustrating. One of the main reasons I read the book was to see if they finally get married and nope, they don’t. So, moving on…

Jacky acts like a slut. All the “sexy” men want her, and she wants them back, then at the last minute decides to wait for Jaimy – uh-huh, total tease. She also makes out with a girl, so it’s not just the guys. Clearly, Jacky goes both ways.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Jordan Bradt: I love THE WIZARD OF OZ, both the movie and the book by L. Frank Baum. I have his complete Oz series and devour it like dessert. In fact, my mom and I used to read his stories together. This review, however, is about an Oz story written by someone different, a certain man by the name of Gregory Maguire. He wrote, among other novels, WICKED: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST. When I first heard about this book, I thought, “How wonderful, someone made the Wicked Witch not so wicked.” I am a firm believer that people are good and evil, not entirely one or the other.

Then, I actually read the book. Yes, I enjoyed it. For one thing, the pages are edged in green. The pages are freaking green, how wicked awesome is that?! Plus, the cover is awesome – Glinda whispers into the Wicked Witch’s ear, and she has a wicked smile. Tantalizing, no?

So back to the actual story, it was complex and interesting. Some sentences were hard to understand. I had to reread them, and reread, and then I realized he was trying to show a confused world; I wasn’t meant to understand. He also provided no descriptions. At first I was irritated – I LOVE illustrations. Then I realized he did that on purpose, too. He wanted me to use my imagination. Duh. There are some illustrations in the book, but they don’t really help, because they’re very dark and…cryptic. Yes, “cryptic” is a good word for them. Then I realized the author probably told the illustrator not to make them too distinct to continue with the “use your imagination” style.

Overall, great story, apart from the end: the last part of the book made the Wicked Witch act like a totally different person. I loved her at first, and then I hated her. The character development slipped. The book’s message is good, though. I prefer the musical, which I saw recently on Broadway. The message is much more coherent.

Now, welcome the Bradt Cousin’s guest speaker, my mother! She also read WICKED. Here is her take…

Cynthia Bradt, Guest Speaker: I found Wicked by Gregory Maguire to be wickedly hard to read. Every evening when I read before bed, I would promptly fall asleep after a few pages, to fall into wicked dreams where my mind tried to fathom what he was writing about. I could not picture any of Maguire’s descriptions or feel as if I knew the characters. The political references went right over my head and his use of long, awkward sentences with big unfamiliar words caused me to read and reread sentences several times until I just gave up and moved on. It was not until the last section The Murder and Its Afterlife that anything close to enjoying the novel began to take shape. This section referred to Dorothy in Oz. I was particularly struck by the feeling that Maguire had put excessively too much thought into analyzing the characters from L. Frank Baum’s book. Where most people enjoyed the movie for what it was, one can only feel that the movie frightened Maguire so much he had to think through the the story and characters thoroughly to alleviate his frequent nightmares and turn the wicked witch into something she obviously was not – good!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


This is Book Three. Click here for the Bradt Cousins' review of Book One.

Stephanie Bradt: UNDER THE JOLLY ROGER is probably my favorite Bloody Jack book so far. I don’t know why; it just is. Perhaps it is because it is shorter than the second book and it seems to stay more on track. Or just because I thought it was very fun. Jacky is in her element in this one—- being all pirate-y and such.

Here is my disorganized ramble about why I like this book: The reader has fun with Jacky as she and her newly-formed crew collect their riches. Her “sea dad” from the H.M.S. Dolphin, Liam Delaney, returns, and I had a newfound appreciation for him in this book. I think he is in my top 3 favorite characters even though he does not show up in the books a lot. Anyway, I also like Irish-y things, so I was also excited when we first see Liam again. I fell in love with his stereotypically Irish family: They have a bunch of kids, they are all redheads, and they are poor. (Hmmm, sounds like the Weasley family). Anyway, the potato crop is failing and the family needs money, so what do they have to lose? We meet Liam’s family, including his eldest son, Padraic, and daughter, Mairead. Liam’s family, as well as all the other awesome Irish people in this book, all have awesome Irish names.

The joyful reunion takes place when Jacky goes to Liam’s home in Ireland seeking a captain for her ship, since she, as a female, is nothing. This is one theme of the series I do recognize. While it seems like it would be cool to live in the book’s time and place, it would actually suck to be a girl in that time and place, as the reader learns. More than once, Jacky makes simple but telling statements about the differences between living as a boy and living as a girl. For starters, it is easier and a lot more fun to be a boy. Being a girl isn’t worth much.

As for new characters, besides Liam’s brood and all the cool Irish people, there is the addition of the Scotsman Robin Raeburne, who is my favorite side of Jacky’s ridiculous love dodecagon. I also liked the addition of Higgins, Jacky’s faithful gay manservant who reminds me of the butler in the movie ARTHUR.

All in all, I liked how this book combined the old adventurousness of the first book with a ton of colorful new characters. By the way, there is only one straight man in this series who does not throw himself at Jacky—Liam Delaney. Perhaps that is why he is my favorite.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: Robin Raeburne
My favorite new character: Robin Raeburne

Jordan Bradt: Warning: this will be a very short review. UNDER THE JOLLY ROGER is the third book in the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer. I still love this series, and after reading this book, I hurried to get the fourth. This book just isn’t “wow.”

For one thing, Jacky still isn’t with her true love, Jaimy. WTF, get with him already! By this book, I was getting sick of them always just missing each other…but hey, that’s a theme throughout the whole series. *mutter, mutter*

For another, the adventures weren’t very memorable. All I really remember from the book is that she still wasn’t with Jaimy. Granted, I read this when it first came out in 2005, so it’s been a while, but usually books stay with me.

The cool thing about this story was that it involved pirates on the open seas. I adore pirates and historical fiction, so I was hooked from page 1 to page 528 (yes, the book IS that long). It just wasn’t very…spectacular. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


This is Book Two. Click here for the Bradt Cousins' review of Book One.

Stephanie Bradt: Ah, CURSE OF THE BLUE TATTOO. From what I can remember, I thoroughly enjoyed this book until the end. At that point, I said, "huh?"

I loved this story as a follow-up to the first novel. Jacky gets off the ship, where she basically grew up as a young man, and ends up at a snooty finishing school for girls in Boston. It seems like this kind of story is told all the time, but it never seems to get old. The boorish Jacky Faber trying to act like a lady was very entertaining to read about. At the school, we meet a bunch of new characters, most of whom, I was happy to learn, make appearances in other books throughout the series.

Unfortunately, this book was also the beginning of the two main problems I have with this series: the seeming lack of theme/point/direction and the fact that Jacky officially becomes one of my least favorite characters:

First of all, I enjoyed this book until the last 50-100 pages or so, when I realized upon finishing that none of the first few hundred pages really did anything to lead up to what happened at the end. There is one particular storyline that is completely random that I have yet to see have anything to do with the rest of the series. Again, at least the book introduces interesting characters that make return appearances later on in the series. While I enjoyed reading this book, the ending left me feeling kind of empty and confused...and not in the good, "author-meant-to-do-it" way. More like the "WTF? oookkkkayyy" way. Regardless of what was intended, to me, the end of the book seemed kind of forced and rushed. It is the beginning of the Meyer's somewhat frequent use of "deus ex machina." At least that is the phrase that comes to my mind.

Then there is Jacky. When she is not whining about something, she is being promiscuous. You can also tell that each book will introduce (at least) one more side to an ever-growing love triangle. While I guess I find Jacky's promiscuity entertaining, that, and her incessant whining, make me not like her very much. It is kind of funny that people keep bugging her asking about her "virtue" and "innocence" and "maidenhood."

The strange thing is that I cannot really complain about either of these items since I still find Jacky's life to be outrageously entertaining. This book also introduces a couple of my favorite characters and, for the first time, takes place in a newly independent America. Jacky's life is slightly over-the-top and bizarre, but I guess that is the point. The book's lack of direction may never win it the Pulitzer Prize, but I can tell that L. A. Meyer has fun writing, so I'll just continue to have fun reading.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: The highly obnoxious Randall Trevelyne
My favorite new character: Amy Trevelyne and Ezra Pickering

Jordan Bradt: I loved BLOODY JACK and upon completion, I could not wait to grab book 2 in the exciting pirate series. (I’m still obsessed with pirates, and I even bought some pirate knitting patterns to make me feel more like Jacky, but back to the book…) The second book in the Bloody Jack series is not as great as the first. I still enjoyed it, but it just did not have that wow factor.

CURSE OF THE BLUE TATTOO involves Jacky’s life at the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls. Since I read this book years ago (it had just come out in paperback), I don’t remember everything, so let me list the things I do remember:

1) Jacky isn’t very pleased with the school because she feels confined.
2) Jacky plays music at the wharf/docks/whatever.
3) Jacky makes new friends, especially this girl named Amy, and some of her old friends are mentioned.
4) Something happens at a church on the grounds.
5) Jacky has to work at the school, reminding me of A LITTLE PRINCESS.
6) Stuff happens.
7) There is a Reverend Mather. At the time, I didn’t know this, but I am related to the Mathers in Boston, so VERY COOL!
8) Other stuff happens.

This book seemed to consist of many, many different subplots all rolled into one. I still love the book and adore the series. I have a strong affection in my heart for historical novels, and especially ones about pirates (for reference to that, see my comment about pirate knits).

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Stephanie Bradt: While looking for a good book to read at the library, Jordan pointed out the BLOODY JACK series by L. A. Meyer. I grudgingly checked out the first book and now I am happily six books into the series. The books are not perfect, but thanks to them, I now have a newfound love of historical fiction.

The first book in the series (of nine books and counting) is entitled BLOODY JACK. (Imagine that). So far, this book and the third in the series, UNDER THE JOLLY ROGER, are my favorites. I found a couple of the other books to lack a point and drift and be too long. That is not to say they were not entertaining; they just would make more sense as, say, 37 separate short stories. I have a lot to say about each of the books, but this single book review will have to suffice for now.

BLOODY JACK opens in 1802-ish London, a London that is reminiscent of the William Blake poems I had to read in my British Literature class. (Side note: William Blake is quoted in one of the books, which made me kind of happy). Anyway, the London of Mary “Jacky” Faber is one of poverty and turmoil. When the story opens, little Mary, our narrator, is newly orphaned and she describes (in her slightly-annoying-until-you-get-used-to-it Cockney accent) her parents’ and little sister’s death from “the pestilence.” On the run from the creepy/evil/body-snatching/grave-robbing Cornelius Muck, Mary takes refuge in Rooster Charlie’s street gang, a group kids who stick together (and steal together) on the streets of London. When Mary is 12-ish, Rooster Charlie dies and Mary is once again unprotected. She is hungry and so she does what every hungry person does: she dresses in the dead kid’s clothes, masquerades as a boy, and gets a gig on a random ship. All of a sudden, Mary, now under the alias of “Jacky,” is a ship’s boy in the Royal Navy.

And so begin the many misadventures of the “impetuous” Jacky Faber. I do not think I ever realized how much I love pirate-y things. And these books have just increased my interest in the time period and sea-faring life in general. I kind of envy Jacky’s life. Except her psychotic-ness:

Although I find these books highly entertaining, witty, informative, and comical, I must confess that the main character kind of annoys the crap out of me. I like most of the characters better than her, actually. Jacky is a royal pain. Here is the thing: these books are surprisingly risqué for Young Adult books and okay, that is probably a big part of why I love them, but Jacky is slutty. Well, sort of. I will not get too into it, so as not to ruin these wonderful books for everyone, but the bottom line is this: Jacky thinks she is sooo hot and loves to throw herself at guys, but NEWS FLASH, Jacky: you are the ONLY female on the ship. Of course a bunch of horny sailors who haven’t seen a woman in two years are going to go after you.

All in all, I recommend these books. Hey, even L.A. Meyer agrees with my analysis on Jacky's "love life" in an interview with his audiobook reader, Katherine Kellgren.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: James Emerson "Jaimy" Fletcher
My favorite new character: Liam Delaney

Jordan Bradt: Years ago, probably back in 2002 or 2003, I was at Borders in the Carousel Mall in Syracuse, browsing young adult novels. I have always loved historical fiction, so one novel in particular stood out to me: BLOODY JACK by L. A. Meyer. Ladies and Gentlemen who choose to read this blog, the following is going to discuss a GOOD book. BLOODY JACK is still, to this day, one of my favorite books, and one of the few I will reread more than once.

Mary Faber is an orphan living in 19th century London on the streets. She falls in with a gang of hoodlums. Yes, I just said hoodlums, haha. She stays with them for a while, but decides to dress as a boy, call herself Jacky, and see if she can find work on a ship. She is hired as a ship’s boy on the H. M. S. Dolphin. Yes, she continues her charade as a boy, but this is more than a story about girl being boy. For one thing, I never knew so much about ships, and the information was fun to learn. For another thing, I have a sweet spot in my heart for romance, so I was thrilled that Mary fell in love with Jaimy, another ship’s boy. Then, there are pirates, so you know there has to be action and treasure.

L. A. Meyer (who I thought was female until I read a later book in the series) is an excellent author. He weaves realistic dialogue amongst loveable characters. By the end of the novel, I felt like Jacky was my friend. Sometimes he doesn’t describe characters too well (I’m still not sure what Jaimy really looks like), but you can always use your imagination to fill in those blanks. My favorite part of the book is the cockney accent L. A. Meyer incorporates into Jacky. It makes me want to go around talking like that. If I were back in elementary school, I would dress up as Jacky for Halloween. That’s how much I love this book. Hmm, now I need to go find a fashion designer to help me with that.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Stephanie Bradt: A LITTLE DEMONSTRATION OF AFFECTION (1975) by Elizabeth Winthrop is a peculiar little story that I picked up for some change at the local Salvation Army. What struck me about it, besides the fact that it was cheap (and worn), was that the cover art was, well, interesting. It shows a young teenage boy and girl outside: the girl on a tree swing and looking all emo, the boy leaning against said tree and looking all emo, and a dog lying at the boy’s feet looking…well, he looks like a dog.

Anyway, this gave me the urge to skim the synopsis. It said, “For the first time, Charley and Jenny were more than just brother and sister.” I was like haha, incest. Also, reminiscent of the books I was forced to read in school, in which someone always dies, I quipped, “I’ll bet the dog dies.” Little did I know that both of these facetious predictions would turn out to be true.

In the novel, thirteen-year-old Jenny and fourteen-year-old Charley are sister and brother. They have another brother, sixteen-year-old John, who is a typical delinquent, his claim to fame being smoking pot in the basement. He is a bad boy. He goes with his bad-influence friend and his friend’s family to the Adirondacks for summer vacation.

Before John leaves, he gets the bright idea of digging a hole in the yard for fun. When John leaves, Jenny and Charley decide to take over the project themselves. As they dig the hole, they build charact—no wait, never mind; that is HOLES. Back to A LITTLE DEMONSTRATION OF AFFECTION. In this particular book, as Jenny and Charley dig the hole, they talk to each other and bond. The family dog, who also happens to be Charley’s BFF, goes to the farmer-neighbor’s house and terrorizes the chickens and so the farmer up and shoots the dog. And the kids’ father is like, “oh well.” Charley is devastated and eventually opens up to Jenny. He even shows him writings from his notebook that he has never shown anyone. In this moment of crisis, Jenny and Charley share a hug which is a little too long. They both like it a little too much. At this point, I say, “WHAT THE HELL KIND OF STORY IS THIS?”

Back to the hole. Jenny and Charley get closer, talking to each other about how they wish their mother and father hugged and kissed in front of them more. They feel unloved because of it or something like that. Huh? There’s more. Jenny’s friend, Lucy, starts to spend more time with Charley and they kind of like each other. And Jenny is jealous. Especially when Lucy wants to help with the hole. Then John comes home and wants to help with the hole. Jenny and Charley finally finish the hole and decide to camp in the little underground fort it leads into. There, they talk about sex and Jenny wants to snuggle with Charley, but Charley (for some reason) rejects her advances. Then, Jenny is depressed and doesn’t talk to anyone and no one knows what is wrong with her. She finally opens up to her dad and says how she has feelings for her brother because they got so close over the summer and Charley even showed her his notebook. The dad says, “He showed you his notebook!?” Okay, Dad, never mind your kids were just revealed to be little sickos. Instead, he is jealous Jenny got to see the kid’s notebook. Then he tells Jenny not to worry, that it is perfectly natural for someone her age to have feelings for her brother. Jenny then tells the dad that she and Charley would feel better if the dad and mom would hug and kiss in front of them more. The dad is like, No. The end.

Seriously. What was the point of the hole? And the dog? And the incest? What is the point of this story? If you are confused, join the club.

Jordan Bradt: Stephanie gave me a delightful book: A LITTLE DEMONSTRATION OF AFFECTION by Elizabeth Winthrop. This young adult novel from 1975 has everything a wholesome book should have. There are family issues, ways to deal with grief, sibling camaraderie, pet love, physical endurance, religion, and friendship; not to mention an awesome depicting a moody boy leaning against a tree, a depressed girl on a swing, and a dog resting at her feet. The book is also short, so it only took me two hours to read it.

I hope you know that first sentence was filled with sarcasm. Let’s start with family issues. The parents don’t seem to care about the kids, so the kids are upset. Really upset. At the end, the girl, Jenny, tells her dad she wishes he and her mom showed more affection. So clearly, she wants them to have sex near her. She and her brother actually discuss that during the book. WTF

Now let’s look at ways the book shows the characters dealing with grief. The grief involves the brother, Charley, and his dog, Moses. The family goes on vacation. Moses runs outdoors. The neighbor shoots him. The family does nothing, and it takes them two days before they go home. I would have left that day. Then, by the end of the book, the family acts as if they don’t care anymore. WTF

Sibling camaraderie equals incestuous thoughts. Jenny loves Charley. She wants him. He rather wants her too, but then he wants her friend Lucy instead. Jenny becomes angry when she thinks of Charley and Lucy making love. Jenny even comes onto her brother. Then, she tells her father and he says that’s normal. WTF

Pet love goes back to Moses. Charley loves him, and he loves his fish, but then he stops caring about the fish. Altogether, it all made me think: WTF

Physical endurance is a major theme throughout the book, because the siblings and Lucy dig a hole. It’s going to be their clubhouse. Oooh. To me, I thought of a demented version of the book/movie HOLES. Somehow, digging the hole cures Charley’s asthma. Huh, who knew? If you have asthma, go dig a hole. Clearly, that will help. Personally, I would think the moist dirt would make his asthma worsen. WTF

The religion mentioned in the book is Catholicism. Charley and Jenny question their beliefs. The mom is said to be very religious. Jenny goes to a Catholic school and wants to be a nun, but then Lucy supposedly talks her out of it. Yup, this is definitely wholesome reading material. The religious aspect almost seemed added into the story once the author finished it, and thought it needed another dimension. WTF

Friendship in the story involves Lucy. She begins as being friends with Jenny, but then Jenny becomes jealous of Lucy’s relationship with Charley, which is the other friendship. If you want to learn about friendship, though, do not read this book. This book will make you wince and ask, “What the f***?”

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Outing in Cooperstown, New York

Stephanie Bradt: A favorite pastime of the Bradt Cousins is to visit historical sites around Central New York. This particular journey took us to the home of America’s favorite pastime, Cooperstown, NY. Ironically, we did not go into the Baseball Hall of Fame. That is for next time.

Jordan Bradt: The Farmer's Museum, a historic site in New York State, offers a pancake breakfast every Sunday in March. Adult admission costs $8, and offers not only the endless buffet of breakfast foods, but also access to the museum grounds. The breakfast buffet includes pancakes, eggs, sausage, hash browns (with and without onions), salsa, coffee, tea, orange juice, milk, and hot chocolate. The food is made there and offered with real maple syrup from the museum’s trees. The museum itself contains buildings built in the 1800’s and moved from their original locations. Volunteers work as costumed interpreters and offer live demonstrations.

While eating, we noticed many female children had their American Girl dolls with them. We instantly regretted not bringing along our dolls. Not only could we have gotten in under children prices, but we could have gotten more food as well. "I need an extra pancake for Kirsten. She's hungry." The museum also offered, most graciously, small plates, just perfect for a doll! Along with dolls, many people brought along their beards. Yes, these beards were wild enough to have "object" status. One man in particular reminded us of Santa Claus. We wanted to take turns sitting on his lap and asking for ponies, then having our dolls do the same. Alas, we were afraid of offending people and chose to keep our opinions about his Christmas job to ourselves.

(Above) Upon finishing breakfast, it was time to explore the museum grounds. Jordan’s dad makes a cameo in this photograph taken at the beginning of our adventure. The weather was lovely while we walked around.

(Above) First, we enter under a cute little archway. The cute little kid in pink is probably headed toward the little white building on the path, which houses a little carousel. The ride costs $.50 (or one token), and while some of the party wanted to partake in the fun, we were also realistic about the fact that small children would cry if we broke the ride, the animals on which included a strange fish and a strange dog. It was too small.

(Above) The Bradts explore the maple syrup-making process. This was difficult, considering no one told us exactly what that process was. Luckily, Jordan’s dad shared some of his expertise from growing up on a farm. In the background, there is a sketchy pile of snow that the fresh syrup is poured onto, which the guests can eat like a snow cone. This is one of the few instances in which eating yellowish-brown snow is not only accepted, but encouraged.

(Above) A woman appeared with a cart pulled by oxen. In the back of the cart, she had a large barrel.

(Above) She explained that she was going on a maple syrup adventure, and anyone who wanted to could join in - I wanted to until I learned you didn't get to ride in the cart. Boooo.

(Above) Many people, however, did follow her to a tree.

(Above) Many people got to feel special because they took part in gathering maple syrup.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Jordan Bradt: The local library has a used bookroom. A while ago, I found a copy of MY SISTER’S KEEPER by Jodi Picoult for twenty-five cents. I added it to my “to read” pile in my bedroom, and recently came across it. I saw the movie on television and thought I should finally compare it to the novel.

I didn’t like the movie very much. It was intense and portrayed the characters well, but I found it heartbreaking. The book is also heartbreaking, but I enjoyed it more than the movie version. It explores the characters in more depth, and I felt like they became friends and neighbors, rather than people on a screen. The ending was also different, and I can’t decide which I liked better. Both are tearjerkers. I cried during the movie and in the last chapter of the book. Yes, I’m not embarrassed to admit tears poured down my cheeks.

I would give this book 5 stars out of 5, except for one aspect, which pushes it down to a 3 or 4, depending on my mood for the day. That aspect: the brother, Jesse. He screams “cliché” in a horrible way. I understand that Jodi wanted to show how Jesse suffered from being ignored. His family concentrated on Kate and Anna, and he, the middle child, got pushed to the back. However, he’s just the “bad boy.” He does drugs. He drinks. Smokes. Steals a judge’s car. He sets fires with homemade explosives. He was so two-dimensional in his badness that I wanted to skip the parts about him. I didn’t, but they happened just as I had assumed they would. He was bad. He remained bad. Jesse made me want to scream. The other characters had so much going for them…then there was Jesse. At the end of the book, Jodi has him turn his life around, but I would’ve rather seen that throughout, rather than piled into the epilogue. He needed to have more substance. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book and I recommend it to others…just be prepared to meet Jesse.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

DRACULA by Bram Stoker

Jordan Bradt: I found a copy of DRACULA by Bram Stoker at a garage sale for twenty-five cents. The cover says: Wal*Mart 2 for $1. Sad I missed that sale. I love classics, but I’m never sure what to expect from them. Good, bad, or dry? I must give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

It wasn’t dry. Some parts were a little slow…like do I care what the guy has to eat? The rest was dark and flowed smoothly. Part of the appeal might be that I’ve heard so much about it, I couldn’t wait to judge for myself. Although it was written in 1897, I didn’t find any jarring, arcane references to the past. It sounded like something modern.

For the fact I don’t hate this book, I really can’t rant about it. Read it. If you like the darkness, if you enjoy classics, and if vampires are your thing, pick this up.

Also, make sure to let me know if Wal-Mart ever has this kind of sale again!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Jordan Bradt: I loved the movie Mean Girls. In the teen genre, I found the film unique. Teenage girl moves from Africa to America, has trouble fitting in, and falls in with the popular crowd. In the end, she found the true meaning of friendship amongst twists, famous faces, drama, romance, and some amazing quotes. Some of those have even ended up as Facebook pages, and I “liked” them. So, I was thrilled to see an ad for Mean Girl 2 on ABC Family. Of course I DVR’d it, watched it, and wondered why I’d just spent over an hour wasting my time.

What made Mean Girls unique was replicated. One good thing done over makes two good things? No, doesn’t work like that. The story takes place at North Shore High School, which might be in Ohio. I had difficulty understanding the location. The principal is the same, which I found refreshing, since his character is upbeat, perky, and comedic. While Mean Girls included famous actors and actresses like Tina Fey and Lindsey Lohan, to name only two of many, Mean Girls 2 contained…okay, I give up, I don’t even know their names. I recognized the principal, Abby (who is the actress who plays on Wizards of Waverly Place), and the quiet girl who comes out of nowhere to say she regrets losing her virginity (the actress who played on Suite Life of Zack and Cody). I’m guessing for this “edgy” teen drama, they chose from Disney channel? Um, okay, great way to demean role models for children. There’s also a lot of random swearing. Words seemed to be included just to have cussing. They added nothing substantial to the dialogue.

Mean Girls: teenage girl moves from Africa to North Shore. She has trouble fitting in because she’s clueless.
Mean Girls 2: Teenage girl moves from somewhere else in America to North Shore. She has trouble fitting in because she’s “tough” and wants to be alone to avoid…getting hurt, I guess. It never really stressed why she had rules for being a loner. She wants to get into Carnegie Melon, because that’s where her mother who passed away before she was one went.

MG: The main character, Kady, makes friends with two outcasts. One of the outcasts is an artist.
MG2: The main character, whose name I don’t even remember other than people called her New Girl, is paid to become friends with an outcast named Abby. Abby is an artist.

MG: The mean girls are called the “Plastics.” The leader is a manipulative slut. Who has a guy she falls all over, but also wants to get with Kady’s crush. The leader has two followers, a ditzy, brainless whore and a snob.
MG2: The mean girls are also called the “Plastics.” The leader is a manipulative slut with a boyfriend who falls all over her (I remember his name! Nick!). The main character, New Girl, likes this other guy, but the Leader is dating him. Actually, they are siblings. Leader also has two followers: a ditzy, brainless whore and a snob. These followers look just like the followers from Mean Girls, in regards to hair color.

MG: The Plastics play mean tricks on people. Kady joins them, and becomes another Plastic. She is horrified when her crush calls her out on it. She also loses her friends.
MG2: The Plastics are still playing mean tricks on people, but New Girl doesn’t join them. She makes her own “gang” and eventually becomes just like the Plastics. Her boyfriend calls her out on it. She loses him and her friends, although her friends only leave her after they find out she’s getting paid to be nice to Abby.

MG: Kady makes everything better by apologizing.
MG2: New Girl apologizes and gets back at the Plastics. The Leader and Nick are arrested. Everyone likes New Girl again.

MG: The movie ends with a romantic dance, which includes the crowning of Prom King and Queen. The main characters are friends again with happily ever afters.
MG2: The movie also ends with a romantic dance and the same crowning. The main friends connect in happily ever after mode.

Mean Girls 2, I am sorely disappointed in your lack of originality. Even the main plots seem overused, such as going to the same college as a lost parent and being paid to be someone’s friend. The tough girl. The romance issues. Struggling to make ends meet at home (although that plot wasn’t really touched upon, other than mentioning her tuition money).

ABC Family, you also disappoint me, in your lack of wholesome material. Not only was the cussing uncalled for, but on a family channel, it should’ve been bleeped out. New Girl is upset about being a virgin, and after the dance, it’s hinted she gave her virginity to her boyfriend. There’s nothing wrong with being a virgin in high school. Girls already feel enough pressure to “lose it” without having that feeling endorsed through a movie. The movie also showed wild parties with drinking (one girl was shown drunk) without repercussions and poisoning food with a (maybe bulimic) girl’s medicine to induce vomiting. Gangs are okay for school, so long as the members don’t find out you’re getting paid to be someone’s friend. You can get out of jail time if your family is rich.

Watch the movie for your own opinions, but don’t expect intellectual stimulation. What you will get is the feeling you’ve heard “Carnegie Mellon University” so many time, you have to go.

Stephanie Bradt: Mean Girls 2. The stereotypically bad made-for-tv sequel. Honestly, this is too easy. I mean, the odds were already stacked against this having any chance of being considered anything BUT a really bad movie. Actually, I do not even know where to start. I did not understand this movie. I do not remember any of it after two days. That should speak volumes. Bad Movie Elements:

Predictability: Come on. I know this is a sequel, but really? I called the entire movie within the first ten minutes. That is largely thanks to all the clichés. For example:

Overused Plot Point #283—Person A initially becomes “friends” with Person B for an ulterior motive. Persons A and B actually become friends. It gets out to Person B that Person A had motives. Person B sad. Person A says “It’s not like that! It’s different now!” Person B still sad. Person A does something to redeem himself or herself. Persons A and B are friends again. Real friends this time.

Overused Plot Point #197—Parent dies. Well meaning surviving child wants nothing more than to attend deceased parent’s alma mater. More on the alma mater later.

Then there is the fact that they basically recycled the plot of Mean Girls. But not effectively. At all. I did like that they used Tim Meadows again as the principal. He was one of my favorite parts of Mean Girls, but here he isn’t given much to work with.

Also, I think that Carnegie Mellon must have paid for this film to brainwash people into going to their school. They said “Carnegie Mellon University” every two seconds. Just like that. Just in case you forget. And look what happened: I do not remember the main character’s name, but I certainly remember what school her dead mother went to!

One more stupid scene that bothered me: A video of the girl telling a guy she hasn’t had a relationship or something like that leaks out and is played on the giant television set in the main foyer for the entire school to see. All the students who happened to be there, 100-200 ish, drop what they’re doing and watch. One student says, “You are a virgin!” Then all the aforementioned students point and laugh hysterically. Chaos ensues….Okay, 1) She never said she was a virgin. 2) Is it really SO unusual for someone in high school to be a virgin? So much so that the rest of the school finds the whole thing mind-bogglingly hilarious? 3) How the hell did that video make it to the school’s giant television screen? 4) Keep in mind this originally premiered on ABC Family. 5) Is this really the earth-shattering climax of this entire good-for-nothing movie? Really?

I know there is more I wanted to say about this film, but it is not coming to me. This was a half-baked and non-academic review but the bottom line is I can’t help it. All I remember about this movie is the poor acting, overused plot points, and Carnegie Mellon University.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

SALT (Phillip Noyce, 2010)

Stephanie Bradt: Kennedy: Our nation’s first Catholic president. Obama: Our nation’s first black president. Lewis: Our nation’s first retarded president. More on President Lewis later.

SALT kind of confused the hell out of me, but only for a little while. There were about 50 different times throughout the film where I thought I understood what was going on. And then I said wtf. But, I guess that was how it should have been. I’m not saying being confused is a bad thing; my favorite television show was LOST, after all. At least with SALT, you can sit down afterward and figure it out. I think a second viewing would help.

Some positives:

•Angelina Jolie’s arachnologist (sp?) husband named his spider discovery “petebesti,” named after the Beatle that never was. The point was that while Pete Best would never be a famous Beatle, he would be a famous spider. Ha.
•I liked that Angelina’s husband isn’t hot. Because Angelina isn’t hot either (contrary to popular belief). They are great for each other.
•I liked how there was a brief Lee Harvey Oswald tie in. I love a good conspiracy theory, especially one involving JFK’s assassination.
•I like Liev Schreiber. He’s cool.
•I love how they just had to have the very first shot of Angelina as her wearing nothing but her underwear.

The negative that kind of ruined most of it:

I don’t know if this movie lived up to all the hype, but I thought it was pretty good. Except for one thing: Enter President Moron. IMDb says his name is President Lewis. It is really nice we are tolerant and want to represent all groups, but why make the President of the United States retarded? Actually, that is not the right word for it. I guess the guy is just a REALLY bad actor. (Sure enough, according to IMDb, this guy’s last five jobs were gigs on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” “All My Children,” “Guiding Light,” and “Baywatch.” I am serious. I swear-- this little discovery made my week). Anyway, national security is crumbling all around him and he just sits there like a deer in the headlights. Actually, more like a deer AFTER getting hit by a car. President Lewis’s advisor tells him how spies have infiltrated the American government and he just stares blankly with his bug eyes like, “Okay.” But really he just sits there. He is not distraught at all. He was not being calm under pressure. He was being calm like the news he just got was simply that the White House cook had burnt his toast or something. He acts like a toddler. He does not seem to understand or care that the country is being taken over by Russians. He just wants to know when he can go home and watch Muppet Babies.

Jordan Bradt: My dad came home with a movie the other day – SALT. It even came with a decorative piece of cloth depicting Angelina Jolie. This piece of cloth is a great present. You can do so much with it. A couple examples include draping it over the back of the couch, laying it on your bed, pinning it like a cape, and throwing it at people while yelling, “Salt!” It really is quite versatile. There are no loops to hang it from (although my mom plans to sew it into a flag for her pole out in front) and it is very thin, rather see-through in fact.

Okay, my dears, onto the movie. Evelyn Salt was amazing. Seriously. She could take out like 10 trained soldiers (a bit of an exaggeration) and they could barely touch her. The only serious injury I recall her getting was at the end, from another Russian spy. At the end, she sneaks into the spymaster’s house and destroys him, then blows everything up. Yes, she is apparently that good at her work.

There are all these Russian spies, and they can do incredible things. Since the movie is American, I felt like they should give more power to the Americans. The president depicted in the movie acted as if he had no idea what was going on. I kept thinking WTF. Her husband dies. She feels sad, but she lets him die. Again, WTF. The action was good. I must congratulate them on a unique plot. (I don’t watch too many action, but of those I’ve seen, this wasn’t quite like them) The bad things…well, I pointed them out above. This isn’t one of those movies I’ll watch repeatedly, which is sad since my family owns it. At least I have that really cool cloth, though.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Stephanie Bradt: What do you say about THE LOVELY BONES (2002) by Alice Sebold? Conveniently enough, the only thing I really remember about this book is what bothered me. And by “bothered,” I do not mean that it just moderately irked me. I mean disgusted and appalled me. Just eww. And not a good ewww. Spoilers ensue.

The book starts with the tragic rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by the town creeper, Mr. Harvey. The story is told from her perspective. For the rest of the book, the girl, Susie Salmon ("like the fish"), looks down on her family from Heaven.

The idea sounds like a promising story. I love character-driven plots. To see what happens to the family dynamic when something as awful as this happens is fascinating. The death of a child can bring family members closer together or violently tear them a part. Add that to the horrific manner of death. To make matters worse, all the family knows to begin with is that Susie did not come home.

Sebold ruined this amazing concept by presenting the most #*%$’d up ending I have ever seen in my life. I actually enjoyed the book until the ending. There is the usual drama, the younger sister loses her virginity in the mud under an upside down boat thing at age 14. The mom has a kind of affair with the detective who is in charge of the search for Susie. (Side note: The detective guy’s name is Len Fenerman. What a dumb name). Moving on, the dad doesn’t like making his ships-in-a-bottle anymore. The grandma has her own weird drunken issues to deal with.

Here goes. Susie likes a classmate named Ray. At least she is able to get her first kiss from him before she dies. She also has a weird friend named Ruth. Then again, she doesn’t really know her at all. They just have this weird connection thing after death. “Wtf?” you say? Just wait. At the end of the novel, somehow, the spirit of the eternally 14-year-old Susie possesses the body of the now 20something-year-old Ruth. I’m just going to say it. Via Ruth’s body, Ray has sex with Susie. How beautiful. They have always loved each other and now they get to consummate their relationship.

W.T.F. Am I supposed to NOT be freaked out by this? Or at least go straight to Confession for having read this? One- Technically, this is a 14-year-old having sex with a 20something-year-old. Two- The 14-year-old is actually an unconscious 20something-year-old. If I were Ruth, I would be pissed. Ray is basically Mr. Harvey if you think about it. But it is better to just not think about it.

As for the movie, THE LOVELY BONES (Peter Jackson, 2009). It thankfully leaves out all the kinky subplots and the event at the end, but it is trippy and bizarre. Don’t bother.

Jordan Bradt: The LOVELY BONES. Hmm, where should I begin? First, I want to say it’s the only book I’ve read so far of it’s kind – a teenage girl is raped and murdered by her neighbor. She then tells what happens to her neighborhood and family as she watches them from her special heaven. The story involves heartache and sadness. When I think about it, though, parts that made me cringe come to mind:

1) The cover involves a bracelet with a house charm. I don’t recall that charm being mentioned in the book. Ever. Discrepency! (if it is mentioned, please let me know and I’ll reread that page for peace of mind)
2) Her elbow is found by the neighbor’s dog. Thinking of that makes me wince.
3) She and her dog are reunited in heaven. I actually really like that part, but it’s only mentioned once. I wished their companionship above could have been included more.
4) The younger sister has sex in the rain under a boat. WHAT?! Seriously – what? There are kinky places to have sex (example, a hot tub), but in the rain (ew, mud) and under a boat (spiders and a low ceiling to bump against equals ow). Next time my boyfriend wants to liven things up I’m definitely going to suggest UNDER A BOAT IN THE RAIN. Not! Maybe I'm just weird. Maybe other people dream about that.
5) The mom leaves and has an affair. That just makes me sad. I get where it’s coming from, but still, it’s sad.
6) The 14-year-old girl takes over Ruth’s body and has sex with her crush. He’s 20-something. Um…that’s wrong. Really. SHE TAKES OVER SOMEONE ELSE’S BODY TO HAVE SEX. Wrong in many ways.
7) The sister and her boyfriend sneak into an abandoned house. They later decide to buy it, but it’s abandoned and they slink around it. I kept waiting for the floorboards to break beneath them. It’s really not a good idea to wander around abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere during a thunderstorm. They also started a fire in one of the rooms. Also a really bad idea.
8) The movie – one word comes to mind. Trippy. Very, very trippy. I saw the movie first, so throughout the book I kept picturing that.
9) The sister goes to a camp-thing where they have to work on a huge final project-thingy. It involves "how to execute the perfect murder." How convenient and weird. Let's teach the youth of the future how to commit crimes. This also leads to the sister having that kinky boat sex. She's so upset to think about murder, she has to think about sex instead. I get that it would be upsetting, but when I'm upset, I don't get horny. Again, maybe just me.
10) I remembered Susie's name...Susie Salmon, like the fish. I also remembered George Harvey. George...just like my boyfriend. the giant, invisible bunny in the 1950's movie, HARVEY. I saw Susie being attacked by a pooka. No disrespect intended. Those are the names I associated with other people. I also remembered Ray and Ruth, because my neighbor's were Ray and his wife Ruth.

My comments aren’t exactly in order of how they happen in the book. They’re in the order of what comes to mind first, and so on. Overall, not one of my favorite books. When my dad’s work had a book exchange, I gave him my copy to donate. Maybe someone else will find great enjoyment from it. I wish them happy reading.