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.