Tuesday, October 29, 2013


This is Book 11. Click here for the Bradt Cousins' review of Book One.

Stephanie Bradt: It’s that time of year again. Another chapter of Jacky Faber’s adventures has been released and it is time for yours truly to lambast, um, I mean, review it. I realize that my reviews are more like diatribes, so I will try to be a little nicer this time around.
I’ll start by just getting it out of the way. As always, there is no point to this book and nothing happens. With that being said, I’ll just list random moments that made me say, as Jacky does, “hmmmm."
I still love the ever-present historical references. Sure, at times they are random and far-fetched, but these books are really what got me into historical fiction again. As long as you mentally prepare yourself for randomness and do not take it too seriously, then it’s all good. 
    • I really liked all the talk of the different fire companies and how they competed over being able to put out a fire so they could make money. This also alluded to the history of insurance, which today is still called “fire” insurance when referring to the protection of buildings and property. As someone who briefly worked rating commercial insurance policies, I enjoyed and appreciated the reference.
    • Two people were caught having sex outside. (Of course. This is a children's book, after all). In Othello, Shakespeare writes a euphemism for having sex, calling it “making the beast with two backs.”
    • People sing La Bamba. I loved seeing the lyrics all written out. I never knew that it was actually a folk song before it was adapted into the 1950s song that most people know. I looked it up and it has maritime origins. Cool beans. I am really interested in the history of this song now.
I love that Jacky basically acknowledges that she is not that hot and sexy and irresistible after all. She mentions that as soon as he saw Clarissa Worthington Howe, Flaco Jimenez (yes, he is back) forgot about Jacky. Likewise, Randall dumped Jacky for Polly Von while Richard Allen likes this chick named Sidrah better than Jacky. Just as I’ve always said—Jacky is only a bombshell when she has no competition. On the other hand, I do enjoy the story of Amy and Ezra and I would like to see more of them. I think it is because Amy and Ezra have more of a gradual and (extremely) slow-burning romance that is a little more pure and sincere, a little less neurotic.

Also, I love the Easter eggs I discover in these books. They make me feel smart. This time, I noticed that the Mrs. Shinn in the book seems an awful lot like the Mrs. Shinn in The Music Man. Hmmmm.

This book's featured side in Jacky’s love dodecagon: There wasn't really anyone new, per se. A lot of the old lovers kind of came and went
My favorite new character:
 No one? I guess there were a few new characters, but no one was really important. So I'll say YAY, LIAM DELANEY CAME BACK! I love the Irish people. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Jordan Bradt: I discovered another great find from the library’s used bookroom: FLASH FIRE by Caroline B. Cooney.  I liked the look of it because I usually enjoy her books, but the cover also hooked me.  Fire licks at the sidelines while a boy and girl run down the center of a road.  The curly-haired boy has his backpack and his camera.  The girl carries a shirt, a school binder, a kitten, and a trophy. 

As soon as I started reading this book, I knew I would have to share it with you.  California is the setting; the book’s copyright is 1995, so I assume it takes place then.  They mention email, and I don’t remember having email back then, but I was seven, so I liked dolls more than sending electronic mail. 

Danna is young girl living in a ritzy neighborhood.  Parts of Los Angeles, a different area than hers, are on fire.  Danna is safe, but she wants excitement, so she wishes for the fire.  She wants to ride her cats out to safety.  Yes, I think that’s what the confusing paragraph stated.  Then, there’s her brother, Hall, who is out swimming even though the ashes in the air make it hard to breathe.  I bet that’s good for his lungs.  Their parents are screenwriters, but Hall wants to help mentally/psychologically damaged children.  He’s afraid that career won’t be appropriate.  Right now he’s helping the neighbors’ four-year-old “son,” a little boy adopted from overseas.  He doesn’t react to things well, so his new family dislikes him.  They also have issues with the nanny, who ignores him to run off with the family money and cars.  They also have a maid who sold herself to get to America and smokes a lot.  Continuing through the neighborhood, we meet Beau and his little sister, Elisabeth.  Her mother is horrified by everything about her and constantly makes fun of her.  Beau is pretty unmemorable, apart from craving attention from his dad.  Oh, and then there is the son who’s ashes are kept in a box on the mantle (I think.  They’re somewhere in the house haunting the living half-brother).  We also meet (as if we don’t have enough characters to keep track of) a disgruntled guard who leaves his post without caring if the gate opens, the fire itself, and tourists who want to watch the “big” houses burn.  I actually enjoyed getting into the fire’s “mind” because it was a different perspective than in most stories.

Spoiler alert: Although it was a little slow in coming – most of the story is set up for when Danna’s neighborhood burns – eventually the fire does reach them.  The maid, Elony, grabs the “damaged” little boy.  Beau and Elisabeth escape in a car.  Danna saves the horses, but breaks her leg, so Hall carries her and her box of kittens.  Beau and Elisabeth appear in their car, so Danna and Hall get in, along with Elony and little Geoffrey – and the kittens, of course, who get loose and scatter around the car.  Beau realizes he can’t leave his brother’s ashes behind, so he flees from the car to go back into the mansion.  Hall is forced to drive away to save everyone else, even though Elisabeth panics.  Eventually, Elisabeth recovers enough that she and Elony pray for Beau, and she wants one of the kittens.  The author expertly describes Beau’s thought process as he dies of smoke inhalation.  She also describes how his house melts around him.  Yeah, he doesn’t make it.  Beau had been my favorite of the characters because he’d seemed the realest. 

We’re now at the end of the book.  The tourists stealing from everyone are caught by the police.  The fire has more or less moved on.  I had difficulty picturing the scene where Hall drives to meet the people.  Where was the fire?  What did the surroundings look like?  Beau’s parents are there; his dad hitched a ride with a trucker and his mom ran.  Realizing Beau is gone, the mom breaks down in hysterics and has to be tranquilized.  The dad tells Elisabeth he loves her, decides to take in Elony so she can be Elisabeth’s friend, and buys everyone ice cream from the ice cream truck.  Yes, there is an ice cream truck here at this site of fire (or whatever this setting is) and yes, the dad realizes his son is dead so he buys them ice cream to eat. 

Some aspects of this book reminded me of a Judy Blume novel, but I rate it a lot higher than anything I’ve read by her.  FLASH FIRE involved character development (gasp) and vivid descriptions of fires in California.  I couldn’t decide what rating to give it on GoodReads, since parts were good and parts were outrageous.  At first I debated on three stars, due to the mixed feelings, but it did keep me reading past midnight since I needed to know what happened next.  Then, I though four stars, but the story had stuck with me.  It made me look around my house and think about people who lose everything in flash fires.  Their houses didn’t just burn.  They melted.  It wasn’t just the house, either.  It was the yard, the outbuildings, the tennis courts… Okay, I don’t have tennis courts.  Still, personal possessions don’t mean anything if you lose your life, so I began cleaning out things I don’t want anymore.  I ended up granting the novel five stars because it has, in a way, changed my life.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Radio Rebel

Jordan Bradt: Picture me, eating lunch.  I sit down in the living room to watch television while I snack on macaroni and cheese.  I feel like nonsense, so I turn to Disney where I observe Radio Rebel.  It’s a half-hour in, but as I watch, I make a list of all the ways the shows Tells me things instead of Showing, of how much I loathe the ridiculous, overdramatic characters.  With a movie that outrageous, I give in to the compulsion and inform Stephanie of the outrageousness.  We decided to watch it again, together.

Radio Rebel is a movie aimed at teenagers.  A shy girl, Tara, starts a podcast as Radio Rebel, where she’s able to be herself and inspire others.  Her stepfather owns a radio station, so he gives her some air time.

I’ll start with the ways things are Told and now Shown:
1.       Tara is shy.  Everyone, including her dearest family and friends, throw that fact in her face.  You might say that was Shown when she freaked out in class.  No, that wasn’t being shy.  That was suffering from mutism or anxiety.  In the opinion of someone with a teaching degree (or anyone with common sense), Tara needs serious medical assistance.  She should’ve been seeing a therapist or psychologist.  I’m not a huge fan of medicating people, but she should’ve been doing SOMETHING!
2.       Radio Rebel is sooo inspiring.  Come on, people.  Radio Rebel DOES NOTHING.  She says something like “be yourself” and everyone is uber inspired.   Um, really?  That’s all it takes to inspire someone?  “Be yourself!”  It seemed like no one had ever heard that it was okay to be an individual.  Just by watching television or reading a book, you can see that.  Even adults in the movie were inspired!  It wasn’t just “be yourself.”  You should also stand up for yourself.  Wow.  Thank you, Radio Rebel.  I never knew I shouldn’t let people walk all over me. 
3.       The principal has favorites.  This fact was never shown, apart from her being kind to one student who supported her cause.  Anyone who supported the cause would’ve been treated kindly.
4.       Music is bad at school.  How do we know music is bad?  They say so. 
5.       Radio Rebel goes to Tara’s high school.  They say they know, but never really show it.
6.       Prom is AMAZING.  We must LOVE Prom.  We love it so much that we can turn against Radio Rebel when she makes the principal cancel it.
7.       The principal can expel Radio Rebel.  WHY?  Radio Rebel did her thing outside of school.  It is never properly explained, just meant raise weaknesses. 

How about for some cliché characters?
Tara – shy, awkward, wears a hat when insecure, tugs on her sleeves to hide her hands.  There was nothing else to Tara except for being shy and acting as Radio Rebel.  Couldn’t she have had a hobby too?
Tara’s Mom – flighty, fashion-conscious, self-absorbed, obsessed with prom.  She never made an intelligent statement.  I felt bad for moms everywhere.
Awkward friends – two friends who have no real purpose.  Not a love interest, rather annoying.  I only remember the taller boy was named Larry because that’s my dad’s name.
Best friend – the awesome best friend who supports Tara in everything.  Her name was Audrey Sharma.  I remember that because I went to high school with a girl whose last name was Sharma. 
The guy she likes – no idea what his name was.  It started with a G.  Gavin, maybe?  He was cool at first, but then he turned against Radio Rebel…sort of.  Like, he knew it was Tara because of the dancing sandwich bit (yeah…), but he was still rude to her when she inadvertently caused the principal to cancel prom.
Principal – evil authority figure.  Can’t a movie ever have a cool principal?  I’m not inspired to write a movie where the principal is someone the students can really admire, someone who does good rather than being senselessly cruel/psychotic. 

On a side note, the actress who played Tara is Debby Reynolds.  I decided to watch her in the Disney show, Jessie, in which she is the star.  Wow, was that show bad.  However, I’ll save that rant for another day.