Saturday, 26 January 2013

Recap: I Capture The Castle

I Capture The Castle - Dodie Smith

Read as the second title in our Classic YA month (January 2013). The thoughts:

  • The important question: Simon vs Neil vs Stephen? I think Stephen generally had a lot of fans, although some people found him a bit too wimpish. Some disapproval of Simon for his inappropriate kissing. Some disapproval for Cassandra for her callousness towards Rose.
  • Narrative device of the diary - did it work for people? Yes, generally, she is trying to be a writer and making it more writerish in places so it does make sense. Really liked the closing lines. General affection towards Cassandra.
  • Cassandra's father - genius or lunatic? Good father? Interesting character to read about but not necessarily one you'd want to know in real life.
  • Some difficulty picturing the castle layout and wishing it had come with a map.
  • Generally this was liked; some of us had read it before, others wished they'd read it as a teenager.
  • Most of us hadn't read the other work Smith is famous for - The Hundred and One Dalmatians - although dogs do feature here, too. Wouldn't necessarily connect the two, though.

Recap: Forever

Forever - Judy Blume

We read this as part of our YA Classics month (January 2013). Some thoughts:
  • Is it a "sex manual", as some critics have suggested, or an actual story? Generally agreed that it seemed to be the former. We discussed 'Ralph' - two points that came up emerged were that it was a way of being explicit without being explicit and also that there was no equivalent for Katherine's ladyparts. Also that Katherine doesn't seem overly concerned about Michael's revelation that he'd had VD - this might be a product of it being very 1970s, when (as the foreword in many editions notes) pregnancy was the sole focus of 'safe sex', rather than disease.
  • We felt it was for younger readers - young teens - rather than older teens, and again there was the suggestion that Katherine and Michael might have been 'aged up' to make the book more acceptable. They seemed young for eighteen, closer to fifteen/sixteen.
  • We wanted more on Artie and to find out how that resolved itself. Also noted that Erica makes an advance on a boy and this is what happens, whereas Katherine is pursued rather than a pursuer.
  • Still one of the most explicit YA books out there re: sex - other titles mentioned included Melvin Burgess's Doing It, Meg Cabot's Ready or Not, William Nicholson's Rich and Mad, Daria Snadowsky's Anatomy of a Boyfriend, and Keith Gray (ed) Losing It.
  • Other Judy Blume books we would recommend? (For some people this was their first Judy Blume and they weren't mad about it. For those of us that had read her other books, this didn't seem to be a favourite.) Summer Sisters and Tiger Eyes.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Recap: The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars - John Green

We read this in May 2012, for our very first bookclub meeting.

  • Some of us had read it already and had varying levels of John Green obsessiveness. Looking for Alaska, his first book, came up a lot as the title of his next to try, if new to his work.
  • We discussed whether we surprised by the ending or if we'd seen it coming? If we saw it coming, did that affect how we read the book? Also talked about it as a tear-jerker but very very funny also.
  • We talked about the great love story and also which of the supporting characters we found most interesting - Isaac, Kaitlyn, Hazel's parents.
  • There was inevitably talk of cancer and death and mourning. People said some smart things here - about the public grieving on Facebook (for Gus's ex), the way the characters talk about cancer as part of them, the importance of the written word.
  • Authorship and stories and truth came up a lot - both in relation to the fictional novel within the novel, An Imperial Affliction, but also the author's note at the beginning of the text.

Recap: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
We discussed this in July 2012. Some things that came up:

  • the format of it and the fact that it's described as a 'true diary' - in some ways it felt a little bit like a memoir and some of us were aware that it was slightly autobiographical, which fed into how we read it.
  • we talked about how it handles the Native American/Indian issues, e.g. violence, alcoholism, poverty, and discussed whether it was at times too self-aware and preachy (aimed at educating readers than being true to the character).
  • basketball and success at sports - what would it be like for someone who didn't have that skill set in a mainstream school, was it too easy for him?
  • what age group we thought the book might be for - particularly with the UK cover it seemed as though it was aimed at younger teens or preteens, but with the subject matter it seemed more an older teen book.