31 October 2015


BSC #17: Mary Anne's Bad Luck Mystery by Ann M. Martin

"This," said Kristy somberly, "is an emergency meeting of the Baby-sitters Club. You all know why you've been called here."

It was Sunday afternoon. The six main members of the club were in Claudia's room in our usual places. And yes, we all knew why we had been called there.

Because of me. Because I had tempted fate, thrown away a chain letter, then been sent a bad-luck charm, which I was forced to wear or else. Not knowing what "or else" meant was the only thing that kept me wearing the charm. Or else death? Death and destruction? Death, destruction and the end of civilisation as we know it? Claudia was afraid it could mean the end of junk food. Who knew? We weren't taking chances. We'd done enough of that already.

Happy Halloween! You'd never know it from the cover, but BSC #17 is totally the 1988 holiday special! And it's got everything you remember from a good old retro Halloween: homemade costumes, elaborate pranks, fruit mixed in with the junk food, and teenagers getting dressed up for a school dance but not trick or treating unless they're also baby-sitting. Ann M. Martin doesn't quite hit the 80s nostalgia bull's eye in this novel (the candy and other references are all "timeless") . . . but then again, how could she know that I'd be mining her series for pop culture references in the 2010s? =P There is one thing she got absolutely right, though, and boy does it take me back. Two words: chain letters.

This year, the BSC's Halloween, as individuals and as a club, is just that much creepier thanks to a mysterious letter that the club's Secretary Mary Anne Spier gets in the mail . . .

30 October 2015


Thirteen Things about The Blob (Remake)

13. After almost two decades of Slasher domination, it's downright refreshing to find a Horror movie that offers really creative kills by a killer which has absolutely no malice in its body and no face to make it even slightly sympathetic. The mysterious blob from space is just doing what blobs from space are meant to do. And when we defend ourselves and our loved ones from it, we're just doing what we are supposed to do.

Ah, if only it were that simple . . .

12. As a fan of the cult classic original, which I've already featured here as a Friday Night Movie (Remember those days?) and in a Locus Focus, I was surprised to enjoy this remake as much as I did. Not only are most of its kills downright charming, it also simultaneously stays faithful to and puts a new spin on much of what it borrows from its predecessor. Take the "adults vs. teenagers" conflict: this time around, there is only one teenager who is always suspected of causing trouble. Everyone else gets to be a "good kid." That is, until the blob comes to change the town's social dynamics. (Few things in life are scarier than disrupted social dynamics.)

11. There is one other teenager who sees the blob in action and lives--but when the police hear her out, they decide she is "hysterical," and her own parents aren't buying her story about a blobby pink "thing" that kills people without leaving a trace. (What? Would you?) And of course it is as this point that she decides to join forces with the town's official outsider. Because she is now an outsider, too. It's a great chicken-and-egg issue that The Blob subtly brings into play.

10. You know what The Blob isn't at all subtle about, though?

28 October 2015


Life as a Language Learning Challenge, Step 4

If I remember correctly, it was Maria von Trapp who said that there are two things we always do in our first language: count and pray. So of course anyone who is serious about learning a second language should start counting and praying exclusively in L2. Two steps ago, we were all about the counting; now let's talk about the praying.

To be honest, I already do much of my praying in what I call my L∞ . . .

22 October 2015


Character Connection 52

Created by The Introverted Reader

It has occurred to me that I should do Locus Focus the way I do Character Connection: that is, only when I read a book with an interesting setting and a post about it practically writes itself. That would definitely make my life easier! And it's such a good idea that of course I'm going to set it aside while I make my life harder with another themed challenge. How does Conspiratorial Corners sound to you? Let me know in November!

But first, a peek at the sort of reading I've been doing lately, to which I owe that latest complication to my reading and blogging life . . .

20 October 2015


Early Edition: The Personals

Easy Level: Would you save this relationship?

Season 1 had a Christmas episode and this could have been its St. Valentine's Day episode. I've just checked, though, and it actually aired in April. Not that I can protest too much in October.

The last time The Paper brought Gary and a compatible woman together, things didn't end well. But that was mostly because the woman realised that she couldn't be in a relationship with someone who gets tomorrow's news without taking advantage of his gift. Fair enough, I guess. No wonder Gary doesn't want to tell his new flame about The Paper, though I think she would be a lot more understanding and supportive.

15 October 2015


BSC #16: Jessi's Secret Language by Ann M. Martin

My family is black.

I know it sounds funny to announce it like that. If we were white, I wouldn't have to, because you would probably
assume we were white. But when you're a minority things are different.

. . . I don't think any of us expected the one bad thing we found in Stoneybrook: There are hardly any black families here. We are the only black family in our neighbourhood, and I am--get this--the only black kid in the whole entire sixth grade at Stoneybrook Middle School. Can you believe it? I can't.

Unfortunately, things have been a little rough for us. I can't tell if some people here really
don't like black people, or if they just haven't known many, so they're kind of wary of us . . .

Jessi, honey, I can't believe it, either. Until Ann M. Martin confessed it, I had also assumed Stoneybrook was a little more diverse than that. But then I'd have to admit that none of the BSC members, their relatives, or their clients have been black . . . which probably means Stoneybrook has been like a 1940s Warner Brothers picture to me, with token black people conspicuously inserted into group shots and sequences, but not really part of the dynamic, interesting world of the story. But hey, there's a Japanese main character!

It seems that I've hit the "right book at the right time" jackpot this week! With the next BSC book on my agenda just happening to be about a black family and hearing-impaired children, what should the YA/MG crowd on Twitter do but take aim at author Meg Rosoff for daring to question the sacred cow of "diversity" in children's literature. For Rosoff's full thoughtcrime, please study the following screengrab . . .

09 October 2015


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 128

Did you know it would be so hard to say goodbye to the little prince? I hadn't--and I had read the book before! (In English. Does it really make that much of a difference?) The narrator was dropping hints in early chapters, so even first-time readers could have sensed this ending coming. So really, the narrator is the only one whom it totally blindsides. No one expects to find a soulmate in the desert and then lose him after eight days.

Thanks to Bat, Brandon, and Itinerante for joining the discussion! And I hope you know, Mrs. Darwin, that you were missed! ;-P

05 October 2015


McFly Montag

If you have an identical twin who has your L2 as his L1, then we can imagine that all your favourite L1 musicians have similar counterparts in your L2. And I have finally found the German McFly. So I may better make my case, let's begin with the original British McFly and my favourite of their songs . . .

In I Wanna Hold You, the desperation of a young man in love is expressed through the imagery of natural disasters. McFly had to clean the lyrics up a bit after a bombing coincided with the release of this 2008 single. So instead of "I would destroy the world for you," they had to sing "I would change the world for you"--and instead of comparing the beloved's devotion to "a neutron bomb explosion," they instead moaned that when she withheld it, she "[kept] polluting like the ocean." (No, I'm not a fan of the changes.)

Gehen wir jetzt nach Deutschland . . .

03 October 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred Twenty-Seven!

How are you so far, my fellow armchair travelers? Together, we have ticked Venus off our bucketlists, been underwhelmed by Grand Canyon, freaked the heck out in India when our prejudices were checked, and played Monks vs. Pilgrims in Medieval England. I understand if you're all traveled out now and just want to go home. But there is one last place to visit for Sightseeing in September, even if it's already October. Why don't you choose your next adventure . . .

If you want to go home, which G.K. Chesterton would argue is the greatest adventure of all anyway, click here!
If you want to have one last adventure abroad, click "Keep Reading!" below!