Since I've been reading brand-new releases and ARCs aplenty in recent weeks, I decided to indulge in backlist titles and juvenile series. I prepared stacks of books grouped by genre or style. Most were from the library; a few I already owned.
I planned to start on Friday night and end on Sunday night. Since I read extremely quickly* and have a high retention rate, I planned on reading at least 20 books, if not 24. I was 8 books and 4 hours in when Real Life made me Reader, Interrupted. I spent most of the day tending to important things - important relatives - instead of books. I ended up reading 16 books, which took maybe 10 hours. I edited this post as I went along, adding book reviews and random thoughts.
*The length of time it takes me to read a book depending on the length and content of said book. I can polish off the average chapter book in half an hour; the typical teen book takes an hour or two. I read adult fiction just as quickly. Multiple pages in a minute.
What I Read
Two Times the Fun by Beverly Cleary - Decent but not awe-inspiring
Ramona's World by Beverly Cleary - Most likely to cause nostalgia
The Grey Zone by Tim Blake Nelson - Heaviest subject matter
Fairy Realm #1: The Charm Bracelet by Emily Rodda - Cutest
Fairy Realm #2: The Flower Fairies by Emily Rodda - Cutest
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry - Okay, but ultimately disappointing
Gooney Bird Greene and the Room Mother by Lois Lowry - Least impressive
Beany and the Meany by Susan Wojciechowski - Cute and well-meaning
The Secret World of Alex Mack: Alex, You're Glowing! by Diana G. Gallagher - I miss Alex Mack
The Secret World of Alex Mack: Cleanup Catastrophe by Cathy East Dubowski - Earth Day is every day
Ghosts of Albion: Astray by Christopher Golden and Amber Benson - Imaginative; highly recommended
Secrets of Dripping Fang: Book One: The Onts by Dan Greenberg - Funny and family-friendly
What's Yer Poison? by Christopher Golden and Jose R. Nieto - Nice to meet you, Silver Surfer
Radically Both by Christopher Golden - Spider-Man is cool
The Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja - Quickquickquick writing
Things Left Unsaid by Stephanie Hemphill - Delightful; highly recommended
Two Times the Fun by Beverly Cleary
I loved Cleary's books when I was younger, especially the Ramona series, but somehow I missed the stories about twins Jimmy and Janet. Two Times the Fun offers four of their stories, with the eager-to-grow-up twins sharing, pretending, digging, stomping, collecting, feeding dog biscuits to interested critters, and feeling proud of their accomplishments.
Ramona's World by Beverly Cleary
Ramona is as spunky as ever in this, the (currently) last book in the Ramona sequence. She enters the fourth grade with proudly-earned calluses on her hands from swinging on the rings at the playground. Before she knows it, she not only has a new teacher, but a new best friend! Ramona's not the only member of her family growing up; Beezus is in high school now and wants to seem more sophisticated. Ramona is the middle child now, with baby sister Roberta the apple of everyone's eye. Thankfully, jealousy never rears its ugly head, and sibling rivalry is not an issue in this book. The Quimby household is still peaceful and pleasant.
In spite of my love of the Ramona books, I didn't read Ramona's World when it was first released in 1999. I have two reasons for this: One, I was still mourning Picky-Picky, and two, I was half-worried that there had been too much time between books for the new installment to match the previous works. This second reason had nothing to do with Cleary, but is simply something I always worry about when a series suddenly releases a new book decades after the "last" one. This worry extends into movies, television specials, and so on. More on that later.
Happily, Ramona's World is a decent addition to the series, albeit it shorter than its predecessors. Still curious and headstrong, Ramona struggles with her spelling, makes a new best friend, and has a few pratfalls. By the time she turns ten years old, Ramona declares that she has grown-up potential.
She felt the way she felt when she was reading a good book. She wanted to know what would happen next. - Page 69
. . . Ramona sang, "O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" - happy words from a book about a girl named Alice. - Page 175
More for the ramble I started earlier: I dislike it when a "new" book makes the character's world (no titular pun intended, I swear) contemporary if the earlier books were distinctly set in a certain time period. Example of good series gone (con)temporarily bad: Double Fudge by Judy Blume, which made Fudge obsessed with Harry Potter. There was no need for that. No need whatsoever.
I love books that are truly timeless - that don't HAVE to be set in a specific year, that could happen twenty years ago just as easily as they could happen tomorrow. Example: The Creek by Jennifer L. Holm. Read it. Read it now.
The Grey Zone by Tim Blake Nelson
Based on actual events and inspired by a biography, this brief but heavy play takes place in October of 1944 in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Fairy Realm #1: The Charm Bracelet by Emily Rodda
When Jessie visits her grandmother, she discovers a world where fairies, elves, and even talking horses exist. Every fifty years, the queen must renew the world's magic. Three loyal subjects search desperately for its former queen, a woman who fell in love with a mortal man and left the realm, promising to return when the time came to renew the magic. Jessie finds out that her grandmother is that queen! How cute is this? Very cute. I now need to read all of the books in this series to honor my eight-year-old self.
Fairy Realm #2: The Flower Fairies by Emily Rodda
Luckily, the library had the second book available too. It was just as cute as the first one and it had a little girl interacting with fairies and acquiring HER VERY OWN DETACHABLE FAIRY WINGS. Enough said, people. Elena from Barbie's world, sorry, but Jessie's cooler.
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry
I like Gooney's unique sense of self and tall tales/true stories, but I would have preferred a twist or a moral, like that of The Hundred Dresses. Gooney is not quite in Pippi Longstocking territory here. She's tolerable. As a child, Lowry's Number the Stars and A Summer to Die left impressions on me, impressions that are still there today. GBG did not. The book and the character were tolerable but not fantastic. I can say this because I was that spritely little girl who was eager to tell her classmates stories and who used big words - but I did not mismatch my clothes, nor did teachers acquiesce to my dramatics, as I feel GBG's teacher does.
Gooney Bird Greene and the Room Mother by Lois Lowry
Funny. Two of my marathon books, both for children, have mentioned nose piercings. (That was the ONE thing in Ramona's World that sounded too contemporary, even though it was simply a statement, not an actual event, no Quimby noses were pierced in the making of this book.) In any event, GBG1 was better than GBG2. GBG2 dealt with a Thanksgiving play, so it could have taught kids more about history (or even, shock! challenged it! defied tradition! stirred up controversy!) but it didn't. GBG played Squanto wearing random articles of clothing not to make a statement about Squanto or Thanksgiving but because that is how she always dresses. I wanted to meet GBG's parents. No such luck.
Beany and the Meany by Susan Wojciechowski
Two big things happen in Beany's classroom on the same day: a new girl named Stacy joins the class, and everyone teams up to do science projects. Beany's best friend, Carol Ann, pairs up with the new girl; Beany gets stuck with Kevin. Beany knows what she likes: her family, her teacher, her best friend Carol Ann, and her stuffed moose Jingle Bell, campouts, and her big brother, sometimes. She knows what she doesn't like: Kevin. She think he's a bully and he thinks she's a nuisance. When they finally start working on the experiment, Beany learns that Kevin is smarter than she thought he was, and that he really likes science. Beany and the Meany is a simple, cute story about getting along and working together.
Read my review at Amazon.
The Secret World of Alex Mack: Alex, You're Glowing! by Diana G. Gallagher
I saw this in the library and had to pick it up. I watched this show faithfully from day one. I even wrote an article on it for the school newspaper. I missed the final episode of the series because Nickelodeon aired the last two episodes out of order and at odd times. That was evil, and I am sad.
This book was a novelization of the show's premiere episode. On the way home from her totally mortifying first day of seventh grade, Alex (short for Alexandra) Mack gets accidentally doused with a hazardous and top-secret chemical known as GC-161. Paradise Valley Chemical CEO Danielle Atron, security head Vince, and dim driver Dave begin their fruitless search for the GC-161 kid. Alex soon learns that she has the ability to move things with her mind (telekinesis), to shoot electricity from her fingertips, and to morph into a liquid puddle. The only people who know of Alex's newfound abilities are her older sister, high school student and science whiz Annie, and her best friend, laidback and funny Ray. Alex is happy that she's "not so average anymore."
The Secret World of Alex Mack: Cleanup Catastrophe by Cathy East Dubowski
See above for selection process. :) In this story, Alex takes part in the Pick Up Paradise contest, an Earth Day-esque event Danielle Atron created after she stepped in trash. (Oh, can't have those pumps getting dirty, can we, Madam Atron?) At first, Alex simply wants to win so that she can get more attention from her parents and her peers. While working on the project, she realizes that helping her community and the earth is more important than winning. The story will teach readers some good lessons in conservation and in communication: Share with others. Recycle, reduce, reuse. Pick up your litter. One good turn deserves another. Do your best. Clean up!
Ghosts of Albion: Astray by Christopher Golden and Amber Benson
This story allows readers to spend more time with Tamara and William Swift, siblings in Victorian England who have pledged to protect their home and country from the things that go bump in the night. Astray pits the Swifts, along with Farris, their loyal butler, and the ghost of Queen Bodicea against Wild Edric's army and faerie princesses as they attempt to rescue seven babies and return them to their homes, where changelings lay in their cribs.
This book is so good, it gets a post all its own!
Secrets of Dripping Fang: Book One: The Onts by Dan Greenberg
Meet cheerful Cheyenne and worrisome Wally, the ten-year-old Shluffmuffin twins. Ever since the back-to-back accidental deaths of their father, mother, and grandmother three years ago, they have lived at the less-than-lovely Jolly Days Orphanage of Cincinnati. One day, two women come into Jolly Days looking for kids with these exact aliments. What luck for the twins!
Bad luck, that is, because their newfound almost-parents are not quite human . . .
Read my full review at Amazon.
What's Yer Poison? by Christopher Golden and Jose R. Nieto
When browsing through a little bookstore in an outlet center, I found a bunch of superhero paperbacks from the early 1990s. I decided to look through them in case any of my friends or friends' friends (in other words, people I know or people I know of) had books there. Sure enough, I dug up this Silver Surfer book, as well as the Spider-Man book that will be the next item on this list. I had never read anything about the Silver Surfer before this; all I knew was what the cover offered, a man in a mercurial bodysuit. This story taught me that he once served an evil man who controlled his conscience until the Fantastic Four woke him up. (Is that correct? KAM? Someone?) Having recently seen bits of Doctor Who, I kept hearing "Exterminate!" when the three-headed quasi-robot spoke to Silver Surfer.
Radically Both by Christopher Golden
This tail - er, tale - dealt with Dr. Curt Connors and Lizard, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the Spider-Man universe. He is attempting to control his Lizard side. Was I not already Golden's biggest supporter (other than his family members, naturally), two pieces of this story would have endeared me to his storytelling: when he eloquently explains why the doctor refuses to commit suicide to simply end it all, and when he uses the word "superheroing." For those wondering when this story takes place: Spidey and MJ are married.
The Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja
Maggy's mother, Monica, was a physical therapist, an aide to the elderly, until she herself got hurt. Now, she stays at home, living off of disability checks, the child support Maggy's dad started sending after he left them, cigarettes, and alcohol. Maggy is eager to turn eighteen and get out of there, but she has another year and three months to go before hitting that faithful mark. She doesn't have any friends and she's not much of a student, but she dotes on her black cat, Paz, and she's an incredible artist. She spends her free time at a coffeeshop called Blue Mirror, where a kind twentysomething named Casey looks out for her, and where she can draw passersby without them seeing her.
Until, one day, someone does.
Read the rest of my review at Amazon.
Things Left Unsaid by Stephanie Hemphill
Told in first-person poetry, Things Left Unsaid chronicles a school year in the life of Sarah, who is suddenly feeling itchy in her own skin. She finds herself being critical with her own friends and family members, and although they are there for her, she needs something else. Just what that something is, she doesn't know, not yet.
This was one of the top two books I read this weekend, with the other being Astray. Read the full-length review at Amazon or LiveJournal.
Total: 16 books read in less than 10 hours
Standout: Astray by Christopher Golden and Amber Benson: Fantasy + myth + historical fiction
Standout: Things Left Unsaid by Stephanie Hemphill: Contemporary + poetic + great execution
Overall: I would have read more if Real Life had allowed it, but I'm still fairly pleased.
MotherReader declared me the winner of the alternate challenge. I am honored.
On July 12th, the 48 Hour Book Challenge was profiled in the the School Library Journal.
Kudos to MotherReader for creating the Challenge, and congratulations to all of the participants. Let's do this again sometime.
Update: The Challenge was such a success that MotherReader did decide to hold the event again. Here's my post from 2007.