FlashBack!

Like most nerds, I keep a lot of my school notes – ok, just about all of them. However, recently I read Lessons from Madame Chic and was inspired to de-clutter my life. As I threw out  and organized my extensive collection of High School notes, dittos, and papers, I made my way to the English IV AP collection. These I cherished.

Every high school graduate hopefully looks back and thinks of that teacher they will never forget – who impacted their life so greatly, that anyone who knows you pretty well has heard a story about them (good stories). Mrs. Ross was one of those. She was also yearbook sponsor and I was on yearbook staff, so we became close my Senior year.

As I was looking through my extensive collection of English IV AP papers I had kept, I came across a paper where the pen didn’t bleed. I’m pretty sure it was graded for completion points, but still, points are points and it’s exciting to get back a paper like that. However, that paper had been kept for a reason more than that-–-it was inspired by Ally Carter, Gallagher Girls, Nancy Drew, and my friends. It was actually a retelling of A&P, a short story by John Updike. Our retelling had to be from the girls’ point of view. Of course, I made them spies.

3 January 2010

“A&P”

I stare at the store front of A&P grocery like I imagine a prospective backpacker stares at Mount Everest for the first time. Laura, a seventeen year old female version of Einstein, stands behind me. Beside Laura is Bess, who is the athletic queen of our trio. Unlike Bess and Laura who were chosen, I was born into this business. Last summer my father sat me down and told me the true story behind his “important government work”. He told me how the Austin family has been part of the CIA for centuries. “Tiffany, darling, its the chance of a lifetime.” He then goes on explaining how I can begin to train for the CIA myself. Laura holds up the piece of evopaper with the words “Mission 1: Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks” typed across it  in Courier New font. “Why do the want the herring snacks?” She asks. “I don’t know, but this must be some type of test of our espionage skills, so let’s give this our best shot. Remember we are normal girls sent on an errand by our parents” Bess glances down at her green two-piece, “Why do we have to wear swim-suits again?” “It is part of cover,” Laura quotes as she recalls one of her note cards, “The false identity a spy takes on.” I step forward, “Well girls, let’s go!”

The linoleum floor is cold under my feet. I hold my head up high and parade like I imagine Caroline Bingley does in Pride and Prejudice. I ignore the swim straps that refuse to stay on my thin shoulders. We wander our way down the aisle of miscellaneous nonsense. I notice two younger cashiers giving us quizzical glances. Bess performs a counter-surveillance maneuver and picks up a bag of cookies leaving few fingerprints behind. Still no sign of herring, I wander my way down a few more aisle taking mental notes of where the KGB might enjoy planting bugs. Laura points to Butcher at the meat counter and I flash my cheesiest smile, “Hello sir, do you know where I might find some herring for my mother?” I observe him so I can Include him in my cover operations report. His eyebrows furrow clouding his blue eyes. he lays down the knife he is holding with his left hand and I notice a crass tattooed on his right thumb. “Herring?” the Butcher replies in a gruff voice, “That should be by the tuna.” Bess gives him a thankful nod as I head down the aisle he indicated. Laura spots the can first tossing it in my direction. What could they possibly want with herring? I wonder as I reach up to catch the can.

We make our way to the cash registers. The younger cashier is staring at us, I begin to worry he knows our secret. “Lets go to the other line, ” Laura whispers under her breath; however, some old lady with several cans of pineapple juice forces us to go in the line with the guy who has a staring problem. Sammy was stitched across his apron. Sammy? Is he undercover too? I pull the money out of the top of my swimsuit, come across as a ‘honeypot’ I’m sure. (Bess could quote the text book definition of  honeypot, but in short it is a female spy who uses romance to get what she wants.) About that time I hear a door slam behind me. I swirl around as I envision men in black rushing toward me. I sigh in relief when all I see is an older man. “Girl, this isn’t the beach,” he yells. How would Caroline Bingley handle this? I straighten up and say in my most snobbish voice, “My mother asked me to pick up a jar of herring snacks.” Laura looks like she is ready to throw him through the wall and perform some illegal judo she recently learned. I glance back at the can of herring in Sammy’s hand. He stares at us saying something about it not being the beach again. Bess pipes up and instead of explaining where the beach is really located she says, “We aren’t doing any shopping. We just came in for the one thing.” “That makes no difference. We want you decently dressed when you come in her here.” He replies. Out of exasperation to get our can of herring and skedaddle, I retort by saying “We are decent.” I have seen many other more indecent swimsuits besides the ones we had. Grumpy replies, “Girls, I don’t want to argue with you. After this, come in here with your shoulders covered. It’s our policy. Sammy, have you rung up this purchase?” “No” Sammy answers. I turn around to face Sammy with a forced smile across his face. I grab the can of herring and hurry out the door. As soon as I am outside I make a mad dash down the road with Laura passing me up. We turn down a side street where we find the old Fed-Ex van. The back roles up as a CIA agent reaches to help us in. “Mission Complete,” Bess exclaims as she tries to catch her breath. “Good Job girls, the White House chef will thank you for the herring. He forgot to pick some up for the President’s dinner tonight.”

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Review: Linked

14999972Title: Linked (Book 2 of the Guardian Series)

Author:  Imogen Howson

Genre: Teen Sci Fi

Age: Young Adult

Going into this book I was a little apprehensive; I had about had my fill of utopian society/weird disease/break out/ find cure/ barely survive/kiss-at-the-end-books, but I was pleasantly surprised at the inventive and twisting story line. It felt fresh, but tense and adventurous and daring at the same time.
I don’t want to give too much away, but this is a sample of the action.
In searching for her own answers, Lissa finds terrifying ones she wasn’t looking for. The world she had known was no longer safe and stability disappeared, It’s replaced with a girl with who she is inexplicably connected to.
The key factor in the story is the mysterious connection between two girls, both facing the challenges of identity and trust. Together they experience the thrill, fear, and triumph of undermining a “perfect” system, while engaged in a deadly game of interplanetary hide and seek.
The girls share courage, fear, strength and determination, and in the course of events, actually affect change in their galaxy.

Although it is set far into the future, some of the situations the main character, Lissa, faces are similar to those girls face at that age, such as false friends, mixed affections, trusting your gut, and space pirates.
Well maybe not that last one, but who knows.
Yes it’s a YA novel, but the constant action, vibrant characters, and stellar imagery will keep older readers hooked in.
I am quite excited about reading the next one, Dentelle, out this August!

5 Ways to Wear A Plaid Skirt (in a non-schoolgirl way)

Every time I read the third Gallagher Girl book, I can’t help but think of its release day, which was also Juju’s 18th birthday. Her mom rented us a cabin for the week so we could party. If partying means making strawberry rice krispie treats, paddle boating, and donning plaid skirts to the bookstore to buy the latest Ally Carter book, then we partied pretty hard.

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From then on it became my tradition to wear plaid on release dates and also all the time. Readers of my personal style blog, Mrs. Dork, know I have an unhealthy addiction to my plaid skirt.
Want to play dress up with us? Here are some ways to rock plaid in a non-schoolgirl type of way.
1) Preppy: Nothing is more classic than a white button up shirt with a plaid skirt. Add a bright belt to avoid the schoolgirl look.
classic button up
2) Casual: A cute t-shirt and a pair of sandals give a laid-back vibe to preppy plaid.
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3) Sweet: Nothing is sweeter than a pretty cardigan and some ballet flats.
sweater
4) Edgy: Super tall black boots give plaid an unexpected twist. Add a bright pair of tights for a fun pop of color.
super tall boots
5) Winter Wear: A cute sweatshirt, tights, and boots make a plaid skirt cold-weather appropriate.
mickey
Don’t forget to check out our Halloween looks—we dressed up as Gallagher Girls!

Review: UnChristian

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Author: David Kinnaman

Genre: Non-Fiction/Religion

Age: YA, Adult – Whoever can handle it.

This book (published in 2007) looks at present Christian culture. Mostly it looks at the views of “outsiders” (term the book uses to refer to Non-Christians) and their opinions on Christianity. The subtitle of the book is What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…And Why It Matters. That basically sums the book up for you.

My generation (Mosaics) and the generation above me (Busters, who are born between 1965-1983) who are Outsiders tend to regard Christians as really being UnChristian. It went on to say that even some the Mosaic Christians have problems with Christianity.

Now, this book is written by a devout Christian and is tended as a wake-up call for Christians to be what their title labels them – truly and utterly like Christ!. The issues with Christian culture discussed are Hypocritical, Anti-homosexual, Sheltered, Too Political, Judgmental, and to intent on Conversions.

Each chapter begins with an anecdote of an outsider or Christian who had a story that reflects these issues. They felt Christians were fake and shallow. Said one thing did the other. They looked at people as someone to recruit to a church instead of building a relationship with them as a person. That Christians were so anti-homosexual that they didn’t take time to get to know the homosexuals they came in contact with. This book does not condone homosexuality…it stands by the common Christian belief that according to the Bible homosexuality is a sin. However, It encourages Christians to look at the fact that all sin is equal. That an act of fornication is just as wrong as an act of homosexuality.

The book encourages the approach of Christians acting in grace instead of judgement. the book also looks at how Christianity has become so intertwined with politics – right wing vs. left wing. It asks that Christians move past these issues and focus on standing strong on Biblical truths and being Christ-like and acting in love and grace. Moving from being UnChristian to Christian.

Rachel’s Rambles:

This book accidentally made its way on my summer reading list. I was reading Lord of the Rings this summer (which I finished and will be writing about shortly), but I also wanted to incorporate some nonfiction books and had some Biographies lined up to read. However, I wanted a mix of nonfiction books, so I went to the library to look for Mere Christianity. (I was reading Tolkien, so let’s throw some Lewis in there and have an Inkling summer) Instead, I found this book.

I recognized the title and decided to give it a try. I found it informative in the way it was based on research. I would like to one day research their research process and results. I wonder sometimes if the results were biased or slanted- but sometimes I can be critical like that. It did wake me up, however sometimes I feel like people will have issues with whatever they don’t believe.

I do agree with the fact that Christians should live up to their name. I know several that do…and maybe that was my quirk with the book. Yes, I know a few who don’t live up to their title. It bothers me that the ones have been truly trying to be Christ like have to live with these negative labels. All in all it was a good book that I would recommend to someone who likes to read Religious Non-Fiction.

– Liz (aka Rachel)

Review: False Memory

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Written by the fairly new, but skilled, YA author, Dan Krokos, False Memory is a plausibly-futuristic, quasi-sci-fi, action packed, and tantalizing adventure. From the opening line I was drawn into the first scenario, by the end of the chapter I knew I was in for a great read. Written in the first person of main character Miranda, the reader experiences the drama, action, emotion, and danger as Mir and her team seek answers to their history and purpose, and race to save each other and stop the EVIL DR.CH… well I’ll just let you get to that part 🙂

Got a little excited there… let me back up. When the book opens Miranda had no recollection of anything, not her own name nor her dangerous capabilities. After inadvertently causing mass chaos, emotions and thoughts in a tizzy, she must trust a person she does not remember, to keep her safe.

Through the first portion of the book, and through the end, Miranda is slowly piecing her memory back together while repeatedly being surprised and disappointed by things she cannot recall and unknown second-nature skills. Krokos does a splendid job of piecing out Miranda’s emotions and thought processes through all of the tumult. We see her tender and levelheaded side in the way she deals with tense interactions between teammates, her own emotions, and when she is again reminded her memories have been ripped away. A more fierce, brave Mir lies under the confused exterior, surfacing when a challenge rises or the weight of situation is greater than that of her heart. As Miranda learns to trust, love, and protect her teammates, so does the reader.

The emotions are real, the pace is fast, and the sequel, False Sight, is just released!

Read JB’s review of False Memory here.

Our Gallagher Girls’ Dream Cast

A few weeks ago, I (JB) signed up for the Gallagher Girls Read-a-thon hosted by Books As You Know It. I already wanted to reread the series before the final book comes out, and this is a great way to keep me accountable. This week’s book is Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, the second in the series, and also probably my most favorite since I read it a million times in high school.

I contacted Juju and Rachel this week via covert means (i.e. a group text) to see who they would cast as Zach Goode in the (hopefully) upcoming Gallagher Girls movie. Here are our picks, along with a few other of our dream actors/actresses for other parts. Please note that our picks are a variety of ages. We started dream casting when we were in high school, and therefore some of our picks have since gotten too old for the parts. We included them anyways.

Drew RoyDominic Scott Kay

luke benward

Jim Caviezel

Christian Bale

Peyton List

Meaghan Martin

amandla stenberg

david tennant

As for David Tennant, we aren’t totally sure which professor he should be, only that he should be one.

Love the Gallagher Girls? Who would you cast as your favorite characters?

Review: The Night Circus

ImageAuthor: Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Age: Adult

On the surface The Night Circus is about a place of dreams traveling in Victorian Europe. Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams, opens a sunset and closes at sunrise. Inside, you feel like you are defiantly part of dream…touring Ice Gardens, walking on clouds, and watching the never dying cauldron of fire. Something as fantastic as this ends up with its own fan club – They call themselves “rêveurs” and always wear a splash of red. The red stands out against the elegant whimsical circus decorations that only appear in black and white. This color scheme completes the dream-like appeal of the circus.

Despite all this dreaminess, the circus serves a nightmare purpose. Magician “Prospero the Enchanter and “Mr. A.H.” each have a protege, and each are teaching them using a different method. The circus serves as the grand stage for competition between the two proteges. In all honesty, it’s a competition between the instructors and teaching styles. Prospero’s protege is his own daughter that has been dropped on his doorstep and Mr. A.H.’s protege is orphan he took in. Both know they are training for a competition, but neither are aware of the stakes, who they are competing against, and very little about the rules. Celia, Prospero’s daughter, enters the stage as an illusionist. Marco is the circus producer – working from the outside. Each are amazed by the other’s work and begin to fall in love with each other.

****SOME SPOILERS AHEAD*****

Falling in love with each other is a hopeless case with the Night Circus. In order to win, only one player must be left standing. One must give up, wear out, or die. The ending had a twist of course – delivered by a adorable trio of supporting characters. A boy, a dreamer, who grew up on farm and destined for the circus is the one who ultimately saves the circus. Twin who were born the night of the opening also help.

Personal Opinion:

I checked this book out to read for a school book club with the intention of not finishing it. I was just going to read enough to be able to discuss it. However, after the meeting I went home and finished it that night. It was interesting book and the Twins and farm boy were some of my favorite characters. Themes of fire and dreams were scattered through out the book which added to the excitement. I’m just not a huge fan of magic in this sense..I like fairy tales, epic adventures and such. It was still a interesting read.

Bottom Line: If magic, fantasy, and romance are your thing, then this your book.

Rating: PG-13 for a few words (F, H, and maybe one more) and a little sensuality.

– Liz (aka Rachel)

Check out JB’s review of The Night Circus here.

Review: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

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Author: Ally Carter

Genre: Adventure, Teen Romance, Spy

Age: Young Adult

Cammie goes to the Gallagher Academy – a boarding school for snooty rich girls. Or so the people of Roseville think. It’s actually a school where young girls are trained to become spies. On a mission in town, Cammie meets cute, normal, non-spy boy, Josh, and falls for him. She and her best friends use their spy training to help Cammie develop a relationship with Josh, but she must take caution and make sure that he never finds out her true identity.

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You has long been a favorite of mine. Honestly, I don’t remember when I got it or when I first read it, but I do know that I have always loved it. When I was little, my cousins and I would pretend we were spies (with really hot, British boyfriends), so this was right up my alley.

I was hooked from the first page. Ally Carter has a beautiful, easy-to-read writing style that absorbs the reader. Cammie may be a spy, but every girl can relate to her boy problems and connect with her. Every girl knows what it’s like to feel invisible sometimes and wonders why the opposite sex is so confusing.

This book is such a fun read—I find myself laughing out loud every time I read it, and I’ve read it so many times I’ve lost count. It never gets old. However, I’ll admit that this isn’t the best of the Gallagher Girl books. It’s kind of “fluffy” (yes, that’s the word that pops into my brain) compared to the rest of the series. With each book, the stakes become higher and the characters are developed even further. If you think this book is too lighthearted for your tastes, please give the rest of the series a chance. I promise you won’t regret it.

This book is essentially what eventually sparked the idea for our book blog. It’s one of my favorites, despite its fluffiness. 5 out of 5 stars, all the way.

JB

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Rating: PG, for some minor language (one use of the d word, h word, and implied b word)

Review: Timekeeper

timekeeperAuthor: Alexandra Monir

Genre: Teen Romance, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction (only in the since that there’s time travel)

Age: Young Adult

Read our review of Timeless, the first book in this series.

When Philip Walker becomes the new student at school, time-traveler Michele Windsor is excited that they can pick up their relationship where they left off—in 1910. But Philip doesn’t remember her or the love they once shared, much less the life he lived at the beginning of the 20th century.

As Michele attempts to make Philip fall in love with her (again), she discovers more about her time traveling abilities through the diaries of her deceased father. And to make things a little more interesting, one of her time-traveling ancestors wants her dead.

**SOME SPOILERS FOR TIMELESS AHEAD**

Timekeeper picks up just minutes after Timeless ends. A good thing, too, as I wanted to know how Philip was in Michele’s time! But I was actually kind of disappointed with the explanation that was given. I felt like it was kind of a cop-out, and that there could have been a way cooler way that Philip suddenly appeared in present time.

Relationship-wise, I felt sorry for poor Michele. Her love is finally in her time and doesn’t even know who she is! Luckily she can still travel to the early 1900s to talk with past-Philip to get present-day relationship advice. That’s a fun perk of being a time-traveler—and an aspect I enjoyed about the book—getting to see the differences in the way she interacts between past and present Philips, and how the Philips differ though are yet the same.

The ending of the book wasn’t as great as I’d hoped. It all happened so quickly and the climax didn’t seem all that…climatic. It was just too rushed and the ending didn’t leave me wondering what happens next? like the first one did. Even so, if there’s a third one, I know I’ll read it because I love that these books are set over different times in history and I love how all of the characters are somehow affected by Michele’s time traveling.

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. Despite the fact that I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, I still enjoyed Michele’s adventures in past and present times and would definitely read a third book.

JB