book thoughts: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

‘Girl Power’ is aphrase that was used to death in the late 1990s, and has now lost allmeaning to the current generation.  But if real ‘Girl Power’ was tomake a comeback, I think the story of Frankie Landau-Banks and herparticipation in the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds would be worthyof the label. 

Frankie is a quirky girl from a relatively well off family.  Sheattends a private boarding school, Alabaster, and is just about tobegin her sophomore year.  The semester is off to a a good start whenshe bumps into Mathew Livingston, the boy she had a crush on all lastyear.  The two become a couple but Frankie soon learns she must shareMathew with his group of friends, headed by Allesandro, Alpha to hisfriends.  Tired of being ditched by Mathew whenever Alpha calls,Frankie decided to follow him to see where he runs off to.  Shediscovers the world of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, a secretsociety for (rich) boys only.  But Frankie doesn’t get angry, sheinstead tries to figure out how she can infiltrate this powerful andexclusive group.

This book is a fast, quick read with memorable characters anda lot of surprises.  What could easily turn into a story of a jealousgirlfriend trying to reclaim her man instead becomes a story aboutpower – what it means, who has it, and how the rest of us can get it. It is a story of ambition.  It is a story of relationships – not justdating, but the strong friendships and bonds we have with certainpeople and what function they serve.  It is the story of theDisreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

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movie thoughts: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

I think I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I enjoyed the book, but not because the movie was anything really special.  In fact, it might be because the movie wasn’t trying too hard that is the reason I liked it.

I read ‘Nick & Norah’ for Great Books a couple years ago and thought it was an okay story.  The gimmick was that the book had alternating chapters, one from Nick’s POV then one from Norah’s (written, alternatively, by David Levithan and Rachael Cohn).  It was an amusing idea, lots of misunderstandings and misinterpretations.  But I seem to remember the characters being a lot angrier.  Maybe it was just because the book had so many f-bombs (I believe the first page alone has 4 or 5) that I interpreted them as being angry f-bombs when perhaps they were just being “cool”. 

ANYWAY – this isn’t about the book, this is about the movie.  The movie is really sweet and cute, and to maintain the PG-13 rating they needed for their target audience, has no f-bombs at all.  It was also filmed on location in NYC, so I’m sure fans of the city will probably recognize a lot of the hot spots.

The movie revolves around Nick, who was dumped by his girlfriend a few months ago yet still pines away for her every day, making elaborate mixes and leaving them in her locker.  It is also the story of Norah, who is the daughter of a record executive and feels as though most kids only want to hang out with her because of this.  She has a best friend that she is very close to but everyone else is just sorta there.  Both of them are at the same concert, waiting for the band to perform.  Nick’s ex insults Norah and Norah approaches Nick and asks if he would pretend to be her boyfriend for five minutes. 

I’m not sure this movie would be as fun if it wasn’t for Michael Cera and Kat Dennings.  They fit so perfectly as this awkward couple – neither of them “beautiful” in the Hollywood sense, but unique and attractive in their own ways.  Their interactions feel real and you end up rooting for their little romance.  Cera underplays everything and Dennings is such a spaz that they even each other out and you believe they could be a couple.

And don’t worry, this isn’t the forced Diablo Cody-esque dialogue that made you want to rip your ears off during ‘Juno’, it’s all natural. 

There weren’t quite as many name drops as there were in the book (a good portion of the book is conversations about random bands you’ve never heard of and how they are better than other bands you’ve never heard of).  There is one short conversation in the movie, while in the car, that touches upon it but they did avoid the Beatles conversation that takes place in the book (and is probably what doomed that book for me, you don’t diss my Fab 4 and survive!)

It’s a sweet movie and, if I had been thinking about it, would have been good Valentine’s Day viewing.  It has a lot of the elements of a traditional romantic comedy but isn’t so saccrine that you’re teeth will hurt later.  I gave it 3 stars on Netflix which is the very basic “Liked It”.  And I think I did.

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book thoughts: Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka

If ‘Knucklehead’ proves anything, it is that kids will always be kids.  It doesn’t matter what decade you are born or where you live, its hard not to end up with a few shared experiences. 

Scieszka is best known for his ‘True Story of the Three Little Pigs’ and ‘The Time Warp Trio’ books, all very silly and over the top with broad appeal to anyone with a sense of humor.  ‘Knucklehead’ is an autobiography of sorts, told in quick 2 page essays covering everything from living with his five brothers (each tortured by the others in their own special way), the perils of going to Catholic school (and thinking the nuns were actually married to God), and the usual act of blowing up toys in the backyard. 

I think this book will really appeal to little boys…or anyone who ever was a little boy…or anyone that has ever met a little boy.  Lots of jokes about passing gas, melting toy soldiers, and throwing up.  But his snarky tone makes  you laugh out loud.  You can always envision this 10 year old kid sitting next to you, telling you about the time his older brother set him up after they broke the couch during a wrestling match.  You can see him wink at you when he explains how he outsmarted his teachers when asked to list all of the swear words he knew. 

A great book for reluctant readers that might be discouraged by longer biographies, a great pick for a Scieszka fan, and a really fun read if you’re in the mood for something silly yet honest.  Even though I am a girl, I still found myself guffawing at these “mostly true” stories of growing up.

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