Sunday, September 25, 2011

Leader of the pack

I loved Kathryn Miller Haines' Winter series, so when I saw that she had a new book out, I immediately reserved it at the library without knowing anything about it.

It didn't take long to realize that it was intended for young adults. The heroine is 15, for starters; and all the drama revolves around different cliques at school, staying out past curfew, and getting in trouble with parents who don't understand what it's like to be an almost-grown up in wartime NYC.

And, despite the title, it turns out it isn't a murder mystery. (The term "murder" is 1940s tween slang equivalent of "the bee's knees", which the reader learns almost 2/3 of the way through the book.) The story is about the disappearance of a high school kid from the Lower East Side, whose school the heroine just transferred to from her posh private school on the Upper East Side after her mother dies and her father is injured at Pearl Harbor. Her dad is private investigator hired to find the missing boy, but because he won't let her help him with his work, she goes ahead and does it anyway. Teenage drama, heartbreak, and rebellion ensue.

As a story about teenagers navigating their independence, it's not a bad book. It feels like it might become a series: a lot of the sub-plots aren't wrapped up, and a lot of tiny questions about characters aren't answered. As a mystery, though, there wasn't much to keep me reading. The end was a little anti-climactic, and the heroine doesn't really have anything to do with solving the case.

What the book did a good job of capturing, though, was that awkward in-between phase of the teenage years, where high school is its own social realm of mini-cultures and where adults just don't get how clueless they are about how capable and responsible teens can really be if they'd only be given opportunities to be independent. That adolescent mentality pervaded the book so naturally, it was brilliant.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Milepost X

Another 5K down!

A friend (in town for only 5 hours) convinced me to sign up last-minute for a 5K before she got on her flight to DC. We saw a bunch of tents while walking around Green Lake and wandered over to see what was up. With 6 minutes left for last-minute registration an 14 hours left until the race (and having done no cardio workouts in 2 weeks since I left for SoCal), I registered spur-of-the-moment. It was a women-only race, with an emphasis on mother-daughter teams, and that was definitely part of the appeal.

This might be the first year I complete three 5Ks! I really do need to start doing 8 or 10K races. I've already done two 5Ks this year, and am planning to participate in the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot again this fall.

Also, I might have to become a corporate sellout. This was my first race sponsored not by a nonprofit but by an athletic clothing line. The free swag and free post-race food were seriously pretty cool, as were the heavily, clearly branded items for sale. I think the race fee alone was worth it for the quality T-shirt. ( Causes, meh. They only give you water and a banana afterwards, and the T-shirt is generally bulky and unisex. Was my soul bought so easily by cute tops, stylish running shorts, and yoga pants? Yes, yes it was. Because I finally found a quality purse hanger! It has the Iron Girl logo on it, of course, but whatevs. It's a cute logo with purdy colors. Squeeeeee.)

Commercial stuff aside, it was incredibly fun. And I think it got me back on track for being active. The past couple of weeks, with travelling and a slight post-vacation cough and a general bout with depression, have made it a little difficult to get back into my active routine. Too bad I'll miss soccer this week for a nonprofit dinner!

Immediately after the race, I went blackberry picking with some friends. Gotta love summer in Seattle!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Alive, alive, oh!

When post-vacation, possible airplane-induced coughing fits and a sore throat prevent nighttime sleeping, reading is always a key part of recovery.

In the next Molly Murphy installment, our feisty heroine is hired to locate a long-lost relative of a wealthy New Yorker. She is sent back to Ireland, where she accidentally swaps identities with a gun-smuggling actress and gets herself wrapped up with the IRB. I liked how the book connected the wave of Irish immigrants from the Great Famine to the ones from the turn of the century, as well as the 19th-century Irish freedom fighters to the increasingly successful ones at the turn of the century. The book spanned incidents and events across two generations. And of course, it being an Irish story (not an American one), it's largely tragic and sorrowful.

I found myself reflecting that I was glad I ditched my tour cohort and went to the National Museum of Ireland instead of the Guinness Brewery when we were in Dublin.

And yes, I had "Forgotten Hero" stuck in my head while reading the entire book. (Teenage Rainster loved that song. She was an odd duck .)

Not the HTML kind

Being so near to the Dream Factory made me realize I hadn't watched any movies in a really long time (since I cancelled my Netflix subscription when they separated the online streaming from the DVD rentals).

While in SoCal, I visited my aunt, uncle, and cousins. We watched Source Code as a compromise between no horror films (me) and nothing "boring"(19- and 21-year-old male cousins).

I'm partial to both time-travel and alternate-reality stories, and this was a bit of both. Jake Gyllenhaal plays an Army vet who is part of a government security experiment: he must re-live the final 8 minutes of a doomed train until he finds its bomber and prevents a second attack. At the same time, he's trying to find out how he got to be part of the situation. There are some pretty big, gaping holes in the plot - but other than that it's a decently engaging (if somewhat predictable) movie.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A pocketful of mumbles

I read the next two Molly Murphy books in lieu of packing for a trip to Southern California. (As a result, I forgot flip flops and a swimsuit, which are rather key for any stay in 90-degree weather.)

n Like Flynn takes our detective heroine to a countryside manor to investigate fraudulent spiritualists. (Doesn't there have to be a fake seance in every mystery series? Did Agatha Christie set that standard?) Naturally, there are a few murders that she has to solve along the way. A few of the plot twists seemed hastily thrown in and a bit improbable (like the sudden reappearance of the would-be rapist she thought she killed back in Ireland), but then others were definitely welcome (she and the police captain finally get it on, after three books of too-proper behavior).

In Oh Danny Boy, though, we are soberly reminded that those too-proper behaviors often prevented unwanted pregnancies in an era when women had extremely limited ways of supporting themselves or a child. The book focuses on an NYPD bribery scandal, and Molly attempts to prove the innocence of her somewhat selfish police captain and future baby daddy. In between bouts of morning sickness, she stumbles upon a missing heiress and a Jack the Ripper-esque string of killings; of course, the two cases end up being connected.
And because the Irish family she shares a home with is conveniently out in Connecticut recuperating from typhoid, Molly is alone to grapple with the drama and trauma of a potential abortion and miscarriage. One other very interesting introduction in this book is the (real-life) character of one of NYPD's first female officers. I love how, after a few books of Molly stumbling around to find her way as a female private investigator, Bowen has managed to find her a female mentor.

Perhaps it was appropriate, then, that I was pulled over for speeding on my way to Santa Barbara by a female California Highway Patrol officer. She kindly informed me how fast she believed I was going, as she wrote me my first-ever citation. (In fact, it was the first time I've ever been pulled over. Oh, firsts! I'm bizarrely relieved.) At any rate, Mi Cuñado's sister is a cop too; she loves her job but also has acknowledged the glass ceiling and social double standards.

Though a lot has been achieved in women's rights in the 109 years between Molly's time and mine, there's still a long way to go.