Pip arrives home to receive this charming Christmas greeting from Mrs. Joe: "And where the deuce ha’ you been?"
Speaking of Mrs. Joe, I'm starting to hear her dialogue in Alison Steadman's voice. This was the part that really, really did it: "Perhaps if I warn’t a blacksmith’s wife, and (what’s the same thing) a slave with her apron never off, I should have been to hear the Carols,” said Mrs. Joe. “I’m rather partial to Carols, myself, and that’s the best of reasons for my never hearing any."
Heh. OF COURSE no one is allowed in the parlor except for when the Christmas guests are over. And here's a classic zinger: "Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by their religion."
In his Sunday best, Joe looks like "a scarecrow in good circumstances". And Pip is in a bad way, too: "Even when I was taken to have a new suit of clothes, the tailor had orders to make them like a kind of Reformatory, and on no account to let me have the free use of my limbs."
Poor old Joe, by the way, was forced to spend his Christmas morning sitting outside on the kitchen doorstep while Mrs. Joe was cleaning.
Introducing: Mr. Wopsle, clerk at church and guest at Christmas dinner: He's exceedingly proud of his skills of recitation. Like, REALLY, REALLY PROUD.
Introducing: Uncle Pumblechook, another guest at dinner, and technically Joe's uncle, though Pip isn't allowed to call him that. (Of course, he calls him that multiple times in his narration.)
Introducing: Mrs. and Mr. Hubble, guests at dinner: She's "a little curly sharp-edged person", (<--LOVE THAT) much younger than her husband, who is a "tough, high-shouldered, stooping old man, of a sawdusty fragrance, with his legs extraordinarily wide apart: so that in my short days I always saw some miles of open country between them when I met him coming up the lane." (<--LOVE THAT, TOO)
Dinner is profoundly uncomfortable, what with Pip's fear about his thievery being found out, "the Pumblechookian elbow" in his eye, the corner of the table digging into his chest, the fact that he's not allowed to speak and that he's given all of the crappy pieces of meat. But most of all, it's uncomfortable because all of the adults (except Joe) give him hell for the entire meal. For instance, after grace: "Upon which my sister fixed me with her eye, and said, in a low reproachful voice, “Do you hear that? Be grateful.”" And it just goes downhill from there. I particularly liked Mr. Hubble's opinion: "Naterally wicious."
Joe, of course, attempts to make Pip feel better... by spooning a half-pint of gravy onto his plate. (<--I continue to think that Pip is all about the exaggeration. Which is fine by me, as it's generally hilarious.)
And Mr. Wopsle goes on about what he'd sermonize about at Church if HE WERE IN CHARGE, and Uncle Pumblechook suggests that PORK would be a great topic. PORK.
(“You listen to this,” said my sister to me, in a severe parenthesis.)
Joe gave me some more gravy.
Oh, Mr. Wopsle is AWFUL. He's telling Pip about how great his life is, AND THAT IT'S WAY BETTER THAN A PIG'S LIFE. WELL, THANK YOU SIR. Every time he throws another verbal dart at Pip, Joe ladles more gravy onto Pip's plate.
Oh, no, and now Mrs. Joe is giving Uncle Pumblechook brandy—the brandy that Pip watered down in order to hide his theft—but it turns out that he accidentally watered it down with TAR WATER, so Uncle Pumblechook runs outside and barfs, and then Mrs. Joe calms him down with some nice gin and hot water, BUT THEN she goes to get the pork pie (that Pip stole), and Pip TOTALLY FREAKS OUT BECAUSE HE KNOWS HE'S SCREWED, so he jumps up and runs for the front door... but then he runs into a bunch of soldiers at the front door, one of whom SHAKES A PAIR OF HANDCUFFS AT HIM. And... scene!
EW: 2012 Entertainers of the Year. John Green beat out JK Rowling, EL James and Gillian Flynn for the much-coveted title of Favorite Author. (And Nathan Fillion snagged the Most Entertaining Tweeter title!)
Speaking of themed gifts (weren't we?), Shadow on the Mountain and Bomb would be a great pair to give to a young history buff. A young history buff who is proud of his or her Scandinavian heritage.
Sometimes I really wish I'd known Josh when he was a kid. Because, BAM. I'd have had the perfect Christmas present for his eleven-year-old self.
Right, right, Shadow on the Mountain.
Shortly after the Nazis invade his country, fourteen-year-old Espen gets involved with the Norwegian Resistance movement. At first, he's simply delivering illegal newspapers—I say 'simply', but even reading information that the Nazis had deemed illegal would get you arrested, let alone distributing it—but he gets older and more experienced, he takes on more and more dangerous assignments.
The major characters in the book are fictional—there are some appearances and mentions of historical figures, though—but the events are based in reality, and Espen's Resistance-related activities and adventures are based on the real-life exploits of a man named Erling Storrusten. At the end of the book, Preus includes information about how she did her research, as well as an extensive bibliography, a timeline of events, and a selection of related photos and pictures.
In addition to including loads of cool details about small-town Norwegian life in the 1940s, she does a great job of conveying the gallows humor of the time (and the culture):
"Did you see the latest poster?" Leif said. "It says, 'Every civilian caught with weapon in hand will be SHOT . . . Anyone destroying constructions serving the traffic and military blah-blah-blah will be SHOT . . . Anyone using weapons contrary to international law will be SHOT.'"
"Ja, I saw that," Espen said. "On the bottom of the poster someone had written, 'Anyone who has not already been shot will be SHOT.'"
...but also makes it clear that these people are laughing despite fear and uncertainty and pain:
They laughed, and Espen did, too, sort of, but it made him feel sick. All these soldiers everywhere, always with guns, their metal helmets, the tramping of their boots—walking in and out of the stores, up and down the streets. . .
There's a wonderful balance between Espen's Resistance activities (along with the knowledge that if he's caught, his family will be punished for his actions); his younger sister's interest in his activities, which ultimately leads to her own direct involvement with the Resistance; the split that occurs within his peers between those who join the Resistance and those who join the Nazis; and his own coming of age and burgeoning romance.
Good stuff—and an effective reminder that "regular" people are capable of changing the course of world events.
Isabelle "Izzy" Scott lives with her grandmother in Harborside, a rundown beach town that outsiders view as dangerous and tacky. Izzy loves it, though: she's a star on the local swim team, extremely active at the Community Center, and appreciates the way the close-knit community has helped her deal with her grandmother's rapidly progressing dementia. Plus, she's just spent the entire summer with her new friend Brayden, a super-cute guy from out of town—he's a bit squirrely about where he's actually from—who's been teaching her to surf.
So it's a huge blow when her social worker informs her that A) her grandmother is no longer a fit guardian, so B) she's getting moved into a nursing home, while C) Izzy will be moving in with long-lost relatives who live in super-swanky Emerald Cove. Suddenly, she has to deal with the loss of her home, her grandmother, her friends and promising new romance, AS WELL AS new cousins, a completely new culture, and living in the public eye, because her new uncle? Is a politician in the midst of a run for a seat in the US Senate.
But, hey, surprise! Brayden lives in Emerald Cove. Well, at least she's going to the same school as him. That'll be cool, right? Oh, WAIT. He's dating the Queen Bee.
Who despises Izzy on sight.
And is best friends with Izzy's new cousin.
So, are you getting an O.C. vibe? Yeah, me too. Minus the grainy-cam, the juvie, and the bromance, and set in North Carolina instead of California, the basic premise of Belles has a whole lot in common with The O.C.
And now I'm craving a dose of the theme song, so let's indulge for a moment:
Anyway, Belles. There's really not a whole lot to say, as it's very what-you-see-is-what-you-get, with some super-sudsy entertaining soap-opera plot twists and a delightfully, bitchily evil adult antagonist. Fingers crossed that the CW picks it up, because with a good cast, it could be loads and loads of fun. AND OH MY GOD, THEY COULD CAST TAYLOR HANDLEY (BETTER KNOWN AS OLIVER TRASK) AS THE AFOREMENTIONED BITCHILY EVIL ADULT ANTAGONIST.
THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.
Especially highly recommended to fans of Sara Shepherd's Lying Game series, but it'll be an easy pick for any reader who likes the Mean Rich Girl subgenre.