Book Group–Grace!

It’s that time again everyone, book group discussion!!!  This month we are going to discuss the book “Grace” which was for the Girl Of The Year for 2014.  I will admit that Grace’s collection was probably one of my all time favorites, I have quite a few pieces from it.  I wasn’t quite as excited for the story when I initially heard about it, but first impressions can be wrong!

The book starts out with summer vacation and Grace along with her friends Maddy and Ella making plans for what they are going to do for the summer.  However, as that saying goes, “Life is what happens when you start making plans” and Grace suddenly finds out that she is going to be heading to Paris with her mother to help out her aunt who has been put on bed rest while pregnant.  She’s not too happy about it, but makes the best of things regardless.

I really enjoyed this book, and thought it was very well written.  We have no “nasty girl” situation, instead the issues between Grace and her cousin Sylvie contribute the conflict to the story.  Sylvie speaks no English and Grace speaks next to no French, so it creates a bit of a problem!  I saw some similarities to Kanani and her cousin in this part of the story, and I love how the girls eventually come to a resolution to their problems.

Other things I totally loved about Grace–lots of French words along with a very nice section at the end of the book explaining what they all mean.  I also totally related to Grace’s reaction to being on a plane for the first time.  I have a fascination with aviation, and there isn’t a plane trip that doesn’t go by that I don’t marvel at the technology involved as well as everything looking tiny as the plane climbs.

One thing that the book brought up that I thought was excellent was Grace’s difficulty in cooking while in France due to the fact that all of the measurements are in metric.  I had an issue one time with a recipe I was giving to a friend who lived in the UK due to this, and I have a friend who has complained of the reverse!  I also liked the fact that the difference between macaroons and macarons is explained.  Just one of those things that drives me crazy!

I also learned what gargoyles on old buildings are for.  I’ve seen my fair share of them on our trips to the UK and Ireland and never really gave it a thought, but they aren’t just there for decoration.  They are for diverting rain on buildings built long before gutters and rainspouts were invented.

I don’t want to give too much away, but we also learn how Bonbon the dog comes into Grace’s life.  I thought it was one of the cutest parts of the story.

Overall, I really liked this story, and since I bought the whole set, I’m looking forward to reading the other two.  The book seems like it’s thicker than some of the American Girl books, but it is kind of deceiving.  The pages are laid out a little bit different, but I don’t think the word count is all that much longer.  I found it a very easy read too, so it took no time at all to finish it.

Did you enjoy Grace?  What were some of your favorite parts of the book?

The book for March will be “Meet Felicity”.  April will be “Saige”.  There will be no book group for May due to prior commitments.  I am thinking I may do one over the summer, I will keep everyone posted.  Otherwise, we will pick it up again in the fall. 

 

February Book Group Read–Lanie!

Hello everyone, welcome to our bookgroup discussion! Everyone is welcome to participate in the discussion via the comments section. I do want to set a few rules first though. No personal attacks, we can all have differing opinions without nastiness. And please, keep on topic. If I find that a comment is not on topic, it will be deleted. The only exception to this is if the conversation goes in that direction, but this is not the place to discuss other posts and other goings on in doll land. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get started!

The book for this group “meeting” was Lanie, written by Jane Kurtz. Lanie was the 2010 Girl Of The Year, and what attracted me to her story was the ecology/nature aspect of it. I’ve been a long time supporter of recycling, even working as the recycling coordinator at my last job for a small municipality. I also liked the outdoorsy theme running throughout the book, when I was that age, I practically lived outdoors.  I was even known to drag all of my Barbie stuff outside during the summer months.
lanie-book

Since we’ve all read the book, I’m not going to go into depth about the story. This isn’t intended to be a review, nor do I want to recap it completely, less ruining it for someone who maybe hasn’t read it. The main purpose of this group is to discuss various points in the book that we liked or didn’t like, themes, etc.

Let’s see…as I mentioned before, the nature part of it was a big attraction for me, and my favorite part of that was the story about the hatching of the butterflies. I’ve always been fascinated by that whole process, particularly with Monarch butterflies, and it took me back to a book I had when I was a kid that explained the process with fantastic photos. I’ll be honest, after I got done reading Lanie, I was tempted to go order one of those monarch butterfly hatching kits, it stirred up that interest all over again. I also liked her journaling like she was doing scientific studies and her vast interest in science.  Her interest in birds was also appealing to me as I used to be very into that when we lived at our other house.  It wasn’t something I got into until I was an adult, but it’s a fascinating subject!

Parts I didn’t like: the nasty neighbor with the cat. I felt that the whole part of the story with Lulu and the cat having a confrontation was kind of unnecessary. Plus the whole situation with the neighbor went rather unresolved at the end of the book. So that really served no purpose and I think that section of the book could have been left out and replaced with more about her older sister, her aunt and the science she was studying. I also didn’t like how her older sister was depicted at the beginning, she comes off as being a bit of a prissy pain in the neck, but then later in the story she seems to be the one person who genuinely feels bad for Lanie. I’m just not sure about how she was portrayed.

The rest of the characters were fine, although I would have liked to have seen more of her Aunt Hannah. I haven’t read the second book yet, so perhaps that is covered more there. I got a kick out of her descriptions of her parents, her dad sounds like the typical absent minded college professor! And Emily is your typical 1st grader, picky eater with an unreasonable fear of bugs. I thought they got the dynamic between the two girls right, it reminded me of a friend of mine who had not one, but two younger sisters, and the issues they would have.

There were quite a few things that she had to deal with that were handled in an appropriate manner–her envy at her friend Dakota, taking on the job of the garden in her Aunt Hannah’s absence, and her frustration with her family and their “indoor genes” when she suggests going camping.  My only complaint was in how her mother handled the situation with Emily when she damaged Lanie’s journal for science class.  This would have been a good opportunity for the author to go into respect for other people’s belongings a bit more.  I thought it was kind of lost and something that could have been a learning moment was ignored.  Oh well.

Did anyone else love the little illustrations throughout the book?  They reminded me a bit of Susan Branch or Marjolein Bastin drawings.

Overall, I thought this was one of the better GOTY books, and I especially liked that her interests were science related.  I wish they had done more stories like this, showing that girls can have interests beyond dance and music.

Talk amongst yourselves now!!!

Book for March 15 is Meet Kit (pre BeForever version), book for April 15 is Isabelle, book for May 15 is Meet Marie-Grace.

emily 5
My own Lanie and Emily!

 

What a difference a year makes!

This isn’t what I had originally planned on posting this week, but forces of nature were working against me. Primarily allergies. I don’t usually have problems with fall allergies, but this year has been a definite exception. My eyes are killing me, and I feel generally cruddy at the moment. When I feel cruddy I can still write, but trying to take any photos is another story! My eyes feel like they are on fire and have sand in them, and that’s even after using my allergy eye drops. Let’s just say they are as red as…Maryellen’s Christmas cookie cutters. So instead of my usual post full of photos, I decided to take this “opportunity” to write about something else I find interesting.

Has anyone else noticed the lack of information or leaks about the Girl Of The Year 2017??? I did a little bit of checking around through bleary eyes from posts by other bloggers from a year ago, and we knew quite a bit about Lea at this point. We even knew a lot about Melody who wasn’t going to be released for quite some time. And here we are, on November 11th, and we know next to nothing. There has been some speculation and a few items that people have found on Ebay that might be for a new doll, but nothing very concrete. What has changed?

I think there were enough people who, like myself, were getting tired of the leaks. I’ve often speculated about such so-called “leaks” and wondered if in fact they were done deliberately by American Girl in hopes of generating hype. If they did, it backfired on a tremendous scale. Once the initial excitement over Lea had passed, she ended up being just an average doll in respect to sales. In all honesty, I don’t think she did all that well after the first week of the year. I thought it very odd that they ran package deals and sales on her items within the first quarter of the year. It was good for me, I got her and a number of her accessories at a nice discount, and I was happy, but definitely not a great thing for the AG bottom line. I think what happened is that by the time she came out, everyone was a bit tired of the whole thing and rebelled.

Then there was Melody. Again, many items leaked from various sources at this time of year, and she wasn’t to come out until August! American Girl did do something unprecedented by releasing a promotional video of her several months before her release, putting to rest all of the hype and speculation. I was thrilled at this because it meant that everyone got to see everything at the same time. None of the “I know something you don’t”. I thought this was a brilliant marketing move, and I think it was very successful.

On the other side, there is the legal issue. If in fact the leaks we got so used to seeing weren’t done deliberately by American Girl, it means that someone was doing something illegal and unethical. We all know that the majority of items in the AG line are made in China. China is well known as a hotbed of counterfeit goods and unethical business practices. It’s long been suspected that many of the items that turned up on Ebay were either prototype items or items that didn’t pass quality control, snuck out and sold by factory workers. If this was the case, I suspect that American Girl ramped up their legal team, and these factories were threatened with cancellation of contracts. Releasing these items this way would have been a huge violation of any secrecy/confidentiality clauses in the contracts and could have resulted in massive litigation and loss of business for the factories making these items. I don’t know that I would want to mess with Mattel when it comes to something like that. The makers of the original Bratz dolls found out the hard way and found themselves with product they weren’t allowed to sell for many years.

Personally, I’m happy that we aren’t getting to see all of this stuff way in advance. A perfect example of how well this has turned out is the camper that was released earlier this year. No one knew a thing about it, so it was a true surprise when it came out. And sales were very good on it, causing it to go on backorder several times over the summer. I know that I literally gasped when I saw it on the first day of the release and was super excited about it. I don’t know that I would have had that same level of excitement had I known about it in advance. The new clothing sold as individual pieces was another fantastic surprise. Since that release, we’ve had a number of surprises. Unlike some people, I like surprise. It takes me back to when I was a kid and we’d get the Christmas catalog in the mail. I would spend hours pouring over it, not just picking out the things I wanted, but checking out all of the new items that were now available. There is something to be said for delayed gratification, something we’ve forgotten about in our digital, instantly available world.

So what does 2017 bring? We really don’t know! Much like what our country as a whole is facing come January 1st, the doll world and especially American Girl at the moment is still a big question mark. I think it’s an exciting time, and gives us something to look forward to. So many questions and so few answers. In the words of Martha Stewart: “It’s a Good Thing!”