Bad Kitty: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bade Kitty by Michele JaffeThe phrase laugh out loud isn’t used that often now that “lol” has flooded the Internet in a big way. Personally, I think that’s a loss. It’s also a subject for a different kind of post though. My point here is that people don’t often talk about things that really make them laugh out loud–literally laughing, out loud. Bad Kitty (2006) by Michele Jaffe is a novel that had me laughing for most of it. It also has the distinction of having zero one star reviews on And, to make it even cooler, Bad Kitty is also my latest CLW selection.

Bad Kitty is Michele Jaffe’s first novel for a young adult audience. (She is also the author of several novels for adults including Bad Girl and Loverboy.) The story starts when Jasmine Callihan and her family are vacationing at a posh hotel in Las Vegas.

Jasmine believes that everyone has a superpower. For instance, her best friend Polly has an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion. And Jasmine’s stepmother, Sherri!, is impossible to hate. As for Jas’ own superpower, well, she isn’t really sure yet. (Though, if readers like Jasmine anywhere as much as I do, they might have their own ideas at the end of the novel.) She has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And cats really like her.

Unfortunately, those things together lead to nothing but trouble for Jasmine. It all starts when a psychotic cat (followed by a psychotic man in a mesh shirt) chase Jasmine around the resort. Soon, Jasmine finds herself in the middle of a mystery involving the psychotic, three-legged, cat and his family. The story here is zany and fun as Jasmine and her friends run around trying to solve the case in spite of the annoying presence of Jasmine’s evil cousin Alyson and her evil hench Veronique. Another annoying presence is that of Jasmine’s father who is determined to keep Jasmine’s dream of fighting crime just that–a dream. Despite her father’s discouragement Jasmine manages to conduct her investigation, albeit with untraditional tools like eyeshadow instead of conventional fingerprint dust.

Some book characters are flesh and blood–others are more pen and ink. Bad Kitty is definitely what I would term a cartoon-ish novel, but in the best way. The story is peppered with Jasmine’s material for her Meaningful Reflection Journal, preparation for writing college essays next year, including Little Life Lessons as well as some very entertaining haikus (“Cute guy at Snack Hut / Why won’t you remove your shirt? / It’s so hot (you too)”).

Bad Kitty is basically an amalgamation of a lot of different genres. It has some teen romance, some mystery/suspense, and a lot of comedy. A lot of times, that doesn’t all come together to make a decent novel–with “Bad Kitty” it does. The novel is very similar to Meg Cabot’s latest Jinx with semi-obvious romantic subplot and the foreshadowing, but Jaffe does it better. Strongly recommended for anyone who likes “classic” chick lit.

Possible Pairings: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day, Drawing a Blank by Daniel Ehrenhaft, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, Fracture by Megan Miranda, The Devil and Winnie Flynn by Micol Ostow and David Ostow, CSI (television series)

“It’s not rocket science, it’s library science.”

I spent most of today in a highly elevated state of panic. The beauty of it is that there isn’t really any reason to stress. I don’t even know why I got so worked up.

I should have known that it was going to be a bad day, though, when I found this email in my inbox from my school’s library:

“You have “requested” 8 books from our collection. I want you to know that we have open stacks and expect the students to get the books themselves. The “REQUEST” button is there to make it possible for students from the other Pace libraries to request our books (and vice versa). This time we will get the books for you and put them on the Hold shelf, but for the future – please get them yourself. Actually it is to your advantage to search the stacks yourself, because often you can find books that you did not find in your catalog searching, and which are better suited to your needs.”

I have been ranting about this all day, but this is the last time I will bring it up. All I want to say is this: I go to a commuter school. Almost no one dorms on campus. I also work. So tell me, when was I supposed to go and get them? Isn’t the whole point of requesting a book to make sure they are available when you need them? (This aside from the fact that I have gone to the library before not finding the books I wanted from the catalog because they were in shelf limbo.)

(Incidentally, I read that after my toaster oven basically attacked me. Part of a poptart got stuck in the toaster and while trying to extricate it the toaster rack managed to bump the inside of my wrist. Surprisingly breakfast lost its appeal after all that.)

Things did not greatly improve at work (where I was all day, further preventing me from going to the damn shelves myself!). I stepped into the middle of some drama between librarians, so I had to listen to both side. A colleague from whom I desperately need a letter was not at work (after being incognito since Saturday). The last straw was when I had to hunt someone down to help me send a fax. I don’t know why, but it was just too much. Then, of course, as a result of all this panicking I began to wonder why I was contemplating working full time and going to grad school–how would I manage that if I couldn’t even remain calm on a relatively mellow day?

No worries, though. Everything more or less worked out. As the day progressed I started to feel more, if not completely calm. During a lull I was quizzing GC on his opinion of Pratt as a library school (he, along with at least three other librarians I know, went to Pratt for library school). His response, in his odd wisdom, was that it was a cakewalk and if you just want to get the degree and get on with your life it was the place to go.

GC went on to say: “It’s not rocket science, it’s library science.”

Aside from screaming to be on a t-shirt, that aphorism gave me some perspective. Everything is relative and, in the Grand Scheme of Things, my problems are not only small but also easily resolved. Everything will be all right. If it’s not all right yet, that just means I’m not done yet.

On using swear words when writing

Always assume your writing will be read in front of a large audience that includes your mother and her eighty-year-old aunt. If, given that context, you still feel comfortable including a variety of swear words, feel free.

Now I really have to find something productive to do.

Books can be the new Internet if they try harder

You wouldn’t think a 4000 character essay could take the better part of an evening to write, but it did. Here’s an exclusive look at part of that application I keep whining about (a look at an important problem for Americans today): Continue reading Books can be the new Internet if they try harder

Murmurings about scholarships

A quick review: I got accepted to Pratt for library school earlier this month. I’m really excited, but I also know Pratt is going to be really expensive. So I started looking for scholarships (there was no time to look for them before I was accepted because I was too busy working on the application and, you know, being in school and working). For reasons that may never become clear, graduate level scholarships like March deadlines. It’s mid-February. That’s why I sound like someone on the edge.

To make it all even better, I found a scholarship on Friday with a deadline in a week. So I have a week to get together a competent application including: four essays, “narrative autobiography,” recommendations,  and a promise to sell my soul to the scholarship organizers (not really, just a financial dossier for myself and my entire family).  Just a little bit stressed by that (in addition to finishing undergrad, working, and contemplating a job change come May).

How I Live Now: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

How I Live Now by Meg RosoffHow I Live Now (2004) is Meg Rosoff’s first novel. It is a Printz Award winner (an award for excellence in young adult literature), the Branford Boase Award for a first novel, as well as the Guardian award for Children’s Literature.

Find it on Bookshop.

My only issue is with the last award because there is no way that How I Live Now could be considered a children’s book no matter how the term “children” is defined. Some reviews on Amazon suggested this book for readers age twelve and up. Personally, I feel that is inappropriate for a wide variety of reasons (I concur with a review that place the book as more fit for fourteen and up if not older) but of course it depends on the child and their reading level. I suspect this is a book protective parents might want to preview, or at least research, if their household is one where an adult has to approve the child’s reading material.

Okay, so now you’re either totally horrified or completely fascinated and want to know more. Here’s the plot: The novel starts when fifteen-year-old Daisy is exiled by her father and step-mother to rural England where she is sent to live with her aunt and cousins. Things begin to look up for Daisy (a narrator who is, at best, troubled) in England as she gets to know her extended family and gets some distance from the negativity of her life in New York.

That is, until the unthinkable happens. When unidentified invaders attack and occupy England Daisy’s life (along with everyone else’) is turned upside down. That’s all well and good. But there’s more to it than that. Daisy also begins a passionate, secret, relationship with Edmond–her cousin. That’s right, incestuous.

I’ve thought about this plot point since reading the novel and I do see how Daisy and Edmond being in love was pivotal to the way things went down in the novel. But I still don’t understand why they had to be related. There are so many other, simpler, methods of creating that kind of connection between characters than using incest. Appropriateness aside, it just doesn’t make sense.

Other reviewers suggest this novel is written in the near future, but really it doesn’t read that way. It reads like it’s written now. That’s what makes the plot so haunting. Unfortunately it’s also what makes the plot seem contrived. Perhaps Daisy’s reality is closer than I’d like to admit, but the war angle kept seeming unreal (not surreal, just not real). The absence of details, while maintaining the terror of the unknown, was also counterproductive in establishing an authentic enemy.

The novel is also written as continuous prose, meaning there are no formatting breaks for dialogue (although paragraphs do still factor). This isn’t my favorite style for literature, but it does work with the idea that Daisy is literally telling readers the story.

I didn’t love this book. The truth is, after writing this review, I begin to wonder if I liked it. But that isn’t to say that Daisy (and her younger cousin Piper) are not strong characters. Daisy may not make decisions that many people would agree with, but she does act on what she thinks is right (or at least on what she feels she has to do).

The strongest part of the novel is the middle where the incest doesn’t loom large and before the ending seems to cut everything short, much in the way resolutions can put a stop to events in real life. This middle ground focuses on Daisy and Piper trying to survive in a world they don’t always recognize. The title, comes from this scenario as readers watch Daisy and the rest of the world adapt to life during (and after) the war.

And frankly, despite my criticisms here, Rosoff does have some really nice lines. She writes with a sincerity that makes you really want to believe Daisy knows what she’s doing (in the sense that it makes sense) with Edmond, and with her earlier issues with Bulimia (see why I said she was troubled?).

In summary, there was a lot I didn’t like about this book. Being unfamiliar with the other candidates for that year, I can’t say if How I Live Now was the best choice for a Printz Award. What I can say is that Rosoff does have a way with words which may, in my view at least, be able to better shine in a novel that isn’t quite so edgy.

I’ll leave you now with a few of the quotes I jotted down after my reading of the novel:

“The real truth is that the war didn’t have much to do with it except that it provided a perfect limbo in which two people who were too young and too related could start kissing without anything or anyone making us stop.”

“I didn’t seem to have that effect on anyone but it would have been a waste for both of us to be saints.”

“I frightened myself. I became the ghost Piper was so scared of.”

Possible Pairings: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Green Angel by Alice Hoffman, The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld

Connecting the dots

Operation Fund Library School has been kind of hectic. I really hate scholarship applications because they get me irrationally stressed about, well, everything. All of the ones I’ve been finding also have deadlines in the next month which doesn’t help.

But things are finally in what I would call order. Stuff is being submitted, balls are rolling, and change is coming.

I think I might even be ready for it.

My Sister Gracie: A picture book review


My Sister Gracie by Gillian JohnsonMy Sister Gracie is a picture book written and illustrated by Gillian Johnson (originally published in 2005). The book is ostensibly about a lonely dog but, as is the case with any good book (picture or otherwise) it’s also about a lot more.

The story starts with Fabio. Fabio has a pretty good life for a dog. Loving family, friends, and lots of toys. But Fabio wants more. To be precise, he wants a brother to play with and share his fun with. As Fabio languishes in the house, his family agrees that Fabio needs a companion. But things don’t go quite as planned.

Instead of the mini-Fabio he was hoping for, Fabio’s family brings home Gracie–Fabio’s new sister! Gracie came from the pound. She’s old, tired, shy (and a little weird looking). Nothing like the sprightly companion Fabio had in mind. Certainly not an appropriate addition to his family. Too bad Fabio is the only one who thinks so.

Things only get worse when Fabio and Gracie travel the neighborhood and meet some of Fabio’s friends. At least until Fabio realizes that not being able to pick your family doesn’t make them any less important.

More perceptive readers than me may have already picked up on the fact that this book would be good for young children expecting a new sibling in the near future. (I only realized that after reading the blurb.) Johnson uses Gracie’s arrival to show that new pets (and babies) aren’t very exciting playmates and that they need a lot of tender loving care. The book also shows that adopting dogs from a pound or shelter is a commitment. I haven’t fully worked out how yet, but I think this book could also work for children who want to get a new pet–but that might be for slightly older children since it’s a pretty abstract concept in relation to the crux of the book.

I love the illustrations for this book. I cannot, unfortunately, say what medium Johnson works in as I cannot find that information anywhere online but they look like pencil and ink to me. These drawings are cartoons in the best sense of the word. Fabio is a miniature poodle with what can only be described as a mohawk. And Gracie, well, Gracie is awesome (as is immediately apparent from the picture of her on the cover). Johnson’s illustrations, while simple, are rich with motion. You can almost see Gracie waddling along down the street beside Fabio’s staccato steps.

As if all of that isn’t cool enough, this book is also written in verse–rhyming verse. I’ve heard lots of different opinions on rhyming in poetry and picture books. Personally, I say if it works, it works. The rhyming works in My Sister Gracie adding a lot of rhythm and snap to this cute picture book. recommends this book for children ages three to five. I think the age might even extend slightly higher if a grown up wanted to talk about the “sibling angle” or the rhyme scheme found in the writing.

“Why do they do that? Because they’re evil.”

I usually work part time but this semester because of my school schedule I have to work 9 to 5 one day a week (sometimes literally, sometimes 10 to 6). Anyway, when I’m at work for so long I end up having more time to talk to people. Which I try to take advantage of whenever possible. Today that translated to talking to Amy about cats.

Miss Print: “I want to like cats. But they scare me. A cat I used to watch attacked me once.”

Amy: “Yes. They turn on you.”

Miss Print: “Yeah. I would tell people about it and they’d be like ‘oh yeah cats do that.’ Then I’d remind them it wasn’t my cat and it attacked me.”

Amy: “Yeah. Why do they do that? Because they’re evil.”

Finally, someone who understands.

Kitsch and Chocolate

I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a very pleasant Valentine’s despite being single. I hope everyone (attached or not) made the most of a day that basically demands kitsch and chocolate. I know I did (:

I helped with the Children’s “Captain Underpants *hearts* Babymouse” party, which I think everyone agrees went off without a hitch and was a resounding success (as most of Lea’s events are I dare say).  I helped kids make mouse ears while being blinded by the projector displaying trivia on the wall behind my station.  There was also an underwear decorating station as well as cupcakes and games. Everything a good party needs really.

Highlights include “Ralph” sitting on a whoopee cushion only to have it explode (and get dust all over the back of his pants), daring “Julie” to get Ralph and “GC” to wear mouse ears (she was successful although both men made their dissatisfaction clear with pretty prominent scowls), and watching game hijinks (near the end of the party some of the kids lost it and were posing as targets for a “knock down” type game).

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m pretty certain that there’s no better way to spend such a silly holiday than wearing mouse ears while helping children make their own.

Eat a piece of chocolate for me ;)