Bern Michaels is probably just as good . . .

I was talking to my new best friend/children’s librarian at Mu “Tori” the other day about her last courses in library school.

Tori: “I’m taking adult advisory so that next time I’ll know that Bern Michaels is actually Fern Michaels.”

Miss Print: “Ouch.”

Tori: “I took the patron at is word.” [Always the first mistake.]

Exclusive Bonus Content: Later another coworker, call her “Susan”, asked me what my library specialty would be. Since I’m in the Library Media Specialist track, the answer is children and young adult services at this point. Which got me a high five (both hands!) from Tori. That’s how cool I am. Oh yeah.

School and Work: Finding the right balance

I have all of this paper and junk on my desk thanks to orientation at Pratt. I’m not sure what to do with all of it because some of it needs to be kept for a while. I think I need a new filing system, but am not sure what would work better.

I’m taking three courses this semester and working part-time at my same old job. I was explaining as much to a fellow coworker the other day while helping a patron.

Miss Print: “I figure that school should take precedent over work for the time being.”

Patron: “Good idea.”

So, there you have it.

Chick Lit Wednesday: One Year Later

It’s not actually Wednesday, but the Chick Lit Wednesday (CLW) section of this blog is one year old today and that’s worth celebrating even if it is Friday. CLW has changed a lot since I first started, so I decided now would be a good time to explain my current vision for these reviews.

Originally, as my inaugural post states, I had pretty specific ideas about Chick Lit Wednesday Reviews:

I decided to start a theme day in my blog. You can expect my usual cryptic blogs about life as well as other reviews. But every Wednesday (in theory at least) you can also watch for a review of a book that I have deemed to fall in the “chick lit” literary genre. What does that mean exactly? Books that I love and that are awesome but which I would not force a guy friend to read because they’d probably hurt me.

Another unspoken rule in the beginning was that the book had to be written by a woman and it had to feature a strong female character.

Over the past year, though, my guidelines have evolved. I do post a review almost every week and date it for Wednesday, but sometimes the posts do come later in the week. In order to deal with logistical problems I lifted my women author’s only rule. There are a lot of great books written by men with strong female characters, who am I to ignore them here? (Aside from the fact it greatly broadens my review options.)

Finally, the most important change is in regards to my entire definition of “Chick Lit.” Initially, I was reviewing books specifically targeted at female readers. Somewhere along the way, I decided that there should be more to chick lit. So, when you see the term on this blog, I’m not referring to a romance novel or the next Bridget Jones (although sometimes I am). Rather, these posts are meant to exhibit books that I think have positive images for girls of strong, proactive female heroines in charge of their own stories (or not if it’s a negative review). In other words, this blog is trying to reclaim “chick lit” as a feminist term. I didn’t know it right away, but a lot of these ideas about chick lit gelled while I was writing an extended research paper about Ella Enchanted long before I started this blog. (It’s online, link furnished upon request.)

Anyway, I hope there are some regular readers out there who do watch for my next CLW post and do enjoy reading them. Cheers.

On Being Complicit

In short, it’s never a good idea.

Case in point:

My mom has a friend who passed away a couple years ago. This friend’s husband, let’s call him “Tim” from now on, has decided that since his wife is gone he might as well be friends with all of her friends. Which boils down to Tim ambushing us last year to talk about how awesome his wife was. And that’s true. But it’s still painful. Because she’s gone and we miss her. But then we didn’t see Tim for a whole year and it was fine.

Until this weekend. He called twice. We ignored him. He called again the next day worried that we might have moved. We ignored it. Two minutes later, our doorbell rang. My mom and I looked at each other. The television was off, we hadn’t been talking. We could pretend we weren’t home.

Except I had been about to leave for work.

Unsure what to do, my mom and I sat staring at each other for a few seconds. Then Mom started to worry.

“He might go around back and see us through the window. Let’s hide in the bedroom.”

So, there we were hiding in our bedroom (which has solid curtains as opposed to the sheer ones in the living room) wondering if he had gone yet. Would I need a disguise when I left for work? What would I say if he recognized me? Would he see me? Could I leave at all?

After some more waiting and discussion, I left. The coast was clear and all was well. But, remember, before you agree to be an accomplice be sure you know exactly what it entails.

The Hundred Secret Senses: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

 

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy TanWhile Amy Tan is an amazingly talented writer with a lot of great books under her belt, she is arguably most well known as the author of The Joy Luck Club, which I have yet to read. I did, however, read The Hundred Secret Senses (1996) not once but twice. (Find it on Bookshop.)

I almost never do that because the second reading just feels boring. However, that wasn’t the case with this book because it was so enjoyable and rich that rereading felt more like visiting old friends than rehashing something I already knew.

While on the subject of this novel’s freshness, it bears mention that some reviewers suggested The Hundred Secret Senses was little more than a rehash of previous, very similar, plots from her earlier books. Obviously, I can’t speak for The Joy Luck Club but I did read The Kitchen God’s Wife which had a similar theme but in my view an entirely different plot. I also happened to think this novel was the markedly better of the two.

Olivia’s mother is American, her father Chinese. She comes from a “traditional American family.” At least for the most part.  At the age of eighteen, Kwan entered the lives of Olivia (then four) and her family from her native China. Nothing about Kwan is American from her accent to her belief that she has yin eyes to see “those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin, ghosts who leave the mists just to visit her kitchen on Balboa Street in San Francisco.”

These ghosts are not only a fundamental part of the story but one of the main reasons Olivia can never truly get along with her older sister.

For a while, it seems like Olivia will be able to ignore Kwan’s eccentricities and lead her own, American, life. But the more Olivia hears, the more Kwan’s old ghosts stories intrigue her. Their enticement grows when Olivia unexpectedly finds herself traveling to China with her husband, Simon, and Kwan for a magazine assignment. As the three navigate Kwan’s childhood stomping grounds, surprising connections are made between the threesome and, amazingly, with one of Kwan’s ghost stories.

The novel chronicles Olivia’s relationship with Kwan as well as her early courtship and eventual estrangement from Simon. At the same time, in alternating chapters, The Hundred Secret Senses tells the story of one of Kwan’s past lives in China during the 1800s–a dramatic love story closely tied to Kwan’s (and Olivia’s) present lives.

Tan’s prose here is conversational and enticing, feeling like a friend telling a particularly juicy story at dinner or over the phone. The connections between past, present and the very distant past is seamless creating a tight narrative that, by the end of the book, weaves all aspects of the story together in a neat package.

At the same time, The Hundred Secret Senses offers an interesting commentary on assimilation and multi-cultuarism with both Olivia and Simon being half-white and half-Chinese. Although Olivia might be too old to say she comes of age in this novel, it would be fair to say she learns to accept her own identity by the novel’s completion.

While all of that makes for a dynamo on its own, my favorite aspect of this book is the way in which it deals with family relations both romantically (with Olivia and Simon) and otherwise (with Olivia and Kwan). The story ends with an optimism that suggests, if you are willing to see them, loved ones are never very far away.

Possible Pairings: The Ghost of Stony Clove by Eileen Charbonneau, Drown by Junot Diaz, The Namesake by Jhumpa Larhiri, Snowfall by K. M. Peyton

Zombies Search for Acceptance and Tolerance Instead of Brains in Generation Dead

Generation Dead cover (note the use of the entire dust jacket)In its Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that separate schools for black and white students were unconstitutional. The schools for whites were often superior to their counterparts for black students and consequently the separate schools offered very different educational opportunities. This ruling was key to the civil rights movement and efforts to end segregation.

On September 3, 1957, nine black students were barred from entry into Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. By September 23, after another court decision ruled that Arkansas’ governor could not keep them out, the Little Rock Nine were able to begin their school year in the white high school. President Eisenhower also sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to help protect the black students from harassment that ranged from insults to acid being thrown into one student’s face.

Eight of the Little Rock Nine finished the school year at the Central High. In May of 1958 Ernest Green graduated from the school, the only minority in his graduating class of 602 students.

Fifty years later, Daniel Waters’ debut novel Generation Dead (2008) offers a new take on integration and the fight for civil rights. Find it on Bookshop.

In Oakvale, Connecticut parents and students alike are worried about the new students transferring to Oakvale High to benefit from the school’s program of integration. Some of the new students are minorities, some of them are not. The reason all of the new students prove worrisome to some locals is more fundamental: The new students are dead.

All over the country, dead teenagers are waking up and rejoining the living—more or less. Called “living impaired” or “differently biotic” by a politically correct society, many of the undead kids prefer the term “zombie.” No one knows why some teenagers come back and some don’t. The only certainty is that everything changed the moment these zombies began trying to reconnect with the world of the living.

Unfortunately, some (living) people would prefer to have the zombies stay dead. Permanently. Everyone child knows that names can never hurt them, but for undead teens that don’t heal sticks and stones suddenly seem much more dangerous, especially when the government has no laws to protect differently biotic citizens. After all, citizenship is supposed to expire when the citizen does, isn’t it?

In Generation Dead integration doesn’t start with a court decision detailing undead rights. Instead it starts with Tommy Williams trying out for the football team. Dead for about a year, no one expects Tommy to survive tryouts, let alone make the team. Except that he does.

Suddenly, the zombies don’t seem quite so different. Phoebe Kendall, a traditionally biotic (albeit pale) student, realizes that better than anyone as she begins to observe Tommy and the other living impaired students at her school including Tommy and Karen (the girl featured on the novel’s cover and possibly this reviewer’s favorite character). The more Phoebe sees of zombies like Tommy and Karen, the more they seem like any normal teenager, well mostly.

No one questions Phoebe’s motivations for befriending Tommy until it begins to look like the two of them are more than friends. Margi, Phoebe’s best friend and fellow Goth, can’t understand what Phoebe could see in a dead boy. Every time her neighbor Adam sees Phoebe with Tommy, he can’t help but wonder why she doesn’t feel the same way about him when he’s actually alive.

Eventually Margi and Adam come around, forming their own tentative bonds with the zombies in their midst. Meanwhile, other students at Oakvale remain hostile. Determined to make sure that the dead students invading their school stay dead for good this time, they set a vicious plan into motion that will irrevocably change everything for Phoebe and her friends—dead and alive.

Written in the third person, Waters alternates viewpoints throughout the novel. Each of the main characters mentioned here, specifically Phoebe and Adam, have sections of the novel related from their perspective. The novel even features narration from one of the students strongly opposed to the zombie presence in Oakvale. This technique, aside from demonstrating Waters’ masterful writing skills, offers a fully informed perspective on the events of the novel with its variety of viewpoints.

Upon first glance, this book looks like a quirky but not necessarily serious book. A cover with a dead cheerleader wearing biker books can have that effect on readers. And yet, even though the story is about zombies, it isn’t just another fun book. Filled with smart writing and an utterly original story, Generation Dead also adds to the ongoing conversation about tolerance and equality suggesting that people often have more in common than not. Even with zombies.

(You can get even more of that zombie perspective at Tommy’s blog My So-Called Undeath.

Possible Pairings: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan, Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Hair, hair, beautiful hair

Surprisingly, this post was kind of requested a while back when I mentioned a desire to voice my opinions about long hair vs. short hair but refrained from doing so because it seemed not that interesting.

I grew up with short hair, but do occassionally get bored and grow my hair out. Then I get frustrated or bored again and cut it all off and donate the hair to Locks of Love. I’ve been going through this cycle for years.

My first theory is that the hair length a girl has as a child helps determine the hair they will have when they are older. I had short hair until I was old enough to tell my mom I wanted to let it grow, so I think I never really had a chance to learn how to have long hair properly. My hair is also thick so it’s just unbearably hot when I have long hair in the summer.

My second theory is that short hair falls in and out of favor which can also determine a person’s opinion on their own hair. Two years ago I let my hair grow partly because everyone I met had long hair. When I decided to cut my hair, I noticed that I was seeing a lot more short haired women around. Go figure.

Maintenance wise, it’s a no brainer. Short hair is better. Wash and go, sometimes not even needing a comb. That, I must admit, is how I prefer to roll. Even for special occassion hair.

Jennylish mentioned that she was letting her hair grow because of the patriarchy. Scouri said she prefers short hair for herself but noticed she got more catcalls with long hair. The most difference I see with altering hair lengths is people say I look younger with short hair. (I’m only 22 so, looking younger is really saying something.) In certain lengths that’s true, but I find I feel older with shorter hair because I often wear long hair in a ponytail or pigtails. I also feel cuter with short hair just because I don’t really need to do much to make a short haircut look good.

Which is why I have had my hair short for the past few years and have no plans to let it grow anytime soon. What about you, loyal readers, what kind of hair do you prefer?

Imaginary Friends

Sometimes I’ll hear about people and think they’re not real. Usually online bloggers I find, but recently the really nice neighbors my mom told me about who were really nice, my age, and really eager to be friendly.

Then, after finally meeting one of the girls on my fourth attempt at a visit, I realized they were real. Just because a person is never home (even if they say they’re always home), it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Boy Proof: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Boy Proof by Cecil CastellucciCecil Castellucci‘s first novel for young adults was released in 2005. Since then Boy Proof (2006) has received a wide variety of accolades including selection as a Booksense 76 Children’s Pick, BBYA 2006 and a Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers by the American Library Association (ALA). Happily, Ms. Castellucci has continued to write teen books as well as graphic novels targeted at teens. There are a lot of books (and television adaptations) out there that detail the lifestyles of the young and beautiful people. Boy Proof offers something slightly different.

Victoria Jurgen, narrator of Boy Proof, would be the first to tell you that she is not beautiful (although she is young having skipped a grade she is a sixteen-year-old high school senior). Preferring the world of sci-fi movies for which her dad designs special effects and makeup, Victoria made a conscious choice to reinvent herself as her favorite character from “Terminal Earth.” Victoria is, therefore, no longer Victoria but Egg. She wears a cloak, has shaved her head as well as her eyebrows which she colors with orange makeup, and is determined to keep everyone at bay–no matter how much they might want to be friends, especially boys. In other words, Egg has worked to make herself boy proof.

At least, she thought she had until Max Carter starts at her school. In many ways, Max is the perfect counterpart to Egg, sharing her interest in the film industry (and sci-fi movies) as well as art, and acting as a good foil to her banter. But the harder Max tries to break into Egg’s world, the harder she fights back. When Max starts dating a less boy proof (and more boring) girl, and Egg’s own people–the members of her school’s sci-fi club–forsake her, Egg begins to realize that maybe being boy proof isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But after trying so hard to keep herself apart from, well, everyone, Egg has to think long and hard about how to get back in and what that might mean for a self-made loner.

I love this book. It’s one of the first I ever read that was written in the present tense which, at the time, seemed very original indeed (less so currently I muse admit) and made the narrative really grab readers’ attention. This novel is really something unique, Egg lives a fairly privileged life being the daughter of a famous actress and a special effects guru but instead of stopping there, Boy Proof really focuses on Egg and her interactions with people. Castellucci’s writing is excellent here creating a funny and compelling voice for Egg as well as a really enjoyable book.

Many other reviewers have said this novel is great for people who want to embrace their inner-geek, loners, and even tough girls. I’d go a step further: Boy Proof is a great book for readers trying to find themselves–even if they think they’ve already done that.

Possible Pairings: Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, Alter Ego: Avatar and Their Creators by Robbie Cooper, King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley, Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

The Superhero Handbook: A “non-fiction” review

The Superhero Handbook by Michael PowellIt might be easy to forget, but superheroes are not born super. In fact, they’re pretty normal at first. That’s why some of them, especially those lacking a Fortress of Solitude with a chatty hologram version of their biological father, need a little help learning the ropes. That’s where The Superhero Handbook (2005) by Michael Powell comes in.

Did you know that as a counterpoint to their impressive superhero exploits, many heroes spend their teen years as bumbling goofball misfit loners with some high-end eccentricities? That’s because there’s a fine balance between Superhero Awesomeness and Nerd Quotient—the apparent dorkiness that keeps a superhero’s identity safe. For instance if you wear glasses, constantly adjust them, and enjoy wearing t-shirts with words that aren’t brand names or band names, you might be a superhero waiting to happen.

Whether you are naturally amazing, have been sent here from a distant dying solar system, or just enjoy fooling around with radioactive slurry, this handy book can tell you everything you need to know about becoming a superhero—and saving the world. Broken into chapters with titles like Dreams of Destiny, Denting the Sidewalk, and You and Your Total Image this book includes everything you need to know and crucial advice about your early beginnings, finding a mentor, creating a persona, dealing with a fatal flaw and even how to decide if it’s time to hang up that cape. And, for any dark heroes in the crowd, there is also a section on the pitfalls of using your powers for evil. One being that stupidity or pride will always prevent super villains from fulfilling their true potential.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: There aren’t really superheroes out there, and they certainly wouldn’t use how-to manuals if there were, but isn’t it better to play it safe when the future of the human race could be hanging in the balance?

Possible Pairings: Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Watchmen by Alan Moore, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
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Sound good? Find it on Amazon: The Superhero Handbook