Blog Every Day April (BEDA)–I’m in, who’s with me?

Maureen Johnson recently posted on her site her plans to blog every day in April until the release of her book Suite Scarlett in paperback on May 1. From there the idea has become an acronymed movement in which I, among lots of others, have decided to participate.

The rules are simple: Blog every day in April. That’s it.

What that means is I will be posting something every day for a month. Some days that will be quotes, on others a book review, sometimes it might be me chatting. Anyway, it seems like it will be fun and an interesting experiment.

You can read more about the origins of BEDA on Maureen Johnson’s blog. You can view the network created to house interested BEDA participants over at Ning (while I am interested, the thought of joining another anything at this point makes me head spin too much to consider). And, of course, you can check back here in April to see a new post every day. Whoo boy.

“That’s just weird.”

Apparently some suburbs are wilder than others. And by wilder, I mean actually wild with wild animals.

Bear: “We had groundhogs where I grew up. And deer. And coyotes. And hens. And roosters.”

Miss Print: “Where the hell did you grow up?”

Bear: “The suburbs. Once this falcon swooped down and grabbed a dove.”

Miss Print: “I once saw a pigeon eating a chicken wing.”

Bear: “That’s just weird.”

“Name another animal.”

“Tori”: “Name an animal.”

Miss Print: “. . . Platypus?” [I still for the life of me don’t know why that was the first thing that came to mind. It doesn’t even make sense to me.]

Tori: “Uh. Name another animal.”

Miss Print: “Bear?”

Tori turns to “The Bear” and repeats the question.

Bear: “Ducks.”

Tori then reveals that she is deciding on a storytime theme (how cool would a platypus themed one have been?)

Miss Print: “Is that how you pick all of your themes?”

Tori: “Just some of them. I had wanted to do dragons but we didn’t have enough books.”

Bear: “What about Kimodo Dragons?”

Miss Print: “Those aren’t real dragons.”

Bear: “Well, no. But they are called dragons.”

North of Beautiful: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you’d probably think I was perfect.

North of Beautiful by Justina ChenAfter sixteen years, Terra Rose Cooper has mastered the fine art of hiding the cracks in the facade of her perfect life. Concealer and foundation quickly camouflage the port-wine stain on Terra’s cheek. A rigorous exercise regimen gives Terra control over her body that she never had over her face. It also makes sure her body is one that her boyfriend, a beautiful and popular jock himself, will definitely appreciate.

It’s harder to hide her family’s flaws; her father’s denigrating comments, her mother’s compulsive baking (and eating), the flight of her older brothers’ away from the family–and from their little sister. Terra is so focused on her plan to finish high school early and flee to an East Coast college that, sometimes, it’s easy to forget that she bears marks from the household as clear as any birthmark.

Terra’s dream of a fresh start as far away from her small town Washington life as possible is dashed when her father vetoes her escape plan. Terra’s one true refuge is in her art. While working on her collages, Terra doesn’t have to think about her father or worry about protecting her mother, she has the freedom not yet afforded by her real life.

Things begin to change when Terra and her mother (almost literally) run into Jacob and his family. At first it seems like Terra wouldn’t have anything in common with this sophisticated Goth boy who has found his way into her small town. Yet, he understands Terra in a way that no one ever has. Their chance meeting sets Terra on an unexpected path and helps her understand that you need to open your eyes before you can really see true beauty, in the eyes of the beholder or otherwise in North of Beautiful (2009) by Justina Chen.

Find it on Bookshop.

Not to be redundant, but North of Beautiful is a beautiful book. The cover design by Saho Fujii is perfect and truly encompasses the story and Terra’s character. The book design itself capitalized on the compass rose of the cover and works well with the story (broken into three parts each with cartographic terminology for a name–chapters also have similar names). Justina Chen Headley artfully blends Terra’s artistic personality with her background knowledge of cartography and maps, gained from her father and central to the plot, to create a uniquely informative and engaging narrative.

This book is a love story on many levels. First, in the conventional boy-meets-girl sense of the term. This novel is also Terra’s love story with herself as she learns to love herself and come to terms with her birthmark. But, for me, the big event in North of Beautiful was the fact that this was a love story about a mother and daughter.

Terra and her mother Lois are not close at the beginning of the novel. Terra can’t stand her mother’s quiet complacence to her father’s verbal abuse and criticisms. Worse, Terra feels sure that Lois has nothing useful to share with her. As the story progresses and Terra and Lois find themselves on a life-changing journey, Terra begins to see her mother in a new light and with a new respect.

North of Beautiful is, in fact, dedicated to the author’s own mother and with good reason. It is so easy to write books for teens that are depopulated of adults and feature parents in only brief appearances. Here, happily, that is not the case. Aside from Terra, Lois is arguably one of the most important characters in the entire story. Watching the healing process as Terra and Lois reconnect also made me feel incredibly grateful for and proud of my own mom.

Ultimately, aside from being one of my favorite books of 2009 (s0 far), North of Beautiful was incredibly uplifting. The beginning of the novel is not always easy to read. Terra’s home life is anything but happy, and Headley tackles the issue of verbal abuse (abuse without the telltale blows or shouts) head on. But that isn’t the main event here. Instead, the story is about how Terra and her mother move past that and build themselves back up. I’ll say it again, the story here was beautiful, and even I dare say life-affirming. Like Terra herself, readers will put down this book with a whole new outlook on . . . everything.

(Also, if you’ve read Headley’s other novels you might recognize some characters who make cameo appearances here!)

Possible Pairings: The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander, Skinny by Donna Crooner, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg, Miss Smithers by Susan Juby, Fix by Leslie Margolis, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

On creating a monster

It’s easier than one might think. Also starts with the best of intentions. Be wary.

Case in point:

In an unprecedented extension of my full disclosure policy, I told “The Bear” about my blog a while back. Unlike GC, who was a total pain about the whole thing, Bear was very amused and even went so far as to say the blog was well-written and akin to what one might find in a comic book.

That was then.

Bear is now obsessed with appearing on my blog. To the point that Bear often worries, aloud and repeatedly, that he might appear on my blog in a post proclaiming that he is an idiot (he is not and I would never say he was–particularly since it is not true). I keep saying that won’t happen. And he keeps asking if it will. And it’s my own damn fault for telling him about it in the first place.

I’m walking on sunshine (and don’t it feel good)

I am not ashamed to admit that one goal of this post’s title is to get that song stuck in someone’s head.

It’s been a while since I posted a chatty post. I am happy to report that I am no longer giving off sparks every time I touch anything, now it’s just sometimes. Small steps. This week did not start of awesome, but it ended that way. Here’s what happened:

I started the week (my spring break) in a bit of a funk after some research about Robin Hood. I had thought he was one of those legends who got to ride off into the proverbial sunset and was much aggrieved when I read on Wikipedia that he was, most often, killed by an angry Prioress during a bloodletting procedure. I have not found anyone who shares my level of outrage but just trust me, that ending is outrageous. This Robin Hood jag led me to conclude that I never want to read a Robin Hood legend ever again but renewed my interested in finishing the Robin Hood themed cross stitch I have been working on for a million years (like, literally).

In other not awesome news, I completely destroyed the heels of both feet with a series of ill-advised shoes. They are healed now, mostly, and I procured some backless shoes (my first pair of clogs!) to prevent further mishaps. I also completed my taxes and finally worked that deduction magic that everyone else seemed to know about already.

Now we get to why the week (and actually much of this month) has been awesome.

First of all, this developed a couple weeks ago but I never got around to mentioning it. Through a series of fortuitous events and connections I now have a new blog over at NYPL’s official website. (Here are the details on that initiative.) That blog just has the book-related content from this blog, but it’s still rather exciting for me so I thought I’d share. I also think the new blog is affecting this blog’s search ranking which is boring to everyone else but I find it fascinating to monitor the jump in blog views. I’m not sure why–maybe I have an inner statistician?

I’ve also been getting a lot of reading done, which generally pleases me because, as my alias and career path suggest, I kind of like books. A lot.

Last Wednesday I reviewed Girl Overboard which was a really great book and my review got a really great comment from the author (who is also really great). And all of that made me really happy.

Then, this weekend was the Whole Bead Show which my Mom and I missed last time around. This event has been in my calendar since last year so I was really excited when it was beautiful weather the day we visited. We had a great time looking at all of the nifty beads and jewelery items for sale and even found some new inventory for our own online stores.

To make the weekend even more awesome (hardly possible, I know), today was the Biggest Teen Author Signing Ever! at Books of Wonder–the last event of the NYC Teen Author Festival. I’ve been looking forward to this signing for two weeks even though I knew I’d be going alone and was kind of worried I’d look weird for (a) not being a teen and (b) for being by myself.

I had never been to Books of Wonder but I’m glad I ventured over there because the store is really neat–very like the store that Meg Ryan’s character owned in You’ve Got Mail. The event was insanely crowded, so no one really noticed who I was with (or not with) anyway, although one of the authors (SCOTT WESTERFELD!) might have noticed that I was not a teen since he asked if I was a librarian–or perhaps I already project that elusive hip librarian vibe?

Anyway, it was really fun to be bumped and jostled by all of these really famous teen authors. Plus I got books signed by Maureen Johnson(!), Judy Blundell, SCOTT WESTERFELD, and Lisa Ann Sandell. It was just a great end to my mini-vacation from school. Especially when I stumbled upon the adjacent cupcake cafe where I got some delicious cupcakes to share with Mom once I got home with all of my loot.

Where we proceeded to FINALLY watch WALL-E!!!! (Which was as awesome as I knew it would be from the moment I saw the trailer, before any of my friends would agree with me.)

In summary, this week = EPIC WIN.

Girl Overboard: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Girl Overboard by Justina ChenIf nothing else, the Chengs know how to save face. So to everyone else, Syrah Cheng’s life looks like a dream come true. Her father is a billionaire, her mother is beautiful and always buying her fancy clothes (and custom-designed snowboarding gear). Between that and the mansion and private jet, it really seems like Syrah has it all. But . . .

The worst part of having it all is having to deal with it all–the good, the bad, and the just plain weird.

Syrah knows better than most that appearances can be deceiving. She almost never sees her parents, her half-siblings hate her, and it turns out real friends are not that easy to find when you can buy everything else. What Syrah doesn’t know is how to change any of that, especially when she’s been deceiving herself for so long.

Girl Overboard (2007) is Justina Chen Headley‘s second novel (following Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) from 2006). The writing here is snappy and really moves the text along, so much so that the story very quickly demanded my full attention to better catch the nuances of Syrah’s narration. The writing here is also grittier than a lot of books I have read lately. Syrah’s loneliness and depression are so tangible in the early stages of the book that, at times, reading it was painful.

After years of being a loner with a one-track mind for snowboarding, Syrah’s snowboarding accident and resulting knee injury force her to look at her entire life in a new light. If one bad accident can leave Syrah terrified of her chilly home away from home, what else has Syrah misinterpreted? It turns out the answer is a lot.

This book deals with many themes in addition to snowboarding and overcoming a really scary injury (partly inspired by the author’s own bogus wipeout). A first-generation American herself, Syrah’s family still bears the scars of their past in China during the Cultural Revolution. The story also provides an interesting commentary on the cost of keeping up appearances and friendship. At its core though, Girl Overboard is about a girl who has found herself adrift and, while trying to get her own bearings, realizes she can help those around her at the same time.

In this novel Headley spends a lot of time in Syrah’s head, partly because the book is narrated in the first person, but also because Syrah is a solitary creature–especially after her Accident. For this reason, Headley is really able to trace Syrah’s growth as a character. At the beginning of the novel Syrah is lonely, sad, and desperate for a way out of her life. But as the story progresses, Syrah learns that before you can ask for help you have to think you deserve it. In fact, you have to think you deserve it all because if you don’t who will?

In short, Girl Overboard is the latest example of what a CLW book should be not just because Syrah Cheng is an awesome, strong girl but because this book details how she became that girl.

Possible Pairings: King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

“This is going on your blog, isn’t it?”

After a conversation about yet another ridiculous thing:

Bear: “I don’t make this stuff up.”

Miss Print: “I know. I haven’t decided yet if that makes it better or worse.”

“Materializing cheese burgers”

Miss Print: “Gah. It’s four am.”

Mom: “Why are you still up?”

Miss Print: “I don’t know. Why are you?”

Mom: “I’m hungry.”

Miss Print: “Most people would get food then.”

Mom: “It’s not my way.”

Miss Print: “Or at least tell their daughter what they want to eat. What do you do just materialize cheese burgers?”

Mom: “That would be great.”

Miss Print: “Would it be less great if it only worked for burgers?”

Mom: “Maybe.”

Clementine’s Letter: A Chick Lit Wednesday review

Clementine's Letter by Sarah Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla FrazeeSince her introduction, Clementine has colored both her and best friend Margaret’s heads with permanent markers, saved her school talent show from catastrophe, and been sent to the principal’s office so many times that she knows the way pretty much by heart. In Clementine’s Letter (2008) by Sara Pennypacker (with the ever-lovely illustrations by Marla Frazee), Clementine is actually hoping for some catastrophe.

Find it on Bookshop.

Clementine is finally getting the hang of third grade with the help of her teacher Mr. D’Matz. But when her class finds out that Mr. D’Matz might be leaving in the middle of the year to go on a research trip to Egypt, Clementine knows she’ll never be able to make it through the rest of the year–especially when she can’t seem to do anything right for her new substitute.

After thinking things through, Clementine decides that Mr. D’Matz needs to keep his promise to teach her and her class for the rest of the year. And he probably doesn’t really want to go to Egypt anyway. So Clementine starts making her own plans to make sure Mr. D’Matz won’t leave. After all, it isn’t really sabotage if he doesn’t want to go, right?

Clemetine’s Letter is all about decisions and thinking things through. What starts as an ill-thought out letter to keep her teacher away from Egypt turns into a lesson that, sometimes, if you really care about someone you have to let them leave.

This story references events from the first two books (Clementine from 2006 and The Talented Clementine from 2007) but stands on its own quite easily. Clementine is as entertaining as ever with her own unique brand of humor, although I still worry about the emphasis on her getting into trouble at school so much (some reviewers posit that Clementine has ADD, I posit that she is a creative type in a school that doesn’t really get her). Margaret’s own ticks about germs and dirt also seemed to be much more prevalent than in the first books.

The story isn’t quite as funny as the first, perhaps because Clementine’s distress over her teacher seems more real and pressing than her issues in the first two books. The ending also felt somewhat more abrupt. Regardless, Clementine remains an effervescent, awesome character good for kids of all ages (even reluctant readers thanks to the brevity of the text and the excellent illustrations).