Blog Birthday Book Giveaway[CLOSED]

This blog will be two years old in a matter of weeks. I had been toying with the idea of celebrating with a party or a book giveaway when, lo and behold, the opportunity to host one fell into my lap.

I have two copies of Mary Jane Clark’s new mystery Dying for Mercy (2009) to give away here on the blog.

It should be noted that this is kind of like a sponsored event in that I was offered the books to give away. I have not read the book and know little about it except that it’s just been published and is receiving good reviews so far on Amazon.

To enter for a chance to win, simply identify the mystery image below in a comment:

mystery image

I will be accepting entries until August 8. The first to correctly identify the title/artist will win the books. (You can submit knowing just the artist, I’m not sure how fast people will be able to ID the title.)

UPDATE: There is still one book in the giveaway. Also here is a HINT: You might find the information you need at The Modern Museum of Art’s website.

UPDATE: This giveaway is closed congratulations to the winners.

You can view the official trailer for the book below:

Gossip Girl: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Gossip Girl by Cecily von ZiegesarCecily von Ziegesar‘s Gossip Girl (2002) was an unprecedented sensation in the publishing world when it first came out. This first book in an eleven book series (eight if you’re only counting the ones von Ziegesar actually wrote) showed publishers that teen paperback series books were still viable–something no one believed possible since the Sweet Valley High books of the 1980s. Since then the franchise has spawned its own TV show, several spin-off books, and the inimitable and insane What Chuck Wore.

On the upper East side, the usual rules don’t apply. Life is a party and Gossip Girl is ready and waiting to tell you all of the scandalous details about every sensational guest. After all, when everything you’ve ever wanted has been given to you on a silver platter what else is there to do?

When glamorous and ethereal Serena van der Woodsen returns to her home from a failed attempt at boarding school, she is ready to return to the fab party life she shared with best friend Blair Waldorf. But Blair has gotten used to being the center of attention in Serena’s absence. When the two girls are reunited get ready for some catty conversations, an uneasy love triangle (or two!), lots of other juicy gossip.

Other thoughts:

After reading the first book in the series, I find myself torn as to my feelings about the series. On one hand, I find it strange that the author does not own the copyright, enabling the various spin offs written by ghost writers. On the other hand, it was a fun book.

My main problem with the books, and the reason I might not read the rest of the series, is that the characters were all a bit too ambiguous. Serena is adorably dim for most of the book but, really, is anyone ever that clueless? Even if they are insanely rich? I wanted to like Blair and root for her throughout the book but she was such a jerk to Serena that it became frustrating. Why not just explain things to Serena? Then there’s Vanessa who I wanted to like even more than Blair but then she got all petty while casting her movie. Way to compromise that artistic integrity! I’m not even going to waste time mentioning the guys because they were all losers.

Possible Pairings: Truth or Dare by Jacqueline Green; Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley; Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor; Anna K.: A Love Story by Jenny Lee; The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee; Bliss by Lauren Myracle; The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle; Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard; Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen; Gossip Girl (television series); What Chuck Wore

“No. They literally give me their garbage.”

Talking to my mom after work:

Miss Print: “I’m tired of people giving me their garbage at work.”

Mom: “People you work with?”

Miss Print: “No. Patrons.”

Mom: “Well, that’s just part of your job. Just don’t fixate on it.”

Miss Print: . . . “No. They literally give me their garbage. To throw out for them.”

Mom: “Oh! That’s disgusting.”

Miss Print: “Yeah. They give me the reserve slips from their books all crumbled up and ask me to throw them out. Where else would that ever be acceptable?”

Mom: “Nowhere. Say no. Tell them there are garbage pails all around the library.”

Miss Print: “People get really annoyed when I do that.”

Dramacon Vol. 1: A Graphic Novel/Comic Book (Chick Lit Wednesday) Review

Dramacon Volume One coverChristie isn’t sure what to think at her first comic convention in Dramacon Vol. 1 (2005) by Svetlana Chmakova. (Find it on Bookshop.) She’s excited for a chance to exhibit the comic that she writes and her boyfriend illustrates. But when they get to the comic-con, it turns out nothing is what Christie expected.

Her boyfriend is a jerk. He says he’s flirting so that more girls will buy their comic buy Christie isn’t so sure–especially with the way he keeps leaving her alone for long periods at a time. Then there’s the mysterious cosplayer who keeps popping up when Christie needs him and seems to understand her better than her boyfriend ever will. Christie tries to make sense of her mixed feelings about the con and her love life in the foreground of a story that offers a tantalizing behind-the-scenes look at an convention no one is likely to forget!

Manga always gets a bad rap as the the “junk food” of the comic/graphic novel world. Truth be told, the junk food analogy always seems ridiculous when applied to books. Reading is reading and, frankly, I’d rather see someone reading manga or Goosebumps or whatever than not reading at all. Furthermore, I challenge anyone to find a better format for reluctant readers. If I could read Dramacon in a day I’m sure a reluctant reader could motor through it just as easily. And what is more thrilling for a kid who thinks they are a “slow” reader or who doesn’t like reading than to find a title they can plow through?

That said, Dramacon is also a really delightful story that is cute, peppy and will leave you smiling. This crazy sense of optimism and cheer permeates the book that will make it impossible to feel gloomy while reading it–really! (And the artwork is really great and well-plotted besides!)

The first in a three volume series, Chmakova gives readers action, romance and a surprising amount of character development given the relatively short format. Christie and her zany cohorts are really charming characters that I can’t wait to read more about.

The crossover potential is also huge because Dramacon covers so many topics: comic conventions, cosplay, relationships, coming of age, and even rape are all briefly (tactfully) touched upon here. Girls might gravitate to the pink cover, but boys are sure to appreciate Matt’s brooding, macho character. Dramacon is, basically, one of those mangas that can literally appeal to everyone.

The swami and the wizard

I had to observe a professional storytelling program for my recently completed class. I went to a program held at the Hans Christian Andersen statue in Central Park. Getting to the program could arguably be another post all by itself–but it’s not the point of this one. The point is also not my opinions of the program itself, even though I had several.

Rather, it is about the wizard.

You see, during most of the program I was very distracted by a black man sitting on a bench to the side of the program area. He was wearing wizardly robes and a pointy had along with white hair that was probably a wig. I kept peering at him during the program expecting him to get up and take part any minute. But he didn’t. He just sat on his bench holding his wooden staff. I began to think that, perhaps, this was just regular clothing for him and he had no part in the program at all.

In a way I was right. And wrong. At the end of the program a swami (really) stood up and announced that he had brought the wizard (Wizard Blackthorn of Central Park) to tell a few stories and that he might also share some stories of the Eastern tradition after the wizard had finished with his medeival stories. In effect the swami and the wizard hijacked the storytelling program. It was very strange. And I still crack up a bit when I think about it.

“He’s so much more.”

I’m just going to say it, I’m not a big fan of Philip Pullman or “His Dark Materials.” It’s a long, complex thing which I’ll get into if I ever review the books. But for now, just let it be said before I begin this anecdote related to the movie version of The Golden Compass.

Miss Print [holding up DVD case for said movie]: “Do you know what the best part of this movie was?”

Bear: “The ending?”

Miss Print: “No. That would be Sam Elliott.”

Lisa: “Who?”

Bear: “He played the cowboy.” (AKA Lee Scoresby–the best part of the entire book trilogy.)

Miss Print [stunned]: “You don’t know Sam Elliott?”

Lisa: “He’s an old guy right?”

Miss Print: “He’s so much more.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Sam Elliott is amazing–if you don’t know who he is, you’re missing out. He once said he didn’t want to be known as a sex symbol, because there was a stigma attached to that, and he’d rather just be a Sam Elliott. And, really, he’s the best Sam Elliott ever (and a cowboy, and awesome . . . *stops gushing*).

If I Stay: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Everyone thinks it was because of the snow. And in a way, I suppose that’s true.”

If I Stay by Gayle FormanWhen Mia and her family go out for a drive that snowy morning, none of them realize everything is about to change in If I Stay (2009) by Gayle Forman. It was a freak accident. A random act. But suddenly, a truck swerves into their car. The next thing Mia knows she is staring down at the dead bodies of her mother and father. She can’t find her younger brother, Teddy. What Mia does find is her own broken body being rushed to a hospital.

Before the accident Mia had a lot of decisions to make about her future. Should she follow her first love–music–to Juilliard in New York? Should she stay on the West Coast to be with her boyfriend? But after the accident, Mia only has one choice. Should she stay?

Readers learn about Mia’s past while she tries to make this impossible decision. Present scenes of Mia watching her body at the hospital are interspersed with snapshot flashbacks of the life Mia used to have: discovering the Cello, meeting her best friend and her boyfriend, and memories of her idyllic family. Separated from the “current” story of the plot these segments could almost be jewel-like short stories on their own.

Mia’s relationship to music adds another dimension to the story and makes it a likely choice for musicians. The romantic aspect of the story is another strong point. Finally, it’s probably a really good choice for anyone who has found themselves waiting for good news outside and Intensive Care Unit.

I barely have enough words to say how much I loved If I Stay. Everything about this book is beautiful from the cover to last line. There was an authenticity to the hospital side of things that was simultaneously jarring and comforting. At the same time, this is also a wonderful story. Forman’s writing is lovely, evoking all of the characters in vivid detail throughout the story.While Mia’s loss is devastating, the story ultimately also has a calming quality that only helps to underscore the beauty of the writing and comfort readers that, no matter what her decision, Mia will find peace.

Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban, Fracture by Megan Miranda, Road to Perdition (movie or graphic novel)

“Do teens today know who Jennifer Grey is?”

Conversation with a friend while I worked on my booktalk of My Big Nose (and Other Natural Disasters)

Miss Print: “Do teens today know who Jennifer Grey is?”

CC: “I don’t know who that is. Should I feel bad?”

Miss Print: “Yes. But your not knowing her answers that question. She was in Dirty Dancing.”

CC: “Ooooooh! I do know her!”

Miss Print: “But if you don’t know her name it’s not worth mentioning in my booktalk.”

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

I, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. I take full responsibility for the disruptions caused by the Order–including the Library Lady, the Doggies in the Window, the Night of a Thousand Dogs, the Canned Beet Rebellions, and the abduction of the Guppy.

The Disreputable History of Franki Landau-Banks by E. LockhartSo begins The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (2008) by E. Lockhart. (Find it on Bookshop.) Though, to be perfectly honest, the above confession is not truly the beginning of anything but the realization that Frankie might be a criminal mastermind. The real story in this book is how she got that way.

Frankie was content to spend her freshman year at the prestigious Alabaster boarding school as a quiet mildly geeky girl on the fringe of the Alabaster social hierarchy. Everything changes the summer before sophomore year when, thanks to a surprising growth spurt, Frankie returns to Alabaster with an enviable figure. Possibly due to that sudden change, or possibly a result of growing older, Frankie also returns to Alabaster as a more assertive, more determined girl. Specifically, Frankie is determined to be noticed–especially by the beautiful and outrageous senior Matthew Livingston.

When Matthew not only notices Frankie but also begins to date her, no one realizes that their relationship will set Frankie on a path of unprecedented mischief, mayhem and intrigue. It seems even less likely, to all concerned, that these events could eventually lead Frankie to her ignominious status of possible criminal mastermind.

All the same, that is exactly what happens. As Frankie finds her time with Matthew cut short again and again due to mysterious obligations and last minute meetings, she is determined to find out what is more important to Matthew than his own girlfriend. The answer proves surprising. Matthew belongs to a long-standing, long secret, all-male society at Alabaster called The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. In an attempt to get Matthew’s attention and respect, Frankie secretly infiltrates the organization’s inner workings to harness the power of the Dogs to her own ends.

What starts as Frankie trying to prove herself to Matthew and his zany senior friends, turns into something much more as Frankie begins to use the Dogs to perpetrate elaborate pranks to amuse the student body, yes, but also to promote change at Alabaster. At least, that’s the plan until Frankie’s complex web of lies begins to unravel.

The real beauty of this book is that there is never any doubt that Frankie is a strong character and a feminist. Indeed, most of the tension in this book comes from Frankie’s difficulties in negotiating the strong, feminist persona she has internalized and the external meek and adorable persona created for her by others. In addition to providing a heroine entirely capable of thinking for herself and standing on her own two feet, Lockhart also provides readers with a very humorous and exciting story. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks also offers a unique, albeit fictional, look at the inner workings of secret society found at many colleges and even in the works of P. G. Wodehouse (an inspiration for both our heroine and her author).

Some reviews have suggested that the pranks are ill-advised and even irresponsible on Frankie’s part. In a way, that is true–but only very superficially and only if readers completely overlook the deeper meanings and motivations behind each prank (don’t worry, Frankie is happy to explain all of that!). There have also been remarks that the language here is unrealistic to ordinary teens–also possibly true except for the fact that Alabaster is a haven for precocious and privileged teenagers, likely placing them at a remove from the “ordinary” teens who would be loathe to utilize speech patterns seen here.

The 2009 book awards season was hard for me this year as many of my favorite books and predicted contenders were beaten out by books I had not yet read by some of my favorite authors. Having read the 2009 Printz Award winner Jellicoe Road previously, it is easy to see why E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (2008) was selected as a 2009 Printz honor book. The titles have a lot of similarities. Were I not already deeply fond of the Printz winner I would say this book should have received the top honor. No matter which becomes your favorite, it is fair to say that if you like one, the other is sure to please.

Possible Pairings: Foucault, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Girl Overboard by Justina Chen, Paper Towns by John Green, The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, Don’t You Trust Me? by Patrice Kindl, The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Wessex Papers by Daniel Parker, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford

Dog invasion

My mother and I live in an apartment above the garage of our building. The apartment has a fenced in terrace area at the back, as do the three other back apartments. The new fences are solid, but lifted about ten inches off the ground so that there is a gap.

Our neighbors are watching a fluffy white dog who, upon seeing my mom outside took a decided interest in the other side of the fence. The dog put her head under the fence to look at Mom, got down on her stomach to try and wiggle through. All to no avail. She tried again, in several other locations along the fence, when I came out a bit later, with no success.

This afternoon, when our neighbor came by with her larger, older dog named Ruby it proved too much for the neighbor’s ward. She barked at Ruby and the two dogs stared at each other, nose to nose, from their opposite sides of the fence. The neighbor dog tried again to wiggle through unsuccessfully. We thought that was the end of it.

Then, as our neighbor and Ruby were getting ready to leave, the other dog had a burst of newfound strength. She wriggled, and wiggled, and squirmed, and shimmied. And with a triumphant bark she made it to our side of the fence. The invading dog proceeded to run around the perimeter of our yard area in rapid circles. She greeted all three humans in a very sweet dog fashion and tried to greet Ruby as well. But Ruby wasn’t having it and would only growl at this strange dog.

The invader ran around in a few more circles and drank some of the water I put out for Ruby. Hearing the commotion, one of our neighbors came out at this point, saw the loose dog and retrieved it using her leash. The invader’s name was Chewie (though she looked more like an Ewok than a Wookie).

Later, when Ruby came over again, Chewie’s barks of protest–or perhaps greeting–could be heard. Once again, she tried to visit our side of the fence but this time a strategically placed pot blocked her path. We were worried she’d hurt herself if she got stuck while trying to get through. Her nose remained near the gap in the fence, watching with just a bit of sadness, I think, that her grand adventures were ended.

I don’t know if this account does any justice to the actual event but it was really one of the funniest things I’ve seen in days and quite entertaining and enjoyable to behold.