“Those are nice glasses.”

Friday the Thirteenth at The Container Store in the “Collectibles Storage” Aisle I encountered a man talking very loudly to himself about a collectibles storage container. I passed him several times while trying to procure the exact shadow box my mom wanted to examine from her perch in the office furniture section of the store.

On the third pass, the man spoke to me:

Man Talking Loudly to Himself: “Those are nice glasses.”

On the fourth pass he added:

MTLtH: “Nice glasses and a beautiful woman behind them.”

Now, I’m pretty sure he was crazy. But they are nice glasses. And it’s nice, sometimes, to be complimented even if the compliment giver might be a slightly insane.

Have you talked loudly to yourself and/or given someone a compliment yet today?

The Alison Rules: A(n Anti-)Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Alison Rules by Catherine ClarkAlison has a lot of rules: When stealing a rowboat, always check that the oars are the same length, so you don’t go in circles. In reference to your best friend’s crush, keep your feelings to yourself. And never use your locker if that’s where you were standing when told the very worst news of all in The Alison Rules (2006) by Catherine Clark.

Some of her rules aren’t the most rational. But when your mother is dead, rationality isn’t really important. In fact, it isn’t even really a concern. Between the rules and her best friend, Laurie, Alison manages to get by. Maybe she isn’t having the greatest time, but at least she’s surviving.

Everything changes when a new boy moves to Alison’s small town. Patrick is fun, different, and he might be exactly what Alison needs. Unfortunately both Alison and Laurie fall for Patrick setting off a series of arguments and events that will ultimately tear the two friends apart.

The Alison Rules was not the book I expected it to be. After looking at the cover and reading the blurb it seemed like a fun book that would have an ultimately okay ending.

I was wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. Being surprised by a book is fine. It is usually a good thing. But I found the ending of The Alison Rules to be completely unforgivable. It was unnecessary, excessive, and made no sense in the general arc of the story. I would love to pick it apart for you here, but I don’t post spoilers. Suffice it to say this is a story about growing up, grieving, and friendship. Then Catherine Clark threw in a surprise twist that, for me, completely invalidated everything else I had read in the book. I hate to say it so strongly but: Not recommended.

How I spent my Friday the 13th (and the rest of my vacation)

From the ninth to the thirteenth of November I had what might be called a working vacation. After the thirteenth I was plain old working/busy which is why I’m only posting about this now.

Anyway, I was off from work but still had classes. My mom and I hammered out all of the Christmas decorations in this time. I also attended classes because, miraculously, I was not sick on my vacation for once. And on Thursday I did something really different: I was a guest speaker at a Queens College Library School class that my friend/colleague “Sarah” about two of my favorite pastimes: Blogging and Asking People Random Questions About Their Careers of Choice.

The result is the mysterious new project I’ve been talking about in my latest random poll (more about that soon, promise!).

Friday the thirteenth was very pleasantly spent relaxing at home and shopping at The Container Store’s righteous Christmas Wonderland where I had a unique encounter that can be read in a subsequent post.

“You sound like an annoying sidekick in a sitcom.”

My mom and I occasionally eat dinner in the living room instead of at the dining table. I have an end table to use for such occasions. A couple nights ago, as I sat down to eat, the table top came off in my hands. I was literally holding up the top of my table (with my dinner and lots of other junkies on it).

The next day, having recovered from the trauma (it was traumatic, trust me), Mom and I decided to try to fix it by screwing the table top back on:

Miss Print: “I don’t think I can get this screw any tighter.”

Mom: “Sometimes it helps if you stop and let it rest for a little.”

Moments later . . .

Miss Print continues to struggle with screw.

Mom: “See how easy that was?”

Miss Print: “Shut up. You sound like an annoying sidekick in a sitcom.”

Mom: “I felt like one too.”

(Eventually we were successful except for the screws marring the top of the table–easily fixed with a strategic doilie.)

The Demon’s Lexicon: A Review

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees BrennanNick Ryves has a lot of things to worry about. Usually a leaky pipe wouldn’t register as even a minor priority. Except that he also keeps his favorite sword under the sink. Dodgy houses and leaky pipes are nothing new for Nick and his brother Alan. After all, who has time for home improvement when you’re on the run from evil magicians and the demons who give them power?

After years of running across England, the magicians are finally closing in on Nick and Alan in The Demon’s Lexicon (2009) by Sarah Rees Brennan. Find it on Bookshop.

The solution should be simple. The Ryves know exactly what the magicians want. But the stolen charm is also the only thing keeping their mother alive.

Nick is furious when Alan decides to help a hapless brother and sister who stumble into their lives. Don’t they have enough problems? But Alan is family, and even if Nick doesn’t know much about feelings or bonding, he knows family matters.

The only problem is that the more Nick learns about his past and the closer they come to the magicians, the more obvious it is that Alan has been lying to him. Nick is determined to stop the magicians and uncover the truth . . . even if it means nothing will ever be the same.

Brennan herself has said (on twitter) that she doesn’t much like the television series Supernatural. Still, comparisons between it and her debut novel are inevitable because, well, they’re really similar. That said, the entire vibe of The Demon’s Lexicon is sufficiently different from Supernatural that it won’t seem too familiar to fans of the TV show nor will it lack appeal for those who don’t appreciate the series.

Unsurprisingly, the story is filled to the brim with action and battles and, of course, magic. Happily, and less expected, was the humor that Brennan has added to the story. Nick is ruthless and he doesn’t understand other people at all. But he is very funny–as is Alan. The nice thing about the added humor is that it gives both of the Ryves brothers that little extra dimension that makes them feel like real people instead of scary thugs.

The writing itself is filled with similar contrasts for added complexity. Aside from being a really fun and exciting book, The Demon’s Lexicon is a great book about family and what love really means because, really, it can mean a lot of different things for different people. It’s also a book that will have wide appeal because it is widely awesome (and the first part in a trilogy that will continue in The Demon’s Talisman).

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Caster by Elsie Chapman, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Shadowshaper by  Daniel José Older, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Specials: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Specials by Scott WesterfeldIn a futuristic world built on the ruins of our own where extreme cosmetic surgery makes everyone beautiful, some people stand out for other reasons.

Tally Youngblood has always been special. She uncovered, betrayed, and ultimately aligned herself with a resistance group known as The Smoke while she was an Ugly. Her Pretty clique, The Crims, changed life in New Pretty Town forever and sparked the beginnings of revolution.

But Tally doesn’t care about any of that anymore. Because she’s a Special, part of the elite group of enforcers known as Special Circumstances. Enhanced to be a deadly predator, Tally doesn’t want to hurt you. But she will if she has to in Specials (2006) by Scott Westerfeld.

Find it on Bookshop.

Tally didn’t plan on becoming Special, let alone joining Special Circumstances after being exploited by the group for so long (two whole books!). But when her best friend, Shay, and the Cutters become Specials, Tally once again finds herself at the mercy of other people’s plans.

When one of Tally and Shay’s botched schemes leads to the first all out war since ancient times, Tally and the Cutters will have to race against the clock to prevent the inevitable. As Tally struggles to save her world from the ravages of war, will she be able to save herself?

I really love all of Scott Westerfeld’s books. Because he’s awesome. That said, the Uglies trilogy (not including its companion book Extras) lost momentum for me as the series progressed with this one being the slowest, and in a lot of ways the most disappointing, of the three.

On her blog Westerfeld’s wife and fellow YA author Justine Larbalestier recently mentioned reviews suggesting that Specials starts off slow despite its being filled with insane action sequences which she thinks is a silly thing to suggest. Which is true. Specials is jam packed with new technology, epic battles, and action-packed chases. Unfortunately that doesn’t leave a lot of room for character development or “real” (by which I mean not involving a chase or battle) plot development.

While the conclusion of Specials shakes Tally’s world to its very core, the plot is strikingly (and annoyingly) similar to the premise of Pretties once you change some of the slang and substitute settings. In summary, I was excited to see how the trilogy ended, of course, but without the first two books Specials is nothing special.

Possible Pairings: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis, Skyhunter by Marie Lu,  Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, 1984 by George Orwell, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Technopoly by Neil Postman, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Life After People (documentary/television series)

Living Dead Girl: A (sort of) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth ScottOnce upon a time Alice was a little girl who disappeared. Once upon a time her name was not Alice. Once upon a time Alice was just like you. But that was a long time ago. Before Alice knew how lucky she was before she became a living dead girl in Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl (2009).

Find it on Bookshop.

Five years ago Alice was taken by a man named Ray. Five years ago Alice was not Alice. She was ten years old and could still be the little girl Ray wanted in his home. In his bed. But now Alice is fifteen. She knows Ray is ready to release her, the same way he released the first Alice, and she longs for that moment when everything will end. But first Alice has to find her replacement, something Alice readily agrees to if it means Ray will finally let her go.

Despite how cold and calculating as Alice has had to become, the search is not easy. Could it be that Alice isn’t willing to be Alice anymore?

This is a haunting, grim, miserable little story. At 170 pages it is a fast read which is good because if readers stop too long to think about what is really happening to Alice it becomes too devastating to bear. That said, the actual writing of the story is much less traumatic than I would have expected.

Living Dead Girl has received a lot of accolades as a great book for teen readers (reluctant or otherwise). I don’t really get it myself and find it a hard one to pitch simply because it’s such a depressing book. Alice has been so irreparably broken by the time we meet that it is nearly impossible to harbor any hopes for her; her situation is hopeless.

Nonetheless, Scott’s writing is compelling and Living Dead Girl offers a uniquely accurate insight into what it really means to be a victim too afraid to speak out.

Possible Pairings: Sleepless by Cyn Balog, Pointe by Brandy Colbert, Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, Cut Me Free by J. R. Johansson, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

On Cover Commentary (some information and sources)

Earlier this week I posted a review on my NYPL blog of Justine Larbalestier’s wonderful new book Liar. The review can be viewed over on my blog at NYPL (and on this blog as I cross-post everything).

You might have heard about Liar because of the controversy associated with the cover the book was slated to have when it was released in the USA. This cover featured a white model on the cover–despite the main character being very obviously black. I also received a wonderful comment on that post asking how such things could happen and if authors have approval on their covers.

The short answer is sometimes they do, but not always.

There is a lot of really information out in the world from authors, readers, and bloggers about book covers. Too much information, really, to put into a comment as I had initially planned. Which is why you get this post.

Onward to the information and sources:

Sometimes authors do get input on their covers and it leads to cool ones like that found on Barry Lyga’s Goth Girl Rising (cover discussed here on Melissa Walker’s blog: http://www.melissacwalker.com/blog/2009/10/cover_stories_goth_girl_rising.html)

Other times it results in inaccurate covers like the one found on Liar which Justine Larbalestier discusses at length, and more eloquently, than I ever could in a series of posts on her blog, particularly in this post: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/

If you interested in hearing about more book covers, Walker also has a lot of posts where other authors discuss their covers here: http://www.melissacwalker.com/mt/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=cover+stories

Maureen Johnson has also discussed her covers briefly on her blog. The end of this post marked DEPARTMENT OF COVER STORIES discusses the cover of Suite Scarlett. This post mentions the cover of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes under POINT FORE

Johnson’s posts also led me to Bookburger’s commentary on the crazy cropping that goes on in a lot of covers (including several of Johnson’s): http://bookburger.typepad.com/bookburger/2007/01/covergirl_repor.html

Bookburger has a whole feature of cover reviews found here: http://bookburger.typepad.com/bookburger/covergirl/

If you’d like to see some behind-the-scenes shots of what it takes to shoot the photos for a book cover you can check out Ally Carter’s post about the cover of her upcoming book Heist Society here: http://www.allycarter.com/labels/Covers.html

Laura Schaefer’s blog has a post with shots of the cover shoot for The Teashop Girls (which I think has a perfect cover that totally nails everything about the book) on her blog here: http://teashopgirl.blogspot.com/2009/03/delicious-behind-scenes-look-at-teashop.html

“Cover twins” are another interesting phenomenon in the world of book covers which happens when two covers use the same stock photo as happened with North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley and Evermore by Alyson Noel. Their specific “twin-ness” is discussed here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6646736.html?nid=2788

Finally, if you are interested about book covers in general, you should check out JacketWhys, a blog all about children’s and young adult book covers as well as having a handy page linking to articles and other information on cover design found here: http://jacketwhys.wordpress.com/articles/. The site was inspired by The Book Design Review which discusses cover design for a broader spectrum of books.

Hopefully all of that will answer some questions people were having about book cover design or at least provide some more information on the subject.

If you have any other sources readers should know about be sure to post it in comments!

Good riddance to bad rubbish

October is over! Who else is thrilled to see the backside of that month? It doesn’t really matter because I’m happy enough for all of us.

Even Halloween was lame. I dressed up as the Mad Hatter and I’m pretty sure at least two of my coworkers couldn’t tell I had on a costume. Another coworker was dressed as Bat Girl and was really happy (Hallelujah levels I mean) to see one other person dressed in a costume. We didn’t have a special Halloween program or anything. I had wanted to stop at my previous place of employ to see if there were any good costumes but I decided I couldn’t deal with the possibilities of A) witnessing another branch with a lame Halloween going on or B) witnessing a branch that pulled together an awesome Halloween the year I was not working there. (I still don’t know which it was, but I suspect it was B.)

Then the Halloween Parade was waterlogged and the TV coverage was lame too. I love Roger Clark and I love New York 1, but I missed John Sciumo as the host. Paul Rudnick was kind of ridiculously funny as the co-host but it just wasn’t the same. (Although George Whipple appeared to be drunk, high, or both during the ENTIRE parade as illustrated by his manhandling a live llama . . . so that he could kiss it. On. The. Mouth.)

I’m really looking forward to November and 2010 because, frankly, I can’t imagine how things could go anywhere but up from this point.

I have in fact already seen some improvement. I have been reading an obscene number of really awesome books. My tuition bills are paid up til next semester. I won a scary but awesome Goth Girl Minimate. I’m going to be a guest speaker at a class (yes, really!). And I’m registered, in the classes I wanted, for my final semester of library school.

I am also happy that I have had a chance to start decorating for Christmas. Because after the way the rest of 2009 has gone, I want Christmas to be perfect even if it kills me (although hopefully it won’t come to that.)

Improvements aside, I obviously still have very little in the way of content for the blog because I have drained all of my content reserves. Things will be back on track soon.

Chick Lit Wednesday will be back next week

I’m scraping the barrel here with good CLW material after losing my buffer. I’ll have my act together next week though. Sorry, readers.