Will the Megan Whalen Turner fans please stand up?

If you don’t want to stand up, you can just read about this cool giveaway.

Turner’s newest book featuring Eugenides and the inimitable world he inhabits is due out in March. The new book is called A Conspiracy of Kings.

The publisher has posted an excellent book trailer on their blog. I actually felt quite geeky explaining that the dramatic music coming from my computer was, in fact, for a video advertising a book; it sounds ridiculous when you explain it out loud.

Anyway, that isn’t even the most exciting thing. The publishers are also giving away ten signed copies. But it’s not going to be easy. This ah-may-zing series doesn’t have a name yet. If you can come up with a name that Megan Whalen Turner herself likes, you might win a signed copy. That’s the gist but for specifics of entering read the full details.

I cannot actually think of a cool series name. But maybe you can. And maybe you’ll win. And then I can vicariously share your victory since you found out about the giveaway on my blog!

(Aso re: the post title: I hate all rap music and have never listened to Eminem but the wordplay just sort of smacked me over the head this time.)

Tuck Everlasting: A (classic) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie BabbittTen-year-old Winnie Foster is frustrated with her boring,  respectable life. Her mother and grandmother never let her do anything. It’s the first week of August and Winnie can’t even sit in her front yard telling her troubles to a toad without them worrying about her staining her stockings or getting heat stroke.

More than anything Winnie wants a chance to be by herself and do something all her own–something that will make some kind of difference in the world. Winnie isn’t exactly sure what that something would be, but she knows it would be interesting. And she knows the first step is leaving home, even if it is just for a little while.

Running away from home proves much simpler than Winnie expected, at least until she enters the woods next to her house and stumbles upon a spring with very unusual water. And a family claiming they drank from the spring 87 years ago and haven’t aged a day since. She soon finds herself caught up in the unbelievable lives of this family, the Tucks, as they try to show Winnie the importance of keeping this enormous secret. Not talking about the spring is one thing, but given a chance to live forever, will Winnie be able to forget about it all together in Tuck Everlasting (1975) by Natalie Babbitt?

Find it on Bookshop.

Tuck Everlasting is widely, and probably fairly, viewed as a classic. Because the novel is set so far in the past (1880) it is also fairly timeless. All the same, it was deeply irritating for me that Winnie was only ten years old*. She sounded older and much of her behavior felt older. The immediate infatuation she and Jesse Tuck share makes very little sense to this modern reader when Winnie is a mere ten years old and Jesse is seventeen (or 104 depending on how you look at it).

The ending also seemed unbearably melancholy. The fantasy genre is filled with immortals and fountains of youth. But never have I encountered any as isolated and alone as the Tucks. The idea that they live on after the end of the book indefinitely, unable to ever really connect with anyone in a proper sense, is crushing.

That is not to say that Tuck Everlasting lacks charm. The story goes by quickly and is often quite fun. Babbitt clearly wanted to say specific things with the story about life–eternal or not. Which she did. It’s just that the particular devices she used to make her points made parts of the book problematic.

*In the movie adaptation Winnie is actually fifteen instead of ten. I saw trailers for the movie before reading the book which might have created a bias, but it just makes more sense to me with Winnie being a few years older.

Possible Pairings: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones, Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno, Snowfall by K. M. Peyton, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, Lily’s Ghosts by Laura Ruby, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Natalie Babbitt, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Say hello to Computer Engineer Barbie

Regular readers will recognize that I spend a fair amount of time on this blog talking about things from a feminist slant. I also talk about dolls every now and then. (And warblers but that is totally unrelated to this post.) I also have no problem with Barbie. I think when viewed in the right way she can be a great doll/role model for girls (once you get past the body image thing).

So, I was really excited today when I found out that Mattel had announced Barbie’s next career last week.

Earlier this winter, Barbie held a popular vote for Barbie’s next career. I found out about it through their clever street-side advertisements which showed Barbie’s past careers (astronaut, GI, cop, presidential candidate, teacher . . .) and invited people to vote for her next one. They also apparently conducted a “global career survey” of girls in October of last year. The results have me pleased as punch.

Get ready to say hello to News Anchor and Computer Engineer Barbie!

News Anchor was the top choice among the girls who voted in the “global career survey” and Computer Engineer was the popular online vote choice. (I voted for computer engineer and/or architect. Environmentalist was another option.)

I would have loved to see Barbie in a lab coat or with a draftsman desk, but I’m really excited about both choices. News Anchor Barbie looks cute in a pink suit and high heels sure, but she also has her microphone ready. My favorite accessory is her file folder which she has handy for all of her research notes and interview questions. She reminds me of Elle Woods but with a mic.

Then we have Computer Engineer Barbie who I might actually have to buy because I’m so happy to see her out in the world. I love that Barbie finally has glasses and is shown with flat feet and practical shoes. I like that she is, basically, a computer geek but she gets to have a cute outfit and still look girly while working with computers.

There are a lot of posts out there criticizing the doll and saying it’s not enough to break the stereotype of the male computer engineer. They wonder why Barbie has to have glasses, and how realistic her clothing choices really are. Her pink laptop and the design choices for her news anchor counterpart are also up for discussion.

On the other hand, real computer engineers did have input.

Either way, I think this is a really big step in the right direction. I don’t know how many little girls dream of being a computer engineer, but I bet a lot more might think about it when they see Barbie doing it. Accuracy aside, I think having a hugely popular doll as a computer engineer is also a great way to demystify that profession and, as I said before, make it more approachable to girls.

Finally, as I say whenever Barbie gets some criticism (or kudos), it’s important to remember that first and foremost she is a doll. Barbie might not be the most realistic computer engineer but she does get the field some visibility. And sure most computer engineers won’t wear sparkly leggings and a jacket with a circuit board on it, but Barbie’s a doll. Her clothes are a lot of fun when you think of them not as a typical outfit but as novelty items. As a library professional who happily owns and wears t-shirts from a library comic strip as well as a banned books bracelet, all I can say is maybe Barbie is a computer engineer who’s willing to have a little fun with her wardrobe choices–a quality I value in all of my dolls.

Falling Through Darkness: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Falling Through Darkness by Carolyn MacCulloughSeventeen-year-old Ginny’s life feels like a waking dream. Or maybe a nightmare. It all seemed so different when Aidan first came crashing into her life.

Beautiful, vivid, reckless Aidan is nothing like Ginny–a quiet, good girl more comfortable blending in than standing out. But Aidan makes Ginny different. He makes her want more. Makes her feel more. In the end, he makes her feel too much.

There was a crash. Something everyone else is calling an accident. Aidan is gone. But Ginny is left behind to piece together the shattered moments of her life with–and now without–him in Falling Through Darkness (2003) by Carolyn MacCullough.

Falling Through Darkness is MacCullough’s haunting first novel.  This is a story about depression and falling apart, but it is also a story about grieving and acceptance. Ginny would be perfectly happy to stay in this fugue state, sleep walking through life. That is until a new tenant moves in forcing Ginny to confront all the things she knows about Aidan, and the accident, but never wanted to admit to anyone–especially herself.

Ginny’s depression after the accident is palpable in MacCullough’s writing. Equally compelling are her portrayals of Aidan’s frenetic energy. Even when Ginny falls into his dangerous habits it’s easy to understand how she would be sucked into his jet stream. The story shifts seamlessly between Ginny’s present and memories of meeting Aidan and their subsequent, whirlwind, relationship with writing that is evocative and beautiful.

Possible Pairings: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, Last Night at the Circle Cinema by Emily Franklin, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, If I Fix You by Abigail Johnson, The After Girls by Leah Konen, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, Fracture by Megan Miranda, This Song Will Save Your Life by Lisa Ann Sandell, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle, My Private Nation (album and single) by Train

Random Poll #5: How long is too long?

I hate reading on the computer. Hate it. Which, I will grant, is a bit ironic for a blogger. But I find I can’t concentrate on posts that go very long and I worry a lot about eye strain. I try to keep all of my reviews on here at more or less 500 words. For anecdotal posts I sometimes go longer. When I was on a different (now deleted) platform I used to write much longer posts but it was harder for me to write and organize them.

I have just started experimenting with Bloglines and following a bunch of new blogs but find I am already cutting back because some of the posts are just too long for me to deal with. And that has made me curious as to what my reading public thinks on the matter. Thus the new poll.

Ivy and Bean: A (younger) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie BlackallBean does not want to be friends with Ivy. Her mother keeps telling her that Ivy seems like a very nice girl, but Bean knows what that means. Nice means prim and proper and sitting quietly reading big books. Nice means boring.

At least, Bean thought Ivy was boring. When she plays a trick on her big sister and Ivy offers a quick hiding place, Bean isn’t so sure. Nice is supposed to be boring. And Ivy does seem nice. But she’s also training to be a witch. Besides, how nice can anyone be who has a vast supply of face paint, her own wand, and a spell that involves lots of worms?

Bean and Ivy didn’t plan to be friends, but they might be a perfect match in Ivy and Bean (2006) by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall (illustrator).

Find it on Bookshop.

Ivy and Bean is the first book in the series which is very popular with younger readers. The text is not as advanced as the Clementine or Ramona books but the characters all have similar qualities that will appeal to readers looking for girls with spunk. This story was not as compelling, for me, as the Clementine series but it was a fun fast read that will work for young readers and reluctant readers. Blackall’s illustrations add a lot of appeal with her delightfully horrifying pictures of Bean’s horrible older sister and Ivy’s wonderfully scary witch attire.

There are some surprisingly vocal negative reviews (seen on Amazon) accusing the book of promoting everything from bad behavior to witchcraft. To such concerns all I can say is books don’t make ill-behaved children anymore than guns kill people all on their own. At its core Ivy and Bean is nothing more and nothing less than a sharp book about two singularly creative girls who are ready and willing to make their own fun be it with pranks or a new friendship.

So, yesterday . . .

My mom and I were hit by a van yesterday as it was backing up (while trying to leave the hospital, of course). I am sore all over and sporting two stunningly awful bruises on my knees which have not stopped hurting.

My poor mother has a fractured nose, two black eyes, and stitches by her eyebrow. Because she wasn’t feeling bad enough already.

As it is, I can’t really stop and think for a minute without replaying the accident in my head. It feels surreal to even have to explain it.

I just give up. I’m not posting anymore here about things improving or being optimistic about 2010 because now it’s just going to be the year I got hit by a van. I’ve got nothing left, so I’m just going with the if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything rule. Maybe then whatever curse has been put on my family will finally wear off.

“Like an alpaca, but it’s a llama.”

Mom: “What does a llama look like?”

Miss Print: “Like an alpaca, but it’s a llama.”

Bonus content via Eleanor’s Trousers: Alpacas are social. No word on if they are lonely.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to why my mother and I know what alpacas look like.

City of Glass: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

City of Glass by Cassandra ClareThe Mortal Cup and the Soul Sword are gone. Valentine has disappeared once again, taking his army of ravening demons with him. For now. The dust seems to have settled in New York City. But that doesn’t mean Clary’s life is back to normal. Not by a long shot.

Her mother is still hospitalized with a mysterious coma. She is still painfully in love with Jace. Who is still her brother–and determined to be only her brother. He is also determined to do everything in his power to keep Clary away from Idris’ City of Glass–the jewel of the Shadowhunter home country and the place where Clary might finally find the key to finally waking her mother.

But after coming so far and getting so close to saving her mother, Clary isn’t about to take no for an answer.

It turns out entering Idris illegally is going to be the least of Clary’s problems. Her best friend Simon, a vampire who can now withstand daylight, has been thrown in prison. Jace still refuses to help Clary save their mother while another mysterious Shadowhunter named Sebastian seems strangely eager to offer his assistance.

Meanwhile Valentine is still searching for the last Mortal Instrument–known to be somewhere in Idris. With a demon army at his fingertips, it’s only a matter of time before he finds it and declares war on all Shadowhunters.

The Shadowhunters are fierce warriors but few in number. Aligning themselves with their Downworlder enemies could turn the tide of war in their favor if both sides can see past age-old differences in time. No matter what happens next, one thing is clear: Everything is about to change in City of Glass (2009) by Cassandra Clare.

The stunning conclusion to Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy (a fourth book is due out in 2011 and a companion trilogy starts in 2010) is packed with the action readers will have come to expect from the series. Demons are fought, battles are waged, and everything question is finally answered.

While readers might recognize some common fantasy themes, the story itself remains fresh–filled with twists that are both shocking and, unfortunately, sometimes heartbreaking. Clare’s writing is drum-tight throughout the story from the initial set-up to its satisfying conclusion.

Possible Pairings: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer, White Cat by Holly Black, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, The Inferno by Dante, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Just another Manic Monday

Today I spent five hours with my mom in the hospital for many and varied follow-up appointments. (Specifically we were there from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm.) After that, I headed home only to have to leave, on a similar commute, in three hours to go to work.

Work was rather eventful.

First, I acquired Lenny.

At first glance, Lenny is a Happy Meal toy from the movie Hotel for Dogs that I was graciously given by my coworker, Fanny. But he is actually much more. Lenny, I have decided, is kind of like a personal mascot for my time at work. Maybe even a companion to look on in approval when I have a good day. In short, he’s a keeper.

I also made a fabulous discovery today: You can make origami stars with scrap receipt lengths from the cash register if you let the receipt get long enough:

(I also painted my nails today–crimson!) This isn’t the best quality picture because webcams aren’t designed to take real photos, but you get the idea. I think it’s the coolest thing since whatever my last brilliant idea was. My coworkers were less impressed. That said, if you have a lot of cash register receipts piling up that you want to get rid of I would totally be willing to take them off your hands.

I also did some actual library work today too.

First a woman came in to check out books she had reserved. I didn’t recognize her at first. Then she said that one of the books was there thanks to me and I remembered. A month or two ago she came in wondering why her hold was never being filled. I investigated and discovered she had reserved the edition with the most copies. The problem being all of those copies were on order (in other words they were more theoretical than physical). I placed a hold for her on an edition with fewer copies but the copies were actually already in the system. And it worked. She was very happy to have her book and very happy that I had made it happen (more or less).

I helped a woman trying to download electronic audio books from the library. We didn’t reach any firm conclusions on how to fix her problem, but I think I laid a firm foundation and even the first couple planks of wood. We navigated the library website and I showed her how to find what formats the book will work in (something neither of us knew about previously). She wants the book on her computer or iPod, so hopefully that will work. If not, I think I even found a phone number for people who can help so I remain optimistic.

Then I helped a woman check out a bunch of picture books for her toddler who was sitting in his stroller. He was looking at me, so I waved and made exaggerated faces because that’s what you do with toddlers–it amuses them. It really amused him.

We had an impromptu game of hide and seek while I was checking out. He would hide behind the side screen of the stroller and pop his head out and look at me. I would then smile or make some other funny face. Or I would hide my face behind a book and peer at him over it. I probably looked very silly but he had a very good time. I remarked that he seemed very happy. The mother responded, a bit sadly, that he was always like that–except with her. When he was cranky. I sympathized and told her my mom had similar woes as I had severe colic as a baby.

So, that was my Monday*. I leave with a link to my favorite Monday song–the only song that’s ever made me wish it were Sunday, or consider that it might be my fun day. You’re welcome.

*I also tried to eat a diabetic friendly pumpkin bar I had made earlier that had gone bad without my noticing, but I’m trying not to dwell.