The Curiosities: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

What happens when three talented writers decide to write  short stories and pieces of flash fiction every week to hone their craft and share with each other? If those three authors are Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff you end up with a website called MerryFates.com and, a few years and novels later, you also get a short story collection featuring such oddities as a vampire kept in a box for luck, a small town re-visioning of the Arthurian legend, and school for children to dangerous to be in the real world–because they are demi-gods.

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories (2012) by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff is, as the title suggests, a collection of short stories. But it’s also a lot more than that. Starting with the email exchange that inspired the project, The Curiosities is also a guide through the creative process of three talented writers.

Find it on Bookshop.

Already filled with inspiring stories, The Curiosities takes things one step further with a tantalizing guide through each story. Each story is introduced by two of the three authors. Footnotes, commentary and informative sketches can also be found throughout as the women reflect on their own writing and growth as well as the strengths found in each others’ stories.

Aspiring authors might find the overall package would have been complemented by a fuller explanation of the inspiration for some stories, particularly when a prompt was involved. With notes printed in each author’s own hand, the matter of deciphering who is writing in the margins also takes some time.

The Curiosities is a clever, wry collection that takes standard anthology conventions and turns them upside down. Filled with stories to inspire and amaze, this one is sure to appeal to readers who are meeting the authors for the first time as much as it will to long-standing fans.

In fact, Nicole and I had so much fun reading the stories that we were inspired to start a similar project this month. Little Women Stories is already up and running. You can find stories from Nicole and myself there every month. (August’s stories are already posted and so is September’s prompt if you want a preview of what to expect next month.)

Possible Pairings: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012

Book Giveaway: Boy + Bot[CLOSED]

In addition to awesomely answering my questions during our interview (not to mention writing a super fun picture book!) Ame Dyckman very graciously offered to provide a signed copy of Boy + Bot for me to giveaway on the blog along with some cool Boy + Bot swag (swag translates to a super cool Boy + Bot bracelet, sticker, bookmark and mini frisbee!).

If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of this one so trust me when I say you really want to enter this giveaway.

The giveaway will run until September 2, 2012 so you have a week to enter! (This giveaway is open to the US only.)

TO ENTER: Leave a comment below stating why you want to win (with a valid email in the email form field)

Author Interview: Ame Dyckman on Boy + Bot

Ame Dyckman author photoEarlier this year I was lucky enough to see Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino at an event featuring their picture book BOY + BOT (which Ame wrote and Dan illustrated). At the event I was enchanted by Ame’s excitement and enthusiasm (which was totally contagious btw) and intrigued by the story of a boy and a robot who become friends. Since then, I’ve read BOY + BOT at quite a few storytimes (always with great success) and started wondering what writing a picture book is really like (and how Ame picks such great colors for her hair! Not to mention hairbows!) Ame is here today to answer some questions about several of those things!

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell us a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Ame Dyckman (AD): I tried a bunch of other occupations first.  (I was even a costumed character!  It’s sweaty.)  But I always wanted to write children’s books.  Four years ago, I decided to go for it!  I went to the library and read mountains of picture books.  I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and went to lots of events.  And at the 2009 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference, I signed up for the Agent Pitch Session.  (That’s where you have 5 minutes to tell an agent about your manuscript and not get nervous and throw up.)  I met Super Agent Scott Treimel of S©ott Treimel NY.  I told him about BOY + BOT.  (And I did not throw up.)  Scott loved my story, I adored Scott (and still do!), we shook on it, and in a very short time, we had an offer from editor Michele Burke at Knopf!

MP: How did you come up with the idea for BOY + BOT?

AD: I’ve always loved friendship-despite-difference stories like FROG AND TOAD and GEORGE AND MARTHA.  And I’ve always loved robots—the Tin Man, R2D2 and C3PO, Voltron, etc.  When I sat down to write my own unusual friendship story, “with a ROBOT!” kept jumping into my head.

MP: You’re the first picture book author to be interviewed at Miss Print *throws confetti* As such, can you tell us about what your writing process for a picture book looks like?

AD:*throws spaghetti because we’re out of confetti*  Thanks!  I’m honored!  When I write a picture book, it always starts the same way:  I get one funny image in my mind, like a still from a cartoon.  (For BOY + BOT, this was the “But as they rolled down the hill, a rock bumped the robot’s power switch…” scene.)  Then I build the rest of the story.  I like to write in the morning, print out what I’ve written, put it in my pocket, and carry it around with me for the rest of the day.  Then whenever I get a revision idea, I can change it right away.  (And I’m getting much better about remembering to collect all my drafts before I start the laundry!)

MP: As a picture book author, you wrote the text for Boy + Bot. The book was then illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. When writing a picture book do you take the eventual illustrations into account with how you organize the text? What is it like collaborating with an illustrator to tell your story?

AD: I definitely think of the illustrations.  The picture book text is just 50% of the story—the pictures are the other 50%.  So when I write, I strive to leave that space for the illustrator to do their thing and have fun, too.  For example, in BOY + BOT, the lines “They played.  They had fun.” were purposely left open so that the illustrator could show their idea of what Boy and Bot played and how they had fun.  And wow, what an illustrator I got!  You should have seen me running happy laps around the room when I found out I got Dan!

MP: One of my favorite things in Boy + Bot is the sense of symmetry as Boy tries to cure Bot and later when Bot tries to fix Boy’s malfunction. How long did it take you to find the right structure and word choices for this story?

AD: That took a few months!  And the tweaking and polishing took several more!  All in all, it was about 14 months from the time I had my initial idea of Boy and Bot playing to the completion of the draft that I showed to Scott.  (That’s the gestation period of a camel!  Completely irrelevant, but interesting.)  I’ve been a little speedier with my subsequent manuscripts, though!

MP: Do you have any favorite children’s books/picture books that inspired you to become a children’s author?

AD: I was most inspired by WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.  It’s my favorite book.  I read it aloud when I do library visits, and watching kids hear it for the first time and love it too is magic!

MP: Time for a really serious question: You dye your hair a lot of fun colors. What’s your favorite color to have your hair? Is it the same as your favorite color in general?

AD: My favorite hair color is the blue I have now.  It makes it easy to find me in a crowd, and it makes kids laugh!  I like black for clothes, but green’s my favorite for M&Ms and board game playing pieces.  So if we ever play Sorry, save me the green piece—and watch your M&Ms bowl!

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

AD: My next book, TEA PARTY RULES, is a humorous eventual friendship story between a bossy little girl and the bear cub who crashes her backyard tea party.  It’s edited by Leila Sales, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (LESTER’S DREADFUL SWEATERS), and will be released by Viking in Fall, 2013.

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

AD: Read everything in your genre that you can, join SCBWI if you want to write for children, and if anybody tells you can’t become an author, stick your fingers in your ears and shout, “CAN, TOO!”

Thanks again to Ame Dyckman for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find more information about her books on her website.

If you want to read more about Boy + Bot check out my review!

You can also enter the giveaway for a signed copy plus Boy + Bot swag!

Boy + Bot: A Picture Book Review

Friends can come in all shapes and sizes–just ask Boy and Bot. This unlikely duo meet and have a grand time together until something goes wrong when Bot is rolling down the hill. Boy takes him home to help, but will he be able to nurse the robot back to health? Later, when Bot finds the boy has malfunctioned, will be able to repair the boy?

Boy + Bot (2012) by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Dan Yaccarino is a delightful story that shows friendships can come in all shapes and sizes.

With sparse straightforward text, Dyckman tells a charming story of friendship (and robots). Yaccarino’s brightly colored illustrations help the story off the page as Boy and Bot try to help each other with often humorous results.

With repeating text and large illustrations (not to mention the symmetry of the story) Boy + Bot is a great choice to read aloud. Sure to be enjoyed by readers young and old.

Possible Pairings: Little Beauty by Anthony Browne, Clink by Kelly DiPucchio and Matthew Myers, A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce, The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell, A Home for Bird by Phillip C. Stead

You can also read my exclusive interview with Ame Dyckman!

For Darkness Shows the Stars: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana PeterfreundBeing a Luddite demands a certain set of rules be followed by Elliot North from the subdued colors that should be worn to the avoidance of all technology that caused the Reduction and nearly destroyed humanity.

Being the youngest daughter of Baron North–ostensibly in charge of both the North and Boatwright estates–brings with it both a certain prestige and a certain understanding of what is and is not acceptable.

Years of experience have taught Elliot to be guarded and cautious but even knowing everything her family holds dear, knowing what all Luddites are meant to protect, nothing is enough to stop Elliot from wanting more for herself and the estates.

Four years ago Elliot chose caring for her family estates above all else. The choice was absolute and, she thought, irrevocable.

But four years can change a great many things–even as far from the city as the North estate. With more and more Post-Reductionists appearing, the world itself is changing. There are fewer Reduced being born and more Posts questioning the absolute Luddite authority. In the wake of progress and her father’s frivolous spending, Elliot’s estate is on the verge of failure until Elliot receives an offer to rent the estate to the mysterious (and well-funded) Cloud Fleet.

Four years ago Elliot made a choice. Now, having spent four years thinking of everything keeping her on the estates and everything she has sacrificed for them, Elliot has another choice to make in For Darkness Shows the Stars (2012) by Diana Peterfreund.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is Diana Peterfreund’s Post-Apocalypic retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Because I was so excited about For Darkness Shows the Stars, I read it before I had a chance to check out Persuasion which allows me to say with absolutely certainty that this book stands on its own merit.

Peterfreund uses an unlikely backdrop to reinvent one of literature’s most familiar romances. Evocative settings of the estates quickly make it clear why Elliot is willing to sacrifice so much not just for the staff of her estates but also for the land itself. A well-developed premise makes Elliot’s world believable and captivating before you know anything about the story’s inspiration.

This novel aptly references Persuasion while also adding adornments to the plot that make it utterly unique. Rather than telling the same story in a new place and time, Peterfreund takes Austen’s characters and story one step further by elaborating on the class tensions found in the original text and re-examining and expanding the traits that made Persuasion‘s heroine and hero so appealing in the first place.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is a stellar book in every respect as well as one of my favorites from 2012. Already a must-read for Austen fans, I’d also go as far as to say it’s a must read for anyone looking for a beautifully written, completely riveting story.

Possible Pairings: Persuasion by Jane Austen, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, The Keeper of the Mist by Rachel Neumeier, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Note: If you enjoy, For Darkness Shows the Stars be sure to also check out Peterfreund’s prequel novella, Among the Nameless Stars which follows Kai’s departure from the North estate. The prequel is available here:

Direct link to the pdf: www.dianapeterfreund.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Among-the-Nameless-Stars.pdf

Official Book Page: http://www.dianapeterfreund.com/books/for-darkness-shows-the-stars/

The prequel is also available for free on Amazon as a Kindle book.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012

(Check out my recap of BEA 2012 to hear about the epic quest I undertook to get a signed copy of this book.)

Persuasion: A (Classic) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Persuasion by Jane AustenAnne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth once meant a great deal to each other. But that was years ago before Anne’s well-meaning friend and her less-than-good-intentioned family discouraged the acquaintance and Anne was convinced to give Frederick up.

With years to think of her decision and years to consider all that Wentworth has accomplished without her, Anne has little hope of seeing him again or changing things between them.

That is until a change in her father’s circumstance forces the family to rent their estate. Given the identity of the new tenants, it seems inevitable that Anne and Captain Wentworth will see each other. It even seems inevitable that Wentworth will be angry and Anne hurt. Only time will tell if they can once again be something more to each other in Persuasion (1818) by Jane Austen.

Persuasion is Austen’s last novel. It is also a favorite among several of my friends.*

With a book that is already such a large part of the public consciousness and the literary canon, there isn’t a lot to say in a review that hasn’t been said before.

Jane Austen is one of my favorite classic authors so it is not, perhaps, especially surprising that I enjoyed Persuasion. In addition to a story that kept me on my toes,** Persuasion features a lot of strong, or at least interesting, characters. Wentworth is appropriately dashing even at his worst. Then we have Anne who is a delightfully forward heroine for a novel from 1818. It was invigorating to watch Anne come into her own as the novel progressed and she developed her own agency and the wherewithal to pursue her own wants and needs.

Like many classics Persuasion is a book many people will read on the merits of its reputation (or for school) or it’s the kind of book they won’t touch. One review might not change whatever opinion you might have but Persuasion is an obvious must read for romantics and anyone who likes their heroines level-headed and ready to stand on their own two feet.

*Though one does add the caveat that Pride and Prejudice first has to be taken out of the equation as Pride and Prejudice is arguably everyone’s favorite Austen novel.

**My only experience with Persuasion before this reading was Diana Peterfreund’s post-apocalyptic retelling For Darkness Shows the Stars. I had never even seen a movie version so I really had no idea what to expect from the story. At. All. It made for a pleasant surprise while reading.

Possible Pairings: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banksby E. Lockhart, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Blog Fifth Birthday

As of this posting, missprint.wordpress.com is five years old. I still can’t believe it’s been so long or that I have finally achieved such a lovely sounding milestone. I say it every year, but I really wouldn’t be here without you, dear readers. So thank you again for making it so enjoyable to run this blog.

Here’s to another great year!

I’ll leave you with some end of year statistics (cumulative):

Total Pages: 7 (This year saw the addition of my beautiful review index pages organized either by author or title)

Total Posts: 902 (+105)

Categories: 9 (down three from last year as I consolidated some extraneous categories)

Author Interview (15)     Book Lists (13)     Book Reviews (376)     Chit Chat (329)     From our Gift Cottage (18)     Graphic Novel/Comic Book Reviews (7)     Linktastic! (45)     Non-Fiction Book Reviews (12)     Picture Book Reviews (19)     Quotes (126)     Random Polls (7)     Words of Wisdom (36)

Tags: 687 (I didn’t think I’d ever see the day but this year marked the start of tagged posts on the blog)

Total Comments: 887

Widgets: 16

Total views: 87,601 (roughly 22,600 views over the past year. I am floored.)

Busiest day: 308 (June 2, 2010–still. I really need to get Cassie Clare to link to another one of my posts!)

Total Spam Comments: 18,198 (a little less than 8,000) spam comments over the past year)

Don’t forget to enter my celebratory giveaway while you’re here! (The giveaway is now updated with a very special enticement!)

The Popularity Papers: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Popularity Papers by Amy IgnatowLydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang. Julie’s dads consider Lydia part of the family. Julie knows all about Lydia’s crazy goth sister Melody. Together the girls make a decision to venture into the unknown as they try to crack the mysterious code of popularity in fifth grade.

With Lydia acting as chief experimenter and Julie recording their (mixed) results, the girls are confident they will succeed where others have failed. The only problems: Lydia winds up with a bald spot early on, Julie unexpectedly becomes the object of Roland Asbjørnsen’s affections, all of their parents are mad (a lot). Worse, the more Julie and Lydia learn about the popular girls, the farther apart they seem to grow.

Lydia and Julie might be on the verge of being popular, but they’re both starting to wonder if their friendship will survive in The Popularity Papers (2010) by Amy Ignatow.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Popularity Papers is Ignatow’s first novel as well as the first book about the ongoing adventures of Lydia and Julie.

Ignatow expertly combines drawings and handwritten notes and observations to create a book with a mixed-media feel as the girls pass letters, notes, and the book itself back and forth to tell their story. By combining the girls’ exchanges with first-person accounts from both Lydia and Julie, Ignatow makes sure the concept behind her fun plot never becomes overdone.

The Popularity Papers is also funny, plain and simple. Filled with clever jokes and entertaining illustrations, this is a smart book that will appeal to readers young and old (provided they can get past the youngish-looking cover). A great choice for anyone looking for a laugh The Popularity Papers also houses my favorite ever love poem, a funny re-writing of a popular movie song, and possibly the best illustration of Thor of all time.

Possible Pairings: Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, Alice, I Think by Susany Juby, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Blog Fifth Birthday Book Giveaway![CLOSED]

Well, dear readers, it’s that time again. I can hardly believe it, but Miss Print is turning five on August 12, 2012. Over the course of this year the blog has also reached 900 posts, over 86,000 views and the advent of tagging. It’s been a fun year for me as a blogger and I’m really excited to have come this far.

To celebrate I am once again hosting a MASSIVE giveaway bonanza here on the blog. I’ve been squirreling things away for this giveaway for the past year, so I hope you enjoy all the prizes up for grabs.

The giveaway will run until August 31, 2012 so you have all month to enter! (US only–sorry guys but postage is steep.)

TO ENTER: Leave a comment below (with a valid email in the email form field) letting me know your Prize Pack preference with your FIRST AND SECOND CHOICE. I am going to try really hard to give every one their top choice but we’ll have to see how it shakes out. Remember for the purposes of this giveaway you can only win one prize pack.

I also have a BONUS swag pack available to teachers/librarians/bloggers. To win the bonus pack include the name of your school/library and/or a link to your blog with your entry. (The bonus pack is in addition to your first and second choice packs. You can choose two plus the bonus pack.)

Without further ado here are your prize pack options:

Prize Pack One: Middle Grade Madness

Prize Pack One: Middle Grade Madness

  • Deadly Pink by Vivian Vande Velde (ARC)
  • 13 Gifts by Wendy Mass (signed!) (ARC)
  • Boy + Bot bookmark and sticker
  • Drama bookmark
  • Spiderwick Chronicles postcards
  • The Secret Tree postcard
  • Whatever After: Fairest of All bookmark
Prize Pack Two: Dystopian Dreams

Prize Pack Two: Dystopian Dreams

  • All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (signed!) (ARC)
  • The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (signed!) (ARC)
  • All These Things I’ve Done I *heart* NY stickers
  • Hunger Games bookmark
  • Scarlet bookmark (signed!)
  • Shadow and Bone bookmark
  • Struck bookmark
  • Of Poseidon bookmark
  • Monument 14 bookmark
  • Ship Breaker/Drowned Cities postcards
Prize Pack Three: Sassy Fantasies

Prize Pack Three: Sassy Fantasies

  • Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (signed!) (ARC)
  • Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon (signed!) (ARC)
  • Ship Breaker/Drowned Cities postcards
  • Shadow and Bone bookmark
  • Struck bookmark
  • Of Poseidon bookmark
  • Monument 14 bookmark
  • Darker Still postcard
  • Fallen in Love postcard
Prize Pack Four: Nice Narrators Finish Last

Prize Pack Four: Nice Narrators Finish Last

  • The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats (ARC)
  • A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix (ARC)
  • Venom bookmark
  • Hunger Games bookmark
  • The Near Witch bookmark (signed!)
  • Scarlet bookmark (signed!)
  • For Darkness Shows the Stars bookmark
  • Shadow and Bone bookmark
  • Of Poseidon bookmark
  • Monument 14 bookmark
Prize Pack Five: Cool Contemporaries

Prize Pack Five: Cool Contemporaries

  • Going Underground by Susan Vaught (ARC)
  • How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr (ARC)
  • Meant to Be bookmark
  • Brooklyn Burning bookmark
  • The Curiosities bookmark
  • Reunited bookmark
  • Reunited Road Trip Mix CD
Prize Pack Six: Miss Print’s Mysterious Picks

Prize Pack Six: Miss Print’s Mysterious Picks

  • Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier (ARC)
  • The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison (ARC) (signed!)
  • The Butterfly Clues bookmark
  • Scarlet bookmark (signed!)
  • The Last Dragonslayer bookmark
  • For Darkness Shows the Stars bookmark
  • Maureen Johnson magnetic poetry sheet
Bonus Swag Pack

Bonus Swag Pack: For Librarians/Teachers/Bloggers

  • Fierce Reads poster
  • Cupcake Girls measuring spoon
  • Drake Chronicles Pins
  • Boy + Bot Rubber Bracelet
  • bookmarks

**UPDATE: As of this writing, the blog has 87,601 views. IF the blog reaches 90,000 views before the month is out I will release another prize pack with some coveted ARCs from BEA. I won’t reveal what the exact titles are but I can tell you that some of the books I’m considering include The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsh and Prodigy by Marie Lu.

REMEMBER: A correct entry will include your name, a valid email in the email form field, your first AND second choice of prize packs, and if you want the bonus swag pack the name of your school/library or a blog link.

You have until August 31 to enter. Winners will be announced September 1.

There are no extra entries for this giveaway, but if you wanted to help me celebrate my blog’s birthday some tweets or posts about this giveaway would be a great gift! Please spread the word about this giveaway so it will be awesome!