Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why I love YA

I love love love YA literature. So why?

Since I was a child I have read as an escape. An escape from a great childhood with a dark secret. Escape from everyday events. Escape from parents who fought. Escape for escape's sake.

I find comfort in stories about young people. It keeps me young at heart (though not in body dang it!). The story lines range from young love to young heroes/heroines fighting "the system". There is triumph and tragedy, just like real life, but it isn't MY life. I love to escape into OTHER people's lives.

Some of my favorites?

Harry Potter (all of 'em) by J.K. Rowling
Who doesn't love an underdog? Harry is an orphan raised by horrible relatives. He discovers he is a wizard and has to fight the ultimate evil character. It is triumph over adversity. It has friendship, love and magic!

The Secret DMS Files of Fairday Morrow by J.Haight and S. Robinson (link to their blog here)
Here is a female detective I can love. She has a dad who uses SAT words, a baby sister and a curiosity that won't quit. This awesome book, written by a friend of mine and her best friend, is still awaiting the right publisher but the first chapters are available on the blog. I hope everyone will love Fairday and her best friend Lizzy as much as I do!

Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth (link to her site here) - Anxiously awaiting the next book!!!
Another female protagonist facing seemingly insurmountable odds. There is love, danger, a controlling government and more! This is dystopian literature at its best.

Matched by Ally Condie (link to her site here)
Another dystopian series and I love it! Love, government and a hint of evil underlay the entire book. Can't wait to read the sequel!

Any Book by Ellen Hopkins (link to her site here)
I never thought I would like a book written entirely in verse, Turns out I was WRONG! Ellen Hopkins' writing is gripping and amazing.

Any Book by Natasha Friend (link to her site here)
Real events, real situations, real people. That is how I describe Natasha Friend's characters and books. Awesome is another great word for them!

Tell me about the books you love and why!

If you want, feel free to read Beth Revis' Blog and enter to win a Library full of SIGNED YA Books!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Questions for Readers

A awesome young man named Max who works for me sent me a list of 30 questions about books he found on Facebook. It was designed as a "one question a day" thing but I decided to save them and use them when I felt like it!

Here is the first of them. I look forward to reading your answers to these as we go!

Tell me about a book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving...

For me, it was a recent read. I wasn't sure about reading Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher. It is geared toward boys and has a sports theme, neither of which appeal to me. I love sports but have never enjoyed reading about them, and I am not a boy. 

Wow was I surprised! Mr. Crutcher is an amazing writer. He uses male characters and sports as a way to appeal to boys as readers. As a group, boys are less likely to pick up a book and read it for fun. Mr. Crutcher makes books more accessible and more interesting to boys. My favorite thing about his books, he deals with tough subjects and doesn't sugar-coat or shy away from them. 

You can read my review of this book here.

Now it's your turn:

Tell me about a book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Insurgent by Veronica Roth
"One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful.
Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.
"New York Times" bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian "Divergent" series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature."

In this sequel to the extremely popular first book of the trilogy, Divergent, Ms. Roth continues the story of Tris (aka Beatrice Prior) and Four (aka Tobias Eaton) and their struggle to understand why the leader of the Erudite faction, Jeanine Matthews, is trying to take over all of the factions. Tris struggles to decide whether to follow her instinct or her heart.

In Divergent we learned about the factions, how they function and how they fit together. In Insurgent, we learn how they differ and how they may have to learn to fit together differently. 

I really like the character of Tris and how she is growing. Tris, it is easy to forget, is only 16. She is one of the divergent, a person who doesn’t fit easily into only one faction but rather shows aptitude for multiple factions. The divergent seem to be immune to the simulations created by Jeanine Matthews to control all of the factions. Tris learns how not alone she really is when she travels to meet the factionless, a large percentage of whom are divergent. Tris makes some mistakes which are clearly mistakes of youth but she learns from them and moves on.

The character of Four becomes a bit more well-rounded in this book. We learn more about his growing up in the Abnegation faction, his divergence and learn more about who he is and why he reacts the way he does.

Tris and Four work together and apart to bring down Jeanine Matthews and her desire to rule over all of the factions. They will work with friends and enemies alike to bring about a peace.

I can’t wait to read the last book of the trilogy. Ms. Roth’s writing is compelling and exciting. I am hoping to find out what is outside of the city walls... and why those walls exist!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Author Interview - Ted Mendelssohn, The Wrong Sword

I was lucky enough to get an interview with Ted Mendelssohn, author of The Wrong Sword, book one of a series. Ted is also offering a digital copy of his book to one lucky winner. Enter below to win.

"Ever since he arrived in Paris, Henry the Rat has made a pretty good living selling "magic" swords to gullible knights. But when Henry sells one to Geoffrey Plantagenet, brother to King Richard, his happy days are over for good. Geoffrey forces Henry into a dangerous, uncomfortable quest for the most famous magic sword of all time, Excalibur, even though Henry is certain that it's just a myth.
Then Henry actually finds Excalibur - and his troubles really start: For Excalibur is not just the sword of’s also the sword that won’t SHUT UP. It communicates with its owner, it knows what kind of owner it deserves, and Henry doesn’t even come close.
To keep Excalibur and the world safe from the appalling Geoffrey, Henry will have to masquerade as a knight, crash a royal wedding, rescue a princess, break a siege, penetrate the secrets of the Perilous Brotherhood, and find Excalibur’s rightful bearer, all while trying to reach an accommodation with a snotty, aristocratic hunk of steel that mocks him, takes over his body, and keeps trying to turn him into the one thing he hates most...a hero."

And now, an interview with Ted: 

What is your favorite sentence from your book and why?
Well, like my children, they're ALL my favorites. Just kidding. Of course I have favorite sentences. And children. Let's see…here's a good one, I think: Sometimes it sucked to be the king.

What has been your most rewarding experience since becoming published?
Surprisingly, being published wasn't in itself a big moment. When you start writing, you see being published as a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. But writing a first novel is such a long process that the real reward is the knowledge that you've finished, and that it's fairly close to what you imagined it would be. Everything else is gravy.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Sure, in some ways. For instance, I grew up in a gritty neighborhood (what they call "gentrifying" these days) and saw enough to know that violence isn't glamorous or cool; so I can certainly understand Henry's attitude toward it. I can also identify with Mattie's intellectualism, and Brother Wiglaf's crazy enthusiasm – you know, embracing my inner geek.

What authors have influenced you?
I'd say the writers who influenced me most with The Wrong Sword are Robert Heinlein and Lois McMaster Bujold, who both taught me a lot about narrative voice.

Who are your favorite authors and why?
So many writers.
I love reading Roger Zelazny. The man was a genius poet in science fiction, on a par  with Ray Bradbury. If you're a writer, you have to be careful about reading something like his Lord of Light – it's so good, it will mess up your prose style for days.
Jack Vance is a fun author who never got his due. In a way, he's science fiction's dark, dark Jane Austen: so much of his work is an arch, sardonic dissection of human mores.
Tim Powers, George McDonald Fraser, Carl Hiaasen, Harper Lee, PG Wodehouse, George Orwell, and the list goes on. There aren't many classics on it. I've read the classics, and I respect them; but I'm suspicious of anyone who claims Ulysses is his favorite novel.

What are you currently reading?
The Eight Skilled Gentlemen, by Barry Hughart. Re-reading, actually. Hughart wrote a series of charming novels set in a mythical, medieval China: The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox. This is the third.

The Wrong Sword is Book One, when can we expect to see Book Two or others from you?
In about a year.

How long did it take you to write The Wrong Sword?
A lot longer than a year. But it was my first novel, so I was teaching myself to write in that form while I was doing it.

What inspired you to write The Wrong Sword?
I've always been fascinated by tests. If you think about it, Excalibur is the ultimate test – only the king can draw it from the stone. And then I thought But what if somebody cheats?

If you could live during any time period in history, what would it be and why?
I'm a huge fan of indoor plumbing, so I'd go with the Roaring '20s. Lots of money, short skirts and jazz you can understand. On the other hand, if it's a question of visiting, I'd go with Renaissance Florence or Persia under Cyrus the Great. Florence for the art, the food, and the crazy politics; Persia for the pomp and circumstance.

If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be and why? What would you ask him/her?
Abraham Lincoln. I wouldn't ask him anything. I'd just say "thanks." Maybe we'd get a sandwich.

Thanks Ted for taking the time to give readers a chance to get to know you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Natasha Friend is a Judy Blume for today -- clearly evident in this remarkable new novel about a girl whose father is an alcoholic and how she and her family learn to deal with his condition. 
It's hard to be a 13-year-old girl. But it's even harder when your father's a drunk. It adds an extra layer to everything -- your family's reactions to things, the people you're willing to bring home, the way you see yourself and the world. For Samantha, it's something that's been going on for so long that she's almost used to it. Only, you never get used to it. Especially when it starts to get worse...”

Samantha (Sam) is a typical middle school girl, except for one thing, her dad is an alcoholic. Sam’s mom and grandmother (her dad’s mom) are willing if not eager to overlook or flat out deny or ignore what is happening in their lives. Sam decides to seek some advice from a stranger via a note left at the library.

The stranger helps her to learn about herself and her dad’s disease. When Sam meets the stranger, she is surprised to learn that the person has faced adversity as well. Together they work to help Sam learn to help herself as her dad spirals out of control. It isn’t until a regrettable incident involving Sam’s younger brother that her dad finally gets some help.

I love that Natasha Friend doesn’t hesitate to take on the difficult topic of alcoholism. She does an excellent job of describing the lengths to which a person will go to protect their disease. Dad hides bottles, drives drunk while pretending to be ok, screams and yells and then claims not to remember it and so much more. He isn’t a “bum” or a “bad guy”, in fact, he is a highly respected architect. Ms. Friend has chosen a “regular guy” as her alcoholic father. I so much appreciated that aspect of the book. Alcoholics are everywhere, all zip codes, all races, all tax brackets, and all education levels.

In Lush, Natasha Friend not only gives us with a heroine we can root for but also provides information at the end of the book. She includes websites, books, and phone numbers for teens that may have the same family situation.

This book is a great, short read with a good plot and a lot of information!

If you or someone you know is (or may be) an alcoholic here are some resources for help:

Alateen: for teens with a family member or friend who is an alcoholic (either active or in recovery)

Alcoholics Anonymous: for people who are or think they might be alcoholics. Great information about the disease for everyone.

Coping with an Alcoholic Parent: Great info

Friday, May 25, 2012

Book vs. Movie - Avalon High


Avalon High Movie vs Book

Let me begin by saying that Meg Cabot’s books are a guilty pleasure for me. I have read every book she has written. While I liked Avalon High, I didn’t think it was her best book. I read the first of the graphic novel series based on Avalon High and, well, if you read my review for that, you know that I hated it.

I thought it would be fun to compare the Disney movie Avalon High to the book. Let’s be real here, it is a Disney movie, not From Here to Eternity. I didn’t go in with high expectations of cinematic glory, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was cute, fun, and easy to watch. It stuck pretty close to the book except for one main fact, the Arthurian counterparts were wrong, wrong, wrong! In the book Ellie is Elaine, The Lady of the Lake and Will is King Arthur. In the movie they made Ellie Arthur and she “saved the day”.

If you just watch the movie, it is enjoyable on its own and they make a half-hearted attempt to make her being Arthur seem plausible. The book makes a much better explanation and better use of her parents (who are, by sheer coincidence) Arthurian experts.

All things considered, the movie alone is good, the book alone is good, the graphic novel still stinks!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book vs. Movie - The Hunger Games


Hunger Games Movie vs. Book

Like so many others, I wanted to compare The Hunger Games book versus the movie. I agree with a colleague who said that the movie is a much better accompaniment to the book than a stand alone. Having read the book made the movie much easier to understand.

I hated the shaky cinematography at the beginning of the movie and I don’t think it added at all to the feelings evoked in the movie. I was extremely disappointed by the lack of development of the relationship between Rue and Katniss. Rue’s death is such a big part of Katniss’ development and of her desire to seek revenge on the Capitol. With the lack of this definition we are left as the audience wondering why she went to such extremes to place the flowers on Rue and why District 11 broke out into rioting.

Overall, I thought the movie did a good job using Caesar Flickerman to explain the moves and motivations explained through exposition in the book. I think even more of that would have made the movie easier for those who have not read the book. My other major disappointment was the downplaying of the violence and emotions in the Arena. While I know that the producers had to get a PG-13 rating at most and violence can lead to an R rating, I wish they had stayed more true to the book in that manner.

You might surmise that I didn’t like this movie at all. You would be wrong. I actually thought, for a movie, it was excellent (other than the whole shaky camera technique which I hated). I thought it was captivating and engaging. I thought the casting was superb. But the goal was to compare the book to the movie.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant

“In the first major YA steampunk anthology, fourteen top storytellers push the genre's mix of sci-fi, fantasy, history, and adventure in fascinating new directions.
Imagine an alternate universe where romance and technology reign. Where tinkerers and dreamers craft and re-craft a world of automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never were. Where scientists and schoolgirls, fair folk and Romans, intergalactic bandits, utopian revolutionaries, and intrepid orphans solve crimes, escape from monstrous predicaments, consult oracles, and hover over volcanoes in steam-powered airships. Here, fourteen masters of speculative fiction, including two graphic storytellers, embrace the genre's established themes and refashion them in surprising ways and settings as diverse as Appalachia, ancient Rome, future Australia, and alternate California. Visionaries Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant have invited all-new explorations and expansions, taking a genre already rich, strange, and inventive in the extreme and challenging contributors to remake it from the ground up. The result is an anthology that defies its genre even as it defines it.”

Authors included are: 
Holly Black 
Libba Bray 
Shawn Cheng 
Cassandra Clare 
Cory Doctorow 
Dylan Horrocks 
Kathleen Jennings 
Elizabeth Knox 
Kelly Link 
Garth Nix 
Christopher Rowe 
Delia Sherman 
Ysabeau S. Wilce
M. T. Anderson 

Steampunk: a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steampower of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.

Each short story is a work by a noted YA author. Libba Bray, for example, writes a story about a gang of horse riding Wild West girls with a mechanism that slows/stops time long enough for them to rob a train and get out. Cory Doctrow writes about a Canadian workhouse for crippled orphans run by a horrible man. The orphans kill him, take over and build a clockwork version (like a robot) of the man so the nuns won’t realize that he is gone.
I didn’t enjoy all the stories. Hand in Glove by Ysabeau S. Wilce 2008 winner of the Andre Norton award for Young Adult Science Fiction and fantasy* was too "something" for me. I can’t put my finger on it (no pun intended). I found myself bogged down by the language of it all. On the other hand, Some Fortunate Future Day by Cassandra Clare was an enjoyable (if creepy) read about a girl whose dolls tell her what to do. I have always been creeped out by talking dolls and this was no exception, but the story was excellent.

 There are 2 graphic stories, stories which would appeal to girls, stories which would appeal to boys and stories which would appeal to all. It gives the reader a glimpse into the Steampunk genre and allows a taste of many different varieties.

*Wilce, Y. S. (n.d.). Retrieved May 5, 2012, from

Monday, May 14, 2012

Law & Order - Colonial Unit

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker
School Library Journal:
/* Starred Review */ Gr 6–9— Walker takes readers on an archaeological investigation of human and material remains from 17th- and 18th-century Jamestown and colonial Maryland, while addressing relevant topics in forensic anthropology, history, and archaeology. The excavations encompass burial sites of colonists from various backgrounds, including a teenage indentured servant hastily buried in a trash pit, a grouping of prominent colonists laid to rest in lead coffins, and a woman of African heritage who likely toiled as a slave. Answers concerning the identity and fate of the uncovered remains are realized only after various specialists combine their findings to re-create relevant historical circumstances. In one instance, anthropologists provide anatomical details of a recovered skull to artists, who then use the data to produce the first sculpture of an American colonist of African ancestry. The text succinctly explains complex forensic concepts, such as determining the gender and age of a skeleton, or whether a skull represents a person originating from Europe or Africa. Captioned, full-color photographs of skeletal, dental, and artifactual remains shed light on colonial life. Historical documents, illustrated maps, and anatomical drawings complement images of various specialists at work in the field. Photographs of reenactors performing period tasks, such as grinding corn, provide insight into the daily life of the recovered individuals. Though other recent volumes discuss forensic anthropology, such as James M. Deem's Bodies from the Ice (Houghton, 2008), Written in Bone casts a magnifying glass on the hardships and realities of colonial life so often romanticized in American lore.—Jeff Meyer, Slater Public Library, IA --Jeff Meyer (Reviewed February 1, 2009) (School Library Journal, vol 55, issue 2, p127)
Sally M. Walker presents an exciting and informative look at forensics, archeology and anthropology in this fantastic non-fiction book. She works hard to give detailed scientific information at a level not above or below the heads of the average teenager.

Each step of the process includes historical atmosphere, maps, photos and descriptions. Her focus on the mysterious aspects of parts of the excavation (a possible murder, bodies buried together, etc.) grabbed my attention and held it.

Every chapter is like a separate vignette (or, if you are me, a new episode of Law and Order, Colonial Times). One is about a boy they found and how they tried to determine cause of death, his birth origin and more. Another chapter is titled “The Captain,” the name they gave to another body after an x-ray revealed an object associated with high ranking military of the time. Still another is “The Body in the Basement.”

Throughout the book teens will learn about the complex processes of excavating a site of historical importance. The care taken by scientists, forensic experts, archaeologists and others is highlighted and combined with a fun sense of mystery and intrigue (and some amazing photos!). I would recommend this to all teens.

This is one of the books for which I have created a video book trailer. I created these for my public library (where I am an intern in the YA department). I am including the trailer below.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Owls, Pancakes, Alligators and Mullet

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
“Carl Hiaasen, bestselling author of Basket Case and other hilarious Floridian capers, serves up a high-spirited fight for the environment in his first work aimed at younger audiences.The site of Coconut Cove's future Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House is experiencing a slight problem: survey stakes removed, alligators in the port-a-potties, and painted-over patrol cars. But who's behind the clever vandalism and pranks? New Florida resident Roy Eberhardt isn't aware of these goings-on, but he has often noticed a barefoot boy running down the street faster than anything. His curiosity piqued, Roy starts to inquire around and even follows the boy once, only to be told by Beatrice Leep, a.k.a. Beatrice the Bear, to mind his own business. Despite Beatrice's warning and plenty of bullying from the lunkheaded Dana Matherson, Roy follows the boy, whose name is Mullet Fingers, one day and winds up in the middle of an ecological mission to save a parliament of burrowing owls from being bulldozed.
Full of colorful, well-developed characters, Hoot is a quick-witted adventure that will keep readers hooked. With down-to-earth Roy, dumbfounded Officer Delinko, and construction site manager Curly -- along with other head-shaking morons and uplifting heroes -- the author delivers an appealing cast of characters that keep the plot twisting and turning until the highly charged ending. Another zany trip to the Sunshine State for Hiaasen fans, this rewarding ecological adventure should keep readers young and old hooting with laughter. Matt Warner”

I am reviewing the audio CD version of Hoot. I enjoyed listening to Chad Lowe read this engaging book. Carl Hiaasen has captured the “new kid” angle and the “smaller kid” angle with ease. Roy hates Florida. He just wants to go back to Montana until he sees the “running boy.” Once he sees the boy, he is determined to solve the mystery of whom he is and why he was running.

Roy gets involved in Mullet Fingers’ crusade to save the burrowing owls from the Mrs. Paula’s Pancake House crew. The unwavering resolution of Mullet Fingers inspires Roy to learn to love Florida, or at least accept that it isn’t a horrible place to live. As much as Roy, Mullet Fingers and Beatrice save the owls, they save Roy as well.

The adult characters are basically there to provide some comic relief. The brains of the mystery are provided by the Middle School kids. Officer Delinko and Curly are steps away from being their own new version of the Three Stooges (heck, one even has the name already!). Roy’s parents are loving and kind. Roy’s law-enforcement dad helps Roy locate some important missing information but for the most part the adults are not particularly involved.

This book would be a great read for Hi-Lo readers (high interest, low vocabulary), girls and boys. Boys will love the encounters with Dana Matherson and all the pranks pulled in order to save the owls. Girls and boys alike will enjoy the mystery aspect. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Raw Look at a Nearly Lost Life...

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos

Publishers Weekly:
After penning a number of novels for preteens, including the Joey Pigza books and the Jack series, Gantos makes a smooth transition as he addresses an older audience. He uses the same bold honesty found in his fiction to offer a riveting autobiographical account of his teen years—and the events may well penetrate the comfort zone of even the most complacent young adults. The memoir begins with the dramatic image of the author as a young convict ("When I look at my face in the photo I see nothing but the pocked mask I was hiding behind"). The book then goes on to provide an in-depth examination of the sensitive and intelligent boy residing behind a tough facade. Inspired by the words and lives of some of his favorite American authors, Gantos sought adventure after leaving high school. He eagerly agreed to help smuggle a shipment of hashish from Florida to New York without giving thought of the possible consequences. Knowing that the narrator is destined to land in jail keeps suspense at a high pitch, but this book's remarkable achievement is the multiple points of view that emerge, as experiences force a fledgling writer to continually revise his perspective of himself and the world around him. The book requires a commitment, as it rambles a bit at times, but it provides much food for thought and fuel for debate. It will leave readers emotionally exhausted and a little wiser. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) --Staff (Reviewed February 25, 2002) (Publishers Weekly, vol 249, issue 8, p68)

When I knew I needed to read a biography (not my normal choice for reading) book for my class, I turned to a friend/librarian for some suggestions. She had but one: Hole in My Life IS the book you WILL read for this. I did what anyone who knows Geri would have done, I shut up and checked out the book!
At first I wondered why she wanted me to read this odd yellow covered book written way back in 2002 about a man I have never heard of. Now I know. Hole in My life is compelling and interesting. I felt as though I was with Newberry Award Winner Jack Gantos on his search for self. I crewed the ship from Florida to NY with him, and ran from the law. I felt the emotions: happiness, pain, sorrow, fear and so many more as he felt them.

This boy who always wanted to be a writer but felt as though he had nothing to write about, this smart kid with no self-esteem, this boy seeking to be a man but not understanding how; all of these things, these feelings, I understood. Here was a kid trying to find his place in the world. He didn’t know what to do with the jumble of feelings, so he sought respite in drugs and alcohol. I found myself screaming at the book “don’t you SEE what you are doing to yourself???”

I found the description of his time in prison (15 months in the federal pen for smuggling hash) fascinating. So many things conspired to keep him safe and out of relative harm during his stay. His sentence could have gone so much worse.

I have visited Jack Gantos’ website ( and read numerous articles about him. He speaks with amazing candor about his youth and the problems he created/encountered. One of my favorite things I read was an interview with him on NPR.  I have included the link below because I think it gives a sense of Jack Gantos’ personality and humor.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Graphic Novel - Take 2

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg


Noted young adult novelist Cecil Castellucci and artist Jim Rugg launch Minx with the Plain Janes, a story about four girls named Jane. When transfer student Jane is forced to move from the confines of Metro City to Suburbia, she thinks her life is over. But there is the lunch room at the reject table she finds her tribe: three other girls named Jane. Main Jane encourages them to form a secret art gang and paint the town P.L.A.I.N. - People Loving Art In Neighborhoods. But can art attacks really save the hell that is high school?

Graphic novel, take 2.

So I am probably never going to jump up and down squealing “the newest graphic novel just came in!” but I will admit that I liked this one far more than the first graphic novel I read. I actually liked it enough to contemplate checking out the rest of the series to see what happens.

In a confusing start, Jane (Main Jane) is injured in a bomb explosion in Metro City. Her parents freak out and move her to Suburbia. Jane’s time in Metro City before they moved (but after the explosion) was spent sitting at the bedside of a man who was injured next to her in the bombing. She has no idea who he is but he had a sketchbook. His art made Jane aware of how art affects people.

When Jane moves to Suburbia she meets the rest of the Janes, all “misfits” but she is clearly drawn to them. They begin creating art in common places, basically guerilla art attacks. The goal of P.L.A.I.N is to encourage the people of Suburbia to look at beauty in all things. In creating, Jane begins to heal. Jane convinces a boy from school to drive her to Metro City so she can go see her John Doe at the hospital. He is gone, but a nurse sees Jane, recognizes her and tells her the man’s name and that he has flown back to Poland, his home country.

Will Jane fly to Poland to see him? Will she finally have a boyfriend? Will P.L.A.I.N. continue or will the police find and shut them down? Well, I guess I will have to read the rest of the series to find out!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Do twins begin in the womb? Or in a better place?

"Do twins begin in the womb? Or in a better place? 

Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical down to the dimple. As daughters of a district-court judge father and a politician mother, they are an all-American family -- on the surface. Behind the facade each sister has her own dark secret, and that's where their differences begin. For Kaeleigh, she's the misplaced focus of Daddy's love, intended for a mother whose presence on the campaign trail means absence at home. All that Raeanne sees is Daddy playing a game of favorites -- and she is losing. If she has to lose, she will do it on her own terms, so she chooses drugs, alcohol, and sex. Secrets like the ones the twins are harboring are not meant to be kept -- from each other or anyone else. Pretty soon it's obvious that neither sister can handle it alone, and one sister must step up to save the other, but the question is -- who?"

Identical is the story of Kaeleigh and Raeanne, mirror image identical twins. It deals with incest/sexual abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism, cutting and mental illness. It also has a surprising twist and a hopeful ending.

Kaeleigh deals with her issues by trying to be a "good girl". Making others happy, acquiescing to the needs of others, not saying NO. Raeanne becomes the "bad girl". Turning to drugs, alcohol and sex, rarely saying NO (even when she should).

It is well written enough that I started it at noon and didn't put it down until I finished it at 6:30pm (well, I did make lunch in there and I might have taken a wee nap). While the subject matter is intense, it is not gratuitously graphic.

As a survivor of several of the subject matters discussed, I can honestly say that Ms. Hopkins deals with them honestly. Many may not like the issues (and, no doubt, she is or will be often challenged in libraries) the emotions and language are genuine. I can hear much of myself in her words.

I am looking forward to reading more of her books.

Identical Excerpt

Mirror, Mirror
When I look into a
it is her face I see.
Her right is my left, double
moles, dimple and all.

We are exact 
Kaeleigh and me.
Mirror-image identical
twins. One egg, one sperm,
one zygote, divided,
sharing one complete
set of genetic markers.

On the outside
we are the same. But not
inside. I think
she is the egg, so
much like our mother
it makes me want to scream.


That makes me the sperm,
I guess. I take completely
after our father.

All Daddy, that’s me.

Good, bad. Left, right.
            Kaeleigh and Raeanne.
One egg, one sperm.
One being, split in two.

And how many

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Enter The Arena!

For more information and a different perspective on this program, check out my friend and fellow blogger Jessica Haight's blog.

Dawn and Jess

For those keeping score, I am in grad school to be a librarian - specifically a YA Librarian! For 2 of my classes, I have needed to create a program for teens. Last semester I decided to create one based upon The Hunger Games and timed to be presented just after the release of the movie.

Once created, I turned to my friend and mentor (and head of Children's and Teen Services at my local library) Geri. I sent her the program to see what she thought of it and she asked if I would do it at our library. So much goes into creating and implementing a program for grades 6-12!!! I wanted it to be engaging, interesting and fun. From there we designed the posters:

Geri enlisted her Teen Advisory Group (TAG) to come in costume and help out. They were fantastic!

Here are the training stations:

Katniss' Archery:

Lesson learned: Those little arrows can really FLY! We had to make sure we had an adult there (or a TAG member) in order to keep the arrows pointed at the target on the door, not at other people!

Peeta's Cookie/Graham Cracker Decorating:

Lesson learned: Vanilla Wafers and Graham Crackers are JUST as much fun (if not more) to decorate as large cookies! Plus, you can make a bunch and not feel as though you are wasting stuff. Note to self, pink icing turns your tongue pink...but pink tongue looks AWESOME with blue hair! Oh, and the graham cracker above shows this tribute's vision of The Girl On Fire dress!! Isn't it awesome?????

Camouflage Face Painting:

Lesson learned: Sometimes you have to put camouflage face paint into the microwave in order to get it to spread. This was the real deal so I am not sure how the military gets this stuff to work! Oh, and a pie server makes an awesome trowel...

And Haymitch's Knot Tying: 

(photo to be added as soon as I get them from the library! Sorry!!)

Lesson learned: Trust that amazing TAG members will make your event awesome! One of the members happens to be an Eagle Scout. We asked him to play Haymitch and teach knot tying...he took it from there! He stayed in character for the ENTIRE event (even I couldn't swing that). He was fantastic!

We played a Cornucopia Challenge game and Hunger Games Trivia.
Lesson learned: ALWAYS have extra "stuff" to do in case you run short!!! Thanks to Geri who reminded me that because the trivia was on the Jeopardy Labs website, I could look up other Hunger Games Jeopardy boards and play longer.

Members of the Teen Advisory Group came dressed as members of the Capitol and were a HUGE help and a HUGE hit! They were awesome, staying in character and helping everything go smoothly.

A good time was had by ALL!

Monday, April 16, 2012

My First Blog Tour!

When I came across the opportunity to participate in a Blog Tour for author Kate Evangelista, I was thrilled! I  will also have an interview with Kate in May so be sure to check back!

This post includes an excerpt from Taste as well as a video trailer for the book. Be sure to read all the way through and then rush to get this amazing new book available in May 2012!

At Barinkoff Academy, there's only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.

When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn't realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.

When Kate Evangelista was told she had a knack for writing stories, she did the next best thing: entered medical school. After realizing she wasn't going to be the next Doogie Howser, M.D., Kate wandered into the Literature department of her university and never looked back. Today, she is in possession of a piece of paper that says to the world she owns a Literature degree. To make matters worse, she took Master's courses in creative writing. In the end, she realized to be a writer, none of what she had mattered. What really mattered? Writing. Plain and simple, honest to God, sitting in front of her computer, writing. Today, she has four completed Young Adult novels.

Author Website:
Twitter: @KateEvangelista
Crescent Moon Press page for Taste:

And now for a taste of Taste... here is an excerpt:

I sat up and followed Calixta’s gaze upward. I rubbed my eyes. I didn’t know what I was seeing at first. A statue? ­My brain refused to snap together coherent thoughts.  I didn’t realize I’d fallen so close to one of the garden benches until I stared up at the boy that sat on one. He was strikingly beautiful. His tumble of blonde hair curled just above his sculpted cheekbones. He wore a silk shirt and a loosened cravat, like he’d become bored while dressing and decided to leave himself in disarray. His ivory skin and frozen position was what had me mistaking him for something carved from marble by Michelangelo. Then he sighed—a lonely, breathy proof of life. If I had to imagine what Lucifer looked like before he fell from heaven, the boy on the bench would certainly fulfill that image. My brain told me I had to look away, but I couldn’t.
“Luka,” Calixta said again, her voice unsure, almost nervous. It no longer contained the steel and bite she had threatened me with, which made me wonder who the boy was.
He leaned on his hands and crossed his legs, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on the night sky. His movements spoke of elegance and control. I’d encountered many people with breeding before, but his took on the air of arrogance and self-assuredness of someone used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it.
I only realized I’d been holding my breath when my lungs protested. I exhaled. My heart sputtered and restarted with a vengeance. Luka tore his gaze away from the stars and settled it on me. I’d expected pitch-black irises, like the other Night Students, but blue ice stared back at me.
“Human,” he whispered.
He reached out, and with a finger, followed an invisible trail down my cheek. I stiffened. His touch, cooler than Demitri’s, caused warm sparks to blossom on my face. He lifted his finger to his lips and licked its tip. He might as well have licked me from the way my body shivered.
Luka’s curious gaze held mine. “Leave us,” he said, but not to me.
“But—” Calixta protested like a spoiled child.
He spoke in a language I hadn’t heard before, remaining calm yet firm. The words had a rolling cadence I couldn’t quite follow, like rumbling thunder in the distance. They contained a harsh sensuality. The consonants were hard and the vowels were long and lilting.
Footsteps retreated behind me.
Luka reached out again.
It took me a minute to realize he wanted to help me up. I hesitated. He smiled. I smiled back timidly and took his hand, completely dazzled. Even with my uniform soaked from melted snow, I didn’t feel cold—all my attention was on him and the way his callused hand felt on mine. Without moving much from his seated position, he helped me stand.
“What’s your name?” he asked. He had a voice like a familiar lullaby. It filled my heart to the brim with comfort.
I swallowed and tried to stop gawking. “Phoenix.”
“The bird that rose from the ashes.” Luka bent his head and kissed the back of my hand. “It’s a pleasure meeting you.”
My cheeks warmed. My head reeled, not knowing what to think. I couldn't understand why I felt drawn to him. And the strange connection frightened me.
From behind, someone gripped my arms and yanked me away before I could sort out the feelings Luka inspired in me. I found myself behind a towering figure yet again. Recognizing the blue-black silk for hair tied at the nape, relief washed over me. Calixta hadn’t come back to finish me off.
Demitri’s large hand wrapped around my wrist. Unlike the night before, no calm existed in his demeanor. He trembled like a junky in need of a fix. The coiled power in his tense muscles vibrated into me.
“What are you doing here?” Demitri asked.
I didn’t know he’d spoken to me until I saw his expressionless profile. I sighed.
I flinched. The ruthless way he said my name punched all the air out of me. “You owe me answers,” I said with as much bravado as I could muster.
“I owe you nothing.” He glared. “In fact, you owe me your life.”
“I don’t think so.”
Ignoring my indignation, he faced Luka, who’d remained seated on the bench during my exchange with Demitri. “Why is she with you, Luka?”
“I wasn’t going to taste her, if that’s what you’re implying,” Luka said. “Although, she is simply delicious. I wouldn’t mind if you left us alone.”
There it was again. Taste. The word that kept coming up between these Night Students and I was connected to it in an increasingly uncomfortable way. To taste meant to sample, but what? My flesh? They had to be joking because the alternative wasn’t funny.
“The sins of the father …” Demitri left his sentence unfinished.
Luka’s smile shifted into a snarl. “Obey my command.” His chin lifted. “Kneel.”
Demitri’s stance went rigid. His grip tightened around my wrist.
Okay, weird just got weirder. Why would Luka want Demitri to kneel before him? I thought back to Eli and the others bowing to Demitri when he questioned them, but they didn't kneel. Seriously? Were they all living on a different planet or something?
Kneel.” Luka’s detestable smirk made his features sinister rather than angelic. The real Lucifer: a fallen angel.
Without letting go of my wrist, Demitri knelt down on one knee and bowed his head, his free hand flat at the center of his chest. “Your command has been obeyed,” he said formally.
Luka nodded once.
Demitri stood up and pulled me toward the school without telling me where we were going. Not having the time to thank Luka for saving me from Calixta, I risked a glance back. Luka smiled at me. His smile spoke of whispers, secrets, and promises to be shared on a later date.